To become a hero


To become a hero, first you need a story.

That’s the unacknowledged message of almost every story we encounter when we’re young. Where do you find heroes? In stories. Even in the real world, when we’re told that someone is a hero, we want to know: what did he do? What’s the story?

By “hero” I don’t just mean someone who wins the championship game for his team or rescues people from a burning building. I mean it more in the sense that Joseph Campbell often used the word when he talked about the hero’s journey as a pattern embedded deep in the human psyche. That is, a hero is someone who discovers the potential within herself and sets out to fulfill it, no matter how difficult the journey. And that potential can be anything. Athletic. Intellectual. Creative. The ability to bring people together. The desire to help others. It doesn't have to be something "great" in the eyes of the world. What matters is that it's a path, a story, that you've chosen for yourself.

You enter the forest at the darkest point, where there is no path. Where there is a way or a path, it is someone else’s path. You are not on your own path. If you follow someone else’s way, you are not going to realize your potential.   

-- Joseph Campbell

To become the hero of your own life, you might start by asking yourself what story you believe you’re in. Whose story is it? Where did it come from? Is it a story you truly feel you belong in? As I mentioned in a previous post, as a kid I tried to live by a story that said in order to become a man I had to be good at sports. Then I discovered that my true potential actually lay somewhere else, and I stopped trying to live someone else’s story.

William Blake wrote “I must create my own system, or be enslav’d by another man’s.”

I would alter that ringing statement slightly:

“I must create my own story, or be enslav’d by another man’s.”

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