Tag Archives: Story

The Wanderer’s Journey

Separation: The Wanderer-Hero

  • Having left home and the familiar behind, the Orphan-Hero voyages in search in search of a way to defeat the dragon, thus transforming into the Wanderer-Hero

  • Characterized by the search for individuation and personal power, the Wanderer-Hero rapidly develops adaptability, resilience and self-confidence; when she confronts the dragon, she gives chase and is reborn as “the Warrior”.

In the first act of the Hero’s Journey, an Inciting Incident forever alters an Innocent’s path, setting her upon a quest to avenge or recover that which was lost in the Dragon’s attack on her home. Up until the point of the Dragon’s attack, the Hero has had all her needs supplied by parental authority figures.

Professionally, the period of innocence may correspond to such situations as:  the safety of a high school alma mater; a stable job where we feel well within our comfort zone; or a period of entrepreneurship where our billable hours are fully booked, and our products are selling like hotcakes. Take away this security and we may indeed feel “orphaned”, left alone in the world without shelter, resources or companionship.

The Orphan’s response is to flee, to hide, and to absorb the enormity of what has happened.  In our professional Hero’s Journey, major changes may at first cause us to withdraw and seek solitude for recovery.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet famously grapples with this point of decision in his best-known soliloquy:

To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them. [1]

The Hero, of course, ultimately makes the choice “to be”, and “to take arms against a sea of troubles.” Having made that choice, the Orphan is reborn as the Wanderer-Hero as she acquires the resources, develops the skills and forges the alliances she will need to succeed in her Quest.

The Training Montage

The Mentor plays an important role in this next phase of the journey, providing training and tools the Hero will need to succeed in her Quest. In the seminal Hero’s Journey film Star Wars, for example, Obi Wan bequeaths Anakin Skywalker’s lightsaber to Luke, and as they journey toward the Death Star where Princess Leia is held captive, Obi Wan instructs Luke in the use of the weapon.

In the career-related scenarios mentioned above, this period of instruction might include such options as:

  • upon graduation, pursuing higher education to become qualified in a specific area of professional expertise;
  • upon being “made redundant” from a seemingly secure job, hiring a career coach to help you strategize your job search;
  • upon experiencing a dropoff in billable hours or sales, hiring a marketing firm to help you build up new business.

Then again, we may lack the resources to pursue such options.  In that case, do we just give up?  Of course not.  In his article “3 Ways to Go Further, Faster,” Michael Hyatt advises:

…note that I said, “hire the best coaches and instructors you can afford” For years, the most I could afford was to check out a book from the library. Don’t worry about what you can’t afford or do. Focus, instead, on what you can afford and start there. [2]

If you are a member of Mentors and Masterminds, of course, this would include reaching out to other members here and letting them know of your situation. And if you aren’t a member yet…CLICK HERE to register. Membership is free, and always will be. Use social sites like Twitter and Facebook to let your network know you are looking for help and advice. Pick up those business books that you’ve been wanting to read, and use them as launching points for publishing your own ideas via LinkedIn or on a personal blog.

A special mention here is Toastmasters International. This organization was founded in 1927 to help its members develop crucial communication skills, and their learn-by-doing approach to both leadership and communication skills development delivers excellent results for as little as $7.50 (USD) per month, plus a one-time new member fee of only $20. [3]

The Road of Trials

The second major feature at this stage of the journey is the appearance of challengers that test the Hero’s growing skills, and magical allies that help her to overcome these challenges. In The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell offers the example of Psyche’s quest to win back her beloved Cupid from the underworld:

When Psyche pleaded with Venus, the goddess … took a great quantity of wheat, barley, millet, poppy seed, peas, lentils, and beans, mingled these all together in a heap, and commanded the girl to sort them before night. Psyche was aided by an army of ants. Venus told her, next, to gather the golden wool of a certain dangerous sheep…But a green reed instructed her how to gather from the reeds round about the golden locks shed by the sheep in their passage… Psyche was instructed finally to bring from the abyss of the underworld a box full of supernatural beauty, but a high tower told her how to go down to the word below, gave her coins for Charon and sops for Cerberus, and sped her on her way. [4]

In practical terms, we may not have magical helpers who solve our problems for us, but when we approach our challenges with optimism and a generous spirit, unexpected helpers often appear on our path.  A phenomenal example of this was the recent Webathon Weekend fundraiser organized by Lucy Brazier and Executive Secretary magazine on behalf of the inimitable Vicki Sokol-Evans to assist in her fight against breast cancer; over 50 world-class trainers came together and donated their time and content in a marathon of training delivered to hundreds of administrative professionals around the world.

In my own life, I have time and again been blessed with timely assistance from unexpected places. Whether large (being awarded the Northeastern University Carl S. Ell scholarship in 1993, just when my last hope of going to college had seemed to fall apart) or small (my son offering me the use of his truck so I could get to work and back until I had funds to repair my car after it failed inspection last month), I am continually amazed at how things do always seem to somehow work out.

Giving Chase to the Dragon

Finally, there is the question of the Dragon, who is never far from the Wanderer-Hero’s thoughts. The omnipresent danger heightens her alertness, and gives her motivation to continue her training and overcome the obstacles along her path. With newfound skills and confidence, the Wanderer-Hero gives chase where the Orphan-Hero fled and hid.

QUESTIONS: Up until now, what training have you pursued or services have you engaged to further your career or business? How do you maintain a positive attitude when faced with challenges? What unexpected helpers have you found along your way?

CO-MENTORING CHALLENGE: Identify at least 3 resources – e.g. classes, coaching or business services – that could help you in achieving your goals. Discuss the options with your co-mentor and develop a strategy to pursue at least 1 of them.


[1] Shakespeare, William. “To be or not to be” speech from Hamlet

[2] Hyatt, Michael, “3 Ways to Go Further, Faster”

[3] I am not an affiliate of Toastmasters International, nor am I compensated by them in any way for making this endorsement of their organization. I am simply a satisfied customer who has received considerable personal value from their program, and who enjoys recommending it to others who may benefit from it.

[4] Campbell, Joseph, The Hero With a Thousand Faces, pp 81 – 82. New World Library, Novato, CA, 2008.

Beyond the Hero’s Journey is a series of articles that explores elements of Joseph Campbell’s classic Hero’s Journey as way to reclaim the power our professional “stories” for personal growth, and to bring the “Elixir” of our triumphs to benefit others by moving beyond the Hero archetype to become mentors in our own right. 

Beyond the Hero’s Journey is published on the 3rd Wednesday of every month at www.mentorsandmasterminds.com.

The Orphan’s Journey

Preparation: The Orphan-Hero

  • A great crisis (dragon) drives the hero from his home.

  • Characterized by risk-aversion, powerlessness, and a dependence on others, the Orphan-Hero flees from the dragon, and is reborn as “the Wanderer”.

There’s no place like home, as they say, and so calling someone away from it requires a powerful motivation. In story, we call this “the inciting incident”. In our lives, it is a pivotal moment of catastrophe or a call to action significant enough to push or pull us out of our Ordinary World and into the Extraordinary World of the Hero’s Journey. This inciting incident transforms our Hero from an Innocent into an Orphan.

The Innocent

Before the start of the journey, the Hero is an Innocent. Characterized by optimism and a sense of security, the Innocent is totally dependent on parents (or other authority figures) to keep her Ordinary World in order. As a result , the Hero clings to her parents, and will resist any change to her comfortable Ordinary World.

In the opening of the classic Hero’s Journey film saga Star Wars, Luke Skywalker expresses a desire to join the Rebellion and fight the Empire, but his desire is not strong enough to override the objections of his adoptive parent, Uncle Owen. Later, when the mentor Obi-Wan first invites Luke to join him on a quest to help that same rebellion, Luke actually uses Owen’s own argument to refuse Obi-Wan’s invitation. In the Hero’s Journey, this invitation is known as the “Call to Adventure”, and “Refusal of the Call” is a mark of the Innocent.

In our careers, this period of innocence is much to be desired: we feel secure and happy; there is a sense that our employer values us; and our job meets our basic needs. It is tempting to believe that this happy circumstance will go on indefinitely. Like the characters Hem and Haw in Spencer Johnson’s 1998 business fable Who Moved My Cheese?, we may ignore signs of coming change. We may even remain in a situation long after it has become unsustainable. Change, however, is inevitable, and inevitably pushes us onto a new path.

The Dragon lays waste to the our Ordinary World, and a new journey begins…

The Dragon

The Dragon is the Fire-Bringer and the Orphan-Maker. In Star Wars, the Dragon comes in the form of Imperial Storm Troopers who set fire to the Skywalker homestead and kill the aunt and uncle who have raised Luke as their own son.

In our careers, the fires are usually more metaphorical than literal, but can be equally catastrophic. Company layoffs, serious illness or injury, or an unfavorable turn of office politics may expose us to loss of income and launch us on the “quest” to find a new job. Expenses due to a serious illness may deplete a lifetime of hard work and savings and leave us struggling to make ends meet on what was previously an adequate income.

Even something as commonplace graduating from school can be an inciting incident for change, psychologically speaking. The common reference to schools as Alma Mater, or “nourishing mother”, underscores this.  

First, we are forcibly pushed out of the familiar and nurturing environment we have inhabited for twelve or more years into a new world where it is no longer enough to do as we are told. Then, we are told we must seek our own way in an unfamiliar – and often unforgiving – world. A hero’s journey, indeed!

The Orphan

Where the Innocent was secure, the Orphan is fearful. Where the Innocent trusted in others to protect her, the Orphan is abandoned and alone. Just to survive, the Orphan must develop a level of self-sufficiency and resourcefulness that she was not required of her in her prior life; moreover, she must do this while trying to avoid the very Dragon that destroyed her Ordinary World. There may be a period of depression and inaction where we refuse the call, but eventually we must take action toward finding or creating a new “home”, and a new normal.

The first act of the Orphan, therefore, is to flee from the dragon and seek safety; the second is to piece together some new way to survive. As she relies on her own wits and resilience to provide for herself that which her parents previously supplied, the Orphan develops a new sense of self as distinct from the Family. With the Family gone, she eventually realizes that this loss brings not only responsibility but also a measure of freedom, including freedom she did not previously have to answer the Call to Adventure.

In Star Wars, Luke ultimately leaves the devastated farm and joins Obi-Wan on the quest to deliver valuable information to the Rebellion. In our lives, we also begin to consider next steps. Perhaps we simplify our lives and reduce our obligations to enable us to weather the storm. We may undertake training in an area of long-suppressed interest, setting our lives on a totally new path. Skills we previously thought of only as hobbies may become a source for new relationships or income opportunities.

With one decision – one small step – the Orphan crosses the threshold from the Ordinary into the Extraordinary World, and so her Hero’s Journey begins.

QUESTIONS: What Calls to Adventure have you received in your career, and how have you responded? What is the most significant Dragon that has impacted your career, professional or otherwise?

CO-MENTORING CHALLENGE: Review your current goals and identify the Dragon that incited you to pursue this goal. This “Dragon” might be a personal limitation, an external obstacle to professional advancement, or a personal catastrophe that is impacting your ability to perform at work. Whatever it is, discuss this challenge with your mentor and identify one way in which you can practice self-care and begin to rebuild your strength for the road ahead.


“Alma Mater”, Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alma_mater 

Beyond the Hero’s Journey is a series of articles that explores elements of Joseph Campbell’s classic Hero’s Journey as way to reclaim the power our professional “stories” for personal growth, and to bring the “Elixir” of our triumphs to benefit others by moving beyond the Hero archetype to become mentors in our own right. 

Beyond the Hero’s Journey is published on the 3rd Wednesday of every month at www.mentorsandmasterminds.com.

Where Do Mentors Come From? (Part 2 of 2)

Hero’s Journey 4-Act Story Diamong by Andrew Ferguson (http://rageagainstthepage.blogspot.com/2006/01/4-act-story-diamond.html), shared under Creative Commons License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/)

As I explored in Where Do Mentors Come From? Part 1, if I am to keep my promise to serve the growing community of administrative professionals at Mentors & Masterminds, I must answer this question. I have been forced to dig deep to find the Mentor within me, to reshape and polish what bits of value I find there, and to courageously share these treasures (so they seem to me), so that perhaps I may help others conquer their own challenges.

Whenever I do this kind of deep personal inquiry[i], I am drawn back to the work of Joseph Campbell, and his articulation of the world monomyth, or as it is more commonly known, the Hero’s Journey. in fact, “Meeting With the Mentor” is a pivotal moment in the Hero’s Journey. In The Writer’s Journey, Christopher Vogler’s classic writer’s guide to the Hero’s Journey, the Mentor is introduced as follows:

An archetype found frequently in dreams, myths and stories is the Mentor, usually a positive figure who aids or trains the hero. Campbell’s name for this force is the Wise Old Man or Wise Old Woman. This archetype is expressed in all those characters who teach and protect heroes and give them gifts. Whether it’s God walking with Adam in the Garden of Eden, Merlin guiding King Arthur, the Fairy Godmother helping Cinderella, or a veteran sergeant giving advice to a rookie cop, the relationship between the hero and Mentor is one of the richest sources of entertainment in literature and film. [ii]

By reviewing my life in the light of this framework, I have indeed reclaimed many “elixirs” of truth that have helped me to navigate my own path, and to be of support to others. Now, I discover therein the germ of an answer to my core question, “where do mentors come from?”:

Mentors are wisdom-givers who have completed their own Hero’s Journeys.

The Star Wars movie series is often cited as the textbook example of this Hero’s Journey, and repeatedly demonstrates this truth.  Heroes of the Clone War movies – Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi – become Luke’s Skywalker’s mentors in the rebellion movies A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. In Disney’s 2015 reboot of the series, The Force Awakens, Luke himself is introduced as the probable mentor of Rey, the heroine for a new generation.

The gifts which Vogler references are also a product of the mentor’s Hero’s Journey. Whether they take the form of physical objects, wisdom stories or prophecy, these gifts always come from the Mentor’s personal treasure store, imbued with a sense of history and great value. They are direct bequests to the Hero of the treasures won by the mentor own their Hero’s Journey.

Taken from this perspective, then, we are all mentors – or can be, if we are willing to do the deep work to unearth the treasures of our personal Hero’s Journeys. In this series “Beyond the Hero’s Journey”, I will explore the Hero’s Journey as way to reclaim the power our professional “stories” for personal growth, and to bring the “elixir” of our triumphs to benefit others by moving beyond the Hero archetype to become mentors in our own right. Each article will include a question for your personal inquiry, and a co-mentoring challenge designed to help you and your co-mentoring partner transform your stories into a gift that you can share with the world. I hope you will choose to make this journey with me.

QUESTION: What mentors have you had in your life, and how did their own experiences (as far as you knew them) equip them to become a mentor to you?

CO-MENTORING CHALLENGE: Pick one professional challenge you have overcome and, as simply as possible, share that story with your co-mentor at your next monthly meeting. Discuss your lessons learned, and ask your co-mentor what insights they gained from the story.

Beyond the Hero’s Journey is a series that explores elements of Joseph Campbell’s classic Hero’s Journey as way to reclaim the power our professional “stories” for personal growth, and to bring the “Elixir” of our triumphs to benefit others by moving beyond the Hero archetype to become mentors in our own right.

Beyond the Hero’s Journey is published on the 3rd Wednesday of every month at www.mentorsandmasterminds.com.


[i] Here I would like to acknowledge the influence of my teacher, artist Shiloh Sophia (http://shilohsophia.com/), and her process of Intentional Creativity.  To learn more about intentional creativity and the Color of Woman Method, go to http://www.intentionalcreativityfoundation.org/.

[ii] Vogler, Christopher, The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers (2nd Edition), Michael Wiese Productions, Studio City, CA, 1998. (page 47)