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