The Break Issue 32: Becoming The Hero Of Your Own Story
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This week’s newsletter is a bit different.
My plan was to break down the classic Hero’s Journey structure from mythology and storytelling to pull out some career lessons.
Instead, what poured out of me is my own Modern Day Hero’s Journey short story.
I apologize if this isn't what you were expecting, but I hope it inspires you to heed The Voice inside of you.
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The journey as a storytelling device
The Hero’s Journey is a common template of stories that involve a hero who goes on an adventure, is victorious in a decisive crisis, and comes home changed or transformed.
It underpins mythology and most great books and movies.
Here’s what it classically looks like:
While these ancient journeys are rooted in some external quest, exploration or physical confrontation, the path of a modern day Hero is most often internal.
Our modern struggle
I believe deep down we all dream of becoming heroes.
I believe that accepting your Hero’s Journey itself is the key to happiness and fulfillment - basically it is the key to living a good life as the Stoics say - but we must say yes to The Voice.
Somewhere along the line we lose this dream.
We say no to The Voice.
We give into our fears.
We forget what heroism even is, and we conflate it with “success," money and status.
When we don’t see “success” we start thinking heroes are just different than us.
We think WE can’t be a hero anymore. We think:
Heroes are different.
Heroes are special.
Who am I to think I’m a hero?
So we refuse the call - at first.
What we miss is that it is this process alone that is heroic. The act of facing adversity and combating it with courage is where we derive meaning from life.
If you believe you have the capacity to change, you’re already a hero, so it’s time to become the hero of your own journey.
I wrote my own version of the Hero’s Journey. I wrote it to inspire more people to muster up the courage to walk through these stages to find meaning, alignment and happiness.
To get there we must wage an internal war against our antagonists: uncertainty, fear, doubt and stagnation.
If any part of this story or it’s stages resonates with you - you are a hero. It’s time to stop refusing the call. It’s time to find out what The Voice is whispering in your ear.
Your Modern Day Hero’s Journey
Part 1: The Voice
The Hero has this voice calling him to be something more.
“But what?”, he says.
“But how?”, he thinks.
Part 2: Refusal of The Voice
The Hero is a humble man of modest means. What he has is known to him, so he refuses the voice:
“what you say is not practical. I have responsibilities.”
“I’m already on a path, how can I give it up?”
“I can’t go backwards.”
“Change is risky.”
“I need a plan.”
“I don’t know enough.”
Part 3: The Break of Possibility
The Hero has an encounter that Breaks his construct of what is possible for him as a human being in his one life.
He sees a headline that gets him thinking.
"Am I lying to myself?" he asks.
He hears a story on a podcast of a regular woman who broke her own limits.
He thinks, “well, why not me?”
He reads a book that changes everything.
His pain becomes too great to ignore.
He gives himself permission to explore.
Part 4: Discovery Of The Helper
The Hero opens the gates of possibility just a crack. As he peers through the opening, he sees others on this same journey. Some are ahead, some are behind. He sees the next step toward possibility, but he also scared because he instantly realizes to go further means crossing The Threshold.
He opens the doors just a little wider and steps through. He knows he is not alone.
He passively consumes the writings of others.
Then he activates - He joins the others in groups and forums to learn more and share his story.
He interacts and helps.
Then The Helper finds him - seemingly serendipitously.
Part 5: Crossing The Threshold
The Helper walks The Hero up to The Threshold, and says, “You may not find everything you’ve ever wanted on the other side, but you will never find it here in The Known. You must cross to The Unknown. The only promise I can make to you is that when you return, you will have discovered who you truly are, and that is a risk worth taking.”
The Hero understands that he must cross The Threshold into The Unknown, but he feels alone.
He stares wide eyed at The Threshold.
He sees the pain and struggle that lies ahead.
He feels the uncertainty.
He steps forth into The Arena anyway.
The Hero turns back as The Helper says, “we will find each other again, my friend, before your Journey is over.”
Part 6: The Trials
In The Arena the gates close behind him and The Hero is immediately confronted with dread and self doubt. For The Hero finds himself standing on top of “Mount Regret”, and there is no easy path down.
He tries many paths, but nothing seems to work.
In his action, he begins to to learn. He becomes attuned to his surroundings, and little by little, his progress down the mountain accelerates.
One day The Hero discovers a Map. His mind runs wild:
Who left this?
Was left by others who didn't make it?
Is the map correct?
Where is the map to?
He cries out: “How do I KNOW this is the way? For this map my brain can not understand.”
In that moment The Helper appears across the valley and says, “It is a map, dear friend, but a map is not the same as the territory you cross. You must use it, but learn when to deviate on your own path.”
The Hero presses onward. Encountering many setbacks yet he persists.
Then The Hero finds himself at rock bottom. He is tired and wants to give up.
Part 7: The Break of Revelation
But what he does next, changes The Hero’s path.
Realizing there is no way back, The Hero looks down at The Map to find himself once again.
But instead, he closes his eyes and imagines the route behind him.
He smiles as he remembers how far he has come.
He begins to connect the dots between his past, his present and his future.
His despair and self doubt BREAK and fall to the ground beside him.
He sees the path now more clearly than ever.
He opens his eyes, and takes a step.
He laughs as he notices the ground under that step is just a bit higher than where he was standing before.
Part 8: Transformation
The next step The Hero takes is more confident, as is the next after that, and the one after that. Our Hero is transformed - though he has not yet found what he is looking for.
He has not yet achieved his path, his goal, his status, or the dollars in his bank account that he wished he had.
But non-the-less he is transformed.
He acts different.
He thinks different.
He has left his old self behind in that valley.
He is a new person.
Part 9: Achievement
The Hero continues to walk as a new person. Each step a bit higher than the last. As his confidence grows so does his energy and belief. Anchored in his true experience and guided by the signs of where he has been, The Hero clarifies, reprioritizes, focuses and achieves.
Sometimes by brute force and will.
Sometimes by luck.
Part 10: Refusal of The Return
Then one day as The Hero sits in luxury, fat from indulging in his spoils, The Hero hears The Voice again.
It says, “you must return to become a Hero.”
The Hero replies, “But what can you mean? For I have reached the top! I have conquered my fears, I have slayed my demons! Isn’t this what it was all for?”
“I can not return. This must not be true. For look at what I would be giving up.”
Part 11: The Return
Days turn to years as The Hero grows restless. He hears footsteps behind him in his fields. He sees shadows as he walks the woods. And He is haunted at night by a voice. It is The Voice, and it says again and again, “you must return. You are not done.”
The Hero runs into the cold night. Alone. Without food, water or clothing. Driven mad by The Voice.
In desperation he cries out, “return to where?!”
The Voice responds: “To The Threshold.”
“But why? After this Journey that has transformed me, what do I possibly have left to become?” Asks The Hero.
“The Helper.” Replied The Voice, and the words were his own.
Epilogue - TLDR for the young folk!
The moral of the story is:
we can all be heroes of our own stories
we either accept the call, or we shrink from it
pursuing heroism means crossing into the unknown, which is scary.
you will encounter help along the way. you will not be alone
it will be hard and you will fail at times
keep going you are learning
when you reach your achievement, you are not done
for you have much to teach those behind you
and it will be your own voice guiding the way
See you again next week!
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Teddy is a former D1 athlete. He played Baseball at UNC, then took his two passions: sports and writing, and built a career in sports media starting with ESPN. Somewhere along the line, as most of us come to find out, Teddy realized how he was using his talents wasn’t as impactful as it could be. He worked for a startup for a while, where he built the confidence to later go out on his own.
Today Teddy combines his unique skills to help executives become better digital writers and build powerful brands online.
This episode is packed with great insights about adversity, courage and being consistent. Plus Teddy shares from his experiences training with Navy Seals and climbing the equivalent height of Mt. Everest.
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⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ This was super helpful! ⭐️⭐️⭐️ Could be better. ⭐️ This one needs work!