Hero’s Journey: Defining Events

This is the third in a three-part series on “How to Uncover, Own and Tell Your Story.”

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In Parts 1 and 2, you began uncovering your story by reflecting on the life events and circumstances that have shaped you.

As you identify these influences, you will notice they come in all sizes. Your life is filled with many adventures, big and small. Some may last only a day. The over-arching adventure is life itself. All of them are the mile markers on your life’s journey. You can help them emerge by investigating the Hero’s Journey.

The Hero’s Journey

Beloved author and mythologist Joseph Campbell taught us that the Hero’s Journey is an ancient story that is embedded in the human experience. It has been present across every culture since the beginning of time. The Hero is you, me and everyone in our human experience.

Our Hero’s Journey goes something like this:

The Hero is living in the status quo until something happens to shake things up. This can range from the loss of a client or job to the loss of someone or something precious. It can also be a call to action, such as an aching unrest that unfolds over time.

At first you resist change, but finally the journey begins as you head into the unknown where things are no longer “steady as she goes.” Along the way you find helpful friends and mentors. You embrace the advice and gain confidence.

In a crucial moment of the journey, you face the hard decision—represented by the dragon of fear. There are a many forms of fear, such as the discomfort of scrapping the status quo—leaving a job, changing careers, starting a business, alienating people who want you to stay the same, and the worry of startling people with your true desires.

When you succeed, you gain a greater understanding of life and the satisfaction of overcoming the obstacle. If you fall short, the status quo is always lurking.

The Hero’s Journey never ends. You will face another call to shake things up. There is always another adventure ahead. Telling your story can be a gift to others. To share with others what your life has taught you (to empower them) is the essence of generosity.

One of My Many Journeys

My first love was broadcasting. For more than a decade I thought my career would always be about radio, TV or media.

I had set my sights on being the general manager of big property for Cox Broadcasting. But when the industry began to shift toward consolidation I became restless and mulled over the idea of leaving to do something much different.

A mishandled, sloppy sale of my radio station tossed me way out of my comfort zone; and then one day a new general manager named Chuck told me I needed to forget the way things had been. Things would be different now, he told me, starting with my job description. I left his office and walked down the hall to my office, sat down and banged out my resignation. It was almost involuntary. After 12 years in commercial broadcasting, I was out the door.

I went to work for the local NPR affiliate in town for half the money. My friends and family thought I was crazy. I thought I was crazy. I became part of a small team that ran a popular news and jazz station that collectively were my teacher and mentor into a new life.

All the angst and anger over the sale of my station subsided. My life became enriched with friends. I began to write again. For a few years I did independent PR and worked as a consultant for a handful of clients I knew through my background in broadcasting. I was good but not great at it. I began to feel as though I was settling and ached for my true place.

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Through a series of chance events, I did part-time work for a classy gentleman named Ty who taught the techniques of platform public speaking. This man was an important mentor who struck a match to my unique ability.

I began to notice that something missing in the way that business presentation skills were being taught. It was vulnerability and authenticity as the vital and driving forces behind communication.

The stretch of road between realizing my purpose, founding Interact and creating a real business was fraught with dragons: financial recessions, naysayers and wrong partners who were on their own journey.

One morning I was standing at the coffee pot in our studio, which is located in a restored factory building, and I had to sit down. The light was pouring in. I had “come home” from the adventure of finding my true work, helping others find their voice.

What are the defining events in your life that have shaped your hero’s journey? Use the printable handout that goes along with this article to help you uncover it.

Bringing It All Together

Finding the drawstring from your early and adult backstories and understanding the defining events of your life through the Hero’s Journey–these are three vital tools to help you uncover your story. Not for the purpose of one grand speech, but for a thousand different nuggets that will make your communication more meaningful and valuable to others.

If you would like our guidance and some company on this adventure, register for the next edition of Storylines That Connect at Interact Studio. We would love to meet you!

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Avatar for Lou Solomon

Lou Solomon

Lou Solomon is the founder of Interact. She is a TEDx speaker and a member of the adjunct faculty at the McColl School of Business at Queens University of Charlotte. Her articles have appeared in Harvard Business Review, Entrepreneur.com, CEO.com, and Fast Company.