April 20, 2021

The Hero’s Journey is a method of storytelling that dates back to Greek mythology. Stories like the Battle of Troy (The Iliad), The Odyssey, and Beowulf are all written in the Hero’s Journey, but so are movies like Top Gun, The Lord of the Rings,and even Star Wars. To be honest, once you learn about the Hero’s Journey… you really can’t stop seeing it. The relatability of the story is what makes it so popular, and so timeless. So what does it mean for dads? Well, you tell me. You’re probably on it.

What are the stages on the Hero’s Journey?

There are a few different takes on the Hero’s Journey and how it breaks down. The oldest take has 17 steps, but the most recent has 12. Most literary theorists use the 12 step Hero’s Journey, or even the most bare-bones three-step, in their critiques. They break down like this: 

  1. Ordinary World: a person (the Hero) feels out of place or is bored in the world he currently lives in.
  2. Call to adventure: he receives a great call to something bigger than him - this means he has to do something, or be something, very important. This adventure is life/world-changing, very dangerous, and risky.
  3. Refusal of the call: he is afraid or doubtful and does not accept this call for greatness.
  4. Meeting with the mentor: he meets someone who will help him along on his journey.
  5. Crossing the first threshold: he decides to depart on the adventure, knowing the risks and attempting to navigate the world with different rules than his own.
  6. Tests, allies, and enemies: the Hero meets his first tests and trials, meets friends, as well as enemies on his journey.
  7. Approach to the inmost cave: he is tested, heavily, and retreats to a dark place where he doubts and feels like he can’t do anything or is failing. This is a moment that is very dark and depressing for the Hero, where he faces a choice: stop, or keep going.
  8. The ordeal: think of this as the “Boss” stage of a video game. The Hero can either step up and fight or retreat back to the cave. The Hero always steps up.
  9. Reward: he is rewarded greatly for the fight.
  10. The road back: the Hero has to make a, usually still quite hard, journey back to the Ordinary World.
  11. The resurrection: the Hero is a totally different person. He has learned, grown, and is better. He is, and will never be, the same - he is better.
  12. Return with the elixir: he is welcomed home and people recognize the changes he has made and the person he has become. In some stories, he has the thing that will literally save the world.

The Hero’s Journey and you

If any of that felt familiar, it’s because supposed to! Have you ever felt like you weren’t yourself? Like you were being tested, deeply, and like you had to grow a lot in a short amount of time? Sound anything like becoming a dad? Thought so. The cool thing about the Hero’s Journey is that it invites sequels. The Hero rarely ever goes on just one journey, there are many (reasons why Star Wars has stuck around for so long).

Sometimes it’s nice to know that when you’re struggling, maybe you’re in the cave and the next step is the reward. When you’re expected to do something great and bigger than you, you’re allowed to reject the call at first and buck up later. You’re allowed to doubt, feel, and worry. You will always prevail as long as you keep going.

You are the hero of your own movie, full of depth and wonder. You can make things happen and bring home that elixir like the best of them. Act like it. Step up. 

Hint: Your kids are your world, and they are far from ordinary.

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