What a Novel by Joseph Campbell Teaches About Entrepreneurship
Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox
"The cave you fear most to enter holds the treasure you seek most."
Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces.
The signs were there, but he couldn't see them.
Or maybe he didn't want to.
Invisible forks in the path of eternal routine. Day after day it was the same: the alarm clock rang at 4:50 in the morning. How could he get up. He went to the bathroom, rinsed his face, went downstairs to the kitchen.
He always left the house in the dark, with his suitcase under his arm and his running gear on. He drove to the gym knowing there would be less traffic at that time. He ran for at least an hour. As if running away from something or perhaps from himself, he ran. He bathed in a hurry and sometimes did not shave, as he was running late. He drove to the office listening to the news; he liked to play at being aware of what was happening in the world, even if he was not able to read the signs of his own life. Those that had to do with the dream of becoming independent, of undertaking before it was too late. He didn't know how, but he always managed to get to the office on time.
Meetings in the morning to return to the previous day's pending. Emails. Conflict resolution between your co-workers. Approval of payments and long distance calls to hear from people you would never meet in person. Mealtime that always came before enough was done.
The afternoon meetings in the absurd hope that they would start in time to be able to get out before traffic, to get home and do something else. Go for ice cream. Read or maybe walk the dog. Play Halo with kids who you could never beat anymore. Talk for a while about everything and nothing. Watch a Netflix episode while having dinner. Sleep, just to start over.
That is your ordinary world. The place that makes you feel comfortable, safe, the one that whispers over and over that you don't need anything else. That he is complete, happy and fulfilled there. For him, he denies all signs.
In 1949 a man named Joseph Campbell published his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces. A comparative study around the figure of the hero in the different mythologies of the world. It is not a work on entrepreneurship, but it could well be.
The author details the various stages in the hero's journey. And the first is precisely life in the ordinary world. That place where you exist without thinking.
The status quo.
Until you hear the call.
Even if you refuse to perceive the signals, the time will come when the world will conspire so that you can no longer ignore them.
The hero's kingdom will be devastated by a strange darkness, his parents will die at the hands of an unimagined villain, or two androids will appear with a message for help from a princess asking for help to restore order to a fragmented galaxy.
For you it can be an unexpected dismissal, the merger of the company you work for with a huge corporation or the arrival of a new boss with whom you will not understand. Events that force you to reconsider and that many times throw you into change, even if you don't want to.
The erosion of the status quo will take you down new paths. Joseph Campbell explains that at this stage the hero will make new allies and mentors who will help him on his way by giving him weapons and knowledge so that he can face the unknown.
And so, like a hero, you will be forced to abandon the eternal routine to throw yourself into the void of the unknown. Then the inevitable tests will come: the first confrontations with those snakes that we call doubt and that will make you want to go back, return to the monotony of the routine in which you lived.
But you won't be able to do it.
The ordinary world has been left behind and the only path you can advance will lead you to the caverns of tomorrow and face the most fearsome of your monsters. Days of darkness will come for the hero; for you, entrepreneur, the fear of failure . To lose everything. To fade you in the attempt. Fears will bend your knees and make you falter and, on the verge of death, of oblivion, when all seems lost, you will rise to show that you have not yet been defeated. The fight will be bloody, but transformed into a legendary hero you will defeat the beast and receive a reward. In mythologies it is about treasures, jewels, swords or some magical elixir. In the world of the entrepreneur it can be the recognition of a client or the acquired experience that makes you faster, wiser, stronger.
After the battle the hero will return to the ordinary world but will arrive transformed. The reward under his arm will end the drought, restore the castle, restore light to the kingdom and order the entire galaxy.
Your presence will bring peace, at least for a time.
For you, an entrepreneur, the return will mean the return to stability . To the certainty that your business idea makes sense, that it is possible to live on it.
Until with the passage of time what was previously new becomes routine and you find yourself once again installed in an eternal routine, living in the ordinary world, but with the certainty that sooner or later a new call will come to which you will respond without hesitation.
Because you are a hero and you know that undertaking is fulfilling your own destiny.