The hero's journey can be a lonely one. But does it have to be? Or in fact, do the heroes who ultimately succeed in their quests do so because they were willing to seek out -- and accept -- a considerable amount of help?
In Joseph Campbell's writings about the hero's journey
, he describes numerous helpers the hero may require along the way, including mentors, spirit guides, allies, and rescuers. In stories about heroes from mythology, fiction, and real life, the role of these helpers is significant.
King Arthur had his mentor Merlin and the aid of the Knights of the Round Table. Luke Skywalker had the guidance of Obi-Wan Kenobi and the companionship of Han Solo and Princess Leia. Lance Armstrong
became a champion cyclist because he was mentored by Chris Carmichael, survived cancer with the assistance of Dr. Steven Wolff and cancer nurse Latrice Haney, and built his cancer research foundation
with the help of Kristen Richard, who became his wife. Successful heroes have help.
If you are setting out on a quest of your own, you may already know that you need guidance and support, but where can you find it? One approach I always suggest to fledgling heroes pondering this question is immersion
. If you stand outside the new world you want to enter, it always appears mysterious, and usually frightening. You don't know where to go or who to talk to, and because you aren't talking to anyone, you think you are alone with your goals and dreams. But once you take one small step into that world, you immediately make contact with like-minded people. The trick is to be willing to step in before you have it all figured out.
When I first decided to help entrepreneurs become more successful in 1992, I had no idea how to go about it. I didn't know anyone else who did that kind of work, I had no mentors or guides, and no one to help me. If I had stayed in that isolated state, I wouldn't have lasted 15 weeks in my new venture. Instead, it's been 15 years. The reason I've ultimately been able to help so many people with my work is because I've had a lot of help myself. And I found that help by immersing myself in the world I wanted to enter -- before I felt ready to be there.
What this means on a practical level can be any number of activities, for example, attending meetings of like-minded people, reading books about related people and projects, surfing the web to find out who is doing what, taking classes related to your goal or dream, and asking others for ideas, resources, and connections.
One of the most helpful steps to me personally turned out to be getting on mailing lists. Receiving newsletters and announcements from the people and organizations already in the world I wanted to enter introduced me to new possibilities, suggested places I could go and people I could meet, and made me feel as if I was a part of something.
If you are looking for mentors and allies for a social action or advocacy project of your own, the organization FLOW
has developed some effective models for connecting people with similar ideas. In San Francisco, New York, and Austin, they've been holding regular "Activation Circle" gatherings to bring together people with a shared vision of "liberating the entrepreneurial spirit for good." And on Nov. 30 in Austin
, and Dec. 7 in San Rafael
, they are hosting daylong events for that purpose.
I'll be attending the San Rafael event, where the morning will be focused on a particular theme: supporting women entrepreneurs in the developing world. In the afternoon session, attendees will have a chance to interact with each other about the topic of their choice related to any social enterprise, in an open space
setting. After attending a session like this in October, I walked away with a tall stack of new contacts and possibilities for my own projects.
One of the fastest ways to end your quest to make a difference before it starts is to believe that you're the only one on that particular journey. If you want to have a successful mission, start looking around for who else should be on your team.
Labels: heroism, social action, social entrepreneurs