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Entrepreneurship and the Hero’s Journey

Entrepreneurship is a way of living, and ultimately a journey on its own. ‘Real’ entrepreneurs change the story of others. This new story, however, can upset people living in the conventional world. Entrepreneurship is hard work in the sense that it involves a lot of confusion and misunderstanding. Putting another product, approach or method on the market and changing other people’s perspective is never an easy task. Entrepreneurs represent a bridge between past and future, and by understanding the past, the stories of people, they’re able to create something new and rewrite the already-existing story of the market.

We can draw a parallel between the career paths of entrepreneurs and the Hero’s Journey introduced by Joseph Campbell (1949), in his famous book of The Hero with a Thousand Faces. This book of comparative mythology is still relevant today, and has influenced many movies in the past, such as the Star Wars series. The book reveals the findings of Campbell who examined the mythology of every culture and the stories told about their heroes. He found a specific pattern, called “monomyth” in every one, later breaking it down to the well-known hero’s journey. The implications of his theory have significant impact on several fields, covering a wide range of areas from screenwriting to brand development.

Like the hero of a great movie, entrepreneurs also undertake a journey of heroic actions. Knowing the different stages of the hero’s journey can help them identify the steps and path they’re taking, while enhancing the realization of their intended goal. Let’s discover these stages one by one!

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monomyth, http://www.thewritersjourney.com/hero's_journey.htm

Every entrepreneur starts his career in the Conventional Market, a known territory with ‘traditions and customs’ that the past created. On the contrary to those who are overwhelmed by the challenges of their everyday world, entrepreneurs are optimists, able to see further and envision what might be possible. They re-arrange the world in creative and useful ways, refusing to accept the perception of others about what is or isn’t possible.

Entrepreneurship requires departure from the security and comfort of the already-known world. This departure is the 2nd stop of the story where the Call to Adventure happens. In this phase, the entrepreneur raises the question: What If? This’s the first sign of a possibility to rewrite the already-existing story and create something new which diverge from the practices of the conventional market. Sometimes, leaving the standard path is the choice of the entrepreneur himself, passionate about realizing a vision. In other cases, the call is prompted by downsizing, economic difficulties or other unexpected changes. This initial step is often scary and exciting at the same time, but as Lau Tzu wrote, “the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.” At this point the entrepreneur still has the option to Reject the Challenge, 3rd step, or accept it and cross the threshold between the known and the unknown world.

The 5th step, Crossing into the Unfamiliar indicates that the bridge has been burnt and there is no way back. In this phase the entrepreneur needs to take a point of view which is differentiated from others and complements the “what if” idea. Questions arise such as: How will I communicate this new idea or how will I lead my audience into this new, unknown territory?

Just like the protagonist of every story or myth, entrepreneurs also have to earn their successes through trials, challenges, failures and new discoveries. The 6th step, Challenges and Temptations involve the process of finding friends, supporters, creating co-operations or, in worse scenarios, enemies and controversy. As the entrepreneur faces different challenges, attracts friends and establishes a differentiated viewpoint from other participants of the market, he actually establishes himself as a leader. This is often the most significant part of the journey, where entrepreneurs often face frustration, agony and failure, and encounter those who have an interest in maintaining the status quo.

The Final Challenge, the 8th step, is the culmination of the previous story parts. It’s what the entrepreneur has to overcome to arrive to the possibility of the “what if” question. If this final challenge is met, the hero of the story experiences a transformation in mindset, and a moment of rebirth. He’s able to look back at the ordinary world and understand the achieved, differentiated position he managed to realize.

At the end of the story, the hero must eventually return to the beginning phase to understand how far he has come. At this moment of success, the entrepreneur knows that the starting place has changed forever because he changed himself from the journey. The Final renewal, the 11th step, shows that the story is never going to end. The entrepreneur can continue the journey, encountering new challenges in the future with a changed identity.

The last, 12th step, the stage of Return with the Elixir shows the realization of the original dream, the achievement of the ‘what if’ idea. It’s the final part of the story that can also turn into the 1st step of a new story.

As there’s no end without a new beginning, this journey also represents a never ending cycle. A true entrepreneur will continue to lurch into new challenges. Entrepreneurs aren’t ordinary business people whose main priority is to maintain market share, or officers seeking to gain government subsidy. Entrepreneurs venture forth into the unknown world again and again to create value and meaning, and to break the status quo by bringing the knowledge back to their community…

Author: Dora Belme, cultural entrepreneur, project partner in the LEEN project

The LEEN project is funded by the ERASMUS+ programme (Agreement No. : 2015–1-BEO2-KA2O1-O12334).

Project webpage

Blog source: http://dorabelme.com/category/blog/

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