Writing shortly after the carnage of World War Two ceased, Joseph Campbell released The Hero With A Thousand Faces. He contended that there is a fundamental narrative that is told and retold throughout the great stories of history. Beginning with
Bart Homer and stretching forwards to airport bookstore paperbacks and Kung Fu Panda, there is one story – the “monomyth” – rooted deep in the human need for storytelling.
A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man
That sounds kinda familiar……
The monomyth has been hard-coded into screen-writing advice given to Hollywood scriptwriters – have you ever noticed how every big movie seems to follow the same structure? They call it the Eight Point Story Arc but it’s just a stripped-down monomyth. Some Hollywood writers have even self-consciously structured their movie around Campbell’s model. Consider this comparison (source article here, I recommend you read his full discussion):
I contend that, due to some combination of evolution and cultural tradition, we naturally try to insert ourselves into a personalised monomyth. Read this next section and consider the typical “player’s journey” story, be it this blog or of course Neil Strauss’s famous
work of fiction biography.
In a monomyth, the
heroplayer begins in the ordinaryblue pill world, and receives a callreads Roissy to enter an unknown world of strange powersgame and eventshot girls. The herochode who accepts the call to enter this strange worldstart cold approaching must face tasks and trialsrejection, either alone or with assistancean approach coach. In the most intense versions of the narrative (Tom Torero / Nick Krauser), the hero must survive a severe challenge, often with help. If the hero survives, he may achieve a great gift or “boon”intermediate game. The hero must then decide whether to return to the ordinary world with this boonstart writing a blog or coaching. If the hero does decide to return, he or she often faces challenges on the return journeyhaters. If the hero returns successfully, the boon or gift may be used to improve the worldfund a location-independent income from which to euro-jaunt forever.
There’s a reason we insert ourselves into the monomyth. We all like to self-aggrandise and mythologise our own journeys. Not only does it feel good but – more importantly – it cloaks a timid and highly unpredictable challenge with an air of inevitability. When watching movies we see the hero get into desperate straits and feel the dramatic tension but we know he’ll get out of it. Half of the excitement is waiting to find out what ingenious wheeze he’ll use to solve the problem.
The monomyth is a great meta-level inner game hack. By inserting ourselves into a grand narrative, the result of which is pre-determined, we calm all those “can I really make it?” voices that may otherwise cause us to give up.
Embrace the monomyth. Create your own. Let the power of mythology push you through the hard times and into the Final Act of….. younger, hotter, tighter.