The hero and a dragon
Mountain tops and the hero
The entrepreneur is a hero in an adventure.

The entrepreneur’s hero journey

Joseph Campell introduced a structure that he called the ‘hero’s journey’, as a template for tales that involve a hero who enters into a venture, wins over adversity and returns transformed. This ‘monomyth’ can be used to describe the journey of an entrepreneur who accepts the big challenge to fight adversity in order to reach a grand goal.

The fear of answering ‘the call’

An entrepreneur’s journey begins when a person is called upon to leave their ordinary life and embark on a venture towards a better future. Entrepreneurs usually have a dream – they can quite vividly envision a future scenario and pose questions such as ‘What if?’– but first-time entrepreneurs usually don’t know what they have to endure to get there.

“Creativity takes courage.” – Henri Matisse

The reason few people act on the call is that they are fearful of leaving their comfort zone, entering into the dark abyss of the unknown and a fear of their judgement. Individuals that are called upon are often at a crossroads in their life, and the entrepreneurial quest is a mission to better their situation.

The subject’s fear is often a mindset, and subsequent action is about overcoming limiting beliefs. The difference between a hero entrepreneur and regular people is that the former choose to answer the call and step into the journey.

The challenge is an unknown dragon

It’s well known that to realise a new idea involves overcoming a plethora of obstacles, and some people simply don’t have the stomach for adversity. Entrepreneurs must accept that the journey towards resolution may involve hitting rock bottom on mental, physical and economical levels.

“Forget about making mistakes, just do it.” – Ajaero Tony Martins

As a founder, you have to come to terms with the vast amount of time spent in the struggle to create and develop a viable company from nothing. Now, you are no longer staring into the dark, scary void, but you are down in the snake pit, fighting the monsters.

When you’re in the thick of it, you need to stick with it and work through the bad times. And yes, it’s a slog, spending your time dealing with bitter strife and conflicts. For first-time entrepreneurs, it's hard to know how long it takes to emerge the other side, and a lot of people give up just before they become successful.

The moment of success is really the beginning of a new journey

If and when you manage to realise the dream and achieve the ‘what if’ idea, the pinnacle of success might not feel as exhilarating as envisioned. The point of success is so fleeting that the best way to tackle it is as a starting point for a new venture. Arriving at the endpoint of a project you may realise that ‘there is no there there’.

“Some people simply do not have the stomach for the adversity.” – Gary Vaynerchuck

Many entrepreneurs actually suffer from depression because the inevitable direction from the peak is downhill. Founders may feel unhappy when arriving at their goal because the goal has changed and because they themselves have changed during the journey.

The best remedy for tackling disappointment with an endpoint is to start a new journey and treat the accomplishment as a plateau to go even further. If your goals are based on metrics, as in size, or sales or money, you will most likely fail, but if you acknowledge any and all improvements you learn along the way and enjoy the journey itself you will succeed. This is a better attitude to have because you’ll most likely spend the vast majority of your time dodging obstacles and a tiny amount of time basking in the glory of success.

In a startup story about how an entrepreneur acquires success, the hero is a good metaphor for the founder. If you’re using the “Hero’s Journey” as a template to tell the story about a company in brand storytelling, the customer is the ‘hero’ who struggles against obstacles, and the company is the ‘guide’ or magic helper who assists the hero. The 'coach' often offers a tool (the service that your company provides) to fight the monsters.

Critics argue that the “Hero’s Journey” template is too broad and general, and Steve Seager proposes that there are in fact several structures to classical myths. For example, the Scandinavian narrative forms are often built around multiple characters, instead of the single protagonist as in Campbell's concept. This resonates better with entrepreneurship where there is often a group of founding members.
Christian Leborg

Christian Leborg

Christian Leborg is a visual communicator and branding consultant. He specialises in building brand strategies and brand identities. Christian has worked with several specializations within visual communication as well as teaching and being an author. Christian now works on his third stint as an entrepreneur.