Embarking on a Quest: The Hero’s Journey in Life or in Business

an image of a business hero on his journey inspired by the tarot
“the business hero’s journey inspired by tarot" - Powered by Dall-E 3.

This is an article that I have been cultivating for a while and finally today I feel is the day to post it.

Joseph Campbell, a renowned professor of literature and mythologist, identified a universal cross-cultural story structure: the Hero's Journey. This narrative arc takes our hero from their ordinary world, through trials and triumphs, to a transformative return.

This storytelling template can be a surprisingly insightful tool when applied to understanding whereabouts you may be in your own business or life process.

Now without wanting to come across as overly “woo woo”, the Tarot also provides a rich tapestry of symbolism for this process, and woven together these two powerful tools can help you to guide you on your own quest.

This article is not about fortune-telling - far from it - it is about using tools to help understand whereabouts you find yourself along the hero’s cyclical model. As your business grows and the market evolves, you'll likely embark on new journeys to continuously improve your processes.

Joseph Campbell’s story structure is depicted below with the alphanumeric headings and the tarot symbology is weaved throughout with a business example in blue italics.

  1. The Ordinary World

    The Fool (0): This card represents the hero's innocent state at the beginning of their journey, full of potential and ready to leap into the unknown.

    This translates to the current state of your business process. Identify inefficiencies, pain points, and areas for improvement. This is the world you're seeking to leave behind.

  2. The Call to Adventure

    The Magician (I): The Magician signifies the call to adventure. Here, the hero receives a message, a challenge, or a spark of inspiration that disrupts their ordinary world.

    The call might be a recognition of a problem, a competitor's innovation, or a shifting market trend. It disrupts the status quo and compels you to seek a better way.

  3. Refusal of the Call (optional)

    The High Priestess (II): The High Priestess embodies intuition and inner wisdom. The hero might be hesitant or unsure, drawing on their intuition to weigh the call to adventure.

    This could be inertia, resistance to change, or lack of resources. Analyse these obstacles and how to overcome them.

  4. Meeting the Mentor

    The Empress (III): The nurturing and supportive energy of the Empress represents the mentor figure. This could be a wise guide, a teacher, or even a helpful stranger who equips the hero for their journey.

    This could be a consultant, industry expert, or even a team member with fresh ideas. They offer guidance and support to navigate the challenges ahead.

  5. Crossing the Threshold

    The Emperor (IV): The Emperor represents structure and order. This card signifies the hero's decision to commit, crossing the threshold into the unknown world of adventure.

    This signifies the decision to commit to process improvement. Resources are allocated, a team is assembled, and a plan is formed.

  1. Tests, Allies, Enemies

    The Hierophant (V): The Hierophant embodies societal norms and traditions. This stage presents the hero with tests and challenges, forcing them to confront established ideas and forge their own path. Allies and enemies emerge during this stage.
    The Lovers (VI): The Lovers represent important choices and relationships. The hero encounters allies and potential romantic partners who will influence their journey.
    The Chariot (VII): The Chariot signifies determination and willpower. The hero faces internal and external conflicts, needing to control their emotions and impulses to navigate these challenges.

    Tests are unexpected roadblocks or technical hurdles. Allies are team members, technology partners, or external resources that aid the process. Enemies could be internal resistance, competing priorities, or lack of budget.

  2. Approach to the Innermost Cave

    Strength (VIII): Strength represents courage and inner fortitude. The hero approaches the most dangerous part of their journey, drawing on their inner strength and resilience.

    This is the heart of the improvement process, where the most complex problems are tackled. Here, you'll need all the resources and resilience you can muster.

  3. The Ordeal

    The Hermit (IX): The Hermit represents introspection and solitude. The hero faces their greatest challenge, a moment of isolation and self-confrontation.

    This is the biggest challenge, a moment of truth for the process improvement. It could be a failed implementation, resistance from stakeholders, or unforeseen complications.

  4. Reward (Seizing the Sword)

    Wheel of Fortune (X): The Wheel of Fortune signifies change and transformation. The hero experiences a turning point, achieving a victory or gaining a valuable lesson.
    Justice (XI): Justice represents balance and fairness. The hero reflects on their experiences and considers the consequences of their actions before returning to the ordinary world.
    The Hanged Man (XII): The Hanged Man signifies a shift in perspective. The hero undergoes a transformation, seeing the world from a new viewpoint.
    Death (XIII): Though seemingly negative, Death represents endings and new beginnings. The hero sheds their old self and is reborn, carrying the wisdom gained on their journey.

    This is the breakthrough! A successful pilot program, a streamlined workflow, or a measurable improvement in efficiency.

  1. The Road Back

    Temperance (XIV): Temperance signifies integration and balance. The hero learns to integrate their experiences into their life, finding balance between their inner and outer worlds.
    The Devil (XV): The Devil represents temptation and illusion. The hero may face a final test, a chance to succumb to their shadow self or remain true to their growth.
    The Tower (XVI): The Tower signifies sudden upheaval and destruction. The hero confronts a necessary disruption, dismantling old belief systems to make way for the new.

    Here, you solidify the gains. Lessons learned are documented, training is conducted, and the new process is integrated into daily operations.

  2. Resurrection

    The Star (XVII): The Star represents hope and renewal. The hero finds renewed hope and inspiration, ready to share their gifts with the world.
    The Moon (XVIII): The Moon signifies fear and illusion. The hero may face lingering doubts or anxieties, needing to confront their fears to fully integrate their experiences.
    The Sun (XIX): The Sun represents joy, success, and enlightenment. The hero emerges from their journey with newfound wisdom and understanding.
    Judgement (XX): Judgement signifies self-reflection and evaluation. The hero reflects on their journey and its impact on themselves and the world.

    The business itself undergoes a transformation. It becomes more efficient, adaptable, and competitive.

  3. Return with the Elixir

    The World (XXI): The World represents completion and fulfilment. The hero returns to the ordinary world, transformed and ready to share their gifts with others.

    The improved process becomes the new normal, and a valuable asset that can be shared with others in the industry.

Have you ever felt the itch for adventure? Do you dream of grand quests and epic transformations for yourself, your business or career?

Have you thought about your life, business or career in terms of a hero's journey? Are you ready to answer the call to adventure?

If you are interested in learning more about how I can help you, please drop me a message on LinkedIn, or get in touch to find out more.


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