Monday, August 30, 2010

Hero's Journey - Approach to the Inmost Cave

The Approach to the Inmost Cave is the final stage before the ultimate showdown with the Hero’s demons. The Hero is advancing at the threshold of the Inmost Cave where the demons lurk.

This stage is about the Approach - not about the Inmost Cave.

Why treat this separately? In much the same way as the Hero had to prepare to cross the first threshold into the Special World, this stage represents the Hero preparing to cross the second threshold into the Inmost Cave.

The Hero may have the capabilities and skills to overcome the demons but he will still fail, if he is not in the right mental state.

The Hero's mental state at the moment of truth - using the penalty shootout of a soccer match as an example - has a decisive impact on the outcome.

Resourceful states such as feeling confident and strong are pre-requisites of success while unresourceful states such as fear and confusion lay the ground for failure.

When a soccer player rushes towards the ball feeling anxious and thinking that he will blow the shot - he is greatly increasing his own chances of fumbling it.

When the player approaches the ball, only hoping for the best and does not actively manage his mental state, his chances doesn't increase much as he has not activated the mental resources to help him.

When the player steps up to the ball feeling confident and firmly believing that he will score, he greatly increases his chances of blasting the ball past the goalkeeper.

In confrontations between evenly matched opponents, whomever is in a more resourceful mental state wins.

The ability to efficiently manage their mental state differentiates between winners and losers.

The ability to manage our internal state is therefore one of the most important skills the Hero can have.

In Neuro-linguistic Programming or NLP, state management has a structure and process which anyone can learn.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Hero's Journey - Tests, Allies and Enemies

The Hero is now fully in the Special World – he is at the stage of “Tests, Allies, and Enemies”. The Hero now faces tests while he sorts out who are his allies and enemies for his Hero’s journey.

When the Hero embarks on his Hero’s Journey, there are three possible ways others may respond. Some will support the Hero, some are indifferent, while others will decide to be the Hero’s enemy because of what he stands for.

This is the stage where the Hero hones his people reading skills. Misreading people – whom he can trust and whom he cannot - can break the Journey.

It is natural for us to want to be loved by all but this is simply not possible. Enemies are something we cannot avoid completely - not even if we abandon our Hero’s Journey and try to please everyone. As Bill Crosby said, “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everyone.”

So do not be disheartened when toxic and evil people show up in your life. Dealing successfully with toxic people and evil people are crucial life skills, and part and parcel of the Hero's Journey.

The Hero’s Journey is not a solitary quest. Heroes have an extensive and diverse support network which they carefully and systemically nurture. The Hero’s allies consist of people who agree with the Hero’s aspirations and the initially indifferent people whom the hero rallies to support him. The Hero will leverage on people who sincerely support his Hero’s Journey. Heroes pro-actively seek help from their network of allies.

This is also the time the Hero faces tests that build up his character and capability to face the impending ultimate challenge in achieving his goal.

Every test awakens some latent force in the Hero. What doesn’t kill the Hero only makes him stronger.

Scientists in California found that adversity is good for amoebas. They put the amoebas in two tanks. In one, the temperature, PH level, everything is just perfect for amoebas. In the other tank, they deliberately changed drastically and randomly the temperature, PH level and so on to shock the amoebas.

To their surprise, the less coddled amoebas grew faster, healthier and stronger than their privileged cousins.

This suggests that adversity and stress which are invariably part of our Hero’s journey are the necessary ingredients for the Hero’s success.

This stage of “Tests, Allies and Enemies” will transform the Hero to a new and better person with the capabilities, allies and the mental resources to face the impending greatest challenge of his Hero’s Journey.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Hero's Journey - Belly of the Whale

After Crossing the Threshold, the hero enters the "Belly of the Whale”.

Once pass the Threshold, there is no turning back on the Hero’s calling.

Running away is futile. The calling will always be there and will keep visiting the Hero.

Pass a certain point, the Hero after enduring deep inner struggles will re-emerge awakened and transformed by the calling. The Hero then pursues his calling with unshakable conviction and zeal.

The name of this stage “Belly of the Whale” is taken from the biblical account of Jonah.

God instructed Jonah to travel to the prosperous but decadent city of Nineveh, to warn the people there of their sins against the Almighty.

Instead of obeying God's command, the reluctant Jonah attempted to flee in the opposite direction to the port of Tarshish by ship.

God sent a giant storm to block Jonah’s escape. The frightened sailors asked Jonah how they could appease God.

Jonah told them to toss him over the side. The sailors fearing for their lives promptly obliged.

God sent a whale to swallow Jonah, who stayed in its dark, damp, cavernous stomach for three days and three nights.

During the three day ordeal, Jonah reflected and was reawakened to his calling. Jonah asked God to forgive him for disobeying his calling.

God forgave Jonah.

The whale then spat the spiritually transformed Jonah onto the beach.

Jonah then went on to Nineveh to perform the task God called him to do.

The Belly of the Whale represents the final separation from the hero's Ordinary World and old self.

It is the Hero's lowest point. It is the point when the person is between or transitioning between the Ordinary and Special Worlds, and between their old and transformed selves.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Hero's Journey - Crossing the Threshold

The Hero Crosses the Threshold, to leave the Ordinary World and steps into the Special World.

With one foot in the Special World, the Hero is confronted by new sights and sounds, new learnings, surprises, adventures and experiences.

The Hero feels out of place, uncomfortable, inexperienced.

The Hero’s previous thoughts of the Special World are shaken by its realities.

The Hero begins to doubt himself, “What was I thinking to leave my Ordinary World behind?”

We’ve all been in situations like this.

The first obstacles the Hero meets are the Threshold Guardians.

Threshold Guardians are often emotional obstacles. It might be a feeling, a memory, a nightmare or anything that prevents the Hero from moving forward in his Hero’s Journey.

A common form of Threshold Guardian is the naysayer.

Naysayers are often the people closest to us such as our family, spouse, relatives and friends. They may be well meaning but their opinions are based on their own experiences. They do not share the same passion as you have regarding your calling. They are not inspired as you are.

Naysayers remind me of the Crabs in a Bucket Syndrome.

A single crab put in a lidless bucket is bound to climb over the lid and escape. Yet when more than one crab share a bucket, none can get out even when the lidless top and the sky above are an open invitation to freedom.

If one crab tries to elevate himself above all, the others will grab him and drag him down to share the common fate of the rest.

It is this way with crabs, and so it is the same with people. Some find themselves in a family or a circle of friends that will pull them down, if they strive to better themselves.

Don’t let crabs discourage you. Find people outside the bucket whom will pull you up and out.

So how do we deal with naysayers? The best way is to simply ignore them.

Once upon a time, a colony of frogs decided to migrate from their badly polluted pond to another with pristine water and teeming with food.

One summer day, hundreds hopped towards the promised land. The weather was searing hot and sharp stones peppered the hard baked ground.

One frog asked, “Why must the journey be made on such a sizzling day?” Another questioned, “Why choose such a punishing route?” Soon more questions with no easy answers echoed across the colony.

One frog decided to stop. Then another, and another. Soon all the frogs stopped, except one.

The little frog who was neither the fastest, nor strongest, struggled uphill until it arrived at the new pond.

The other frogs watched in amazement. They shouted at him, wanting to know, how only the tiny one got the courage and strength to accomplish the feat.

But the little frog seemed not to hear their loud cheers.

The other frogs then realised that the little frog was deaf!

It could not hear the self defeating doubts that stopped the other frogs from achieving their goal!

Once he Cross the Threshold, the Hero fully enters the Special World.

This is a defining moment in the Hero’s Journey. This is the time for action and the Hero taking 100% responsibility for achieving his goal.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Hero's Journey - Refusing the Call

More often than not, the Hero REFUSES THE CALL and is RELUCTANT TO CHANGE.

When faced with the daunting challenge to step out of his Ordinary World, distasteful as it may be, the hero often flinches, doubts, or runs the other way.

Hesitation may be from a sense of duty or obligation to family and friends, insecurity, a sense of inadequacy, or any of a range of reasons that work to hold the person in his Ordinary World.

The main thing holding the Hero back is fear – fear of the unknown, doubt and uncertainty.

FEAR is nothing but False Evidence Appearing Real.

Have you seen a 1000 pound elephant tethered to a slender rope tied to a small stake hammered into the ground?

Obviously, the adult elephant could pull up the stake and walked away anytime it wants.

Ever wondered why then does the magnificent elephant allow itself to be tied to the tiny stake.

The answer is FEAR – False Evidence Appearing Real.

The adult elephant wrongly believed that it does not have the strength to free itself of the rope.

You see, when the elephant was a baby, it was tethered to a thick rope tied to a stake firmly hammered into the ground.

The baby elephant would try several times to get free, but it lacks the strength to break the rope.

After a year, the stake and the rope are still strong enough to keep the small elephant tethered, although it continues to try, unsuccessfully, to get free. At some point, the animal accepts that the rope will always be too strong and so it gives up trying.

When it reaches adulthood, the elephant still remembered how, for a long time, it had wasted its energies trying to escape.

At this stage, the trainer can tether the elephant with a slender rope tied to a broom handle, and the elephant will make no attempt to escape to freedom.

Isn’t it amazing that these animals which could at any time break free from their bonds are stuck where they are because they believed they couldn’t break free?

Put another way, FEAR – false limiting beliefs - keeps us stuck to our circumstances, however distasteful we may find it.

The Call to Adventure always beckons as we are all heroes and have our own Hero’s Journey.

Even if our answer is “no”, the Call remains waiting for the Hero in us to overcome our FEAR to become the Hero that we are destined to become.

The call will persist until the Hero realises that if we don’t answer the Call of our own Hero’s Journey, no one else will.

And, that's a sad story.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Hero's Journey - Meeting the Mentor

After refusing the call, if the Hero is ready, the MENTOR WILL APPEAR.

The Mentor can appear in many forms. It could be a wise person, a good book, a long lost friend, a pet, an insight that comes to you unexpectedly, a traumatic event that is a wake up call.

The Mentor will give the Hero a great gift and this great gift is none other than the treasures that already exist inside the Hero all this time.

These are great gifts which the Hero always has. All that is needed is for a Mentor to make the Hero aware of them.

These gifts are qualities like confidence, persistence, courage, integrity, optimism, and so on.

Once you know your gifts, you can claim them and release their great power to serve you.

Once you claim your gifts, you have the resources to OVERCOME the demons that stop you like fear of the unknown, uncertainty, and need for security.

You may have heard the story of the Frogs in the Rut, first told by Abraham Lincoln.

Two frogs were playing happily in a muddy road. They dug a deep rut with their gleeful hopping. One of the frogs got bored and hopped out of the rut, while the other frog looked on enviously.

"Let’s get out of here!" cried the first frog.

"We need to go find food somewhere else or we’ll starve.”

The frog in the rut was hungry, but he was also tired. Besides, there was no guarantee that one will find any food beyond the rut. At least, here in a rut there is mud and occasionally a stranded fly might wander by.

“I can't. I'm exhausted,” the second frog whined.

“Besides, I like it here. It is warm and comfortable.”

The first frog pleaded with his companion over and over again to leave the rut.

“You can’t stay in a rut the rest of your life, can you?”

The second frog made a half-hearted attempt at hopping out to humour his friend, and when that failed gladly settled in the rut.

Then both frogs heard a low rumble and saw a cloud of dust rising in the distance. The rumble grew louder and louder until the ground shook with it. Then they saw the front grille of a large truck barrelling towards them.

One front wheel was in the same rut where the second frog was afraid to leave! The frog outside the rut screamed and forced his eyes shut as the truck hurtled by!

Then, as it grew quiet again after the truck disappeared and when the dust settled, the first frog slipped up to the edge of the rut and peered down. There was no one there! Had his friend been grounded into paste? As he trembled in fear and sorrow, a voice called out from behind him.

On the side of the road sat his friend, croaking cheerfully.

“How did you get there?”

“I took one big hop with all my might and then, here I am,” the friend proudly announced.

"But," said the first frog, "you said you couldn't get out. What changed?"


The big truck was the wake up call that staying in the rut was not an option.

This story shows how amazingly far we can hop -- if we meet our Mentor and receive the right inspiration.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Hero's Journey - The Ordinary World

The Hero’s Journey starts in the Ordinary World.

Life in the Ordinary World is boring, unfulfilling, and people there live a soulless, empty existence. Life is directionless, the people are disengaged, and their spirits and energy levels are hitting bottom.

The people despair as they have no outlet or platform to release their creative energies meaningfully.

People don’t sleep well and wake up more tired than before they got in bed.

Here, the Hero does not know his personal potential or calling, and is clueless about how to get out of his predicament.

Plans, if he has any are sketchy and tentative, and don’t seem to work out.

The Hero’s mindset in the Ordinary World reminds me of the story of a dog.

A postman passes a house every day. There was a dog lying on the dirt at the front porch. Everyday the dog makes a whining noise. The postman could tell that the dog was in obvious pain.

One day, the postman could not hold back his curiosity any longer, and he finally asked the owner of the dog what is going on.

The owner replied that the dog is lying on a nail, hence the continuous whining.

The postman then asked the owner why doesn’t the dog walk away from the spot where the nail is.

The owner replied: “Perhaps, it is not painful enough.”

Are we not sometimes like the dog in the story?

Do we sometimes find ourselves stuck in a situation that is causing us pain but stayed on by making excuses about why the situation is bearable?

There is no need to accept and resign to life in the Ordinary World.

The Hero's Journey offers a way to revitalise our spirit, helps us rise above the soul destroying Ordinary World, and makes our lives worth living.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Hero's Journey - The Call to Adventure

The CALL TO ADVENTURE is the second stage in the Hero’s Journey in which the hero, in his Ordinary World, is presented with a problem, challenge or adventure.

What is it that’s calling you to step out into the Special World now? Is it because there are things you are no longer willing to accept? Is it that grand vision that you set for yourself?

The Call to Adventure could be something negative like being passed over for promotion or being retrenched. The Call could also be something positive like an opportunity to be a partner in an established business.

The Call to Adventure is often delivered by a herald such as an angel or it can come in the form of a message, letter, phone call, conversation, dream, or an insight.

The Call to Adventure comes to those who are open to it.

Mahmud was a cheerful young man who ran a thriving vegetable stall in the bazaar. His friendly disposition won him many regular customers.

Mahmud was feeling comfortable when one night, the angel Kahbir appeared and told Mahmud to jump in the river. Without a moment’s hesitation, Mahmud did as the angel had told him.

Mahmud was carried down the river by the rushing waters. An old man on the bank seeing Mahmud struggling in the water threw him a rope. Mahmud grabbed the rope and pulled himself ashore.

The old man, a fish monger, brought Mahmud home and gave him a room to stay. The grateful Mahmud worked at the fish monger’s stall, and with his business acumen it was soon doing a thriving business.

Mahmud was feeling comfortable when one night, the angel Kahbir appeared and told Mahmud that it is time to move to another village. Again, Mahmud obeyed without a moment’s pause.

Mahmud walked for days before arriving at the next village. There a cloth merchant offered Mahmud a place to stay and a job in his cloth shop.

Mahmud knew nothing about cloth but he gratefully took the offer anyway. Soon the cloth merchant prospered as never before as his cloth was selling briskly with Mahmud’s help.

Mahmud was feeling comfortable when again, the angel Kahbir appeared and told Mahmud to move to another place and to a new job. Again Mahmud took up the call unquestioningly.

This cycle was repeated several more times.

When Mahmud became an old man, he was a well respected wise man and a much sought after teacher. People from far and wide came to seek his advice on all kinds of matters.

When people asked Mahmud how he became so wise, Mahmud only replied that: “It is hard to say.”

It is difficult to say because Mahmud’s talent lie in being obedient and receptive to the Call.

More often than not the Call we hear does not sound logical. It is a feeling that comes from deep inside us. The Call is beautiful and yet makes us uncomfortable.

We have been conditioned not to trust our feelings and intuition, but give more credence to what seems logical, practical, and predictable.

But, think about it, which truly great achievement started as something logical, practical, and predictable?

Learn from Mahmud to be obedient and open our hearts to the Call to Adventure.

Believe in your destiny, that you will get there triumphantly.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Leaky Bucket

Once upon a time in ancient China, there was a young monk who drew water from the well and carried it back to the temple everyday. The young monk carried two buckets of water slung on a bamboo pole across his shoulders.

One of the buckets was perfect while the other one was a leaky bucket with several holes on the sides. Every time the young monk filled up the two buckets and got back to the temple, the leaky bucket would be half empty as water sprinkled out through the holes on its sides.

The leaky bucket was sad that it was imperfect and water was leaking from its sides. One day, on the way to the well, the leaky bucket plucked up enough courage and spoke with the young monk with an apologetic tone:

"Master, I am sorry that I am imperfect and could not keep the water from sprinkling through the holes on my sides."

The young monk smiled slightly and nodded his head knowingly, and silently in acknowledgement.

When at the well, the young monk drew the water and filled up the two buckets as usual.

On the way back to the temple, the young monk said to the leaky bucket, who was very quiet.

"Look to the side of the road where the perfect bucket passed over. It is barren. Not even a blade of grass grows here."

Pointing to the blooming flowers on the other side of the road, the young monk said to the leaky bucket.

"See these beautiful flowers? These are here only because of the water you sprinkled on them everyday. They owe their existence to you, and we are able to enjoy these beautiful flowers, only because of you. Your imperfection has brought benefits to people around you."


The water in the pail reminds me of our gifts and we are like the leaky bucket. All of us are imperfect and all of us have gifts - gifts that will bring value and benefits to others when put to good use.

Our imperfections are the channels that allow our gifts to flow to where it is most useful.

Embrace our imperfections and find ways to combine it with our gifts to create value and benefits for others.