Reconnecting with a friend from high school, I shared my all-time favorite quote by Joseph Campbell (you can read it here). As we spoke, she noted Joseph Campbell’s writing about the Hero’s* Journey. One aspect of that journey is that the hero encounters obstacles. Facing and overcoming those obstacles are essential steps in the journey that contribute to the hero’s growth. She asked me, “What are the obstacles in your hero’s journey?” It was a great question, and I had no immediate answer.
One Hero’s Journey
My sister, Kimberly Westrich, began her own Hero’s Journey a year and a half ago. She had worked for the same organization for over two decades. She felt it was time for a change and began considering other opportunities.
In addition to being my sister, Kimberly is one of my closest friends. We talk every weekend, share openly, and often coach each other. I felt honored to be a sounding board for her as she considered possible options.
I’ll admit I was surprised when one of the options she was considering was a consulting opportunity. This felt like a significant departure from her prior roles. I was even more surprised when the opportunity emerged as the front-runner. We had thoughtful conversations about the role, her expected challenges, and how it could support her growth. I was both excited and apprehensive when she accepted the offer. Faced with a formidable obstacle, Kimberly made a courageous decision, pushed far out of her comfort zone, and pivoted to a consulting role that would leverage her biopharmaceutical industry experience.
As we caught up on our respective lives a few weeks ago, I listened to Kimberly talk about some of her current challenges. She was knee-deep in proposals. She was navigating the dance of utilization and billable time that every consultant knows well. She was developing content marketing and generating new opportunities for the business.
As she finished her update, I asked her to pause and reflect. “Listening to you speak right now, you sound like a veteran consulting leader who has been in this role for years.” She agreed. We celebrated this incredible period of growth and where she is on her Hero’s Journey. It’s an exciting time that gives me chills as I write about it.
I share Kimberly’s story for anyone facing an obstacle. It was particularly relevant for another close friend who had recently stepped into a new role. Like Kimberly, this friend made a conscious choice to move into this new role, recognizing the opportunity for growth. My friend shared that her new role’s challenges are more significant than anticipated. She remains optimistic but admits that it’s a lot more than she bargained for. She’s well out of her comfort zone.
I shared Kimberly’s story with her in the moment, and it resonated deeply with her. Her Hero’s Journey has presented unexpected challenges. They won’t be easy. The Hero’s Journey never is. But she knows she has the talents to succeed and recognizes she’ll emerge from the experience, having learned and grown, ready for the next step of her journey.
When faced with a challenge, I regularly tap into wisdom from Brian Johnson and the Heroic app. One piece of knowledge that I connect with is what Brian calls OMMS:
“Obstacles Make Me Stronger”
When a new challenge arises and stresses me out, I pause, take a few breaths, and use OMMS as a mantra. This obstacle is an opportunity. Overcoming this obstacle will make me stronger. This is how I learn and grow.
If I want to improve my marathon time, it’s not sufficient to just run a lot of miles. I need periods of hard training – tempo runs, speedwork, and hillwork. The obstacles of hard training are what make me stronger.
If you’re not convinced, I offer a thought exercise.
Look back on your life. Identify all the challenges, obstacles, and adversity you’ve faced. I encourage you to list them all – perhaps on a separate page in your Journal of ??? (I have mentioned journaling in several blog posts now, and I’d like to give this journal a formal name – please respond to my poll with your thoughts).
For each item, take a moment to reflect on the experience. What did you learn from dealing with the challenge? How did you learn and grow? When I do this exercise with coachees, they often find that some of their most challenging moments are the ones that most accelerated their growth. Often, they find they can look at a difficult experience in a new light. They realize that what they have always viewed negatively ultimately had a very positive effect on their life.
My Hero’s Journey
As I return to my friend’s question that opened this post, I confess I still have no answer. I’m facing my share of obstacles, but they feel more like speed bumps than mountains. I interpret her question and my reflections in two ways.
First, I celebrate this period of my journey. I am focused on being present in the current moment, enjoying the journey, and staying focused. Life need not be all obstacles, all the time.
Second, I’m mindful that this will not always be the case. My Hero’s Journey is not done, and more obstacles await me. My friend’s question helps me be prepared for when the next great challenge surfaces so I can bring my OMMS mindset and seize the opportunity for growth.
Putting It Into Practice
Each one of us is on our own Hero’s Journey. To leverage the Hero’s Journey as you encounter obstacles:
- Remember that overcoming obstacles is a necessary step in the Hero’s Journey and is how you learn and grow.
- Recognize the importance of pushing out of your comfort zone when faced with an obstacle.
- When facing a challenge, remember OMMS – Obstacles Make Me Stronger.
- Take time to reflect on past obstacles and observe how overcoming them helped bring you to where you are today.
- Use your Journal of ??? to reflect on how your current obstacles could help bring you to a new level.
- If you’d like a coach, mentor, or guide to support your Hero’s Journey, schedule time with Josh.
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* Please do not interpret my use of the term hero throughout as suggesting a masculine identity – I use it for brevity and consistency with Campbell’s terminology. Please substitute heroine for hero if it suits you.