Story’s Hidden Half Hides Real Treasure, part 1

Epics, Adventures, Journeys and Quests… They are exciting. They are important. They share wisdom and provide a map for life’s directions.

They are not the entire tale, however. And this may be detrimental to you, your family, and our entire culture.

Most every adventure story follows a predictable pattern. Our favorite books, blockbuster movies and even our own life’s incidents and accidents reflect the circular and familiar path traveled by heroes from diverse cultures and times all over the world. This narrative arc has been studied extensively. It’s been described as the most central myth and most deeply thematic story shared in humanity.

You know the story, right?

Our hero is either called or kicked out of *their* realm, and sent on a quest. They travel, often with assistance to some other space where there is a real or metaphorical mountain, cave or deeply dark, dank space. Our Hero, again with aid from typically unheralded allies, defeats the dragon, tames the terror or banishes the beast. Of course, the Hero is rewarded. They receive some gift, treasure or magic token that can be used to redeem, renew or otherwise re-enter their own space and place. Nothing is ever easy, so the travel home is beset with trials and tribulations. More guidance and goodwill are accepted, although at times, hesitantly. Finally, our Hero returns home, either to be accepted as savior or rejected as unknowable and irretrievably changed by their ordeals.

That’s about right. Preparation, Journey, & Return. The three phases in the Hero’s Journey. Studied by Joseph Campbell, Carl Jung, George Lucas and so many others, it is a story that dominates our culture’s imagination and fascination. Variations exist in the myth, folklore, religion and history of most, if not all, cultures throughout human history.

It’s a story that captured my attention very early in life. The Star Wars universe, Asimov’s Foundation novels, Tolkien’s Middle Earth and so many other fantasy & science fiction tales riff on this narrative with never-ending creativity. My love of the Hero’s Journey deepened as I began to tell my own stories; it broadened as I listened and consulted with clients around their life stories. I studied the stories and how they could be used to guide clients towards healing.

And then something happened.

I found myself. I came to reside in the place I’d dreamed of living my entire life. I had a wife whom I’d dreamed of meeting. And I had just had a baby boy. Life was certainly imperfect. Life had it’s toil and troubles. Life was wonder full. I remember sitting on our back porch and realizing that this was also an adventure. This was also a journey, filled with magic and an almost unbearable sense of the unknown. There were risks to be taken. Yet, this seemed like a different story than my Hero’s Journey.

Remember our Hero?

What about all of the people who stayed home? What about those who raised the vegetables, tended the children, fed the hearth and cleaned out the toilet? What about the ordinary, mundane magic of the world?

While our Hero was out doing Very Important Things, all of these people continued to exist. They’ve got stories as well. Aren’t they adventurous? Isn’t there magic to behold in biting a tomato picked fresh and warmed by the sun? Our Ordinary Adventurers move through life, encountering their own dark, dangerous places. The dragons aren’t as massive or epic. I call them Imps. They are smaller, yet come in multitudes. They are less deadly, but no less disruptive. Their victories are no less treasured, although the treasure is often seen as less valuable, smaller.

The power of the Hero’s Journey faltered. There are many critiques of this narrative, too many to talk about in this essay. Needless to say, I’d pulled back the dominant story blanketing so many others. While I remain enamored of the Hero’s journey to there and back again, other narratives emerged. I’ve begun to refer to the Hero’s Journey with a new name: The Extraordinary Adventure. It’s useful and needed, to be sure. But it’s only half the tale. If there is to be ‘extraordinary’, then there must also be ‘ordinary’. The Ordinary Adventure is a narrative that has been oppressed for too long. It is the other half of our story, the foundational elements that too often are minimally referenced as a momentary montage or series of flashbacks. Ordinary Adventures are the essential training ground where we come to understand our values, learn to make meaning of our experiences and connect to our selves and our communities.

The previously infallible lessons expressed in the Extraordinary Adventure appeared dulled and shallow. Unfinished. Unsupported. I remain steadfast in knowing that they are important; they are also dangerous. We, as a culture, as families and as individuals, are enamored by the extraordinary. We are captivated by the epic and legendary. We aspire to the quest. Yet, we neglect our forms. We refuse the mundane, the boring, the repetitive nature of everyday. When we aren’t the hero, depression, anxiety, angst ensues.

So, I delved into the ordinary slices of everyday life with renewed vigor, interest and curiosity. New plots, themes and narrative arcs emerged. Patterns played out repeatedly. The Ordinary Adventure has it’s own narrative arc! Once seen, I notice it everywhere. It’s the hidden half of all of our stories.

And I’m convinced that these Ordinary Adventures hold the highest treasures.

Individuals, families and communities will benefit from living and sharing Ordinary Adventures, or what I also call Stories of Connection. By building stronger foundations and elevating the status of the ordinary and the mundane in our world, we can stand more solidly facing the extraordinary challenges, obstacles and treasures that life presents.

That’s the vision of the JourneyMen.

With JourneyMen, I am excited to bring over two decades of work in offices, institutions, kitchens, farmer’s markets, woodlots and boardrooms to a wild new venue. New offerings include individual and group online coaching programs, leadership cohorts, workshops and trainings, community building, facilitation and education/activism.

What ordinary, everyday adventure is currently capturing your attention? Where are you challenged to live more deeply connected to your values and relationships? Right now, I am facing the Trap of Time. It’s a harried and hectic adventure of dish-washing, lunch creation, homework helping and hug catching.

If you’d like to learn more about programs and offerings from the JourneyMen, please email me at or join the journey at the JourneyMen Foundation

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