From Mythology to Masculinity: How the Hero’s Journey Can Help You Become a Better Man

The hero’s journey is a classic story structure that can help men to become better. Think about what makes the typical hero’s journey so appealing and why you might want to emulate it for your own life.

The “the man with a thousand faces” is a story about the hero’s journey. It follows the protagonist from his childhood to adulthood, and how he changes as he goes through these stages. This article explores how this can help you become a better man.

Ancient Greek gods painting battle scene with horse.

Note from the editor: This is a guest post by John Romaniello.

I’d like to inform you about a book that will completely transform your life. The book has been around for a while. It was, in fact, released in 1949 with little fanfare. Despite this, it has had an influence that can be seen in the movies we watch, the books we read, and even our daily lives since its release.

This book has affected the work of hundreds of authors and filmmakers, although it isn’t about movies or writing. This book has affected numerous people in their lives, assisting them in becoming better people, yet it is not a self-help book. It’s a book about tales and storytelling, about the stories that shape our cultures and how we tell them. And, since those tales are so similar, it’s very much a book about ourselves and how we see the world.

What’s more important, it’s about how we can improve as guys. At its heart, the book is about self-actualization, and it follows a method that can be replicated by any man.

Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces is apparently about myths and mythology. However, the lessons in this book may assist us in identifying and navigating the pathways we take to improve ourselves and the changes in our life, so that we can become better at change and better people in general.

Campbell, a lecturer at Sara Lawrence College, examined folklore from all around the world, from antiquity’s old faiths to the mythology of more recent religions like Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.

Campbell’s findings prompted him to concentrate on comparative mythology, or the study of what tales from other civilizations had in common rather than what they didn’t. Campbell discovered it wherever he looked: a single tale arc, the universal story that every civilization from Mesopotamia to our present Western Society employs to transmit knowledge, tradition, and global view. Campbell compiled all of this knowledge into The Hero with a Thousand Faces, his greatest and most significant book.

Campbell used the word “monomyth” after a concept coined by James Joyce to describe this universal pattern. It’s often referred to as the Hero’s Journey.

It’s a single tale with a thousand distinct versions; a single hero with a thousand different personalities. Every narrative you’ve ever heard, most of the movies you’ve ever watched — and it’s there in your own life, every day — contains the monomyth. And comprehending it may help you become a better guy.

Why Is the Hero’s Journey Important?

The monomyth starts with the protagonist, or Hero, in one location and concludes with him in another – both literally and emotionally. According to Campbell, the Hero is the same regardless of the plot, and he emerges in several ways. This is significant because the hero may be a famous quarterback or a cubicle nine accountant. Although the pathways diverge, the trip remains the same.


Throughout each adventure, the Hero will meet other characters that are vital to his or her development. These archetypes (the Herald, the Mentor, the Goddess, the Trickster, and so on) were named by Campbell and feature in the great majority of tales. Once you know what you’re searching for, spotting an archetype is simple. So, whether the hero is Harry Potter, King Arthur, or Frodo, the journey is always the same. Whether it’s Dumbledore, Merlin, or Gandalf, the mentor’s job is to guide the hero.

This structure may be seen in a variety of places, although it is most immediately recognizable in films and novels. Luke Skywalker begins his journey by leaving Tatooine, embarking on tremendous adventures, and realizing his Jedi potential. Even if the events are different, King Arthur’s quest is the same. And this is the same path that all major characters in religious tales take. Campbell demonstrates how correct this notion is and how it keeps repeating itself. And it’s occurring in your life right now.

Still not convinced? Let’s take a look at the stages of the Hero’s Journey and break it down with some instances. While Campbell’s model has 17 phases, I favor Christopher Vogler’s more condensed version in his book The Writer’s Journey for its brevity.

Vogler’s model of the Hero’s Journey.

The Hero’s Journey as shown by Vogler.

Now, just looking at that graphic and the chart below, you’ll probably have a decent understanding of what each step means just by glancing at the term; the examples will show you how all of this applies to every narrative you’ve ever heard.


The Journey’s Stages



The Everyday World The starting point of the Hero Dorothy Gale is a farmer who lives on her farm (The Wizard of Oz)
The Call of the Wild The Hero recognizes that there is a bigger world out there that he can participate in. Harry Potter (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone) receives a letter from Hogwarts.
Refusal to Answer the Phone The Hero, in a moment of hesitation, chooses not to embark on the adventure. Luke Skywalker informs Obi-Wan Kenobi that he will not be able to go to Alderaan (Star Wars)
Consultation with the Mentor Either the Hero’s first contact with the Mentor figure, or when the Mentor urges the Hero to embark on the Quest. Mr. Miyagi meets Daniel LaRusso (The Karate Kid)
Getting Over the First Obstacle The Hero transitions from the Ordinary to the Special World and notices the differences. For the first time, the Narrator enters Tyler Durden’s home (Fight Club)
Enemies, Allies, and Tests The Hero starts to do chores that will assist him in his preparation for the journey ahead; he also encounters both allies and opponents who will attempt to stop him. Frodo and the Fellowship of the Ring depart Rivendell, and he must learn how to travel while on the road (The Lord of the Rings)
Approach Internal and exterior planning, which generally involves a grand destination. Before moving out to save Morpheus, Neo and Trinity collect an arsenal (The Matrix)
The Struggle The story’s primary confrontation, the great boss battle, in which death is a distinct possibility In the Wicked Witch’s castle, Dorothy and her comrades fight the Wicked Witch (The Wizard of Oz)
Reward/Seizing the Sword After killing the enemy, the Hero is free to take the prize; occasionally this is a valuable object, such as the Holy Grail, or a person, but it’s more commonly something more abstract, such as the end of a war. Bilbo and the dwarves are free to help themselves to Smaug’s riches after the dragon’s death (The Hobbit)
Resurrection and Apotheosis Often, the Hero’s progress must come to a head and show itself all at once in an apotheosis moment of illumination; this understanding is the death blow to the old self and ideas, and the embrace of the new; this is punctuated by a symbolic (sometimes actual) death and resurrection. The Narrator learns that in order to end Tyler Durden, he must kill himself — by accepting mortality and being completely at peace with himself, he embraces mortality and is, for a brief time, truly at peace; he shoots himself and survives, despite Tyler’s death (Fight Club)
The Return Route With all of its lessons and experiences, the Special World may have grown more comfortable than the Ordinary World, and for some Heroes, returning might be more difficult than leaving. Frodo has a difficult time adjusting to life as a typical Hobbit in the Shire after the One Ring is destroyed (Return of the King)
Bring the Elixir and the Master of Two Worlds back with you. The Hero comes home altered, and he utilizes the gifts he acquired and the lessons he learned on the voyage to help others; at the same time, the Hero must come to grips with all of his own changes; he must reconcile who he was with who he has become. Luke, now a Jedi, helps bring peace to the galaxy by restoring the balance of the Force; at the same time, he is able to repair his relationship with his father and go on (Return of the Jedi)

But Campbell’s argument isn’t just that practically every civilization throughout history has developed a similar and efficient method of telling tales; it’s also that storytelling is a vital aspect of the human experience. The monomyth is not just the framework of how we create tales about heroes and characters, but it’s also how we connect to ourselves and, in a very real sense, how we interpret what’s going on around us.


I’d even go a step farther.

While the monomyth is excellent for storytelling and hence for examining cultural concepts, I think it may have just as much power when applied to an individual – when applied to you. To put it another way, the Hero’s Trip is the ideal lens through which to see any change in your life – whatever new journey you embark on, you’ll go through all of the stages of the monomyth as you develop, adapt, and eventually achieve your objective.

Of course, I’m not the only one who thinks this is a good idea. For years, individuals in numerous areas have utilized the Campbellian model to help them progress; for example, some therapists use it with their patients to assist organize psychoanalysis. It’s also used to assist individuals cope with the mourning process, since each of the five phases of sorrow has a mirror in the monomyth. Others use it for mentality or success coaching – helping individuals understand where they are in the trip offers not just a feeling of comfort and control, but also a clear route, making it simpler to get to the next level mentally.

Because all changes in your life may fit into this pattern, whether you know it or not, you’re on at least one such trip at any given moment — and grasping the monomyth’s philosophy will help you succeed. Because the Hero’s Journey is a powerful operational premise for moving change ahead as well as a lens for perceiving change.

The Journey of a Gym Rat is a good example of practical application.

My introduction to Joseph Campbell and the gym happened around the same time in my life. I was a sophomore in college and in desperate need of mental and physical transformations. I was overweight by 25 pounds, clinically depressed, and generally unpleasant. My story starts out on a sour note, but it’s real nevertheless. In a class on Utopian/Dystopian literature that year, I was required to read The Hero with a Thousand Faces. I was captivated within the first 30 pages.

At the time, I didn’t believe I’d discovered a problem-solving strategy, but Campbell appealed to me as a storyteller, and I was a big admirer of medieval fantasy and mythology. Reading Hero made all of the books I was already reading more accessible and entertaining right away. (And trust me, it was difficult to fathom anything that could make re-reading The Lord of the Rings for the eighth time any more pleasant at 19, but Hero did.)

Around the same time, I joined a gym, had a major physical transformation, and drastically transformed my life. Not only did I develop a remarkable physique that led to a range of career opportunities ranging from fitness modeling to personal training to writing, but I also learned a variety of life lessons and became successful in ways I never expected.


It may sound absurd to believe that becoming in shape helped me perform better in school and have better relationships, but it is even more absurd to believe that it finally enabled me to create my own company, live life on my own terms, and even publish a book. It’s all true, however.

My change, and the events leading up to it, was a step-by-step retracing of the Hero’s Journey. As I previously said, this approach can accommodate any adjustments. Let’s have a look at what I’ve got.

The Ordinary World — I was overweight and miserable, with nothing else to go on. My Ordinary World was my regular existence, much like Harry Potter beneath the stairs or Frodo in the Shire.

In my situation, the call to adventure came in the form of a phone call. I was working in a retail shop (of all places, Gap) at the time, and a lady phoned to ask if I could have 30 white polo shirts available for her when she came in. To cut a long tale short, her husband was planning to build a gym approximately 5 minutes from my home. I needed to make a change right now. “Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi; you’re my only chance,” isn’t nearly as dramatic as “I need 30 white polo shirts,” but it got the job done.

Call Refusal – Change is difficult. The Hero is often more terrified of change than of being miserable in their current circumstance or physique. Most individuals who desire to start a fitness journey (or any journey, for that matter) never go beyond this phase because they believe it would be too difficult or that they will be unable to adapt. Alternatively, they may begin and then abandon their efforts. In my situation, despite my desire to change, I was afraid, and it took a few days for me to get the courage to visit the gym.

Meeting with the Mentor — Heroes can’t do it all alone; we all need mentors. When I eventually entered the gym, I was greeted by Alvin, the proprietor. He had a positive demeanor and an enviable body. I warmed up to him right away and trusted him to lead me. When it comes to transforming your physique, that mentor doesn’t have to be a person with whom you have direct contact; a book or even a website may serve as a mentor. Without ever meeting you, the author will assist you.

Cross the First Threshold – Threshold crossings occur at various points during a trip, but the first is usually the most significant. It is what distinguishes the Ordinary World from the Extraordinary World. It was like Dorothy walking into Oz when I first joined the gym and began reading about fitness; there was so much to take in that it was overwhelming.

Tests, Allies, and Opponents – When I first started my transformational path, I rapidly understood that there were those who wanted to assist and others who didn’t. Some people will cheer you on and avoid tempting you, while others will dismiss your objectives as stupid and vain. I had to cope with the invariable, “Just take a snack,” or “Just one drink,” every time I went to a gathering or supper. These things are appealing, but I needed to pass these exams in order to complete my metamorphosis.


Approach – As I prepared for the ultimate confrontation — the crux of the shift — I had to empower myself with the tools I needed to go through it. During this period, there were many tiny events, such as cleaning out your fridge and throwing away all the trash, refilling with good food, perfecting appropriate workout technique, and learning about nutrition.

The Ordeal’s central theme is the act of change, as well as the need for it. This was the true transformation program in terms of transforming my body — the 16-week period during which I concentrated fervently and made it my aim to bend my body to my will. The Ordeal is a metaphor for the struggle you have with your psyche’s bright and dark parts, and your endeavor to reconcile them.

Apotheosis/Resurrection – Anyone who has gone through a significant transition knows how severe the Ordeal can be. In virtually every situation, you get a feeling of heightened awareness — not necessarily enlightenment, but at the very least, an opening up of a world or experience that was previously veiled from your view. In my case, it was realizing that I could become in shape and enjoy all of the perks of being a member of this “club.” Apotheosis is a literary trope in which a character achieves godlike status for a brief period of time; in most instances, this happens only after the character abandons all opposition and entirely surrenders to the experience. You won’t be a deity at that point, but you will be like a phoenix, rising from the ashes of the old self you’ve left behind.

Snatching the Sword/Reward – This is what you receive after the combat — a personal item. It’s when the heroes congregate and exclaim, “Wow, look what we’ve accomplished.” It might be a happy occasion or a romantic scenario. My new physique brought with it an improvement in self-esteem and health for me. Much more than that, I had faith in myself that I could effect change; I’d accomplished something I’d previously considered unachievable, and it had implanted in me an unwavering confidence that I could do anything.

The Return Journey – After the fight, the Hero must return home. It might be more difficult to return than it was to go in the first place. The Road Back is emotionally taxing since you’re afraid of losing what you’ve achieved on the adventure. In my instance, I was concerned that once I was no longer focused on a transition, I’d return to my old self.

Return with the Elixir — In the best-case scenario, rewards aren’t only for the Hero, but for everyone else as well. The destruction of the One Ring by Frodo gave peace to Middle-earth, and the destruction of Voldemort by Harry Potter restored peace to the wizarding world. Unfortunately, my change did not stop any wars or rescue the planet, but it did assist a large number of individuals. The process of evolving aided me in becoming a better version of myself, amplifying many of my finer attributes. I was happier, and I was making others happy; I was also more helpful, devoted, and (oddly) timely. Others were motivated by my change to go on their own journeys. More than anything, the information I’d gathered over the years — beginning with my personal transformation — enabled me to become a coach and author, assisting hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals in making positive changes in their lives.


Master of Two Worlds – The Hero becomes the Master of Two Worlds at the end of the adventure, able to reconcile the light and evil inside him. This stage is about finding a healthy balance between who you were and who you have become, and allowing yourself to embrace both. It was all about conquering life in my new physique and recognizing all of the advantages it offered without going crazy in either regard. This was a continuation of the Road Back, and it was about finding a way to enjoy life and do things that normal people do, like go to dinners and have the odd drink.

I should point out that when I went through my fitness change, I had no idea I was on a Hero’s Journey – my acquaintance with Campbell was new, and I couldn’t see the connections as clearly as I could now. I didn’t realize Campbell could be applicable to anything until I started my company (Hero’s) Journey. I started to include certain components of the monomythic framework into my client’s programs and lessons with them after that; I discovered that teaching Campbell helps teach fitness knowledge, or at the very least drives the message home. And it was on the basis of this broader knowledge that I authored Man 2.0: Engineering the Alpha. And I utilized that platform — a New York Times best-selling book — to educate others how to use the Hero’s Journey to be in the greatest condition of their lives.

Other Examples and How Campbell Affects You Outside of the Gym

Of all, a fitness journey is just one example of how you may apply the monomyth to your life. It’s not difficult to arrange trips in all facets of life once you understand the fundamental pattern, from your choice to enroll in college to your love relationships.

Look at the conventional story framework of a romantic comedy: boy meets females, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back. It could just as well be boy hears the call to adventure, boy denies call to adventure, boy goes on adventure regardless. In either instance, the Hero will go on a voyage of reflection with the help of a mentor (may be a wise-cracking buddy or father figure) and emerge worthy of the girl.

A more specific example would be getting married and settling into married life (Ordinary World). When your wife becomes pregnant (Call to Adventure). You’re a little freaked out at first (Refusal), but you’re clearly overjoyed. Appointments with your physicians (Meeting with the Mentor) during the pregnancy assist you and your wife (Allies) prepare (Approach) for the birth of the kid (Threshold Crossing). Being a parent is now your primary obligation (Ordeal), and at the conclusion of the journey, you’ll have a kid — your legacy — who will go on in the world after you’ve passed away (Return with Elixir).


If you’re looking for a professional example, go no further. How about this: you lose your job (Call to Adventure), and despite your grief and desire to reclaim it (Refusal of the Call), you finally opt to pursue a new profession. This may happen in a variety of ways; for example, suppose you hire a business coach (Meeting with the Mentor). You eventually decide to establish your own company or start a blog, both of which are new to you (Crossing the First Threshold). There will be many hurdles, as well as victories and disappointments, along the path (Tests, Allies, Enemies). If you follow this route all the way to the end, you’ll end up with something — money, a book, a product — (Reward) that improves you (Apotheosis) and enables you to enhance the world (Return with the Elixir).

The Circle is Completed

While the monomyth’s universal applicability is undoubtedly its strength, the greatest benefit may come after it has been implemented. As I said before, the act of change transforms you.

This notion enabled me to take the next step in my personal trip and create Engineering the Alpha in order to make the journey applicable to all men and help them understand the road that may lead them to their most important objectives – whether physical, emotional, or social. Thousands of men have been able to improve their life in ways they never imagined possible as a consequence of this experiment.

Campbell is to blame for everything. Understanding the Hero’s Journey is similar to Neo’s understanding of the Matrix. It enables you to understand what is going on and why it is occurring, as well as how you should respond and react in order to make the best judgments possible. When life slows down, you may speed up and make better choices, which eventually lead to change.

You’ll have a better grasp of yourself and what you’re capable of by going through a major transformation. Success is a learned habit, and success breeds success: the more positive changes you experience, the less resistant you will be to change and progress.

All that’s left is to ask yourself one simple question: Are you ready to take on the role of hero? If that’s the case, it’s time to acknowledge your mundane existence, go on a journey, and eventually grow into a better man and the best version of yourself.

What stage of the Hero’s Journey are you on? Let us know what you think in the comments!

What stage of the Hero’s Journey are you on? Let us know what you think in the comments!

John Romaniello is a New York City-based angel investor, coach, and geek. He spends his time helping individuals alter their lives and bodies when he isn’t talking about the effect of the monomyth on comic books or the cultural significance of Star Wars. Man 2.0 Engineering the Alpha: A Real World Guide to an Unreal Life (HarperCollins), his latest book, appeared on the New York Times bestseller list, and a sequel is in the works.





The “art of manliness 31 days” is a book that shows how the hero’s journey can help you become a better man. The book breaks down what each day looks like in the hero’s journey and gives examples of how to apply it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is the heros journey important to humans?

A: The heros journey is a story archetype that has been used in many different forms of storytelling. It can be applied to literature, movies and games among other mediums.

What does the heros journey teach us?

A: The heros journey is a literary archetype that describes the main characters life-changing growth and development. Jungian psychology has developed the idea further, describing what happens to people during different stages of their lives.

What makes a hero What are the two worlds of the heros journey?

A: The heros journey is a concept in mythological studies that has been applied to the stories of many different cultures. It usually describes an individuals spiritual and psychological quest as they work through various trials on their way to some sort of enlightenment or heroic victory.

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