074 - the young athlete with a thousand faces...

“All courses of action are risky, so prudence is not in avoiding danger (it’s impossible), but calculating risk and acting decisively. Make mistakes of ambition and not mistakes of sloth. Develop the strength to do bold things, not the strength to suffer”
- Niccolo Machiavelli

I want to tell you about a book that will change your life. It’s not new, in fact, it was published in 1949… But first, what is something that your favourite books, shows, and movies like Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars and The Lion King all have in common? Well, apart from being the highest grossing movie, book and story franchises of all time - there is something more…

The Master Key to open many doors in your life and sport to help you guarantee yourself success in your future…

They all follow The Hero’s Journey, codified by Joseph Campbell in his phenomenal book “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” and perhaps made famous by George Lucas after he wrote the script to Star Wars: A New Hope around this exact journey

And the truth to life is, we’re all heroes and heroines ourselves, walking our own hero’s journey - we just don’t know it. Every single YA + A's is going to go through the same cycle, battle demons and obstacles, and can come out on the other side as the person & athlete they aspire to become - Much like the circle of life, we also go through the Hero’s Journey (Hero’s Circle) multiple times in our lives, and I can guarantee you’ve been through one, or are going through one right now

I was blind to the existence of this journey, and failed to truly comprehend it until a few years ago when I was made aware of it by the past business coaches. It can help you to become better in every aspect of life, as at its core, it’s about self-actualisation - becoming the person you’re meant to become

Personally, as I look back I can see that I’ve been through multiple hero’s journeys in my past. Watching my dream of being a professional athlete slip through my fingers at a young age… Battling and overcoming anorexia, orthorexia, depression and suicidal thoughts… I’ve been through two in business, and am in the depths of another as I type this

When I look at our Academy Kids; Hayden, Aphra, Bernice, Bray, Jesse and many more have all been through one under my guidance. They’ve essentially been through hell and back, and are far better off for it

The Hero’s Journey is a universal pattern, a monomyth. A single myth that is told in a thousand different ways, a different hero with a thousand different faces

What It Is & Why It’s Important To You

Every story, and therefore every journey begins with the main character, the hero or heroine, in one place, and ends with them in another place - both physically and emotionally - they undergo rapid transformation. The hero/heroine is always the same regardless of the story, they simply appear in different forms. This is you, your friend, your mother, and father, or Cristiano Ronaldo… The paths you all walk may be different, but the journey is essentially the same

In each of our journeys, you will encounter other people who play an essential role in your growth - in the form of mentors and teachers who guide you. Think of Dumbledore to Harry Potter, Yoda and Obi-Wan to Luke, or Gandalf to Frodo…

The journey and structure appears everywhere too - and is summarised perfectly by Christopher Vogler in his book “The Writer’s Journey”

The Hero’s Journey in full

The Hero's Journey - The Youth Academy

We can blend the above picture with the chart below to gain an understanding of the different stages, how it’s applicable to other stories, and identify where you are in your hero’s journey


 Stage of the Journey

  1. The Ordinary World = The Hero’s starting point. Example: Dorothy Gale living on her farm (The Wizard of Oz)
  2. The Call to Adventure = The Hero realizes that there is a larger world that he can be a part of. Example: Harry Potter gets a letter from Hogwarts (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone)
  3. Refusal of the Call = In a moment of doubt, the Hero decides not to undertake the quest. Example: Luke Skywalker tells Obi-Wan Kenobi that he can’t go to Alderaan (Star Wars)
  4. Meeting with the Mentor = Either the first encounter with the Mentor figure, or the moment when the Mentor encourages the Hero to take on the Quest. Example: Daniel LaRusso meets Mr. Miyagi (The Karate Kid)
  5. Crossing the First Threshold = The Hero moves from the Ordinary World to the Special World, and sees the difference between the two. Example: The Narrator walks into Tyler Durden’s house for the first time (Fight Club)
  6. Tests, Allies, and Enemies = The Hero begins to undertake tasks that will help him prepare for the road ahead; he also meets friends who will aid him, and foes who will try to stop him. Example: Frodo leaves Rivendell with the Fellowship of the Ring, and has to learn how to be on the road as he goes (The Lord of the Rings)
  7. Approach = Internal and external preparation; usually includes an imposing destination. Example: Neo and Trinity gather an arsenal before heading off to rescue Morpheus (The Matrix)
  8. The Ordeal = The central conflict in the story, the big boss fight, where the possibility of death is imminent. Example: Dorothy and her friends battle the Wicked Witch in her castle (The Wizard of Oz)
  9. Seizing the Sword/Reward = Having slain the enemy, the Hero is free to take the treasure; sometimes this is an item of great value, like the Holy Grail, or a person, but very often it’s something more abstract, like the end to a war. Example: After the death of the dragon Smaug, Bilbo and the dwarves are free to help themselves to his treasure (The Hobbit)
  10. Apotheosis and Resurrection = Often, the Hero needs for all of his growth to come to a head and manifest itself all at once in a moment of enlightenment called apotheosis; this realization is the death blow to the old self and beliefs, and the embracing of the new; this is punctuated by a symbolic (sometimes literal) death and resurrection. Example: The Narrator realizes that in order for him to stop Tyler Durden, he must kill himself — by making peace with his own death he accepts mortality, and is, for a moment, truly at peace; he shoots himself and lives, though Tyler is dead (Fight Club)
  11. The Road Back = The Special World, with all of its lessons and adventures, may have become more comfortable than the Ordinary World, and for some Heroes, returning can be harder than the initial departure. Example: After the One Ring is destroyed, Frodo has a hard time adapting to life as a normal Hobbit in the Shire (Return of the King)
  12. Return with the Elixir and the Master of Two Worlds = The Hero returns home changed, and uses the gifts he received and lessons he learned on the journey to better others; at the same time, the Hero must come to terms with all of the personal changes he’s undergone; he must reconcile who he was with who he has become. Example: Luke, now a Jedi, restores balance to the Force, helping bring peace to the galaxy; concurrently, he is able to resolve his relationship with his father and move on (Return of the Jedi)

Identifying and understanding where you are in your own journey will provide you with a sense of comfort and control, as you’ll know where you are and what’s happening. It will also show you the path ahead, making it easier to get to the next phase and be able to look for what is coming next

Every single stage of your life, and every change within it can fit inside of this structure. Whether you realise it or not, you’re always going through at least one such journey in an area of your life

A Real Life Example

As I’ve said, everyone, and I mean everyone goes through multiple hero’s journeys in their lives. And to outline this, we’re going to use two examples of different Academy Kids we’ve been blessed to help - Hayden and Aphra (in the case of Hayden, he’s been through multiple hero’s journeys whilst with us)

The Ordinary World – To Hayden, his first was being continuously told no by coaches of higher levels, continually being shown his limitations, and feeling like he’s not good enough. His second was thinking there was only Rugby League for him... For Aph, this was having her coaches belittle her and continually put her down and break her confidence. Like Harry Potter under the stairs or Frodo in the shire, their Ordinary World was their everyday life and they couldn’t picture anything different

The Call to Adventure – In Hayden’s case, the first was his mother finding out about The Academy, and in the second it was him noticing the Hunter Gridiron League and wanting to give it a go. For Aph, it was her mother discovering The Academy via Facebook. This was essentially the “Help me Obi Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope” scene...

Refusal of the Call – Change and doing new things is hard. Sometimes we are all more fearful of change than we are of continuing to be unhappy in our current situation. The majority of the people who want to take the first step can’t, they let their fears overcome them. Or, they start and simply give up...

I remember Hayden telling me that after our first week he was having thoughts of quitting (mainly due to the 400m farmers walks), and in his second journey this was people telling him that going to play Gridiron was a stupid idea and he should focus on his Rugby League instead. For Aph, it was her crazy scheduling and trying to come up with “reasons” as to why not do it

Meeting with the Mentor – Nobody can do everything on their own; we all need help, teachers, and mentors. When Hayden began to consistently attend three days a week, we began to form an incredibly strong friendship, and I could see him growing rapidly right in front of my eyes. He was buying into everything and transforming, physically and mentally, at a rapid rate. In his Gridiron, his mentors were two older players in his team that had National Level experience. For Aph, I was that mentor - we formed an immediate friendship, and we guided her to where she needed to go

One thing you need to know about mentors is that they don’t need to be a person whom you have direct contact with. They can come from the forms of books, podcasts, and people over the internet - they will help or guide you without ever meeting you...

Cross the First Threshold – Threshold crossings happen throughout journeys, and the first is always the most impactful. It’s what separates the “Ordinary World” from the “Special World”. Picture Dorothy’s first time in Oz, Harry’s first experience at Hogwarts, or Luke on the Millennium Falcon using Obi Wans Lightsaber

For both Hayden and Aph, their first crossing was the realisation of their true capabilities and potential - the roof coming off their head and realising what they were truly capable of. For Hayden the second time around, this was realising he was a phenomenal Gridiron player and attending a camp at the Gold Coast where College coaches solidified this

Tests, Allies, Enemies – As we begin, we will always find people who want to help us, and those who don’t. Some people will support your goals and others will try to tempt you away from them, they’ll call your goals silly and try to limit you, to ground you. In regards to Aph, this was the continual voice of her gymnastics coaches limiting her and trying to ground her, for Hayden it was his Rugby League coaches not keeping their promises and those around him continually telling him that Gridiron would never work...

Approach – On Hayden’s first journey, this approach was the make the 1st Grade side for his local Cessnock Club, and his second was to prepare himself for the 36 Collegiate Scholarship offers that came his way. For Aph, her approach was toward Gymnastics Nationals in Melbourne, with the view to make International Level Gymnastics. There were lots of small steps here - developing themselves physically and mentally to become the athletes and people they aspire to become

Central Ordeal – The Ordeal is about the act of change, and the necessity for it. This is the meat and potatoes of everything, where all of the hard work is done. It’s where we battle the dark times, and are always rewarded for the hard work we do. As it applied to both the mind and body of Hayden and Aph, this was all of the work we did in the three to four months leading up to pre-season and Gridiron for Hayden, and Nationals for Aph

Apotheosis/Resurrection – Anyone who has gone through a major transformation understands that the results of the Central Ordeal are pretty intense, it often feels like we’ve walked through the depths of hell and back.  In almost all cases, you achieve a sense of experiencing something you’ve never experienced before, of immense growth & seeing something that was previously hidden to you. To Hayden, this was making his 1st Grade Debut for a new club of Singleton,and going through an ordeal of overcoming an ACL & MCL injury. For Aph, this was setting PB’s at Nationals under trying circumstances. In reality, what this moment brought about was the feelings of being a phoenix, with a new, better self rising from the ashes of the old one that’s been left behind.

Seizing the Sword/Reward – This is what you get after the battle — something for you. It’s when the heroes gather together and say, “Wow, look what we’ve done.” In Hayden’s case, it was continuing to play 1st Grade week in and week out, and then receiving two official scholarships from NCAA and NAIA colleges to play Gridiron with them. To Aph, this was getting the chance to go to an International Level Gymnastics Gym to train

In both cases, this was the achievement of things that they previously thought was impossible for them, which instilled in them an unshakeable belief that they could do just about anything...

The Road Back – After the battle itself is over, we must return home. This is sometimes more difficult than leaving in the first place. The Road Back is emotionally trying, because you fear that you’ll lose what you gained on the quest. This is where Hayden currently is (at the time of writing) in his Gridiron journey, as he’s on the road to college, and is dealing with all of the challenges that come with changing countries to live and study. To Aph, moving onto an International Level Gymnastics Gym meant she moved upwards and onwards from The Academy and us

Return with the Elixir – In the best of cases, the rewards we get are not just for the us, but also for everyone around us. Frodo destroying the One Ring brought peace to Middle-Earth; Harry Potter destroying Voldemort did the same for the wizarding world. And when we look at the transformations both Hayden & Aph have had, it’s safe to say that they’ve affected many other young athletes and adolescents. They’ve proved what’s truly possible when you attack what you want in life and have the grit and determination to overcome any obstacle that stands in your way

Master of Two Worlds – The last stage of the journey is when we become the Master of Two Worlds — when we’re able to unite the light and dark within us. When we’re able to accept where we now are, and understand what we’re required to do whilst here. It’s seeing the growth & transformation you’ve had

Pretty epic yeah. And I’m sure as you’ve read that you were thinking to yourself about your own hero’s journeys you’ve had, and possibly the one you’re currently on - and in knowing this, there is immense power with you

One of the main problems is that people get stuck at certain stages in the different journey’s they’re on in different aspects of life, and this keeps them stuck until they can accept where they’re at and know how to move forward and overcome it. Think of that person who is stuck with their health, or maybe they refused the call and continue to refuse it… maybe they’re stuck in the Central Ordeal or Resurrection and can’t let go and they keep trying to fight all the wrong ways…

Knowing what stage you’re in allows you to overcome this :)

Also, know that the return is oftentimes the hardest stage of the journey, as it’s when we need to overcome ourselves and show enough self-worth to know that we can help others with what we’ve learned. From a personal standpoint, this has always been the hardest part of my number of journeys, and it’s the same for all of the people I know

Actionable Tips + Questions:

  • What hero’s journeys have you been through in the past? Can you match specific points in time with the stages outlined above?

  • What hero’s journey are you currently going through, and in which aspect of life? (E.g: I’m currently going through one in my health, business, and relationships). Where are you in the cycle, and what can you do to move forward now knowing you’re here.

  • Grab a blank piece of paper, write down all of the stages of the journey on it, and write your current journey out

Nick Maier