The Startup Owner’s Manual—Part 2—The Hero’s Journey

The introduction to Steve Blank and Bob Dorf’s The Startup Owner’s Manual, Vol. 1 begins with a discussion of what Joseph Campbell popularized as the “hero’s journey” (for more info you can read Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces or watch a DVD of Joseph Campbell explaining The Hero’s Journey). Briefly, the hero is called to a quest. The path is uncertain, and the final destination isn’t clear. There are lots of obstacles along the way, some for which we are prepared and some of which seem insurmountable. To reach your destination, you must take risks, use what you’ve got, and be transformed. If you do overcome, you will return with the prize, the elixir, the gift of the goddess.

The Hero's Journey

The Hero’s Journey

Sound familiar? If you’re an entrepreneur, it should, because the hero is you. In fact, Campbell says that there aren’t a thousand different heroes with different stories but one hero with a thousand faces. That guy that opened Jupiter House Coffee in Denton? He’s a hero. Brigid Brammer on Etsy? She’s a hero, too. Even me, with Advanced RehabTrust (my home health agency). I’m the hero of that one.

Founders hear a calling, start a quest. They have to go on a journey. Sometimes that journey is physical (Bill Gates moves to California), but more often it’s psychological/emotional/spiritual (I left the comfort of a relatively secure, salaried position). And no matter how compelling the vision is, there is always “uncertainty, fear and doubt” (xxii). In order to reach their destination successfully, the hero must use all of her or his resources—the “the massive investment of time, energy, and money” that I mentioned in yesterday’s post.

The fascinating thing, Blank and Dorf suggest, is that there really aren’t a myriad ways of starting up a successful business. The path to success, although it looks different in different contexts, is always the same. That may sound like a bold claim, but as we proceed you will understand why they say so. Through The Startup Owner’s Manual, the authors illuminate the Repeatable Path.

Of course, if it were simple, we wouldn’t need MBA’s, SBA’s and books like Blank and Dorf’s. It’s not simple, and it’s not easy, but it is comprehensible and for many it is doable. Unfortunately, there are some who cannot or will not make it. Tomorrow we will talk about characteristics that make up the “winners” and “losers” along the hero’s journey.

Take courage, hero.