Adventure, Heroism, Travel

A Heroic Life: the Blueprint

I’ve had a lot of people ask me what I mean by “the heroic path.” It’s still taking form, and I’m still in beta. But I have a basic blueprint, and it goes something like this.

Photo Credit: Mary Harrsch

Achilles, hero of the Trojan War

Four Core Beliefs

I spent many years retelling the myths of the ancient heroes.  Although I found inspiration in them, I decided I don’t want to just read stories. I want to live stories of my own. I’ve come to accept four basic beliefs that define the heroic mindset.

  1. Know your purpose. Everyone has a purpose in life. There is something you’re good at, that you love doing–something that gives your life meaning. It’s not something assigned to you, and you’re not born into it. I don’t mean dharma or fate. You choose it for yourself. Know what that thing is, and pursue it.
  2. If you don’t know your purpose, travel. There are lots of ways you might stumble upon your purpose, but they don’t involve doing the same things in the same places with the same people every day. Travel changes the mind and it also introduces you to exponentially more possibilities than staying put. If you don’t yet have a passion in life, go on a journey. You might meet the love of your life, find a master worth learning a craft from, or simply find a culture that fills you with inspiration.
  3. Ideals, not rules. I find ideals far more useful than rules. Not easier–it’s definitely easier to follow the rules. But rules are a poor substitute for a moral compass, and they don’t require critical thinking. Sure, you can go through life with the rule “don’t steal” and you’ll probably be alright. But there are times when you should steal, and times doing the right thing means a lot more than not stealing. So choose your values, your ideals. Maybe Respect? Bravery? Peace? You get to choose, but choose. And then stick by them.
  4. Do amazing things. Has anyone ever said something that stopped you in your tracks? Have you ever seen a master at work–a musician, a martial artist, anything–doing something better or faster than you thought possible? It seems almost supernatural. But you can cultivate those amazing moments. With time and practice you can become so good at something, or so full of knowledge, that it’s uncanny.

Exhilaration

No one has to do this. If this stuff doesn’t interest you, you don’t have to follow the heroic path. You won’t get fired, fined or divorced for not doing amazing things. On the other hand…

Taken together these four principals build a life that’s about more than just getting by. It’s a life of passionately following what you believe in and accomplishing great things. The sense of exhilaration is unmatched. The entire process–the months or years of working toward your goals–bristles with the energy that comes from a sense of purpose. These are the experiences that give meaning to a human life.

Aside from your own life, the heroic path is meant to change the world. That’s why choosing your ideals is so important. Things like making money or finding love are not ideals, they’re goals. (The same goes for fame, which is one of my goals.) They’re perfectly good goals, and worth pursuing–but prioritize your ideals, and that way your successes will benefit those around you just as much as they benefit you.

That’s why it’s called the heroic path. It’s not just that you’re amazing, it’s that you do amazing things that change the world.

Alexander the Great (left), who modeled himself after Achilles; and Julius Caesar (right) who modeled himself after Alexander. Clearly, trying to live up to your heroes never accomplishes anything.

Putting it Into Action

To me, this is more than just a theory. This is a template for how I’m actually living my life.

To do that, I have to be sure that my plan means real action and isn’t just a fantasy. Everyone has fantasies–they can be something you really believe in (your retirement plans, the afterlife) or something completely fictional (the book you’ll never write, a new year’s resolution). Fantasies can be healthy, but they also serve as distraction from taking concrete action.

One of the ways I’ve spurred myself into action is starting this blog. If everyone I meet knows I have this goal, there’s significant social pressure on me to actually live up to it. Meanwhile, I’ve got a month by month plan to make sure I’m moving toward the freedom to launch my Great Adventure.

What are some of the ways you make sure you pursue your goals? Do you feel you have a purpose in life? Do you think this blueprint is way off? Hit the comments and tell me what you think.

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My book Lúnasa Days is available on Kindle and in paperback. Get your copy here.

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13 thoughts on “A Heroic Life: the Blueprint

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  2. Matt says:

    Travel, in order to change, is exactly what happened to me. I was at university studying computer science. I traveled to America for a ten week summer camp experience and never looked back. Every time I go somewhere I come back home and make changes in my life. It is amazing.

    Also, glad you see change as the key to the heroic path. It’s the whole point of the hero’s journey.

    I’m here for the ride – looking forward to seeing what you do.

    • Matt, thanks for commenting and glad to see you here at Rogue Priest! I totally agree, change is the whole point of liviing heroically. The outcome is a change of self, a personal evolution; but one of the surest ways to get that rolling is to change surroundings, to leave behind the familiar & comfortable.

      So when you came to America – what made you want to stay? And which part of U.S.?

      • Matt says:

        I came to Michigan and here I still am. I came to spend three months at a summer camp and ended up staying there for twelve years. Camp is what made me stay – it is a world unto itself.

  3. Oh, Michigan, I can see why you stayed! I have many fond memories of fumbling adventures and early attempts at leadership that took place in northern Michigan. Which side are you on? Have you ever been out to Beaver Island and thereabout?

    • Matt says:

      I’m in Brighton at the moment, but spent twelve years in Fenton. So, Mid-Michigan, as they call it. Never been to Beaver Island but did a couple of trips up north with camp kids.

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    • Yes, that is a good point Rua. Given the way this philosophy is developing, I think the overall blueprint of the Heroic Life needs to focus less on the specifics of what heroes are like, and more on the lifestyle inspired by the great heroes. So those elements may not get added in anytime soon. Thoughts?

      • Is character not part of a lifestyle? Most of what you post is concerned with being the best person you can be, and character is a very important aspect of that and has been mentioned in passing a number of times already. It is there, just hanging around in the background of the subconscious. Everyone already ‘knows’ these things so it seems redundant to mention them, but they are still there and still important to emphasis. Would you consider someone a hero without these characteristics?

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