The Heroic Life

Note: This is an archive of what I believed in 2010. My beliefs may have changed.

              “I want to do extraordinary things,
              and help others do them.
              I want to feel what the epic heroes felt 
              Even when they were scared.”

When I was a kid I believed in heroes. The heroes I grew up with went on long journeys around the world. They had just a handful of companions, a small group of remarkable individuals whose actions had a major impact. They weren’t perfect people, and they didn’t always fit in, but they had a sense of purpose. And they did great things.

As an adult, I realized I still believe in those stories. Whether it’s ancient myth or Japanese video games, the characters are fictional but there’s something very real about their journey. And part of me always expected to go on a journey of my own. As improbable as it seemed, I decided I wasn’t willing to give up that dream.

I wanted to see for myself if a journey can lead to great things, if a person can discover meaning simply by wandering the world. Most of all, I wanted to know if I could live the life the ancient heroes lived and whether I would find what they found.

Living the Heroic Life

Going on a journey doesn’t make someone a hero. But I believe every human heart has the spark, the ability to be heroic when a hero is needed. And the journey is a good teacher of that, because it forces you to push up against the boundaries of who you are. It makes you struggle, and question yourself, and overcome your own fears and limits. In that way, the journey is preparation for heroism. It’s what I call the Heroic Life.

I’ve attempted to live the Heroic Life for four years now. Travel is my spiritual practice; adventure is my daily creed. For I believe these things change a person. We each have a purpose, a destiny we make for ourselves: if you don’t know what it is, travel. Travel and you will find it. 

Four Core Beliefs

At the heart of the heroic life are four basic beliefs. Together they show you how to change yourself and change the world.
  1. Everyone has a purpose in life. There is something you’re good at, that you love doing—something that gives your life meaning. Know what that thing is, and pursue it.
  2. If you don’t know your purpose, go on a journey. Travel changes the mind and it 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 the place that feels like home.
  3. Ideals, not rules. I find ideals far more useful than rules. Rules are a poor substitute for a moral compass, and they don’t require critical thinking. So choose your values, your ideals. Maybe Respect? Bravery? Peace? You get to choose, but choose. And then stick by them.
  4. You can do extraordinary 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, anyone—doing something better or faster than you thought possible? It’s almost supernatural. But you can cultivate those extraordinary abilities. You can become so good at something, and so full of knowledge, that it’s uncanny.

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 things that matter. The entire process bristles with the energy that comes from a sense of purpose. These are the experiences that give meaning to a human life.

And when you find your own purpose, you will also change the world. Living a life of meaning, and cleaving to your ideals, you will enrich the people and the world around you. And you will find it much easier to make sacrifices for what is right and for the people who need you most.

That’s why it’s called the Heroic Life.

How to Start

I don’t have a sales pitch for this philosophy. There’s no product to buy and no course you can take. There’s only a question to ask yourself:

“How can I start my journey?”

This is the hardest question for most people. But if you feel it in your heart, if you dream of the journey, if you want to experience what the heroes you grew up with experienced, then it’s time to begin your travels.

I’m willing to help. If you dream of a journey and you aren’t sure how to start, write me at [no longer active].* Let’s talk about it. I can’t guarantee answers, but I too once thought there was no way I could leave my life behind. I didn’t think I could afford it, and I was sure I had too many obligations holding me in place.

4,000 miles later, that old life is a distant memory. I travel freely now, and I have found my purpose.

This is not a path of faith, but of action; not of hope, but of doing. If you believe in the heroic life, then now is the time to take the first step.

Send me an email and tell me your story.*

*Update: Because of my busy writing work, sadly, I am no longer able to directly answer questions on starting a life of travel. Thankfully, many other big-hearted adventurers still are. I recommend you start as I did, looking for those like-minded souls who have already built a life on the road, and who are brave enough to share their stories on social media and online. Find the ones who resonate with you and learn from them — especially if they do not have a sales pitch, but merely advice to share.  

Further Reading

The readers of Rogue Priest have been a tremendous resource in clarifying, defining and expanding the Heroic Life. There have been many posts and discussions that helped shape it, but here are a few of the favorites.

Note:  These posts are now private. Here’s why I made that change.

The Heroic Life

What is the Heroic Life? — as it stands today.

The Tragic Joy of the Heroic Life — greatest thing I’ve learned

Travel is the Root of Heroism

Lessons in Sacred Awe

“Creating” Heroic Encounters — (hint: don’t do it)

Joseph Campbell Was Wrong (About Heroism, At Least)

Personal Experiences

Why Heroism is My Path

Domestic Violence: a Less-than-Heroic Rescue

The Ghost and the Sea — contemplating mortality

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