Thursday, February 29, 2024

The Entrepreneur’s Hero Arc

Mythology, particularly of the Greek variety, has always enraptured the masses. There is something captivating about heroes and monsters, gods and ghosts, and the inevitable triumph of good over evil that creates the perfect story. The myths have an even greater impact when they center on a lone hero embarking on an epic quest (e.g. Jason and the Argonauts; The Ramayana). This plotline hits closer to home because we regularly hear about everyday people achieving amazing things with the odds stacked against them.

The so-called “hero archetype” or “hero’s journey” describes the common layout of popular myths, wherein a hero goes on an adventure, experiences victory in a crisis, and returns home forever changed. Sound familiar? Entrepreneurs go through a similar set of events. An entrepreneur comes up with a novel idea, deals with all sorts of potential hurdles (convincing investors to invest, market acceptance, technological and regulatory impediments), some often arising when they least expect it, and finally, (sometimes) their idea succeeds. In the same way that we are drawn to reading about a hero’s journey, we cheer for the aspiring entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs are the modern-day mythological heroes of the business world.

Now consider the current increase in “modern takes” on ancient myths, such as Madeline Miller’s Circe and Vaishnavi Patel’s Kaikeyi, which focus on retelling these stories from the female perspective. In many popular myths, women have been relegated to supporting roles, such as “lovely queen,” “lonely mother,” and “evil witch,” and these books give them agency and power over the hero’s journey, while staying true to the crux of the myths. I have been part of the ”mythology world” for a long time and I have never heard so much talk about the female characters in myths as I have in the past three years. These books have made these formerly sidelined women into heroes in their own right.

Similarly, while there have been incredible female entrepreneurs for quite some time, they were often pushed to the side until recently. Now, we commonly see articles about women like Whitney Wolfe Herd (Bumble), Mariam Naficy (Minted), and Morgan DeBaun (Blavity) and realize that women have always had the drive and ability to succeed in the business world. When they were finally accepted and given the necessary resources and visibility, they thrived in the same way that mythological women are now finally getting their due respect.

Suffice it to say, the similarities between the hero archetype and the entrepreneur’s journey mean that they are both subject to wide public adoration, and rightly so!

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