I’ve been thinking a lot about superheros lately.

Storytelling has long been one of my favorite topics. I love stories, and I’ve been fascinated with the work of Joseph Campbell for years. If you’re not familiar with his work, I highly recommend watching the BBC interview series he did with Bill Moyers called The Power of Myth. He was considered by many to be the world’s greatest mythologist, and he traveled the world during his 83 years of life documenting the myths of every culture that he could find on the planet. He developed the incredible themes of the Hero’s Journey, and a great deal of his work was spent exploring the relationship that great stories have on our lives as humans. He gave answers to life’s greatest questions through the vantage point of these myths, and taught that we only begin to understand our lives when we see ourselves as the heroes of our own journeys.

The work that I was doing in Alaska was centered around the theme of storytelling, on so many incredible levels. My dreams chronicled an incredible parallel experience that I wrote about in March, and talking to other people about their dreams and seeking to understand my own has been an enormous source of self-realization. I’ve read dozens of books through the years on the relationship of dreams, stories, myths and heroes, and countless articles and websites.

I have been writing a journal for years now, and have taught the usage of writing, communication, and self-expression through words and speech to hundreds of people in different ways. It’s only now as I approach my 30s that I’m beginning to see what a huge theme this has been throughout my life. My mother is an award-winning teacher-turned-principal and educator. My dad’s degrees are in psychology and journalism, and he’s been a carpenter and a paramedic in the wild for most of his adult life, in addition to a huge journey of self-revelation. My grandma was a reference librarian has been undergoing a personal transformation with me through yoga and meditation that started years ago.

Selling real estate was a 9-year-long case study that I conducted in my head in how we humans create the stories that we live in our lives, and a lesson in how to guide people through the process of accomplishing a goal. This summer, I helped to lead young men up to the top of a 10,000 foot mountain covered with a glacier, and to paddle canoes down a 220-mile river through Northern BC and Alaska. Towards the end of that 7-week experience, I asked the boys to describe the stories that we had told each other. They recanted the books that they’d been read, the myths of Alaska that I’d brought, the stories of my family that I told, and finally remembered – they had their own stories.

This had been a subliminal theme that I’d introduced early and often – I often “accidentally” provoked discussions that talked about heroes and leaders, and helped the kids to tell stories of pure fantasy and conjecture. This was a big part of the program – stimulating thought about the lives of each other, and the reasons for making our choices. Using words to create awareness. Stimulating thoughtful discussion. Feedback within the context of community. Executing serious wilderness expeditions. Finding the self within the context of the vastness of nature. Telling stories to relate our experiences. The core elements of what it means to be human, a man, and alive today.

This is good stuff for young men. I also talked to young women during other trips earlier in the year about what it means to be a woman, from the perspective of those wonderful teachers that I have been privileged to know. I honor the divine feminine in them, and I am lucky to have been able to study intimately with many amazing women. I talked to these young girls on a secular level, but used the same central theme – we are our own heroes, and we must understand the lessons of the Hero’s Journey.

Every journey starts with a calling – the purpose behind how we find ourselves here. Sometimes the hero initiates this – a decision to move across the country, to take a new job, to go back to school – and sometimes another character will make a decision – when we get dumped, when our parents ship us off to shape us up, when someone we love hurts us – that changes our life.

I’ll skip the rest of the process – it’s known as the monomyth – and there’s been a lot written on it. Instead, I’d like to introduce the Superhero Action Project. I’ve been assembling and incubating a bunch of good ideas, and I have figured out the theme – it’s really the Superhero. My life’s work is in using the tools I’ve gained to help people to understand the monomyth, and how to use it.

I’ve been thinking about how to use this blog to assemble what I want to compile, and the best format to discuss this in. My whole life I’ve been trying to figure out how to change the world, and it wasn’t until I finally figured out how to change myself that I started to see how I could be a part of what’s already going on.

I posted a quote & a link on Facebook this morning: “Pessimism is a luxury of good times… In difficult times, pessimism is a self-fulfilling, self-inflicted death sentence.” Evelin Linder, as quoted here. That link has a great talk from the head of WorldChanging.com, and he’s spent a great deal of time assembling thousands of articles and compiling an enormous database of exactly what people are doing to fix all of the social problems of the world. He talks about the empowerment that he developed from learning how these solutions are actually making the change that we need.

Francisco, as captured by Sarah Kelly and Arthur Richards of http://www.adaptingtoscarcity.com/

Francisco, as captured by Sarah Kelly and Arthur Richards of http://www.adaptingtoscarcity.com/

I also spent some time chatting on google with a friend of mine who is working on some amazingly cool stuff in Mexico. Sarah and Arthur are recording all of the amazing water scarcity and pollution issues that they’re purposely encountering and learning about as they travel through a nation that supplies a great deal of our food and labor. I was so excited about the work that they’re doing to help people there to record and document what’s taking place in their immediate environments. Check out their website or click on the photo above to read up on it – really great job, and I’m super proud to be their friend.

They’re connecting with the ways that empowering people to tell their own stories can change the world. I sent her a link to a really cool talk on the ways in which people are using facebook and twitter to implement social change. Sounds crazy, eh? Just ask the people in Iran who were able to stage a hugely successful protest by using their cell phones to follow Twitter feeds. The cops didn’t know how to keep up – but everyone in the crowd knew where to go and what to do. Check the talk out here.

Once when I was about 19, I was in a conference where the speaker asked everyone to close their eyes, and imagine an old man or woman (depending on their own gender) walking through a forest. This old person was about to die, and was thinking back on his or her life. He was content with his life, and was happy. We were asked to imagine – what choices did she make, and how did she live? Was she thinking about how much money was in her bank account, how big her television was, or was she thinking about the people she’d known? What about the best experiences of her life – were they with others, or alone?

I’ve used this exercise a great deal with myself and others. As I learned from that speaker ten years ago, it’s a really effective way to help people to consider themselves as their own storytellers. Those people that live life to the fullest are the ones who understand that their story will come to an end. They consider where they want to go, what they want to do, and who they want to be in the world.

I’m going to wrap this post up, because it’s gone on much longer than a blog post should. It’s really just the context for the next post I’m about to write.