The hero enters the dungeon, defeats the dragon, rescues the princess and collects the gold.
This is the classic story of the hero. You can play with the variables - a female lead, a mad scientist villain, save humanity - it really doesn’t matter. Every heroic story ever told follows this simple template. Hero’s appeal to our deepest beliefs because we fundamentally understand the journey to success - whether or not we can properly articulate it. The other side of success is often the result of sacrifice, suffering and encountering plenty of setbacks.
If this is true, why is it that so many of us seek shortcuts to success?
We’re a very resourceful species and we use our intelligence to circumnavigate difficult situations. If there’s an easier way to victory, why not take it? This of course, is not unique to humans. Apex predators in the animal kingdom are also very skilled at calculating the risk-reward of attacking prey. Lions will pick off the slowest and weakest in a herd even though the best meat is found in the biggest and strongest.
The trouble with comparing ourselves to lions is that their strategies and tactics have remained the same for thousands of years. Humans, on the other hand, have created a complex society that requires careful calculation when it comes to tackling problems. If you attacked every issue with fists flying, you’d likely to burn out very quickly. The classic heroic story often pits the hero against one big problem, something that is not very realistic in today's world.
The result is that we often underestimate the difficulty of achieving a goal because we have so many of them to achieve. Get good grades, eat healthy, maintain a positive reputation online. Stay active. We assume the effort to become a doctor, start a business or lose weight is much more difficult than it is. Our long-term thinking simply breaks down when we can’t see the top of the mountain. If the goal is so far away, why even try to attempt it?
The heroic journey is about making an exerted effort to complete a goal, no matter the time, effort or risk that stands in the way. The real heroic reward comes with work. Professional work. Getting after it every day until the goal is achieved. If you want to get a promotion at work, you can’t keep doing the same thing you’ve always been doing and assume that it will fall into your lap.
The dragon is simply not going to get out of the way.