In our last Dare blog, we kicked off with the haunting fact that the ultimate treasure comes with problems. If we’re not prepared, seizing success like it’s the ring of power risks distraction, shortsightedness, downfall and even ruin. To that note, and running with the ‘be careful what you wish for’ headline, (the antidote, of course, is pursuing our aims fearlessly, honestly, and in a way that grows humility and taps our sense of responsibility), the next stage of the Hero’s Journey ups the ante.
Along with the discomfort.
Where finding treasure, (i.e. success) can grow you or ruin you, bringing it back to a corner of the world that desperately needs it is no cakewalk. While you’d be right in pointing out that the headaches of either stage (finding treasure and bringing it back) are good problems to have, we wouldn’t blame you for thinking another warning is overkill.
Right, got it. ‘Out of the frying pan, into the fire’ right?
Not to Be Hoarded
Truth is, life’s warnings don’t quit. Given our nature and the rough-and-tumble story that every one one of us has a role in, the stuff we work and lunge toward comes at a cost. Once in a while, that cost looks like taking one last selfie, getting one last gulp of pristine air, and then starting the march down Machu Pichu… when we’d rather stay on top.
It’s no wonder that U.S. Servicemen stationed in Hawaii moved back there after the war. Or that, on his way back home, Odysseus spent five years in bed with a foxy enchantress who scrambled his internal time clock.
This side of nirvana, anything euphoric has a short half-life.
If you don’t believe us, clench your fingers, hold on tight, and watch what happens. Watch as anything hoarded—the deal of a lifetime, a successful exit or even the badass claim that you’re one of the few who completed a Barkley marathon—turns to dust.
‘I am big. It’s the pictures that got small!’
The refusal of the return is a scene or a moment when the successful, newly transformed hero just wants to stay put. Thrilled by the journey, and fired up with victory, new powers, and blazing wisdom, the old, mundane world doesn’t seem like a place worth returning to.
To their own shame, many movies skip this stage.
Shaking our heads here, but hey, that’s their deal.
One that doesn’t, and one that goes as far as making ‘refusal of the return’ its central, sinister premise is Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard. When it hit theaters in 1950, rumor is that some VIP audience members (movie mogul Louis Mayer, for one, and other members of the Hollywood elite), walked out in fury.
What got them?
Femme Fatale Norma Desmond—a forgotten starlet of the silent film era who lives alone in her mansion, watches movies she starred in as a youthful up-and-comer on repeat, and deludes herself to the point of insanity. When a down-on-his-luck screenwriter stumbles across her fortress of solitude, he sees she’s crazy… but then he recognizes her.
“I know you. You used to be big.”
“I am big,” she snaps. “It’s the pictures that got small!”
Having refused a return to earth, and with that, the reality that her youth is gone and her starlet days are over, Norma let her own visions of grandeur warp everything. If she’s brilliant to watch, she’s also surgical—a cringy embodiment of Hollywood and celebrity culture’s hollow, narcissistic underbelly.
Thinking she’s poised for a red carpet comeback that will please the long-suffering fans who write her letters (she doesn’t know they’re all written and delivered by her doting butler), Norma hires the screenwriter to live upstairs and polish up the script for her next movie.
When he tries to leave, she shoots him down, crying out “Nobody leaves a star!”
And in one of the most frightening final scenes of film noir, when news crews arrive to record her arrest, she thinks they’re cameramen for her comeback movie. Walking down a balcony, the policemen watch in disbelief as she addresses everybody as her own personal film crew.
“You don’t know how much I missed all of you!” she gushes, as high on her own fantasy as a drug addict. “I promise I’ll never desert you again! Because after Salome, we’ll make another picture and then another!”
If it’s both creepy and brilliant, then it’s also cautionary.
For heroes, investors, entrepreneurs, and anyone who dreams of that constant high of the limelight that never fades… it’s a reminder that coming down after the party’s over is the best thing for us and everyone around us.
Add to that, our sanity.
Coming Home Means Growing Up
A hero who can’t, or won’t return to earth is one who rots from the inside out… and those back home, be it the Shire, the old country, or even Luke Skywalker’s old haunts on Tatooine, are in for one hell of a disappointment.
In Campbell’s monomyth, the refusal of the return is perhaps the last selfish, childish action on the part of the hero. It’s no more or less than a ten year old loving summer camp so much that he starts crying when his parents pull up… along with Aunt Gertrude, his pimply teenage sister, and a seat wedged between them for the winding ride home.
We’ll entertain that most days, the grind, hustle, and wait times ain’t too sexy. But saddling up, tucking that treasure away and gettin’ on with them it is a sign of maturity. Back home, and whether or not they put up some cheesy ‘Welcome home’ banner, everyone benefits. Young and old, deserving or not, we thrive on the wisdom, innovation and success of those who break the mold.
And if that generativity, that noble aim of seeing success and lessons learned as a way to empower others is built into the journey, it’s also baked into our psyche. Without it, and like Norma with her own personal movie room stocked with glory days… the enlightened and the successful might find themselves worshiping their own reflection.
That is, and though not for a little while, the ruins of it.
Careful How You Journey
In a jarring graduation speech takes no prisoners, author David Foster Wallace drove this point home:
“In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshiping.
The only choice we get is what to worship. And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of God or spiritual-type thing to worship-be it J.C. or Allah, be it Yahweh or the Wiccan mother-goddess or the Four Noble Truths or some infrangible set of ethical principles-is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive.
If you worship money and things—if they are where you tap real meaning in life—then you will never have enough.
Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you.
Worship power-you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay.
Worship your intellect, being seen as smart—you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. And so on.”
No surprise here.
When careful, thought about how our own journey shapes, pivots to our attitudes, our inner life, and even worship, we’ve come to the right place. We’re at the spot where age-old mystery, recurring archetypes… and the daily lessons served up with a polished two by four have something to teach us.
If we pay attention, then we might just be ready to share our nuggets with someone who needs them.
Daring to Climb, Daring to Guide
If life in interesting times comes with a silver lining, it might be this:
What a time to journey.
Up to the summit, back down to the world. With everyone else fighting and bickering, what’s stopping you from showing some moxie and making the climb you’ve always thought about?
Go for it.
While you’re up on Half Dome or Angel’s Landing and peering out over all of creation, think of what you’re bringing back down to your friends. Your family. Your family. Your team, your business, or your pitch to investors. Your corner of a hungry, needy world.
And for us at Dare Capital, what a time to be the friggin’ guide. The one who cheers and shouts from the top of the cliff while someone’s free solo climbing beneath us. If you’re up for it, we’re ready… with water, rescue ropes, and maybe a little white label funding.
If going further, onward, and closer to the heart sound like your kind of journey, then we might be your ticket.
Give us a holler and we’ll talk about the Dare client experience.
Journey hard, and keep your chin up.