I’ll get to that hamster obstacle course thing, but first I’d like to talk about the “Call to Adventure” and the “Refusal of the Call”. Those are two parts of the “Hero’s Journey” which makes up an important part of any story told. When you strip them down, our lives are actually stories. They have some extraneous details, but they have the same components to them.
Early on in any story is the “Call to Adventure” and the “Refusal of the Call”. This is where the character first sees their chance to do something exciting and different. This is an important part of life. To see opportunity we have to be open to the “Call to Adventure”. For some that is easy. For others it’s hard. An example is two friends interested in theater both try out for a play, both are rejected, one sees his acting career ended by the casting director, the other decides, he’ll write and produce his own play and put himself in it. That latter is more in tune with “hearing the call” all around him, while the former isn’t. This is a skill. It can be learned even if it is more natural for some then others. It’s interesting because there is a second part to this that the former is better at, “The Refusal of the Call”.
“Refusal” sounds bad, however it’s not positive or negative as a standalone word. In fact, it’s such a tried and true part of story-telling because it’s human nature. Theorizing here, the reason natural selection has selected so strongly for it is because it delays us from making terrible choices. It gives us pause which allows for reflection. For every person highly-attuned to “hearing the calls” all around them, it means there is more opportunities than they can possibly pursue. They must learn to refuse some of them or drown in opportunity. I’ve written about commitment before and this is where you make the decision to do so. Eventually, other forces may overcome this, but that’s the point of the “refusal of the call” in our real lives.
I’m not writing this to teach storytelling. I’m writing this because I think with the rapid technological shifts brought on by the internet we’re in a world brimming with calls to adventures, and more importantly refusals. When you see a thousand opportunities fly by you in a year, nine hundred ninety nine of them must not be for you. Contrast that with 40 years ago, and seeing an opportunity might happen once ever 5 years, and back then they didn’t have to get so good at refusing.
We’re in a crisis of decision. I think not much can illustrate this better than the fact that I saw a YouTube channel where a person engineered beautiful obstacle courses for his hamster, then filmed it, added special graphics and sound effects and uploads it to YouTube. Do you know how many opportunities the world is filled with an era where that is a viable method for getting attention? Fifty years ago, what do you think would have happened if you approached a television network with that idea?
Laughed out of the room most likely.
This crisis is in and of itself its own kind of “Call to Adventure”. No matter the company, in a world this wide open, they have no idea what they need. Chewy.com may not even know they need a hamster obstacle course channel to sell cages and accessories, but this content creator has now created that and it can’t be unseen. It’s in the world.
There is an old model to the world, get good at a skill and let someone find you and pay for it. The internet made that mostly unprofitable. If I want a writer I can search 1000s of them, each trying to undercut the other. If I want a painter, the same thing, but if I want someone to create a hamster obstacle course, with graphics and sound effects, I can only think of one person and I don’t think anyone asked him to do it. He just showed them. This is the new model of the world, go to the next level of complexity, and show us, don’t wait to be asked.
If you’re a creator, a company, a person trying to find their path, the new path isn’t wait to find someone who needs something you provide. It’s make something and then ask, “How do you like this?”. It’s seems scary to do work without a guaranteed payoff, but if there is a guaranteed payoff anymore, it’s likely to be tiny as competition will balloon quickly in large, proven markets.
Do the “risky” thing. Do the work. Show people.