Once the hero gets acquainted with the new world he finds himself in, the real trials begin. He is going to fight, and he is going to lose. This could be a loss of money, or a loss of a relationship, or even the death of someone close to him. In this stage the hero is confronted with the very harsh realities of the new worlds he finds himself in.
In Star Wars, after Luke Skywalker and his party left Tatooine and they got on the Death Star, he faced off against a range of challenges, coming close to death multiple times. They even managed to rescue Princess Leia! Finally, when it seemed like they would make it to the ship and get away victorious, Luke watched his mentor, Obi Wan Kenobi, get struck down by Darth Vader. Distraught, he cries out and almost gets everyone else killed in the process. Now he was not only trapped out in the harsh, new realm of outer space, he was forced to go through the rest of the journey without guidance; it was a moment of severe loss, and that’s primarily what the Road of Trials deals with: Loss.
When I first started with WFG I experienced great success. I passed my licensing test on the first try, I got promoted from Trainee to full-fledged Associate within a matter of weeks after that, and I was building a team! Everything was cranking! Yes, I felt a little bit over my head at times, but I figured that the more experience I got in the field helping clients the more I would pick up, and eventually I would get it. I would grow my team, help a ton of people fix up their financial situation, and I would use that growth to fund Hero’s Breath into a global phenomenon! Well, that was the plan, anyway, which reminds me of an old proverb that says, “If you want to make the gods laugh, tell them your plans.”
Within the span of about a couple of months, more than half of the team I had built quit, and what money I started to make there, became all that I made. All of the referrals that I got became dead ends, and even some clients that were ready to go, suddenly vanished. Outside of the office, things at the Pilates studio got so bad that I had to beg for a position as a therapist back at the spa that I used to work at so that I could pay my bills. Around the same time I became single again when my girlfriend and I broke up. Oh, and this was all BEFORE the studio and the spa were both forced to close altogether due to the Covid-19 crisis. Loss had found its way to my door, invited itself in, and was rummaging through the fridge.
Here’s the weird thing: In stories, each time the hero goes through a set of trials, he is pushed to and beyond his limits, but only just enough to get him to grow. The next set of trials he faces pushes him even further, but again, just to the point at which he’s grown. This is especially apparent in television shows, when the “big bad” from season one turns out not to be so terrible after all and ends up joining the hero’s party in season two, and thankfully so, because the bad guy in season two is horrific and so hard to beat…until he’s beaten. And when season three rolls around you see that the bad guy from season two couldn’t hold a candle to the pure evil coming out of the season three villain. As the audience we suspend our disbelief that these bad guys just so happen to creep around in the proper sequence, knowing full-well that if the season three villain showed up in season one, the show would have been over. The point of such dramas are to push the hero further and further, and the audience is willing to go along for the ride, so long as it seems believable. Now in a fictional story that’s not so weird, but what is weird is that this seems to happen in our lives just as much.
Famed actor Leonard DiCaprio said, “Every next level of your life will demand a different you.” I can’t explain to you how this happens, but I can promise you, that it does. Somehow, someway, when confronted with challenges, humans have this amazing ability to summon more strength, more will, and more skill than we ever thought we had, and we find a way to get over whatever is holding us back. We experience success for a while, and then when we face new trials, it’s always just enough to push us to the brink of whatever new elevated status we had risen to. Is it possible that we only experience greater challenges because we find ourselves in different circumstances that we couldn’t have otherwise been in while we were in a lower state? It’s possible. To be honest, I think it’s also just as likely that the gods are writing out our lives on some ephemeral scroll that tiny beings such as ourselves could never comprehend. Maybe we’re all actually characters in some cosmic video game being played by celestial beings that are still figuring out the controls (that would actually explain a lot).
Whatever the reason, I examined my life as objectively as I could and I noted that in my last round through the monomyth my Road of Trials consisted of economic ruin and crushing debt, a divorce, massive heartbreak (twice by the same person that wasn’t my ex-wife because I’m stupid) years in dead-end jobs, and the long slog through sobriety. If the pattern of life were to remain consistent, my next Road of Trials would have to hit me harder and push me farther than I ever thought possible…again. And all this would have to come before I could have my Meeting With the Goddess.