By Nate Booth, DDS
The movies "Star Wars," "The Wizard of Oz," "Beverly Hills Cop," "Harry Potter," and countless others are really the same story. The characters are different. The settings are different. The situations are different, but the story is the same. In all the movies, the lead actors are heroes on quests. I imagine you're on a quest, too — a quest to create a dental practice where your patients will receive the care they deserve and your team and you will receive the emotional and financial rewards you desire.
The hero's story is always a quest. The hero leaves his or her comfortable, ordinary surroundings to venture into a challenging, unfamiliar world. The quest may be an external one to an actual place — a labyrinth, forest, cave, or strange land. The new location becomes the arena for his or her conflict with antagonistic and challenging forces. In addition, the hero's story is usually an internal quest of the mind, heart, and spirit. The hero grows and changes, making the journey from one way of being to the next — from ignorance to wisdom, from weakness to strength, or from hate to love.
The three acts and 12 scenes of the Hero's Quest are listed below. As you read through the scenes, I'll show you how they relate to Luke Skywalker, Dorothy, and you. Are you ready to tap into your innate desire to be a hero? If so, read on.
Act I — The Hero's Decision to Begin the Quest
The ordinary world — The ordinary world creates a vivid contrast to the strange, new world the hero is about to enter. Both Luke and Dorothy were average teenagers growing up on their aunts' and uncles' farms. You may have an average practice that does average dentistry for average fees.
Call to adventure — The hero is presented with a problem, challenge, or adventure to undertake. The hero is no longer comfortable in the ordinary world. The call to adventure establishes the stakes of the game and clarifies the hero's goal — to win the treasure, capture the heart of the loved one, right a wrong, confront a challenge, or achieve a dream.
In "Star Wars," Obi-Wan Kenobi asks Luke to rescue Princess Leia from Darth Vader. In "The Wizard of Oz," Dorothy has a run-in with the evil lady on the bicycle and has Toto taken away. You feel the pain of a dental practice that isn't what you envisioned when you graduated from dental school, or you talk to or read about a dentist who has a wonderful practice you would like to emulate.
Refusal of the call — Fear of the unknown causes the hero to hesitate at the threshold of the adventure. Often, a second influence is needed to prod the hero on his or her quest — another offense against the natural order of things or the encouragement of a mentor. Luke refuses the call only to return home to find that his aunt and uncle have been barbecued by the Storm Troopers. Now, he's motivated. You resist making changes in your office only to find that your dissatisfaction level increases.
Meeting with the mentor — The mentor is often a wise old man or woman. The relationship between the hero and mentor stands for the bond between parent and child, teacher and student, or God and human. The mentor can only take the hero so far. Eventually, the hero will have to go it alone. Luke has Obi-Wan Kenobi and Han Solo as mentors. Dorothy has the lovable farmhands as her mentors. You have a mentor to advise you on your dental journey. It can be another dentist or one of the many fine consultants to our profession.
Crossing the first threshold — The hero commits to the adventure and fully enters the new world for the first time. He or she agrees to face the challenge posed in the call to adventure. There's no turning back. In "Star Wars," Luke begins his voyage to face Darth Vader. In the "Wizard of Oz," Dorothy's house is whisked away by the tornado and lands in Oz. You cross your first threshold by making a change in your practice. Like Luke and Dorothy, you're feeling the apprehension as you take the first steps to your dream practice.
ACT II — The Journey
Tests, allies, and enemies — Once across the first threshold, the hero encounters new challenges, makes allies and enemies, and starts to learn the rules of the new world. Luke meets Han Solo, goes to the alien bar, and learns a few lessons from his mentors. Dorothy meets the good witch, Glenda, and her three new travel companions. She also has an encounter with the Wicked Witch of the West and her flying monkeys. You have your own tests and meet allies and enemies.
Approach to the inmost cave — The inmost cave is the most dangerous place in the new world. The hero often pauses at the gate to prepare, plan, and outwit the villain's guards. When the hero enters the fearful place, he or she crosses the second threshold. In "Star Wars," Luke approaches the Death Star and the evil Lord Vader. Dorothy approaches Oz and its mysterious wizard. You approach your inmost cave. Sometimes the inmost cave is inhabited by a formidable force such as Darth Vader. Sometimes it's inhabited by a force that you only thought was formidable, such as the Wizard. You, too, approach your first practice change. Like Luke and Dorothy, you must carefully plan and prepare before you proceed.
The supreme ordeal — The fortunes of the hero hit rock bottom in a direct confrontation with his or her greatest fear. The hero faces the possibility of death in a battle with a hostile force. Luke's spaceship is sucked into the Death Star where he meets his greatest fear. Dorothy is terrified as she first hears the Wizard's voice. You meet with your adversary. The adversary could be the insurance companies, other dentists in your area who want to keep you in "the club," or your team's resistance to change. The resistance could even come from your spouse or your patients who like the way things are now. As in "Stars Wars" and "The Wizard of Oz," at first, it may seem like the adversary is winning. You can't stop now! Victory is only a few steps away. Luke and Dorothy didn't stop. Neither should you. Remember, the hero's quest is an external and internal journey. As a result, you will have to overcome your enemies as well as your own insecurities and fears.
Reward — After the hero survives the supreme ordeal by slaying the dragon, he or she wins the reward — a treasure, the magic sword, the elixir that can heal the wounded land, or a better understanding of another person or group of people. Luke defeats Darth Vader and rescues Princess Leia. The federation is safe — for now at least. Dorothy and her three friends see behind the curtain and learn the lessons each of them needed. You slay your external and internal dragons and begin to realize the practice of your dreams.
ACT III — The Consequences of the Journey
The road back — The hero is not safe yet. The evil forces will chase him or her home trying to recover their lost reward. The road back also marks the decision to return to the ordinary world, which is often bittersweet. The hero realizes the special world must be left behind. There are still dangers, temptations, and tests ahead. Luke escapes the Death Star with Leia as Darth Vader follows in hot pursuit. Dorothy begins her trip away from Oz and faces new challenges. You continue creating your ideal practice.
Resurrection — This is the hero's final exam to make sure he or she has learned the lessons of the supreme ordeal. It is often a second life-and-death encounter with the forces of evil. Luke faces and defeats Darth again. Dorothy misses the balloon that's going back home. You face and defeat another adversary that has been lurking in your practice.
Return with elixir — The hero returns to the ordinary world, but the journey is meaningless unless he or she brings back some elixir, treasure, or lesson from the special world. Luke returns to his ordinary world knowing he has the skills of the Jedi. Dorothy now knows "there's no place like home." You return with the confidence that you can successfully make changes in your practice and constantly create the practice you've always wanted. Unless something of value is brought back from the quest, the hero is doomed to repeat the adventure. Did you see the movie "Groundhog Day?" Bill Murray's character had to repeat the day over and over until he learned the required lesson of love.
Hero's Quest questions to consider:
1) At what stage are you on the Hero's Quest?
2) Have you ever refused the call to adventure? When? Why? What eventually prodded you to accept the call? Are you refusing the call right now? What will have to happen for you to finally heed the call?
3) Who were (are) your mentors? What additional mentors will you need?
4) What tests have you faced or are you facing? What tests lie ahead?
5) What was (will be) your inmost cave? What did (will) allow you to win the battle?
6) What reward did (do) you seek on your hero's journey?
7) What "final exams" did (will) you face in your resurrection?
8) What internal and external elixirs did (will) you bring back from your journey?
American author Willa Cather said, "There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before." One of those stories is the Hero's Quest. Luke Skywalker's quest in "Star Wars" and Dorothy's quest in "The Wizard of Oz" are universally popular through time and across cultures because they tap into a powerful force within all of us — the drive to be a hero.
Like Luke and Dorothy, you must make the Hero's Quest to the practice of your dreams. To do anything less will lead to mediocrity. And mediocrity can create The Peggy Lee "Is that all there is?" Syndrome. Don't wait until you're 80 years old sitting on your front porch swing saying to yourself, "I wish I would haveU." That's too late.
Begin your Hero's Quest today. The practice of your dreams and all the elixirs that go with it are waiting for you.