(May the odds be ever in your favor.)
One important thing I tell my audience and followers is that YOU ARE A HERO already. You just don’t know it because the opportunity has never presented itself for you to shine.
Let me tell you a story about a personal hero of mine. His name was Jospeh Campbell, and he was an academic who spent his entire life studying mythology and stories from around the world. What Joseph found is that all stories from around the world pretty much follow the same structure. He called this structure the “Hero’s Journey,” wherein the protagonist of the story goes through same set of steps in order to become a hero. The majority of movies and books you love are all based on Joseph’s Hero’s Journey structure. Anything from the Matrix, Star Wars, Hunger Games, Harry Potter, the Wizard of Oz - you name it, it's the Hero's Journey.
This structure is very simple. Our hero lives an ordinary life - but then they get a calling. This calling comes in a form of major crisis that disrupts our hero’s ordinary life. Our hero has to go through a hard time, overcoming obstacles, dealing with challenges, slaying their dragons. Our hero faces these challenging times, learns many lessons, and becomes stronger, better, and more knowledgeable. Once all of the dragons have been conquered, our hero returns to the “new normal,” which has forever been altered by the lessons learned.
For example, Katniss Everdeen’s ordinary world is disrupted by her sister’s getting picked out to enter Hunger Games. She then volunteers, entering the game. She faces challenges and obstacles, but more importantly, she learns many lessons through out the hunger games. And it is these lessons that help her shatter the old way of life and essentially bring down the Hunger Games. Then she brings those lessons back to others, ultimately changing the world and creating a new way of life.
Was it easy? No. Did everyone survive? No. Was it all done without tears, fear, anger, and all those “negative emotions”? No, of corse not. The times were hard, but they were also exciting and invigorating. There is a difference between some motivational speaker telling you to enter the Hunger Games and be positive versus having Katniss Everdeen say, “let’s eat those berries together and destroy the entire system.” True positivity becomes action that makes a real difference in people’s lives and propels everyone forward.
And today, in our version of the Hunger Games during this pandemic YOU have a choice to make. Are you going to keep saying, “Stay positive!” while hiding behind your computer screen and FB memes, or are you going to take this opportunity (an opportunity you didn't ask for) and be a hero. A hero in your life, in your family, in your neighborhood, and the world.
You may ask, Well how do I do that? I am not a hero - not everyone is a hero or needs to be a hero. Guess what: like Katniss Everdeen you have no choice. Heroes are made in difficult circumstances - and these are difficult circumstances.
People are changed when they face adversity. That’s why most people who face death in some form or another — whether it’s facing cancer or a car accident — end up with totally different perspectives on the other side of their trauma. These people become the happiest people on earth. Not superficial happiness, but a deep awareness of the second chance they have been given to live the life they want.
Everyone wants to be happy, but no one wants to do what’s required to be happy. Because in order to be happy, to be a hero, you have to face challenges. But us humans live by one primal driver: to seek pleasure and avoid pain. And if being happy means seeking pain, we are not going to go against that primal drive. Then every once in awhile something bad happens to us that we can’t avoid and forces us into this uncomfortable place of challenge and change. For few of us it’s an injury, or cancer, or another hard circumstance, but for the majority of us it’s business as usual. So we end up on autopilot trying really hard not to rock the boat (avoiding pain) and shopping for things (seeking pleasure) to make ourselves feel better and “happy.”
But today, we find ourselves in a unique position. The entire world has been taken off of this autopilot and placed into difficult circumstances. We are all now facing adversity. You no longer have a choice. You are here and you are primed to become the hero that you secretly always knew you were. No more autopilot. Nope, you can’t really check or do anything about the stocks. You can’t just go to work and come home and do your daily routine. The world as you know it is over. You ARE in the Hunger Games. Welcome, and may the odds ever be in your favor.
The environment is primed for you to shine. The first place you can do is look at yourself and your purpose.
Why are you here?
This may be a strange place to start. Perhaps you expected me to say, How you will help others and form soup kitchens…..yes, there will be time for that…but first and foremost you have to take a mirror and look within yourself. Because in order for you to change the world, the change has to start within yourself. Who are you? Why are you here? What’s your purpose? Is your life worth it?
You’ve been stuck on autopilot for so long you probably have no clue what to do with yourself. You might be realizing how that "important job" you had is really not that important after all. In the midst of these global crises this is the perfect time for you to re-evaluate your life and find the meaning and purpose that’s always been in the back of your mind. During this crisis, we have three types of people and reactions:
The first type are the negative, panicky naysayers who have been prophesying the end of the world since they have been breathing. The end is coming and these guys went to the store a long time ago got their toilet paper, hand sanitizers, and masks. Buying up everything while playing the victim and waiting for doomsday. They are ridden with fear, pain, and sadness, and generally can’t move in these circumstances beyond their panicked preparations for it all to end.
(In case you are wondering, this is Mrs. Everdeen, Katniss’ mom. She took on the victim mentality, allowed fear and pain to overtake her, and was generally unhelpful.)
Then you have second set of people, who are like me. A positive bunch ready to shine in any crises. In fact, we need crises in order to dig deep and bring out our power and strength. We are ready. In the midst of this horrible time, we organize and figure out ways to help others. In fact, people like this shine the most during these times. These are the folks that are fighting for you and your rights.
And the third bunch of people is the majority. Your average person doesn’t really know what to do right now. They wait to see what will happen. Go day-by-day to decide how to react and make decisions. If they are around a negative victim, they tend to be more conservative and scared. If they are around the go-getters, they tend to get inspired and active. But at the end of the day, they don’t know how to react, what to think, what to feel. This is a strange new circumstances they have never faced and the autopilot is broken. The normal rules of society are not longer working.
If you fit into this third group of lost souls, then this post is written for you. The go-getters already know what to do and what their purpose is. The victims are already victims and there is nothing I can tell them that will change their minds. As Einstein said: Negative people have a problem to every solution.
But if you are lost, then I’d like to help shed some light for you. I’d like to show you how to take these shitty circumstances and turn them into an opportunity to change your life and your world.
This situation has created an opportunity for you to learn something about yourself. These circumstances have shown all of us that majority of us do not know how to live in the present moment, with purpose-driven lives, embracing challenging times. From a young age, we are taught to focus on the future. Focus on the next best thing. As a result, when we function on our autopilot that we so carefully built, we only focus on the future. But what’s really bad about having a future focus is that we obsess about things that really don’t matter.
“Oh, I can’t wait to get that promotion.”
“Oh, one more year and I get to buy my dream car/house/vacation!”
Fill in the blank for yourself. What can't you wait to do in the future?
We are never taught how to live in the present. Be still and quiet. If we do have to focus on the future, we are never taught to focus on things that do matter. Like — if a disaster strikes, will I be ready? Or making peace with uncertainty, that no matter what the future holds, we must embrace. That no matter what happens, we can handle it like heroes. We are walking around oblivious to most realities, thinking that it will never happen to us. And when the crises strikes…we are at a loss.
Today, our status quo has been challenged. We are human beings and naturally we want to do something, anything. What we normally do doesn’t work and is largely irrelevant. But we want to do something. We want to help, but we don't know how. We are used to a “go go go go” mentality and now we have come to a full stop. We are not comfortable staying home doing nothing. We feel rudderless, confused, and at a loss.
This is the perfect time to reevaluate that impulse, because at this moment your life is no longer about your paycheck. Most people are out of work and situation will get worse before it gets better.
Our inner sonar that’s guiding us is naturally telling us to do something, something with purpose, and live in the present — which is the key to life and happiness. But we don’t know how to do it.
Here’s where to start.
First, assess the situation. Look at the facts, know the facts and be alert to what’s happening. Living with purpose, helping others, and turning into a hero doesn’t mean doing it carelessly or ignoring reality.
Second, assess your feelings. Look at your feelings (however uncomfortable they may be) and make friends with them. Get to know your fear and understand why you are afraid. Why are you panicky? Why are you sad and concerned? Unplug yourself from the external world, get a cup of coffee and explore those feelings. What are they? How do they feel? What is really behind them?
My Bosnian friends, family and I already lived through horrific period in our lives and during this time we were forced to deal with these same emotions. So now, in this pandemic, we are all pretty calm. Our lack of concern is shocking to my American friends and family. There is a certain level of peace and acceptance in the present situation that we just have. We are already comfortable and familiar with these feelings. We already know to live in the present. We already know how to prepare for the future. We are already at peace with uncertainty. And none of us had to go to the store and get stuff because we already had it. We learned long time ago what was really important and how to handle society-upending change.
And now, for us, it’s business as usual. We aren’t concerned, fearful, or panicky. We know that the market crashing isn’t really as important as we are made to believe. We know it will be hard, but we also know we’ll get through it like the heroes that we are. We know that humans are resilient and this is nothing but a minor blimp. We know that as long as we are alive, we have the power to overcome. I wish I could just transfer all this to my American friends and family.
So explore your feelings and understand them, slowly accept them and allow yourself to feel. And when you’ve had enough, and believe me, your inner sonar will tell you when you are done, you need to think about your purpose.
What is it that you are good at? What do you love to do? What is your special secret talent that makes you happy?
Mine is cooking. I love to cook. It’s how we show our love in my family and culture. I cook when I am sad, when I am upset, when I am angry, when I am happy. I just love to cook, and I love to eat. So in this time of crisis I am so excited to cook some delicious food and take it to all those in need in my neighborhood. I will take it upon myself to do my little part. To do something I love to do and make a difference. I plan on cooking the food in my house, boxing it up, grabbing a mask, and handing it out to all those elderly people that can’t leave their house or don’t have food. At least they will not have to worry about their next meal.
Cooking makes me happy, and it’s one way I can make a difference in this situation. I get to live out my purpose and help those who need it most. You can do the same thing. What is it that you are good at or that you love doing? Do you love animals? Great, go around your small neighborhood block and walk all the animals for elderly and those that need help. Perhaps get them food and make sure they have pet food. Go work on a farm. Did you always want to be a teacher, but you never did because you know the pay won’t cover your mortgage alone so now you are successful CPA that’s stuck at home? Go help the teachers that are struggling to teach these children that are out of school. If you love to read create a reading group — online reading group where you invite all the neighborhood kids, you read one book online and talk about it. Right now, if you do something you love, the fear and anxiety will be lessened as you live your purpose-driven life and change this world, even if it's just your little corner of the world.
If we each do what we are best at, we will create a lovely close-knit community where each of us are living with a purpose, where our talents matter, where we are getting closer to one another, strengthening our communities, and not dividing and competing. I know because this is what we did in Bosnia, during the genocide.
If you do the same in your neighborhood and another person in theirs, very quickly we will create chain reaction on the global scale and change the world. All it takes is you doing what you love and reaching out to the people around you. And by doing this you will go from being an ordinary person to a hero! So strap up your version of bow and arrow and go change the world.
About the Author: Maja Kazazic is an internationally recognized motivational speaker and author originally from Mostar in former Yugoslavia. During the Bosnian genocide, she and five friends were caught in an RPG explosion. Maja was severely wounded, and all of her friends were killed on impact. Maja was later evacuated to the United States for extensive medical treatment. She re-learned to walk, attended college, and, in 2006, founded a successful web development company. Today she lives in Florida with her family, including her service dog, Rosie, and is an active kayaker, tennis player, and golfer. Maja has been featured in Reader's Digest, Good Housekeeping Magazine, Fox News, BBC News, Discovery Network, the Philadelphia Inquirer and more and has delivered her timely messages to clients from organizations big and small all over the world.