The Hero’s Journey: Twelve Steps to Transforming the World

Table of Contents

The Hero’s Journey

If you’ve watched a few films or read some novels, then you’ve probably recognized the patterns of the ‘Hero’s Journey’ just without knowing the term. 

An ordinary individual finds out they have some special power that makes them the only person who can save the world against a villain with apocalyptic intentions. They form a group of friends and face trials, narrowly escaping the maws of death multiple times, to eventually defeat the bad guy and rescue humanity. Sound familiar? That’s the Hero’s Journey, in a nutshell.     

In this article, we will go in-depth on the 12 steps of the Hero’s Journey through the perspectives of the Zero Theft Movement and the storyteller. For you budding screenwriters and novelists, we provide examples from popular movies and books so you can go and play off the patterns in your own work. We, more than anything else, want you to learn how you can fight for an ethical economy where we, the public, can all prosper and thrive. 

What is the Hero’s Journey?

The term originates from scriptwriter Christopher Vogler’s guide The Hero’s Journey, which provides us with the three-act, 12-step narrative structure.  

Vogler directly draws from The Hero with a Thousand Faces, literature professor Joseph Campbell’s much-celebrated work. Campbell believed that most stories and their characters, behind their diverse ‘faces’ or surfaces, ultimately follow a similar pattern to the one illustrated above. From Homer’s epics to comic book flicks, the Bible to the Vedas, the narrative structure of the Hero’s Journey, Campbell argues, has long shaped our stories across time and space.   

But how can that be?

Fundamentally, humanity has perhaps always had an inborn, latent knowledge of the self. This Truth, however, remains unknown until you venture deep into your depths, find whatever it is, and return as a hero (or an improved being). That’s why, regardless of the vast land and seas that prevented global communication long ago, similarly structured stories arose from disparate locations. Stories, at least early on, encouraged readers and listeners to take that plunge into the unknown to face their innermost demons. 

Becoming a Hero with the Zero Theft Movement

While it may sound fanciful, Campbell’s book is as much about the stories as it is about us, the storytellers and readers/listeners. 

Think about those sacred texts we just mentioned. For example, millions of people study, and live by, the Bible in order to better themselves and help others. Jesus Christ, the Buddha, Mohammed, these are all real figures, real heroes, who sparked great movements. And yes, all of their lives follow the Hero’s Journey, even though they probably didn’t intend to do so. 

Stories, in short, can jolt us from the status quo, forcing us to learn and act. They encourage and empower you to take charge of your life, overcome your struggles, and help others along their journeys of self-discovery. 

The Zero Theft Movement seeks to make heroism easy. Before us, the citizenry did not have strong evidence to prove the theft occurring throughout each sector of our economy. That’s why the Occupy Wall Street movement fizzled out. Drawing from the power in the numbers, we task citizens just like you to review and vote on crowdsourced and crowd-approved proposals of theft. 

Let’s take our economy back. All it takes is twenty minutes a day.

Vogler’s 12 Steps of the Hero’s Journey 

Genre-defying, part of the power of the 12 steps of the Hero’s Journey is in its versatility. 

The Hero’s Journey cycle

ACT I: The Departure

1. The Status Quo

The first step of the Hero’s Journey introduces us to the everyman protagonist and their mundane, stagnant, and perhaps unfulfilling existence. 

In The Matrix, the nondescript Thomas Anderson works as a computer programmer by day and hacker by night. He hates his job, constantly seeking something more. His reality doesn’t seem quite right, but he has no proof that things are truly otherwise. 

Status Quo

Thomas Anderson sleeping in his cramped space. An isolated, limited reality.

For many of us, that’s the 9-to-5 weekday grind where you plugin when you go to work and plug out when you leave. Life, perhaps, seems relatively fine. You could have more. Maybe you deserve more. But it’s OK, not bad enough to be intolerable. That’s life, you say. That’s life…  

2. Call to Adventure

The second step of the Hero’s Journey is when the protagonist receives an intriguing or compelling prospect that they cannot ignore, despite their best attempts to do so. This call can be a problem, challenge, mysterious invitation. Needless to say, the call to adventure has appeared in fiction in many forms:

  • In The Lord of the Rings, the wizard Gandalf personally tasks Frodo (the Hero) with destroying the Ring;
  • Luke Skywalker, in Star Wars, receives a distress message from Princess Leia; 

Dorothy gets swept up by the tornado in The Wizard of Oz, forcing her into a fantastical world.

Follow the white rabbit

“Follow the white rabbit,” reads the message that appears on Thomas Anderson’s computer screen. (From movie: Matrix)

Calls to ‘adventure’ are common enough in the real world, too. Granted, you won’t have to face mythical creatures or even struggles, for that matter. More than anything else, calls to adventure are opportunities for you to grow and/or get out of your comfort zone. Maybe you see a posting for your dream job, or perhaps, you are confronted with the growing number of homeless people in your city.  

The key question: how will you act?   

Driving back home from your job, you regularly travel through the financial district. The skyscrapers loom over the streets like big aspirations that your mind refuses to let go. Red light! You screech to a stop.

To your right, a woman hobbles up to your car and taps on the window. Face grime-streaked and hair stringy, she stares, demanding you look at her sign. 

“New mother. Lost my job. Please, please help,” it says, in a child’s scrawl. 

Horns blare. The light’s green. You consider sparing some change, but what would that achieve? And you’ve heard on the news about the rampant drug use amongst the homeless and…the driver behind is screaming at you.

You just drive away, glimpsing a stroller in your rearview mirror, suddenly lost in a flood of suited commuters. 

3. Refusal of the Call

The third step of the Hero’s Journey involves the protagonist hesitating before they commit to completing their task. The adventure appears unending and perilous, too great for an ordinary person to handle. Self-doubt and fear threaten to keep them living as they had before. But it wouldn’t be much of an adventure if it all came easy, right? 

When it comes to eradicating the rigged economy, many of us refuse the call. We get stuck in our own day-to-day existences, simply trying to do best by ourselves. News of the U.S. corporatocracy has become normalized, just as corporate crime often gets undersold as ‘standard practice.’  

The Panama Papers, the 2008 Financial Crisis, Insulin price-fixing, corporate bailouts, congressional slush funds, and on and on. The bad actors rip us off every single day.   

But forget it, you say. Those crony capitalists and corrupt officials play their games in a separate world. A power too big for you to fight alone.

But can you continue being a bystander when there are millions of good hard-working Americans struggling to make an honest living?   

4. Meeting the Mentor

The fourth step is when a ‘mentor’ gives the Hero the proper guidance to make some headway in their adventure. An ordinary Joe or Jane, if tasked with saving the world, probably lacks the skills to successfully navigate through the many difficulties they will encounter. 

Thus, the mentor enters into the picture. Whether it’s physical training, philosophical guidance, motivation, or all the above, the mentor prepares the Hero for what lies ahead. Think of a Morpheus, an Obiwan Kenobi, or even Master Shifu

Meeting the Mentor

Dante, in The Divine Comedy, has Virgil as a mentor to guide the Italian poet through Hell. 

You will have likely recognized calls to adventure, but you might have ignored them due to a lack of energy, time, or even funds. Maybe you felt powerless and didn’t know how you could create the widespread change necessary to truly fix this problem plaguing our whole country.  

Well, good news! We at the Zero Theft Movement fill that role as a ‘mentor’ to get you on your way to meaningfully combating the rigged economy. Through our crowdsourced and crowd-approved proposals of theft, our free articles (like this one!) on, and our book series, we give you a quick and efficient resource to equip you with the knowledge and power to contribute to our movement to establish an ethical economy.

5. Crossing the First Threshold

The fifth step of the Hero’s Journey marks the beginning of the adventure. No turning back, now. The Hero has committed to their task, with the understanding that they will experience struggles like never before. Red pill vs. blue pill, to wake up to reality or live a lie. Neo (once Thomas Anderson) chooses to awaken.

Red pill vs. blue pill, to wake up to reality or live a lie. Neo (once Thomas Anderson) chooses to awaken. (From the movie: Matrix)

The Zero Theft Movement serves as that red pill, that wake-up call, the American public needs to truly see how the rigged economy damages our lives.  

After joining us, you will not be confronted with widespread economic inequality. There is no ‘unseeing’ the injustices you will discover. 

Will you surrender to this system rigged against the public? 

Or will you ACT? 

Harness the power of the Zero Theft Movement

ACT II: Initiation

6. Tests, Allies, Enemies

Now completely in this new reality, the Hero must adjust to a world with a different set of rules. Acclimatization will require the Hero to face small tests, dangers, or inconveniences that they never had to confront in the ordinary world. But along with the struggles, the Hero finds a group of like-minded friends who will help complete the quest. 

Dorothy and her motley crew of misfits working against the Wicked Witch

Dorothy and her motley crew of misfits working against the Wicked Witch. (From Movie: The Wizard of Oz)

Once you join the Zero Theft Movement, you will suddenly see how many potential cases of past and present theft exist. 

Many will question the Zero Theft Movement, some will stay willfully ignorant. Those abusing their power will try to silence you as the Zero Theft Movement grows. 

But you will not be alone.  

Strong allies will support you in your journey (and you in theirs) when you join the holons you identify with. A holon, in essence, represents an ideological viewpoint or lens through which one can apprehend the rigged economy. Their calculations will differ from other holons’ because all of us won’t agree that theft occurs in every proposed instance. Not cliques, holons should be viewed as opportunities to view the world from a different perspective, giving you an opportunity to interrogate your own beliefs.

7. Approach to Innermost Cave

While, in fantasy novels, an actual cave housing an actual dragon often exists, this step refers to the Hero inching closer to their main fear or greatest challenge. 

Fictional boxer Rocky Balboa, for example, constantly doubts himself, leading up to his bout with Apollo Creed. Rocky’s own mind, his insecurities, represent his innermost cave. As fight night swiftly approaches, he must confront his inner demons.

Martin Luther King Jr., during his fight for equality, witnessed the worst of humanity.

Martin Luther King Jr., during his fight for equality, witnessed the worst of humanity. At one point, he was even incarcerated in a Birmingham jail for standing up for his humanitarian dream. 

On your journey with the Zero Theft Movement, maybe you feel voting is too easy, too simple to make an actual difference. Maybe some of your friends dismiss your efforts and call you a conspiracy theorist. Rapid change isn’t happening, and you start to feel like you had before you joined the Zero Theft Movement: powerless. 

You try to block out this worrying lack of progress. To think reform would take a few days, weeks, or even months. Naive, that’s what you were. 

So you keep voting. You keep recruiting others to the cause because you trust that we will change the system eventually. Your votes will matter. These proposals will matter, you tell yourself. They have to…


Also referred to as a ‘black moment’ or ‘the belly of the whale,’ the 8th step of the Hero’s Journey amounts to the pits, the hopeless abyss where times have never looked worse. This is when the Hero must face their greatest fear head-on. If they can overcome it, then they will complete their evolution into a true Hero. The stakes don’t have to necessarily involve death. It can be, in the case of Rocky, having to live with the knowledge that you could not overcome let alone confront what has held you back for so long.

Spanish Painter Francisco Zubaráran’s painting of the Crucifixion of Christ

Spanish Painter Francisco Zubaráran’s painting of the Crucifixion of Christ. While Jesus literally dies, the Hero must go through, at the least, a figurative death. Destruction of the fear that has been a part of the Hero’s identity.  

Another death. A young man didn’t have enough money, so he had to ration his insulin. 

He tried to save, but there just wasn’t money to save. What with his living costs (including insulin). 

How is this not a serious crime, an offence tantamount to homicide? How can Big Pharma get away with price fixing

Again, you doubt your efforts. You question the Zero Theft Movement. The power we promise, you feel that it was just empty advertising. Voting seems pointless. The proposals feel pointless. Doubt dominates your inner monologue: “You can’t do a thing.” 

Despite your fears, you vote more, write more proposals, share the movement. The areas of the rigged economy grow, yet the reports are piling up at a much faster rate. The estimates of theft occurring in each sector of the economy close in on accurate amounts. 

9. Reward

Through countless trials, the Hero and their team has emerged. The journey still hasn’t ended, but now the ‘reward’ is within arms reach.

The reward can be knowledge, a weapon, a lover—whatever the Hero needs to successfully triumph over the ‘villain’ and complete their quest. 

philosopher’s stone

Harry Potter passes the trials to reach the philosopher’s stone. Nevertheless, he must face Voldemort before he can obtain the reward. 

With the theft across the economy covered, you and the rest of the Heroes now have the knowledge to produce the Public’s Total Theft Report. We all have the power, the evidence, to start eradicating the rigged economy. Crony capitalists and corrupt lawmakers have nowhere to hide. We can now hold them accountable for unethical practices that have held down, and even ruined, everyday Americans. 

ACT III: Return

10. Road Back

Finally, the Hero can start to make their triumphant return to the ordinary world, but unfinished business still remains. The villain still looms large, fighting back to prevent the Hero from saving the world. The path back leads the Hero on a collision course to the final confrontation, their final test.

mahatma gandhi protested against the British cultural colonization of India.

To the end of his days, Gandhi (who had to earn the title of ‘Mahatma’ or ‘Great one’) protested against the British cultural colonization of India. 

Undoubtedly, the bad actors rigging the economy will not stand down. They will do everything in their power to defend their unethical practices and derail the Zero Theft Movement. Constitutional reform will surely receive much pushback and condemnation. The public will slowly take the red pill, awakening to the cruel reality that has existed beneath the surface. Although it will overwhelm many at first, the collective work of the citizenry breaks down each instance of theft and identifies those responsible. 

We will have to stay strong, rely on our strength in numbers and the Public’s Total Theft Report, to continue to fight for the ethical economy we deserve. 

11. Resurrection

The 11th step of the Hero’s Journey. The last battle. One final test.

The Hero’s resurrection serves as the climax of the journey. With everything on the line, the Hero truly earns his title by defeating the antagonist. 

Cue the Mission Impossible theme! The Hero may come close to failing but always prevails. Even though Rocky loses to Apollo Creed, he has defeated the self-doubt that has held him back from evolving.

The Suffragettes, with the passing of the 19th amendment, finally got women voting rights they should have had from the beginning.

The Suffragettes, with the passing of the 19th amendment, finally got women the voting rights they should have had from the beginning.

You will have your heroic resurrection when we eradicate the rigged layer of the economy for good. This means we actually get laws enacted that safeguard the public from crony capitalists and corrupt officials. Big money, and the whole Pay to Play culture, will cease to continue. The Zero Theft Movement will band together with our sibling anti-corruption organizations to end dubious relationships between the government and industries. 

People > money. 

The public > big business.

12. Return with the Elixir

The fairy tale ending to the Hero’s Journey, the 12th step has the evolved protagonist return to their ordinary world. Due to their herculean efforts, the world, too, continues on, free from the terrible past that once brought suffering and pain. Paradise, in short, becomes reality. 

Odysseus returns to Ithaca with peace restored. Athena makes a treaty ending the bloodshed for good.

Odysseus returns to Ithaca with peace restored. Athena makes a treaty ending the bloodshed for good.

When the trillions of yearly rigged economy theft go to us, the public, the middle class will be restored. No longer will the GDP continue to rise while wages remain stagnant. The wealth gap will close, and genuinely free markets will ensure companies compete for our business by providing the best quality for the best price. 

You, a hero, will look upon all the change you’ve made possible. And to think, it all begins with something as small, as seemingly insignificant, as a single vote…

Adventure Calls! Join the fight against the rigged economy

That’s all twelve steps of the Hero’s Journey. Whether you’re penning a screenplay, looking to make a change in the world or both, the Zero Theft Movement is for all. Crony capitalists and bought officials cannot keep us down any longer. You deserve the chance to prosper and flourish, and so does everyone else. Join the Zero Theft Movement to bring the elixir back to the ordinary world.  

The public has spoken! See how much the rigged economy is ripping off from you.

Explore the Problem Hierarchy

We have primers on potential problem areas of the economy. Before you start voting, it’s important you get a basic understanding of the issues at hand, so you can be as helpful as possible to other community members. Take a few minutes and come prepared.

Serve your fellow citizens as a citizen investigator

The success of our movement rests in your hands, the leaders willing to dedicate time to conduct investigations into potentially rigged areas of the economy. Lead the movement and help create an ethical economy.

Heroism made easy

Twenty minutes! That’s all the time you need to contribute to our effort. Just review a proposal and vote. Our reports will only gain legitimacy and power with your contributions.

Commitment to nonpartisanship

The rigged layer causes all of us to suffer, regardless of our political allegiances. If you would like to help protect the ethical parts of the economy, we have to set aside our differences and band together against crony capitalists and corrupt officials. 

Beyond the hero’s journey…

An educated public is an empowered public. 

We regularly publish educational articles on just like this one on the hero’s journey. They teach you all about potential problem areas of the economy in short, digestible pieces. 

Standard Disclaimer

The Zero Theft Movement does not have any interest in partisan politics/competition or attacking/defending one side. We seek to eradicate theft from the U.S economy. In other words, how the wealthy and powerful rig the system to steal money from us, the everyday citizen. We need to collectively fight against crony capitalism in order for us to all profit from an ethical economy.   

Terms like ‘steal,’ ‘theft,’ and ‘crime’ will frequently appear throughout the article. Zero Theft will NOT adhere strictly to the legal definitions of these terms (since congress sells out). We have broadly and openly defined terms like ‘steal’ and ‘theft’ to refer to the rigged economy and other debated unethical acts that can cause citizens to lose out on money they deserve to keep.