Joseph Campbell’s 17 Stages of The Hero’s Journey


Dananjaya Hetearachchi, Toastmaster’s 2014 winner got the call when he saw his mother cry tears of shame over what he had done.

“I want you to be a better man,” she said.


Presiyan Valselev, the 2013 winner gets his call when the voice in inside him says, “Reach out.”


Ryan Avery’s journey starts when Officer Snodgrass turned him over to his mother.


Lance Miller felt as if his life was going nowhere and, of his own volition, decided to take control.

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"When I say connecting speaker and audience I’m not speaking figuratively or metaphorically. I’m talking about an actual physical connection, a brain to brain connection, speaker with listener. Science has shown us that this is actually possible."-World Champion Of Public Speaking Don Johnson

 Joseph Campbell’s 17 Stages of The Hero’s Journey

On Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016, The World Champion Of Public Speaking Don Johnson inspired the audience with 1-hour presentation on 17 Stages of The Hero's Journey. If you master these 17 stages, you will become a proficient storyteller. 

1. The Call to Adventure

The hero starts in the ordinary world and gets a call, sometimes from another person, sometimes of the person’s own volition. In Homer's Odyssey, Odysseus is caught in the terrible winds of the angered god Poseidon and sent off to distant lands.

Dananjaya Hetearachchi, Toastmaster’s 2014 winner got the call when he saw his mother cry tears of shame over what he had done.

“I want you to be a better man,” she said.

Presiyan Valselev, the 2013 winner gets his call when the voice in inside him says, “Reach out.”

Ryan Avery’s journey starts when Officer Snodgrass turned him over to his mother.

Lance Miller felt as if his life was going nowhere and, of his own volition, decided to take control.

Throughout our own lives we see that necessity to answer the call and improve ourselves. Do you remember why and how you got involved in Toastmasters?

2. Refusal of the Call

The hero may refuse to pay attention to the call from fear, indifference, from insecurity, from a sense of inadequacy. Luke Skywalker refuses Obi Wan’s call. It’s difficult. It takes work.

Presiyan Vaselev refused the call three times. Presiyan’s refusal resulted in his situation getting worse.

3. Supernatural Aid

Cinderella had her fairy Godmother. Dorothy had Glenda, the good witch of the North. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be supernatural. It can be a parent or a grandparent or a friend giving a thought or aspiration. Dananjaya Hetearachchi’s Cool Dad’s friend says, “I see something in you.” Ryan Avery’s mother tells him, “Trust is a must.” Randy Harvey’s Fat Dad in Randy’s 2004 speech says, “Sometimes you’re the catcher; sometimes you’re the caught.”

It can be what we call miracles of coincidence where sometimes you’re saved from disaster seemingly miraculously.

Sometimes that supernatural aid is the resources within us.

4. The Crossing Of The First Threshold 

This is the point where the person actually crosses into the field of adventure, leaving the known limits of his or her world and venturing into an unknown and dangerous realm where there aren’t any rules and limits. Beyond the guardian is darkness, the unknown and danger; just as beyond the parental watch is danger to the infant

You cross the threshold when you go off to college, join the services, or immigrate to another country.

5. The Belly of the Whale

It’s a common theme that appears not only in the Bible but in many other cultures as well. Remember Tom Thumb who was swallowed by a fish; the whale swallowed Pinocchio. The belly of the whale represents the final separation from the hero's known world and self. By entering this stage, the person shows willingness to undergo a metamorphosis.

6. The Road Of Trials

Once the hero accepts the call, the hero must face tasks and trial after trial  and may have to face them alone, or may have assistance. The Yellow Brick Road is obvious. The road of trials is a series of tests, tasks, or ordeals that the person must undergo to begin the transformation. Dragons have now to be slain, bad witches overcome, and surprising barriers passed – again, again, and again.

A quitting smoker is plagued with withdrawal and cravings. A beginning speaker is plagued with stage fright.

7. The Meeting With The Goddess

This is the point when the person experiences an unconditional love that a fortunate infant may have experienced with his or her mother. This is a very important step in the process and is often represented by the person finding the other person that he or she loves most completely.

8. Woman As Temptress

This step is about those temptations that may lead the hero to abandon or stray from his or her quest, which does not necessarily have to be represented by a woman. Woman is a metaphor for the physical or material temptations of life, since the hero-knight was often tempted by lust from his spiritual journey. And he cannot acknowledge his own lust drives.

Throughout history men have refused to acknowledge their own faults and shortcomings and have conveniently attached them to someone else. And who is more convenient than the woman? The shining example is Eve in the creation myth.

The goddess that the man married has become a nag, a spendthrift. Women become the butt of men’s jokes. The marital problems are the fault of the spouse. But there is another side of the coin. The husband has transformed from Prince Charming into a big disappointment. He becomes lazy. He becomes a batterer. Men become the butt of women’s jokes.

9. Atonement with the Parent

In this step the person must confront and be initiated by whatever holds the ultimate power in his or her life. In many myths and stories this is the father, or a father figure who has life and death power. In Harry Potter he meets the images of his dead parents.

Dananjaya Hetearachchi’s mother and Ryan Avery’s mom were the parents with who they had to atone. With Presiyan Vaselev and Lance Miller it was their parent within.

10. Apotheosis

            It’s the elevation or exultation to the rank of a god. The hero is treated as almost divine. The audience, having been led to identify with the hero, experiences the brink-of-death feeling with the hero and then is relieved by hero’s return from death. In all the winning International speeches we feel with the speaker at the moment of realization.

11. The Ultimate Boon

The ultimate boon is the achievement of the goal of the quest. It is what the person went on the journey to get. All the previous steps serve to prepare and purify the person for this step.

The scarecrow wanted intelligence, the lion wanted courage, and the tin woodman wanted compassion.

Maybe we’ve conquered our base desires and passions like lust or greed or indifference. We quit smoking. We got through our Icebreaker. We won the battle with stage fright. Now we feel we can confront any challenge.

12. Refusal of The Return

Having found bliss and enlightenment in the other world, the hero may not want to return to the ordinary world to bestow the boon onto his fellow man.

Even though we’ve discovered something we may have demons of doubts that have to be resolved. Our minds keep telling us there are other obstacles to be overcome. The person may one of those 40-year-olds that are still living at home.

13. The Magic Flight

Sometimes the hero must escape with the boon, if it is something that the gods have been jealously guarding. Jack climbed the beanstalk and stole the giant’s treasures. Glenda, the good witch of the North gave Dorothy magic slippers; Obi Wan Kenobi gave Luke Skywalker the light saber; Dumbo had a feather.


14. Rescue From Without

            Heroes may need powerful guides and rescuers to bring them back to everyday life. More than likely, it’s an emotional wound. He she may succumb to recidivism or depression or negative attitudes. The mentor comes to the rescue.

15. The Crossing of The Return Threshold


The trick in returning is to retain the wisdom gained on the quest, to integrate that wisdom into our lives, and to share the wisdom with the rest of the world

16. Master Of Two Worlds

For a human hero, it may mean achieving a balance between the material and spiritual. If the hero has had to reach inside to discover his inner resources he must still realize that there is an outer world to be lived. But you can live both worlds more fully now.

17. Freedom To Live

Mastery leads to freedom from the fear of failure, which in turn is the freedom to live. This is sometimes referred to as living in the moment, neither anticipating the future nor regretting the past.




  1. Joseph Campbell, “The Hero with a Thousand Faces,” New World Library, Novato, California, Third Edition, 2008.
  2. Carl Jung, “Man and His Symbols,” Doubleday & Company, Inc., Garden City, New York,1964
  3. Grady Jim Robinson, “Did I Ever Tell You about the Time . . .? “ How to develop and deliver a speech using stories that get your message across, McGraw-Hill, New York, 2000.
  4. Kenneth C. Davis, “Don’t Know Much About Mythology, Everything You Need to Know About the Greatest Stories in Human History but never Learned,” Harper, New York, 2005.
  5. Robert L. Delevoy, “Symbolists and Symbolism,” Skira Rizzoli, New York, 1982


Date: Tuesday 7/12
Location: Marina Del Rey Library. 4533 Admiralty Way, Marina Del Rey, CA 90292
Time: 6 pm. -8 pm.
Dinner & Refreshments, Opportunity Drawing: 6:00 p.m-6:30 pm. 
Presentation by World Champion Of Public Speaking starts at 6: 45 p.m. 
Required Action: RSVP by calling (424) 279-2150 or emailing at 

Don Johnson, with over 38 years experience as a member of Toastmasters and the National Speakers Association is a veteran of countless talks to community and corporate groups.  He has spoken to groups ranging from kindergartners to senior citizens, from recovering drug addicts to corporate managers, and community service organizations including Rotary clubs, Kiwanis and B'nai B'rith.

He served 4 years in the U.S. Navy, received his bachelor's degree at Clarkson University, his Masters at USC, and completed his Ph.D. coursework at UCLA. He has taught at Northrop University.

Don is District I's Tall-Tales champion, Region II's Humorous-Speech champion, and Toastmaster International’s World Champion of Public Speaking.

Don has spoken extensively for the American Heart Association, the March of Dimes and the American Cancer Society about health issues, has trained speakers for these organizations, and has chaired their speaker’s bureaus.  He has facilitated stop-smoking programs and has trained others as facilitators.

He has taught comedy improv and has been a member of the Improv troupe: AWork in Progress, which performed regularly in the Los Angeles area.  Don has taught How to Speak Like a Pro at the South Bay adult school in Manhattan Beach for 20 years, and is a Public Speaking consultant.  He has been an announcer on the award-winning TV sensation, The Shelley Show.

His book, Would You Like to Swing on a Star; How You Can Create, Prepare, and Deliver a Winning Speech, gives insights into strengthening your talks and presentations and is a must for those who are considering competing.  Two excerpts from the book have appeared in the Toastmaster Magazine.

His latest book Speaking from the Right Side of the Brain, is one that will boost your speaking to a new level by showing how to make more exciting, dynamic presentations by awakening unused, inner potential.

Don was a Cellist in the Beach Cities Symphony and is a painter whose works are on exhibit in the Parkhurst Gallery on 6th St. and in the Ports O’ Call Village Parkhurst Gallery, San Pedro.


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