Life Lessons With Anyone and Everyone

Wendy Kelly
Sep 24, 2015

Use the trials life hands you to grow and transform and become the hero of your own story.

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What can Joseph Campbell teach us about how to handle the inevitable setbacks life hands us? I propose trying to see our entrepreneurial journey as a form of the hero's journey. Use the trials life hands you to grow and transform, ultimately returning from your difficulties as the hero of your own story.

What a week. I'm rereading Joseph Campbell and remembering what a thick headed moron I think he really is. Great intentions, but come on. He really wrote "Yes. Women can be heroes too."

Wow! Really?

Yep. Because of motherhood! We can be heroes because we can give birth! We don't actually have to even leave the house and we can be heroes. YEA.

Heroes Journey For Martin Shkreli

The Hero's Journey

But because I am reading Joseph Campbell, I am seeing everything through the lens of the Hero's Journey: The hero leaves his home when he gets called to adventure. He goes through trials, becomes transformed, and returns a hero.

This Week's Heroes: From Shkreli to Yogi Berra

This week has me thinking about Martin Shkreli, Pope Francis, a Michigan mom at Tim Hortons, and Yogi Berra. All at different stages of their hero's journey. All with things to teach and/or learn. For Martin Shrkeli, apparently, it's mostly learn.

So bring it on, Martin Shkreli. You ass.

The Lonely Misunderstood Hedge Fund Manager

But no. See, that is too easy. As Matthew Herper notes in Forbes, lots of companies have done exactly what Martin Shrkeli did with Daraprim and their only consequence was hugely rising stock prices.

In case you live in a cave :) what Martin Shrkeli did was to raise the price of a 62-year-old drug, Daraprim, by 5000% from $13.50 to $750 per pill. He has since said he will lower the price but is vague about how much the decrease will be.

Here is what he has said about his persona to Matthew Herper:

"I'm not a politician," Shkreli tells me. "I don't have to win a popular vote contest. That's called being an iconoclast. You prioritize your compass over others, and your conviction that the compass is correct in making the world a better place. I don't care about the way the media portrays me as long as I can keep doing my job."

The Iconoclastic Sociopathic Hero

Here is a guy who considers himself an iconoclast, who may very well be a sociopath, and who may end up unscathed by this Internet take down. He's taken his Twitter account private, he's retreated a bit and conceded defeat in this case.

After going through a recent $75 million dollar lawsuit and scandal at the last pharmaceutical company he worked for, who knows? Perhaps he'll somehow manage to weather this as well, and move forward to his next adventure.

I felt so moved by Martin Shkreli's social awkwardness and lack of ability to give a sh*t that I thought it might be fun to give him some advice.

He's obviously left his home and is in the process of facing trials. His next step would be a dark night of the soul, transformation and heroic return. He's in need of some solid leadership training at the very least.

A Michigan Mom Finds Her Voice

Dianne Hoffmeyer was buying coffee at Tim Hortons in Michigan when a couple of women behind her began to verbally insult her. Unbeknownst to those women, she had recently lost 177 pounds and being called a "whale" hurt that much more. The doughnuts were for her teething toddler though it really shouldn't matter.

In the face of this trial, she decided to buy those women their coffee.

The Internet can't get enough of loving her. She's been on the news, gone viral, and is reaping all sorts of rewards for her transformative, heroic stance.

If she sees the women again, she says

"I'd like to buy them another cup of coffee, and talk to them. And explain to them how it made me feel."

Quite the opposite of what has happened for dear Martin. He's hated. Reviled. The opportunity he has right now to transform himself is huge.

Thinking from a storytelling/marketing point of view, all I can see here is an epic opportunity. Martin Shkreli only did what any hedge-fund manager turned pharmaceutical entrepreneur would have done.

He honestly, in his original world view, could see nothing wrong with his original decision. At first, he even tried to explain his actions from a quasi-humanitarian ethical stance. He would be ultimately saving lives, not hurting people.


This time, though, in part because of his honey-badgeresque effect, people were having none of this. There was a revolt and he backed down.

The Pope As Transformational Hero

I wonder what Pope Francis would do?

Pope Francis is currently visiting Cuba and the United States where he's characteristically meeting lots of people and speaking up for the least among us.

Pope Francis was a bouncer in Argentina. He had a girlfriend, loves the tango, and is by all accounts very easy to get along with and like.

He's also completely traditional on Catholic church views about abortion, euthanasia, contraception, homosexuality, the ordination of women, and priestly celibacy. Somehow, though, many people seem to be able to gloss over that and love him anyway.

Could it be because of this stance?

Dialogue is born from an attitude of respect for the other person, from a conviction that the other person has something good to say. It assumes that there is room in the heart for the person's point of view, opinion, and proposal. Dialogue entails a cordial reception, not a prior condemnation. In order to dialogue it is necessary to know how to lower the defenses, open the doors of the house, and offer human warmth.

What would it look like if Martin Shkreli took in a bit of that and used it to transform his leadership? In the interim period, he could hire someone with special instructions on how and what to Tweet/blog for him, but after awhile, he'd get his voice and it would become authentic.

He could become the true voice for a new kind of pharmaceutical company. He's definitely smart enough to be able to turn a profit. Now the challenge is to be able to do it ethically and also in a way that transforms him into a true hero. Why not?

Using Smoke and Mirrors to Gain Popularity

Of course, since Martin Shkreli has never once acknowledged that he is even remotely deep enough to care about a hero's journey or a transformative leadership experience, there is a good chance that he might get all the advice he needs from Ashy Murphy, the Cork County poltergeist videographer who apparently is pretty good with the FX.

The Irish poltergeist apparently is scaring her so badly that she must move. Lampshades swing, cupboards open and close at will, and pots bang and crash on the home video she made to document it all.

Most comments praise her for her ballsiness and ability with the special FX. So far, she still maintains it's real.

I could see Martin Shkreli ducking out of the potential transformational journey he is headed for and playing a cute smoke and mirrors game then returning to business as usual.

Of course, I don't endorse that, but it's definitely a potential outcome.

Wisdom From the Bull Pen

The recent death of the iconic Yankee Yogi Berra has of course given rise to a nostalgia for his wisdom. The Yogi nickname came from the fact that he looked like a Yogi whenever he sat waiting to go to bat. So it's apt that, after being a hall of fame baseball player, he's also known for his insight.

Perhaps Martin Shkreli could benefit from this:

"You can observe a lot by watching."

Martin Shkreli is an extreme example of an ordinary entrepreneur who has been thrust into a potential hero's journey. But though I think he's an ideal example of what that can look like, I don't think it's too much of a stretch to say that we all have a chance to be the heroes of our own stories. And when we are given trials, we should learn from those ahead of us on the path.

Photo Credit: BK

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