Wake up & live a bigger life.

Aaron Marshall
5 min readMar 21, 2023

Follow longing to a life of adventure & meaning.

Keywords: hero’s journey, adventure, purpose, meaning, longings, Joseph Campbell, epic movies, C.S. Lewis, wake-up call

Photo by Paul Hanaoka on Unsplash

Ever feel like there’s more to life than what you’re experiencing right now? Do you find yourself drawn to epic movies, superhero films, and stories of adventure and heroism?

They tug on the deep stuff — longings. Maybe it’s time to start listening.

Deep down, we all desire something more. We long for adventure, purpose, and meaning. We strive to thrive — to flourish. Our longings may be muffled by the mundane — day to day demands and distractions — but they fight to be heard. They well up as our hearts swell, and leak out through well told stories.

Joseph Campbell outlines these stirring stories, identifying a common narrative arc found in nearly all epic adventures — the hero’s journey. Every hero’s journey includes a call to adventure, an invitation to step out of our comfort zone and into something much bigger than ourselves. Heroes must overcome obstacles and face challenges, but through this journey, they find purpose and meaning.

Movies like Braveheart, Gladiator, and the Avengers series tap into this universal storyline. They capture our imagination and stir our souls because they speak to the deep longings muffled inside each of us. From Odysseus to Frodo Baggins, we connect with epic heroes because we see ourselves in their struggles and victories. These heroes remind us that we too are heroes in the making. We too can answer the call to adventure and step into a life of purpose and meaning.

But, we must become better listeners. Answering the call to adventure requires that listening to the longings inside of us. We will never be called upon to must be willing to face our fears, step out of our comfort zones, and embrace the unknown if we miss the invitation. And yet, so many sleepwalk through life — attentive to the white noise, unable (or unwilling) to hear the longings that could really wake us.

It’s those deep longings we need to wake. Oxford Professor CS Lewis wrote a lot about wrestling with his own longings — unexplained and unmet desires that kept tugging at his heart. He wrote:

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

In an age of passivity and boredom, he believed there was more. Do you? What if a richer, deeper version of your life is just a dimension (or a few decisions) away?

Can we get real for a minute? I’ve connected with a lot of folks about this over the last several decades — single folk, married folk; twenty-somethings to sixty-somethings — and I hear the same thing over and over.

It goes something like this:

“Life got busy. I got a job, shelved the dream, and here I am. I clock in and out, change diapers, shuttle kids, and work hard with my head down with a distant thought that retirement might open things up.”

Maybe you can relate. I know I can. Without your consent you find yourself drifting like a boat swept downriver. It just happened. You don’t remember choosing it. You don’t remembering giving permission, and yet here you are, focused on navigating the next set of rapids.

If you had the time, you might ask some big questions, starting with “am I even in the right river?”

As a forty-something with adolescent kids I can tell you that staying awake to your deep longings is not a one-time learning. Paying attention to longings — weighing the myriad of desires and choosing the deep and good ones — takes effort and ongoing maintenance. I’ve had to pick up and practice specific habits and rhythms. It takes time to build a habit, but they grow one day at a time.

For me, it started with a wake-up call.

Do you remember Neo’s wake up call in the Matrix? Morpheus held out two two pills when he invited Neo into a bigger life:

“You take the blue pill… the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill… you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”

Which would you swallow? Are you ready to live into a bigger reality? Are you listening to the longings in you? Sure, it will require change. You’ll risk and sacrifice greatly. It will be a difficult road. And it will be real.

Ready to get heroic? To wake up and start your journey? It’s red-pill time; rabbit hole time.

Wake up. Listen to the longings. Answer the call to adventure. Get back to living a life of purpose and meaning. C.S. Lewis notes,

“The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.”

Today rolls into tomorrow. How will you spend your days? Break free of comfortable apathy. Embrace courage and adventure.

Wake up. Listen past the white noise. Do you hear it — the longing? Don’t let this moment pass. Your journey, like every journey, starts with a first step. Take that step today, by listening.

Wake up. Listen for others. Find company — your hobbit team, your fellowship — to journey alongside. Remember, the hero’s journey is not just a story, but a reflection of your own life. It’s time to wake up and embrace the adventure that’s waiting for you.

Aaron Marshall, PhD

[next up: Pursue the Impossible]

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Dr. Aaron Marshall | PhD, eMBA

Meet Aaron, an entrepreneur and C-suite executive with over 15 years coaching and consulting around habits, culture, & strategy. His academic journey in philosophy & education blends nicely with his practical business experience as a brick-and-mortar and digital entrepreneur, NPO founder, and zoo COO. Aaron wrote a book on habits & a children’s series on courage. He teaches Social Entrepreneurship at Westmont College, serves as affiliate faculty at Penn State’s Kurt Hahn Consortium for Values & Experiential Learning, and sits on several local boards. When not working, Aaron enjoys outdoor activities with his wife and three children in Santa Barbara.

You can connect with Aaron on LinkedIn or by visiting his website.

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Aaron Marshall

Thriving family guy & founder w/ PhD. equips you to scale your impact. coaches execs/owners. teaches undergrads. COOs at zoo. surfs w/ his kids. armarshall.com