A Time For Heroes – How To Write Your Own Story

Kyle’s Note: This is a very different post than what I usually publish on this site. It’s far more personal than I usually share here. But it also dives into one of the most profound and powerful aspects of storytelling. It shows how to write your own story, create a mission for your life and become the hero that the world needs right now.

For many of us who are young, it seems we are inheriting a world that’s filled with existential crisis. No matter who you are right now, you’ve got plenty of evidence to feel threatened. It’s harder and harder to find any good news.

It’s easy to feel anger in a time like this, surrounded by ideological enemies. They’re fools, they’re disgusting, they’re wrong. In fact, they’re so wrong that it’s almost impossible to see anything other than how wrong they are.

It’s easy to get lost in fantasies of crushing your enemies by finally proving them wrong, or even with actual violence. Whatever it takes to wipe those smug looks off their stupid faces.

It feels good, that sense of righteousness that comes with anger at someone who sees the world differently. Tapping into that feeling makes you feel strong and assured in what you do and how you feel. It also helps us see the “other” in the situation as something other than human.

Somehow our raging and rallying, our snide remarks across dinner tables and social media comments, don’t seem to be getting us anywhere. Something has got to change.

Now is a time for heroes. Heroes don’t appear in easy times – they appear in dark times. They don’t grow up imagining they will become heroes someday – they are reluctantly forced to become them by their situation. Just like the rest of us, heroes would rather continue their comfortable lives in their own version of “The Shire,” untroubled by the challenges of the world.

We rarely see ourselves as the kind of hero the world needs. We feel quite ordinary and detached from the world in most of our everyday lives. But we have the power to change that perspective, to tell a different story.

Different times and challenges call for different kinds of heroes. How can we tell? I think it’s a truth that we find within ourselves. But this truth can take a lifetime to find, especially if we don’t seek it out.

[bctt tweet=”A Time For Heroes – How To Write Your Own Story” username=”kylethegray”]

This year I was lucky enough to get a substantial clue as to what today’s hero’s journey looks like and how to become one. I hope this clue can help you find it for yourself, and help you write your one story as a hero.

Meeting James Butler

2017 has been a crazy year. It was one of the most challenging I’ve ever had (I’m sure it was the same for plenty of us). This year has also brought many new characters into my life, good friends, kind hearts, people who’ve challenged me and people who’ve supported me.

One such character I met was James Butler. We met at an event called Reach Academy Live. I learned he was a coach. I was a bit dubious at first because I see a lot of coaches these days, but few have something of substance to offer.

What I didn’t know at the time was that James used to be an elite soldier in the Canadian military, first spending time finding and disarming bombs in Afghanistan, then later as a bomb diver. He had a refined taste for ludicrously dangerous situations.

After the event we connected over Messenger. I reached out and told him it was great to meet him at the event and hoped he made it home safely.

He responded and asked a question:

“I enjoyed meeting you. Although our conversation was short, I get that you’re up to something big. Can I ask. What’s your mission??”

The question was fairly unexpected. But the response came easily to me, which was even more surprising than the question itself.

“My mission is to end the human resources crisis”

The human resources crisis was a term I heard first from Ken Robinson. He mentioned the “natural resources crisis,” something we’re all familiar with (climate change, mass extinction, increased natural disasters, and so on…). The basic idea is: we don’t use our natural resources well. I see the human resources crisis as an equally dangerous situation.

Imagine if Einstein, Da Vinci, Malala or any other great individuals in history never stepped into their genius, and instead they played it safe. Instead of sharing their brilliance with the world, they suppressed it in exchange for a comfortable life. How would the world be different today if that happened with just one of them?

I believe it’s happening. I believe there are dormant geniuses worldwide with solutions to every problem we face in the world. But they have not found the clarity, courage or desire to connect with that genius. How much brilliance and potential is being wasted every day? What are we missing out on?

James responded with a video message:


The Golden Buddha

Quickly, through a mix of text, audio and video messages, we started to build a deeper connection. I shared that one of the biggest things limiting myself and holding my genius back was my attitude about money.

For a long time I’ve seen money as an evil necessity, something hard to get, and something I felt ashamed for pursuing. Despite what I had done and achieved in the past few years, I didn’t feel worthy of money or worthy of succeeding and being happy doing what I was doing. This was a story I had just barely discovered I was telling myself – this loop was playing in my head for years without my noticing.

My conversation with James picked up as we found the alignment in our missions and who we were. He sent me a video he created telling a story about “The Golden Buddha”.

As if reading those subtle thoughts repeating in my head like a broken record, James asked me:

“If this is how well you perform with stories in the background, I’m curious what it would be like to be free from all of them?”

That was another question I was unprepared for. I sensed an incoming “sales pitch,” and though it was the question I needed to hear, I started to resist and disconnect.

In those moments, though I was unpacking and changing my old beliefs, they still had a strong hold on me. I didn’t want someone to paint rosy pictures of a better future, only to slap a big price tag on it and remind me of yet another thing I could not afford.

James wanted to teach me something, but I was not ready to learn. So I didn’t give him a chance. What I didn’t know then was that I would not get another chance.

The trail went cold and time passed. I saw James post pictures on Facebook from time to time. Perhaps it was just the illusions of social media, but he had a tenacity for life that seemed to be limitless, not just in his work, but in every aspect of his life. A few months had passed and I saw James got engaged. Him and his fiancee Leighann made a great team, and I was thrilled for them (if not a bit jealous at this “Instagram-perfect” life unfolding before me).

A few weeks after their engagement, James and Leighann took a trip to Thailand to meet a new client for James’ coaching.

Unfortunately, on that trip, James passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. It was hard to believe when I first heard it, but I didn’t see any way it could be a joke.

Though I was not a long-time friend of James, his death impacted me profoundly. He seemed the type of person that would never die, not one that would be taken so early.

The fragility of life came to the front of my mind. But underneath the layers of grief and confusion I felt, I also felt another layer of both happiness and gratitude toward James. I knew that, although he was taken far too soon, he lived without compromise or fear.

Reflecting on this, I put myself in his shoes. If I were to pass, would I feel the same about my life?

The answer was a resolute “not yet.”

There was a long list of experiences, goals and qualities that I wanted in my life that I would “get to eventually.” There was still compromise and fear in my own life. I was still part of the human resources crisis in my own way.

How To Write Your Own Story – The Mission Within

Like many things in life, I only realized the value of it once it was gone. It was then I wished I could have finished our conversation, or given James an update on my own journey and what I’ve been learning. With all this reflection and unfinished work in my own life, I felt that I could use a coach to help me get some clarity.

I felt guilty (and still feel guilty) that I missed the opportunity to learn from someone brilliant because I was mired in limiting beliefs.

[bctt tweet=”We have a story around everything. That story creates the ‘gravity’ of our lives – @James_GButler” username=”kylethegray”]

James had agitated something in me that I could not ignore. I had a vague sense of what he wanted to teach me. I could not put words to it yet. He left too soon and left too much of his mission unfinished.  

I had to learn more about James. I had to find out what he had to teach. Since I missed my opportunity to learn from him, I decided to seek out people he taught and worked with. I wanted to know what they took away.

It did not take long for clues to be serendipitously laid on my path. The first came after listening to a presentation hosted by Dr. Carrie Rose, who was talking about building courses. At the end of the talk, she offered us access to an online summit with dozens of speakers discussing creating a great course.

I browsed through the names and topics listed, and soon my eyes were drawn to a name like a magnet.

“The Mission Within – With James Butler”

James’ question echoed in my mind – “Can I ask. What’s your mission?”

I opened the video feeling like some sort of detective eager to discover the clues James left behind. After opening with his story and recounting just a few of his harrowing adventures in the military and beyond, he started to discuss what it means to be aligned with your own mission.

“We have a context and a story around everything. That context creates the reality of our lives”

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with resistance when we set out on a new journey, start a new business, learn a new skill or do anything that’s worth doing. We feel disempowered. We’re just beginners. What can we do? What impact could we possibly make? We forget that we’ve lived a whole life of experiences and stories that led us to this point.

I believe this resistance is one of the biggest factors that keeps us from even taking our first steps. Especially with things like social media, where we constantly see stories of how the most exceptional people have achieved unbelievable feats, somehow we’re left with the expectation that we need to become a cross between Elon Musk and John Lennon before we can get started.

James then began describing a metaphor for how he works with people to change their “context”:

“Building rockets vs. changing gravity”

The context of our lives creates the gravity in which we live. Gravity is how we decide what’s possible. Just like NASA, our strategy for overcoming gravity is to build giant rockets that, through tremendous energy, overcome gravity to reach space.

On earth, gravity is constant. There’s nothing we can do to change it. But that’s not the case in our own lives, in our own “context.” Instead of building a rocket to escape the current gravity of your life, it’s possible to change the gravity of your life.

How much easier would it be to simply lower gravity so all you would need to do is jump on your own power to reach your goal? You change gravity by changing your mindset. You change your beliefs about yourself and the world around you.

How the hell do you do that?

James began to describe a simple 3-step process he led people through to change their gravity:

  1. He helps people truly love themselves.
  2. He connects them to who they truly are.
  3. He shows them how to give that as a gift to the world.

That struck a chord with me. Though with the outside world I feel I’ve (for the most part) been patient and open-handed, to myself I have been a ruthless tyrant. I’ve seen myself as someone unworthy of achieving what I wanted and undeserving of what I had. I have discovered and confronted these beliefs many times before in my life, and here they were again. My lack of self-love had put a speed limit on my life. It kept me from seeing opportunities, taking risks and pursuing my goals.

Changing Gravity By Rewriting Your Story

What did the process look like? How did he change the gravity of the people he worked with? I set up a call with someone he coached and who became a close friend of his in the process. To respect his privacy, let’s call him “Frank.”

Frank had known James for three years. After meeting at a conference, James asked him to be in his “inner circle.” The timing happened to be just right, as he was looking for a coach, but he also described how he felt this resistance toward James at first.

[bctt tweet=”Your job is to look at the beliefs that you have that no longer serve you. – @James_GButler” username=”kylethegray”]

He didn’t initially want James as a coach. He’d worked with coaches for his business and professional skills in the past, but James focused on something deeper and less tangible. James had a certain persistence that won Frank over.

Together they uncovered a thread of a very old story Frank had been living in his own life. He believed it was “not safe” to be himself. So he covered up that weakness and focused on external achievements to validate himself. Though he was a highly successful and sought-after entrepreneur, he found himself deeply dissatisfied with life.

Though working with James was leading to progress for Frank, it was not always pleasant or comfortable. Diving deep into the dark corners of your mind rooting out the stories that hold you back is rarely fun. Touching those nerves often causes you to react like you just touched a hot stove.

There were several times in the process that Frank wanted to stop working with him. But James never let it faze him. He had this deep sense of purpose and love that rose to meet the challenge. He leaned in, remained calm and confident in what he was doing, and transformed that resistance into a breakthrough.

I recalled the same resistance I felt with James. Like a bloodhound, he seemed to have a sense for this resistance in people and was totally unafraid to agitate it as quickly and frequently as possible.

He knew that’s where the treasure was hidden inside, and he had the love and patience to sit through that resistance with people and carry them to the other side. The reason he could walk them through the resistance and impact people is because he came from a place of love when doing it. Not the common, TV commercial kind of love, but a rarer love that looked into another’s soul, saw all its potential for impact and happiness, and did everything it could to bring it out.

That was his secret. With that kind of love, he could serve as an example for how to love yourself. Once you figure that out, the mission within becomes more clear and things start to fall into place.

Hearing this from others, I began to recognize the gift James had left me with. He showed me an opportunity to better love myself, to live a better, fuller life, not just with more money, but with a true wealth of experience, relationships and meaning.

Posted by Leighann Amanda on Saturday, November 4, 2017

James was a warrior, but his weapon was love. His love for himself allowed him to build a life well-lived. His love for others allowed him to create breakthroughs in others and to kindle that same life in themselves.

A Time For Heroes

Now is a time for heroes. The world needs heroes – the world needs you. There’s never been more opportunity or need to become a hero, and here you are. All you need to do to start on your journey is to find a way to love yourself a little more. To listen to yourself. To take a quiet moment away from the endless distractions and comforts the world offers and listen to that still, quiet voice in your soul.

[bctt tweet=”The world needs you – there’s never been a better time to become a hero, and here you are.” username=”kylethegray”]

It won’t take long before that same discomfort arises in you.

You don’t need to be an elite soldier to learn these lessons. You don’t need to cure cancer to become the hero the world needs you to be right now. Just find that love for yourself, in yourself. Take that love and share it by finding your mission within. Use it like James did, as a weapon to cut through the resistance that will no doubt arise to meet you. Use it to write your own story and become the .

7 thoughts on “A Time For Heroes – How To Write Your Own Story”

  1. Great article. Thank you for sharing the things you learned from your interactions with James. I really enjoyed the question he posed to you about “your mission” and how you responded.

    1. Thank you for checking it out Tiffany! I hope you and Dane are both well and living your own adventure to the fullest! Hopefully you’re planning a trip to come hang out with us all back in Utah soon too.

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