Startup Diaries: The Hero’s Journey Part II: Call to Adventure

Ondina Montgomery on Her Journey as an EntrepreneurIn a tribute to US mythologist and writer Joseph Campbell, who asserted that all mythical heroes experience the same 12 steps on their adventures, Ondina Montgomery draws parallels between Campbell’s Hero’s Journey and that of the entrepreneur.

Part 2 of the Hero's Journey describes the protagonist's Call to Adventure, where the hero is presented with a problem, challenge or adventure. Click here to read the first part of Ondina’s series, The Hero’s Journey Part I: Ordinary World.

I need, I need! I want, I want! This is what Jacob Bronowski described in his seminal book The Ascent of Man. The power of the imagination!  When I was a child growing up I just loved looking at the Atlas and imagining where I could go. I yearned to travel. To see other worlds and cultures! But when you “grow up” it is surprising how fast you can forget your dreams. Especially when you are woken up into other people’s realities.

I grew up in Denmark and apart from the drizzly, creepy rain it was a fantastic lifestyle.  For me Denmark is a testament to creativity in many ways. To have developed such a diverse economy considering that it relies almost entirely on human resources, as there are few mineral resources available is quite remarkable.  Denmark produced globally recognized brands such as Lego and Bang & Olufsen and Maersk, one of the largest shipping companies in the world. A highly creative, systemized society that promised a safe and secure future to all who participated.

The problem for me, and maybe it is for you too, is that I feel like a rebel. I’m not interested in the beaten track, even though it feels safer to travel on, that’s for sure.

When you have your own strong ideas joining the regular army is not necessarily a wise idea.  But going it alone is a huge fork in the road. Naturally we all want to fit in to the groove. And there is that invisible yet powerful peer pressure all around us to do further study, get a job and get married. It is amazing how strong the attraction to fit in is when trying to please so many voices.

Going with the flow becomes an easy choice. And if you resist it soon becomes a cacophony inside your head so loud and paralyzing you end up getting dragged along with the crowd anyway.

It’s like everyone is shouting, “this way…this way” and we all just follow. Yet the one person we forget to hear is that voice inside our own head (usually screaming to be heard above the noise) telling us what we need and what we want.

For me as I moved towards “the light" I felt like an imposter. The life I wanted or was meant to be living suddenly seemed so hard to recall, it was like trying to remember a dream as it slowly slips away from you as you wake up. I remember thinking 'I’ve lost my dream'! It felt far worse than losing all my data off the hard drive… without back up. I literally didn’t know what to do. Or what I needed to do.

There isn’t a 1800HELP number for these kind of moments. But one thing was for sure… I did know what I didn't want.

It’s amazing how powerful just being still can be. I thoroughly recommend it in crisis situations. I managed to turn off the noise all around me and listened carefully. And soon enough I heard my inner voice and it whispered in a hoarse voice (from all the screaming it had been doing lately) travel…. travel... travel! Of course, how blind had I become. Wonderful glorious travel! It suddenly all seemed so obvious now. Why was I preparing to settle down when all I really wanted was to go everywhere and anywhere! And when you want something enough you just make it happen.

I had always been good at languages. I spoke several well enough to get by and soon l landed a position as an executive travel planner with an international travel group that had me on planes researching travel destinations throughout Europe for the well-heeled traveler. And oddly enough I was very good at it. After 5 years in the travel industry and living in places like France, Spain, Italy and England I learnt to speak several languages fluently, met some fantastic people and stayed in some wonderful places. It was a great life but what I was doing was still someone else’s dream, not my own. Travel was a passion, that’s true, but this was not my vision.

And the decisions I was making were not really my own. I was creating other people’s dreams. I was still living in Denmark and I still had not left my Ordinary World. At best I was just sticking my head out the window. A passenger on the journey! I had made a comfortable life for myself. I owned my own apartment in Copenhagen and was earning a good salary but still there were those long cold winters and that creepy rain that I always ended up coming back to. I had seen just about all there was to see in Europe and the thought of going back to Paris (for that great coffee and croissant) or to Milano (for gorgeous clothes) just didn’t do it for me anymore. By this time I was starting to buy my own textiles, and creating designs. And I had a great sewer that used to help me put together “special items” that were just for me.

Often we subconsciously live out our dreams by just sticking our toes in the water never even realizing what amazing things could be waiting for us if we just jumped in.

I was in denial. But the strangest thing is that it can be staring us in the face and we just can’t see it.  It’s like that movie Sliding Doors. Sometimes we make bad decisions, but the worst thing in life or in business in making no decisions at all. The good thing about making wrong decisions is that you can change your mind… and you get more experience to boot. So if you know something’s wrong don’t just sit there.

I had just renovated my apartment - which I now recognize was a short term subconscious fix involving the interior designer in me - and as I sat there in my sparkling new crypt, it just hit me like a lightening bolt. Go and live in Australia! Now for a girl from Europe this was kind of left field thinking. I immediately went into denial telling myself it was a wild thought late at night. Life’s like that when you get a good idea. But when you go to bed and wake up the next morning and it still feels good, it usually is. So I told all my friends and they (as expected) thought I had gone mad. Australia?! Where they saw giant sharks, cavemen and the world’s deadliest animals! I saw golden beaches, sunshine and lots and lots of space… to think! Surely you wouldn’t survive a week in that frontier world! But the more they talked the more I realized what I had to do. So I put my apartment up for sale and as it happened I sold at the peak of the market before the 2007/8 downturn. Boldness has genius said Goethe. I resigned from my job and sooner than I expected I was on a plane and heading towards that great antipodean land I knew from advertising campaigns as Down Under.

It was my version of jumping into that rabbit hole. And boy, did that turn my world upside down… literally.

To be continued...

Ondina Montgomery grew up in Denmark and has always been passionate about Art and Design. Raised by a family of artists including her creative grandmother and her artist father, a highly accomplished painter and sculptor, working with artists and designers comes naturally. Before living in South East Asia, she traveled the world extensively, eventually settling in Sydney in 2006. During her time in Australia, she started a design course and became involved in diverse design-related projects. After moving to Singapore in 2010 to expand her knowledge and her international client base, she obtained her Interior Design Diploma from Lasalle College of The Arts Singapore and then decided it was time she founded her own company. MAH was born! As the CEO and Curator of MAH she works with a broad range of artists, designers and photographers who share her interest and passion for scarves.

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