The Power of Myth — The Hero’s Adventure with Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers (#456)

Photo by Félix Lam on Unsplash

In psychological therapy, when people find out what it is that’s ticking in them, they get straightened out. . . . I find thinking in mythological terms has helped people.

Joseph Campbell

Welcome to another episode of The Tim Ferriss Show, where it is normally my job to interview and deconstruct world-class performers of all different types.

This episode flips the script, but you get a masterful interview in the process. It features the first program or chapter—titled “The Hero’s Adventure”—of the six-part series The Power of Myth. The series is simply incredible, and I found it oddly and profoundly calming. 

Here is a short description: 

“Forty years ago, renowned scholar Joseph Campbell sat down with veteran journalist Bill Moyers for a series of interviews that became one of the most enduringly popular programs ever on PBS. In dialogues that adroitly span millennia of history and far-flung geography, the two men discuss myths as metaphors for human experience and the path to transcendence.” 

You can listen to the full series on Audible. It has an average of 4.7 out of 5 stars with nearly 4,000 ratings. I highly recommend that you check it out. You won’t be disappointed.  

Please enjoy!

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, Stitcher, Castbox, Google Podcasts, or on your favorite podcast platform. 

This podcast is brought to you by the book How to Lead by David Rubenstein.

#456: The Power of Myth — The Hero’s Adventure with Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers


This episode is brought to you by the book How to Lead by David Rubenstein. David Rubenstein is one of the visionary founders of The Carlyle Group and host of The David Rubenstein Show, where he speaks to leaders from every walk of life about who they are, how they define “success,” and what it means to lead. Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Phil Knight, Oprah—all of them and more—are featured in his new book, titled How to Lead. This comprehensive leadership playbook illustrates the principles and guiding philosophies of the world’s greatest game-changers. In its pages, you can discover the experts’ secrets to being effective and innovative leaders. 

Past podcast guest Walter Isaacson had this to say: “Reading this invaluable trove of advice from the greatest leaders of our time is like sitting in an armchair and listening to the masters reveal their secrets.Pick up a copy of How to Lead: Wisdom from the World’s Greatest CEOs, Founders, and Game Changers by David Rubinstein in hardcover, ebook, or audio anywhere books are sold. 

What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.




  • The hero’s journey is a story universally recognizable across time, geography, and cultures. Its map is drawn with familiar lines, but the destination discovered isn’t always the destination expected. [03:21]
  • In this story’s telling and retelling over human history, the hero has worn (at least) a thousand faces — from Moses to Odysseus to King Arthur to Frodo to Luke Skywalker. Why? [06:12]
  • Two types of deed common to the hero’s journey. [07:54]
  • Who is the hero? [09:43]
  • What prompts the journey’s beginning? [10:45]
  • Does the heroism have a moral objective? [12:10]
  • How do these stories of the hero vary from culture to culture? [13:30]
  • The purpose of the trials endured by the hero in this story. [17:38]
  • How the hero myth has adapted to be told in a world that’s been fully mapped. [18:51]
  • Can a traveler on an adventure of serendipity still be considered a hero? [23:12]
  • Setting the scene for adventure ahead: the iconic cantina scene from Star Wars and the beginning of Treasure Island. [24:42]
  • How the Death Star’s trash compactor is like biblical Jonah in the belly of the whale — and its mythological significance. [25:36]
  • The consequences of a hero losing connection with their own humanity on a failed journey, and how we might avoid this fate as we embark on our own real-life journeys. [27:43]
  • Can we rely on our higher nature to rescue us from the perils of the unknown and emerge better for surviving the ordeal, or will we succumb to these perils by trusting the instincts of our lower nature? Here’s how the hero of an Iroquois story handled herself in this scenario. [31:28]
  • What is the therapeutic value of mythology? [37:38]
  • Where to seek out and slay the dragons that vex us. [39:22]
  • Is the desire to find a place of rest and repose typical of the hero’s journey? [45:01]
  • What did consciousness mean to Joseph Campbell? [47:30]
  • How do we raise our consciousness? Some people meditate. Joseph Campbell loved to visit cathedrals. [50:23]
  • What might we expect from mythologies to come? [56:27]