The Four Functions of Myth and How They Apply To Personal Branding
Joseph Campbell, the premiere mythologist of our time, and for the purposes of these materials, our guru and teacher, believed that for early man, mythology served four purposes. I believe mythologizing yourself can serve these same purposes (albeit, in a slightly different manner) in the lives of your customers. We do this by telling our story effectively.
Function 1: The Mystical Function
Campbell believed myth helped people to express what it felt like to live in awe of the universe — what it meant to be human in the midst of so many unknowns. This function serves for providing scale. The universe is big. The world is scary. But a fully mythologized person navigates it with seeming ease. They are at home in the chaos of entrepreneurship. They are undaunted by the marketplace. They don’t proclaim, “It’s a small world!” They shout, “It’s a big world and I am at home in it!” They are leaders of men and as such figures of empowerment and inspiration, undaunted by the fight.
Function 2: The Cosmological Function
Myth gave early humans a way to make sense of their world. It explained how we got here and how it all works. We may laugh or roll our eyes at how unsophisticated early man’s views of the natural work seemed, but these views, however naive, gave man direction and comfort. Likewise, a fully mythologized man or woman brings order to the world. We all live in messy times. Political unrest, financial chaos, familial disorder — in the middle of all of this chaos we look for those who can restore order, those who seem to make it all make sense with their wisdom and sometimes, it seems, by sheer force of will. To be mythic is to restore order.
Function 3: The Sociological Function
Mythology served the important role of establishing society’s rules and norms. Mythology taught people how to act and treat each other. Becoming mythic means becoming a role model for others. We show them how to thrive in culture. We show them a model of someone who has learned to live peacefully inside society’s machine, but also someone who knows when to strike off in the other direction.
Function 4: The Pedagogical Function
Finally, myth helped men develop meaning — to determine what life was about, why we were here and what we were to do about it. This, Campbell believe, was the most important function of mythology and I think that holds true for the act of mythologizing yourself. When you live a life that has a ready and apparent meaning, it inspires others to do the same. “The influence of a vital person vitalizes,” Campbell said. Early church father Iraeneus said, “The glory of God is a man fully alive.” To live your purpose is to be fully alive — a glorious thing.
When you mythologize yourself you by telling your story, you:
Become Larger than Life (By do the things others won’t)
Bring order to chaos (By ussing your gifts)
Become a role model (People see you as a role model)
Create meaning (By living your meaning)