WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Eddie Stephens, a partner at the West Palm Beach-based law firm, Ward Damon, gave a free motivational presentation on Wednesday, July 22, 2015 at United Methodist Church of the Palm Beaches titled “Living An Extraordinary Life: Lessons from our Heroes.” Participants explored the classic myths and characters found within our cultures and histories; examined “The Hero’s Journey,” a pattern found in stories from around the world; and learned how these concepts affect our everyday lives and can help us break out of the ordinary.
Feedback from attendees:
“Eddie Stephens delivers and then some! He’s engaging, entertaining and right on the mark when it comes to tailoring his presentation to the audience. His message works on a number of levels. Both his message and his presentation are truly first rate. It’s a talented speaker who can involve his audience right from the get go, and hold their interest throughout. When an audience is still talking about the presentation the next day, you know you have a hit. Eddie is truly gifted.”
“Eddie demonstrated how we all have the power to make great changes to ourselves and to those around us.”
“Yes, the light bulb went off, and I will now be more aware of the “next step” in both my personal and business life.”
“Mr. Stephens provided a personal and dynamic presentation that is easily relatable to all people.”
“Inspiring to all ages!”
Transcript from event:
For those of you that don’t know me, my name is Denise Bleau. I have been a member of this church along with my family for the past 10 years. It is my honor to introduce our esteemed speaker this evening. Eddie Stephens has been the head of our marital and family law division of our law firm Ward Damon for the past three years. We courted him for at least two years, if not more, trying to get him to come to our firm because of his stellar reputation in the community as a premiere family law attorney. After I got to know Eddie I learned he deserves his reputation as he is quite a great attorney.
What I did not know about Eddie until he came to work with us, is that as impressive as he is a lawyer, he is more impressive as a human being. He is a person of outstanding character. Even though his life gets quite active with all of his many community activities and interests he always manages to balances his life to make sure he makes time for his family and friends.
I have learned that Eddie is a thoughtful person, with a steadfast commitment to better himself and his community, and tonight is no exception as he shares with us the secret to living an extraordinary life. Eddie Stephens.
Hey everybody, thanks for coming out, this is the big show. My name is Eddie Stephens, I am very happy you guys can join me. I am very happy to be hosted here by Pastor Crow, and Denise. Thank you for making all this happen. I appreciate Ward Damon sponsoring this event. They allow me to do these things and promote them. It’s a pleasure working somewhere you like to go every day.
We are going to be talking about different some concepts. Personal experience, applied to very things I have learned. These are things that really work for me. I’m a happy guy. I have a stressful occupation, but I’m not burnt out. I enjoy going to work. I enjoy helping people. And I’m going to tell you why….
I learned all of this… stuff, in 6 hours. I was younger, I will tell you more about that in a moment. It was like a light bulb going off in my head. Once that light bulb went off, my life was never the same and changed in beautiful and dramatic ways.
Before that happened, i was a dorky kid. I was not raised in a functional manner. I had a speech impediment that took 7 years to overcome. I was socially awkward, shy.
Both of my parents loved me and my Mom recognized I had these issues. I was a C – D – F student. It was very hard for me to communicate and that would make me very frustrated. My mom’s way of resolving this was thrusting me into really uncomfortable situations. To take me out of my comfort zone. She enrolled me in musical theater, where I had to take tap and ballet lessons. She kept creating this experiences for me. Each experience that I went through got me a little more comfortable. Instead of D’s and F’s I started getting B’s and C’s, but I was still less than stellar.
So when I was 15, my mom died in a tragic accident. That was hard to process as she was the only person who had a vested interest in my success. I had a lot of love and people to take care of me, but i only had one person in the world fighting to help me succeed and in one unfortunate moment, that was all taken away.
2 weeks after I returned to school, I was in 10th grade humanities class where we watched a 6 hour program “the Power of Myth” which was a conversation with Joseph Campbell and a journalist.
After the 6 hours, this is going to sound crazy, but I never got less a grade then an A in school. The impact was immediate. My behaviors changed immediately. When I say a light bulb going off, literally I transformed immediately.
So who is Joseph Campbell? He was a teacher and a comparative mythologist. He studied the myths and stories of ancient and modern societies. He studied Greek mythology, Egyptian, Hindu, American Indians and found their stories had a common thread.
He studied myths from all over the world and published a book called “The Hero with a Thousand Faces,” retelling dozens of stories and explaining how each represents the mono-myth, or Hero’s Journey. And he put this into a chart:
George Lucas was directly influenced by Joseph Campbell. Lucas based the story of the first Star Wars Movie on Campbell’s template which is why that movie resonates with everyone who saw it when they were young. It became part of our mythology.
There are three parts to the Hero’s Journey: separation, initiation and return. That’s a cycle we’re going to talk about. You are in you world and something separates you from that world. You have to face an ordeal, great obstacles. Some life or death experience. Whether you win or lose, something is gained from that experience. Then you return back to your world and you bring whatever you learn back to your world because you have transformed.
So, what is the “hero’s journey”?
Think of it as a cycle.
The journey begins and ends in a hero’s ordinary world, but the quest passes through an unfamiliar, special world. Along the way, there are some key events. There is a separation, initiation, return.
Ordinary World. The hero, uneasy, uncomfortable or unaware, is introduced sympathetically so the audience can identify with the situation or dilemma. The hero is shown against a background of environment, heredity, and personal history. Some kind of polarity in the hero’s life is pulling in different directions and causing stress.
In Star Wars, Luke Skywalker growing up in the desert. There are things that tie us to our ordinary world and keep us from leaving this world. This could be fears, family obligations, or reluctance to try anything new.
Call to Adventure. Something shakes up the situation, either from external pressures or from something rising up from deep within, so the hero must face the beginnings of change. The hero is faced with something that makes him begin his adventure. The hero receives a mysterious message. An invitation, a challenge?
Mentor/Assistance. The hero comes across a seasoned traveler of the worlds who gives him or her training, equipment, or advice that will help on the journey. The hero needs some help, probably from someone older, wiser. The hero encounters someone who can give him advice and ready him for the journey ahead.
Crossing the Threshold. At the end of Act One, the hero commits to leaving the Ordinary World and entering a new region or condition with unfamiliar rules and values. The hero crosses the threshold from his normal, safe home, and enters the special world and adventure. “We’re not in Kansas anymore.”
Trials, Allies, Enemies. The hero learns the rules of his new world. During this time, he endures tests of strength of will, meets friends, and comes face to face with foes. The hero is tested. Being a hero is hard work: our hero solves a riddle, slays a monster, escapes from a trap.
Approach. It’s time to face the biggest ordeal, the hero’s worst fear. Setbacks occur, sometimes causing the hero to try a new approach or adopt new ideas. The hero and newfound allies prepare for the major challenge in the Special world.
Ordeal/Crisis. Near the middle of the story, the hero enters a central space in the Special World and confronts death or faces his or her greatest fear. Out of the moment of death comes a new life. This is the hero’s darkest hour. He faces death and possibly even dies, only to be reborn. He must overcome an obstacle that will end up causing transformation.
Reward/Treasure. After surviving death, the hero earns his reward or accomplishes his goal. As a result, the hero claims some treasure, special recognition, or power. The hero takes possession of the treasure won by facing death. There may be celebration, but there is also danger of losing the treasure again.
The Road Back. The hero begins his journey back to his ordinary life. This can vary between stories. Do the monsters bow down before the hero, or do they chase him as he flees from the special world? The hero is driven to complete the adventure, leaving the Special World to be sure the treasure is brought home. Often a chase scene signals the urgency and danger of the mission.
Resurrection: At the climax, the hero is severely tested once more on the threshold of home. He or she is purified by a last sacrifice, another moment of death and rebirth, but on a higher and more complete level. By the hero’s action, the polarities that were in conflict at the beginning are finally resolved.
Return. . The hero returns home or continues the journey, bearing some element of the treasure that has the power to transform the world as the hero has been transformed.
Nothing is quite the same once you are a hero.
Many popular books and movies follow this ancient formula pretty closely:
Does your life parallel Katniss Everdeen. Did Guardians of the Galaxies resonate with you?
Well, you’re human, just like them. The Hero’s Journey myth exists in all human cultures and keeps getting updated, because we humans reflect on our world through symbolic stories of our own lives. You leave your comfort zone, have an experience that transforms you, and then you recover and do it again.
You don’t literally slay dragons or fight Voldemort, but you face problems just as scary.
In the Hunger Games, Katniss is her hometown, District 12. It is a coal mining town. Vey ordinary. She gets the call to adventure at the reaping, when her sister, Prim, gets chosen to be a tribute. Katniss then takes it upon herself to volunteer to protect her sister. Katniss meets her mentor Haymitch, who is older and offers her wisdom. She crosses the threshold on the train as she travels to the capital on the train. There is a clear departure from the ordinary world to this new adventure. She meets allies, enemies, is tested. Suffers an ordeal, life or death experience, and ultimately wins the reward and returns the value of “Hope” to her district. The treasure that Katniss brings back to District 12 is the lesson of hope.
My family really enjoyed the movie “Guardians of the Galaxies” and it wasn’t just because it was visually stunning. It had a story that resonated. It is an example of the hero’s journey. But in “Guardians” it wasn’t just the main character “Starlord” that was n the journey, because every other Guardian except possibly Groot comes from a variation on this same dark and isolating backstory. All are antisocial and extremely self-involved. Each undergoes a personal hero’s journey and a transformation.
The Guardians face various insurmountable odds. The fight for the galaxy comes down to them.
The Guardians make a sequence of sacrifices. Groot sacrifices himself to protect the group. Emboldened, Star-Lord accepts his own death by seizing the orb. The rest of the Guardians join him and share his death, which unites them fully and saves them all. Star-Lord uses their combined, now vastly increased power to destroy the enemy. Goal achieved, all-but-died trying.
The galaxy is saved. The Guardians are rewarded with the knowledge that they are no longer selfish loners, but a seamlessly bonded group of friends. Plus, dancing baby Groot.
So how do you find your bliss?
This was best explained in Joseph Campbell’s metaphor the Golden Buddha.
Hundreds of years ago in Thailand, the monks had a golden Buddha. This golden Buddha was several tons in weight and very valuable. It was also very beautiful and brilliant. The Buddhist priests heard rumors that Burmese warriors were on the way to attack. So they covered the Buddha with clay. When they were done it did not look like a Golden Buddha, it looked like a stone Buddha. When the Burmese warriors arrived they did not take the stone Buddha as they did not see it’s value. They did kill all the monks and there was no one left who knew there was this brilliant gold Buddha under all of that stone.
In 1945 they needed to move the statue to make a new road. The engineers calculations were based upon the weight of a stone statute. Gold is much heavier. So when they attempted to move the statute, the pulleys broke under the pressure and a piece of stone broke off showing the gold below. It was not until this time that everyone realized this beautiful brilliant gold statue was there all along.
Campbell teaches us this is a metaphor for life. We are all born golden and as we go through life people put clay on us. Our parents’ guide our interests and tell us what we should do. As soon as this happens, we are no longer on our own path, we are on someone else’s path and the stone sets in.
And at moments when life is the most stressful…. For example, divorce, death or loss of job, we have moments where the clay may come off and we see the gold beneath. And it’s up to us at that moment to accept the call to adventure and by doing so you are freeing yourself from all of the clay that has been holding you back your entire life.
After my Mom died, and I learned these lessons I tried something that was way outside my comfort zone. While I had done many theater projects, they were all limited to high school productions. I heard there was a college with an excellent theater program, ran a 8 weeks stock summer program which accepted a few high school interns. Even though the deadline had past, and all the spots were filled, I called the theater director and talked my way into the program. I made the decision to follow my bliss and doors opened where before there were only walls. This lead to me leaving my ordinary world and going on a number of adventures which included me standing on a broadway stage. I was transformed by being taken out of my comfort zone and experiencing these situations. I gained new skills. I returned at the end of the summer to my ordinary world, but I had evolved and had a whole new skill set. All I had to do was make that decision.
But if it’s that easy then why aren’t we all happy? Why isn’t everyone simply following their bliss?
Mass hypnosis? We are trained to be consumers. You get on a tread mill and you can get off and become a bundle of condition responses. No creativity.
We become distracted and clouded by our every day patterns and routines. We fall into a rut, a comfort zone. Our vision becomes obscured and our decisions are I informed by the known.
Your parents tell you to get a job and conform. You do not follow your own path, you follow your on someone else’s path. You lose contact with your mythic self. Your song.
Deep down inside each of us is something that inspires us. Something that gives us our creativity spark. It’s different for each of us.
Robert Frost taught us about two roads diverged in wood. And that true growth comes when you choose the less travelled road. Unless you are faced with obstacles and figure out how to overcome them, there will be no growth.
In the King Arthurian tale of the Holy Grail, the knights of the round table were to begin their journey at the part of the woods that was most darkest to them. They all had a different journey to take because they all had different fears to face.
The Hero overcomes obstacles. In doing so, there is a transformation. That is the human condition.
I have also overcome great obstacles. These obstacles and dealing with these obstacles have transformed me to what I am today.
So…. Some final thoughts….
Listen for your call to adventure.
Put yourself in uncomfortable positions and then stretch yourself….
Accept the challenge.
Conquer your fear and claim the treasure you seek.
And then, do it all over again.
Stephens is a board certified attorney in Family and Marital Law. After starting his career as an attorney for the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser’s Office, Stephens has developed a successful family law practice focused on highly disputed divorces. Through hundreds of hearings and dozens of trials, Stephens has honed his practice by making straightforward arguments that bring opposing sides closer together in order to find a successful resolution. Most importantly to Stephens, he litigates in a manner that minimizes the impact of divorce on children.
Stephens is also a popular and engaging motivational speaker and is involved with a number of charitable endeavors. He has been a leader in the Boy Scouts of America for over 10 years and is also involved with Big Dog Ranch Rescue, Palm Beach County’s largest no-kill dog rescue. He recently graduated from Leadership Palm Beach County and was elected to serve on its Board of Governors.
Living An Extraordinary Life: Lessons from our Heroes
Motivational Talk By Eddie Stephens
Wednesday, July 22, 2015
United Methodist Church of the Palm Beaches
900 Brandywine Road
West Palm Beach, FL 33409
About Ward Damon
Ward Damon, PL is an AV-rated, multi-disciplined law firm serving the legal needs of its clients and community since 1987. Ward Damon represents businesses and individuals through legal counseling, transactional work and litigation in federal and state courts. The firm has offices in West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Jupiter and Stuart. For more information, visit http://www.warddamon.com or call 561.842.3000.