My friend and email copywriter extraordinaire, Ben Settle says that you can learn a lot by studying villains.
In fact, he has written two excellent books on the subject, Persuasion Secrets of the World’s Most Charismatic & Influential Villains… and… Super Villains of Persuasion… both available on Amazon.
I agree. You can learn a lot by studying villains.
Sociopaths, too. (Sadly, there’s no lack of those to study within the online marketing world.)
However… for me, I choose a different path.
The hero’s path.
You see, regardless of how clever, strong, ruthless or better equipped the villain is… the hero will ALWAYS win.
For one very interesting reason.
The hero and the villain have something in common…
A dark side.
Steven Pressfield described it best when he said, “‘Shadow’ is a term used most commonly in Jungian therapy and inner work. It means that part of our psyche that we have repressed, usually out of shame and the refusal to admit that such elements (the regret that we had children, say, or the rage we carry against ‘good’ or honorable entities) are part of us.”
But unlike the villain, the hero is ashamed of his shadow. He doesn’t want to see it or even admit that he has one. And he certainly doesn’t want others to see it.
So he rejects it and tries to deny its existence.
The key word being “tries.” Because no matter how much he denies it, the dark side is always there. And a real hero can only deny its existence for so long.
I quote Steven Pressfield again:
“‘Shadow work’ in the Jungian sense is the introspection that shines a light on these repressed parts of ourselves and allows us to see them, accept them, and integrate them into our greater consciousness.”
And THAT is why the hero will always win in the end.
Because the hero is willing to do something a villain is incapable of doing…
His “shadow work.”
A hero learns and grows by facing his shadow head on.
It’s the emotionally painful “inner work” that must be done if he wants to evolve into an elevated consciousness that sparks the hero’s “second act.”
That’s the phase of life marked by inner contemplation… generosity… sharing your experience with others… reaching a hand down to pull up those who are struggling.
It’s a different motivation than the hero’s “first act”… where he’s consumed by finding his place, constructing his identity, focusing on material pursuits, etc.
Instead, the second act is motivated by what Mr. Rogers called “1, 4, 3.”
It’s the hero’s “ace up his sleeve.” Because shadow work is something that the villain can NEVER do.
It’s what guarantees that the hero will always win.
Because the hero can CHANGE.
The villain can’t.
And even if the hero loses his life at the hands of the villain… he STILL wins.
Because the hero has discovered something that the villain never will.
He has only lost his “maya” life.
The villain, on the other hand, doesn’t even realize that he’s living in a false reality. So he can never discover what the hero has discovered… the very thing that has caused this change of consciousness in his second act…
The Self with a capital “S.”
And THAT is why the hero will always win.
Yes, you can learn from the villain.
However… for me and my house, we choose to follow the hero’s journey.