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.

The transcript for this episode can be found at the website for Bill Moyers.

#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]


The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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18 Replies to “The Power of Myth — The Hero’s Adventure with Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers (#456)”

  1. Check out Dolph Lundgren’s TedX Fulbright talk on therapy and healing, he got his Fulbright to MIT in checlimal engineering, worthy guest!

  2. Better yet watch it – down loaded – from Prime I think – every time I learn something. Campbell is a classic storyteller – love love

  3. Talking about Myths, what was your take on the Game of Thrones ending, were you one of those that were so greatly disappointed? Or, like me: I thought it was everything Campbell had called for, a great mythos in the making and forever inspirational!

  4. Hey Tim, I’d love to give this a go on Audible but it doesn’t seem to be available in the UK, is it a US only gig?

    1. I’m in Portugal and I wasn’t able to get it either… They told me on Amazon that it’s only available in the US.

  5. I’ve been very heavily influenced by Joseph Campbell over the years. Him, Jung, and Dyer were all instrumental along with a handful of others. I still reflect on the Heros Journey often. Thanks for making this podcast happen.

  6. Tim, I just read your email regarding The Neverending Story and wanted to make a recommendation (sorry that it’s only tangentially related to this post); Jay Dyer did an excellent analysis of it that’s great for unpacking the symbology and philosophical themes – [Moderator: link to analysis at jaysanalysis (dot) com removed.]

  7. I had listened to one of your podcasts previously (forget which one) and one of your guests mentioned Campbell, which inspired me to read one of his books, “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”. I had been craving an excerpt of this interview before buying it, so it is well timed and I greatly appreciate you sharing this. Went out and listened to the whole interview.

    Greatly appreciate the podcast in general – has helped me immensely in improving my awareness and desire to learn more about the human consciousness.


  8. Huge fan of Jo’s work. I was lucky enough to spend time with Stuart Brown (NIFP) last year who was a friend and producer of some of Jo’s shows. Had some great stories about him and some great stories of his own. Always find his work so inspiring. His lecture on the grail myth is fantastic.

  9. Tim, please consider the great artist, David Hockney, for an interview. He’s a master teacher of perspective; at seeing – bigger. Plus, all the stellar philosophical and historical meaning and context that comes with the visual system. He something truly special. And time is of the essence.

  10. Hey, Tim.

    This takes a lot of work and I know it. The thing is, I appreciate you for the time invested, and for inviting Campbell on this one.

    I will be back for more.

  11. I’m saddened at how few comments this podcast garnered. The irony of coarse is that every living human being (who has not yet deadened their soul in cynicism, hyper idealism or rationalism) would benefit from this interview – which fleshes out the main stages of what it means to live ones authentic life. At the same I’m not surprised because the language, though timeless, is out of fashion. sigh…no thanks to a culture who no longer trusts elders (partly justified and partly inane.) In any event, thanks Tim Ferris, for using your platform. you clearly have a noble goal that goes beyond materialism.

  12. Duuuude! I can’t believe you’ve done this and secured the rights to pull this off. Thank you so much – this series is truly one of the greatest pivoting points (continuously) in my life – hearing that opening brought tears to my eyes, it’s been a long while because, well, the cassette tapes don’t have a place to play anymore 😉

  13. What a terrible shame, I really want this book but Audible says: “We’re sorry, Audible is not authorized to sell this title in your country/region. Please consider another book.”

    Why isn’t it authorized for sale where I live?
    I’d buy it right away, unless my country is blocked.
    Why block? I’m a fan of the writings of Joseph Campbell.