There’s a thing in story writing called “agency.” No, not “agency” as in “talent,” and no, not “agent” as in “secret.”


It’s what makes the hero of a story jump out the window and save the girl and summon up enough inner strength to defeat the evil villain that’s been pissing in everybody’s Cheerios the entire movie.

I mean, he’s just been a real bummer.

It’s what makes the good guy get up in the morning. It’s often why they get themselves into trouble, too. A boring story might feature a hero who possesses less agency, where the plot (or storyline) tosses them around like a ragdoll trapped in the jaws of your poorly trained neighborhood mutt.

A hero’s success might often depend on their level of agency. Do they know they have it, or are they in the process of discovering it for the first time? Have they lost it and need to go on a journey to get it back?

Regardless, the hero’s journey comes down to the choices he or she makes. We don’t get obsessed with stories for the plot (there are plenty of identical plotlines out there, some of which are beautiful to watch and some of which are very… very bad). We don’t fall in love with the scenery, or even the theme of the story.

We fall in love with characters.

We love the choices they make - both good and bad. We love the motivations that drive them to get up in the morning. We love the things in their past that make them who they are. We know them in a way. We feel connected to them. We fall in love with the fact that they do things that we would never dream of in real life. In a way, we look up to these heroes because they represent someone who we strive to be - smart, cunning, courageous, genuine, altruistic, and compassionate.

But what about the background characters? Do we fall in love with them? If we love a movie, are we required to love every character in it? Can we even remember every character? Why don’t the guys with the witty one-liners get more love? Why doesn’t the girl that points the hero in the right direction get more recognition in playing a role in our hero’s journey?

Because they don’t have agency.

They’re cardboard cutouts. Two-dimensional characters placed there to help those who make all the choices make the right ones. Nothing motivates them to get them out of bed in the morning. They just… wake up.

So what gets you out of bed in the morning?

Is it work? Is it the baby crying in the other room demanding your attention? Is it Mom or Dad outside your room threatening to knock down your door if you aren’t outside ready to leave for school in ten minutes?

Are you making that choice to get out of bed? If someone, or something wasn’t making you… would you get up at all?

Maybe you've gotten used to the daily demands of life - bosses, parents, teachers telling you what to do and when and where to do it, and you obliging, because it’s one less decision you have to make. One less thing that could go terribly wrong and blow back on you. Boy, wouldn’t that be a bummer.

And then you wake up…

And you realize that you have no agency. You’re a background character… in your own story.

If there even is a story.

So how do you take back your own agency?

Lucky for you, every hero has to start somewhere.

The Two Sides of Every Coin



Pastor, author, and educator Charles Swindoll once said “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.”

Admittedly a tough pill to swallow.

Maybe you’re in a tough situation - financially, mentally, romantically, all of the above. A lot of times looking to our environment consols us. We feel good that our shortcomings are a result of outside factors acting upon us and not things that we are directly responsible for. And maybe in many cases that is true. But something else is also true.

If you blame yourself, then you can rely on yourself to get you out of the situation. But if you blame your environment, there is nothing. You. Can. Do.

Your environment isn’t there to listen to you. It’s not there to help you, and it’s certainly not going to save you. Things happen around us all the time. Somehow, people in poverty turn into self-made millionaires. Convicts become preachers. People with life-threatening disabilities become motivational speakers. They were dealt some tough hands, this much is true. But they acted on them. They called life’s bluff and seized back their agency.

And guess what? No one said it would be easy. But you have to start somewhere. And you’re definitely strong enough to not let your environment tell you how to live your life. You make that choice.

Wake up a Hero



Many of us get caught up in the mundane - the everyday burdens that continue to keep us slaving away for someone or something else’s needs and desires. Sometimes that is not a bad thing. Your wife needs to be loved and your kids need to be taken care of.

But what about you? Where do you fit in?

The reality is the later the day gets the more it demands of you. Job. School. Homework. Wife. Girlfriend. Children. Parents. Grandparents. Everyone wants a piece of you. Needs a piece of you.

So we go back to waking up.

How do you wake up? Do you wake up? Or do you wake up? I would venture to guess the former.

You wake up because your alarm tells you to. You get dressed because your job tells you to. And you leave and head to work because your bills tell you to.

So start your day before these things demand things of you.

Start by making a choice.

Go on a run. A walk. Go to the gym. Make yourself a healthy breakfast. Step outside and enjoy your morning coffee in the twinkling hours of sunrise. Listen to the world waking up around you. The day is beautiful and you don’t even know it.

It doesn’t need to be a sweeping gesture. You don’t need to be saving the day at 5:00 A.M.. But you need to start somewhere.

And getting out of bed is as good as any.

The Hero’s Journey

Sometimes the choice in and of itself is what scares us.

We’re afraid of what might happen if we make the wrong choice. Afraid of the responsibility it might come with. What was it that Uncle Ben said to Spiderman? “With great power comes great…” something or other.

But we have to remember: even heroes make mistakes. Sometimes the best heroes make the worst blunders.

And when we stop and ponder for a second, we can come to the conclusion that maybe it’s because of those blunders that creates the hero. After all, nobody cares about where the hero ends up unless they learn something along the way.

And the value of the story isn’t in the result. It’s in the journey. It’s in the ugly, messy, colorful middle that leads to twists and turns, and joy and misery, and all of the crazy mess that makes us fall in love with the hero that’s guiding us through the chaos.

But now we’re the hero. And it’s up to us to make our story the way we want it to be. No one is going to come and save us, and we damn sure won’t be a background character in our own story.

We’re the hero. Imperfect, brave, and strong. Ready to take back our agency and create our own journey.