The Hero’s Journey, story template was first outlined by mythologist Joseph Campbell in his book The Hero With A Thousand Faces and has been used as the structure for many of the biggest Hollywood movies of the last forty years.
With a few tweaks, it’s also an excellent basis for a business origin story…
1) The Call To Adventure
The call to adventure is the start of the Hero’s Journey and comes in many forms. It can be externally or internally driven. Essentially it’s about why you decided to launch your business, initiative or project. What was the motivation? Why did you persistently feel the urge to set up something new? Be specific; detail equals credibility.
2) Refusal of the Call
Typically the hero passes at least once on the call to adventure. Equally it’s not unusual to find potential business heroes getting wet feet – it’s often referred to as staying in the comfort zone.
If you want an emotional hook at the start of your pitch (who doesn’t?) then incorporate what was on the line for you when you took the plunge and why you had to think very carefully before committing.
3) Crossing the Threshold
What gave you the momentum to get over the starting line? What made the call to adventure irresistible despite your misgivings? What were your early successes? What responses did you get that confirmed your initial instincts?
4) Trials and Tribulations
The essence of good story telling is show don’t tell. Heroes from Ulysses to Spiderman have been beset by difficulties they had to overcome. What were yours? Increased competition? Changes in legislation? Economic downturn? So often in business origin stories this section is excluded or skirted around. It’s a mistake. Struggle is what makes stories compelling and authentic.
5) The Belly of the Whale
Campbell’s model is about progressing from the known world (safety) to the unknown world (jeopardy) and then back again after undergoing a transformation.
The Belly of the Whale is the point at which the hero is consumed by seemingly insuperable odds and forced into a state of re-birth. Was there something that forced your business to take a radically new direction?
If there wasn’t a pivotal moment, don’t invent one. That said, surviving a crisis is one of the most compelling elements in the Hero’s Journey. Most businesses and individuals have been in the whale’s belly at some stage: including this in your story builds empathy.
This is the point at which you can draw a distinction between yourselves and your competitors. What did you elect to do in the moment of crisis that defines and makes you unique? What do you offer that no one else does? If there was no crisis then the trials and tribulations will almost certainly have led you to undergo a similar change, albeit over a more protracted period of time.
As the name would suggest, this is the return to the known world. Because of the journey, the hero has capabilities, qualities and attributes that no one else does. What are yours? And how can they help the client you’re pitching achieve what they need to achieve? Again it’s worth re-iterating that your specific journey has made you unique. Often this is an opportune moment to tell a parallel story in the form of a case study. It’s also the point at which you flip from a hero to potential ally…