Previously I’ve shared Part 1 through 6 of a Hero’s Journey. To read Part’s 1 through 6 click here. This is Part 7 of the 8 Steps of the Hero’s Journey.
No matter whether we are writing a novel or the story of our life, as a human being our lives revolve around the stories we tell and are told. One of the greatest elements of the story is the ability to share something learned when overcoming a challenge.
What can “story” teach us? Story is a very powerful vehicle. Challenges occur in every story, in every life. For millennia, storytelling was the only vehicle for passing down information from generation to generation in ancient cultures. From the days of simple pictures inscribed on cave walls all the way to today’s multimillion dollar movie blockbusters, our ancestor’s drive for telling stories has been encoded onto our DNA.
Throughout the series we’ve been following the cinematic adventures of Luke Skywalker (Star Wars) and Maverick (Top Gun) along with the real life journey’s of well known industrialists such as Steve Jobs and Elon Musk. Here in Part 7 of the series we will move closer to the conclusion of their stories.
Today, we all still connect quite powerfully through stories. Our daily personal and business lives are filled with stories. The news is made of stories. Media, advertising, novels, business bestsellers, famous speeches… all stories that we’re magnetically pulled into as if by an invisible thread. A connection of personal truth deep enough, or similar enough to our own experience, we as human beings are irresistibly and instantly connected through the power of story.
In crafting a powerful story…whether for a book you’re writing, a brand you are defining, a product or service you’re selling, or a platform you’re creating as a speaker; the Hero’s Journey is the most profound outline you can use to craft a compelling story. The journey concept, better known in literary circles as Joseph Campbell’s monomyth, The Hero’s Journey, is a basic pattern that is found in many narratives from around the world and throughout recorded history.
The hero’s journey is arguably the world’s oldest story or plot archetype. It’s a narrative pattern that’s found around the globe and is the foundation of classic, as well as, modern storytelling.
The Seventh step of the Hero’s Journey: Atonement
In our personal lives, and the life of any hero, to truly find success we step through a process of atonement. There are two great dictionary definitions that I believe are symbolic of this step:
In essence, atonement is a reconciliation, an overcoming of what has come before. It’s the gateway stepped through to become a better, more complete individual. Sometimes this process is making up for a past wrong, at other times it is overcoming a crucible, a test, a major obstacle or challenge where we win the game, complete the degree, finish writing the novel we’ve put off writing for years, sell the product, do the thing we thought we couldn’t or destroy the interstellar battle station!
The first example, making up for a past wrong is best exemplified by our story of Maverick in Top Gun. Maverick was an impulsive fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants naval aviator. Naturally gifted he felt the rules never really applied to him. With the loss of his friend, Goose, the world is turned upside down. He chooses to go on, but is broody and depressed. Sent on an important mission at the conclusion of the movie, his squadron mates are uneasy and don’t feel he is up to the job. Maverick isn’t sure he is up to the job either, but going into combat overcomes his fears and finds a way to marry “playing by the rules” with instinctive flying. He atones for the past and saves the day.
In our second example, there are actually two moments of atonement at the conclusion of Star Wars. First, Han Solo, the gambling, mercenary pilot of the Millennium Falcon after getting his reward and ditching the rebellion before the climactic battle, returns to the battle and saves Luke Skywalker just in the nick of time. In the second part, Luke Skywalker grows into a true leader and becomes a hero by destroying the Death Star, saving the rebellion to fight another day. Luke’s atonement is different than Han’s and is much more the example of being in a state where the attributes of God are exemplified in men. Whether you believe in God is not so much the point, but the concept of an individual who lives by a strong code of ethics and only does “right” is what we are looking for here.
These same themes pop up in our own life don’t they? As we come close to achieving a great success, there is always a crucible we must pass through. Others may not even see it, however, something changes on the inside. We become stronger, more aware and better equipped for greater challenges and accomplishments in the future.
Business is also the same. If we go back to the example of Elon Musk and his company SpaceX we will find a wonderful example. In fact, I’d like to step away from the story of Musk at this moment and focus on the company SpaceX itself. SpaceX before it became the darling of the aerospace world was on the brink of bankruptcy. They had failed three straight times with their Falcon 1 rocket. If they wanted to keep the company alive, their fourth launch had to work. The employees of the company worked together to do everything possible to make that fourth launch a success, and it was. The company made up for three straight failures by a fourth and then fifth successful flight.
Consider how you can develop a compelling story around yourself, your brand, or your book. What if the story you weave could change the definition of how your brand…your product or service is accepted in the world? To be a success we must all pass through a moment of atonement. This moment is what gives every story, and every brand, a legendary status and feel which other people want to be a part of.
In business, stories for personal branding are no different. Look at your product or service and your company in general. Where do you want to go and what would you like to achieve? What have you learned from your past challenges? What have you overcome?
If you’re an aspiring speaker looking for a platform, or a novelist looking for book sales, evaluate who would be helpful to spread your message and help you complete your mission. What things are common for all of us on the Hero’s Journey? Audiences love to hear the journey you made and the challenges you’ve overcome. We all have challenges, when you act as an example of what is possible, you give others hope. Highlight how they can they pass through the crucible in their own life through the wisdom you share exemplifying your own personal story of suffering to sensational.
Business practices, marketing, business development and content delivery have all had gigantic evolutionary leaps as technology has changed the landscape. But even with all of our technology, hand-held devices, new media… the ancient patterns of storytelling have not changed. Businesses, entrepreneurs, speakers with a platform to build and authors with books to sell, must become skilled with utilizing and leveraging the classic archetypes. Using the steps of the Hero’s Journey is a brilliant way to structure your story in a way that connects with the power to not only influence buying decisions of potential customers, but the power to impact brand loyalty to an already established customer base.
“Whoever shares the greatest stories rules the world” ~ Justine Musk
The power of story is such a sexy topic whether we are talking about using storytelling in our personal lives to identify our own journey, or talking about how we can leverage our experience into a compelling tale giving us a platform as a speaker, writer, marketer, and entrepreneur. Our story has the power to connect us, our book, our platform, our message, or our product and service to support our value proposition to prospective customers.
Stay tuned to future posts as I explore with you all eight parts of The Hero’s Journey! Here’s to you and your journey… and remember YOU are the hero of your own story!