4 Steps To A Powerful Story (Warning: You’ll Never Watch a Movie the Same Way Again)

Using the storytelling technique in business communication appears to be the new cool kid on the block. But, there’s a secret about this storytelling business. It’s not a big secret, but people seem to want to discount it because it seems too simple. The truth is, there is one basic story pattern that humans around the world accept as a story (versus an anecdote, message or just a series of events). It is called the Hero’s Journey.

I did not make up the Hero’s Journey. Joseph Campbell, the great philosopher and writer from the 1930s and 1940s is widely credited for examining it thoroughly and explaining why we are so drawn to this pattern. His book, The Hero With a Thousand Faces, explores this monomyth, as he called it.

For business, the good news is you don’t have to follow all 17 – yes, 17! – steps of the Hero’s Journey to have effective business storytelling. The difference between classic storytelling and applying storytelling techniques to business communications often comes down to this: Storytelling in business does not require a full saga. You don’t have to take people through a narrative epic. There isn’t time for that anyway. Just one wrinkle can be enough to elevate an anecdote to story. But, it does have to be follow some basics.

First, know your purpose. You want to tell a story that is going to drive people to a place. What is the message you are trying to get across? What is the meaning of your story? Once you know that you are ready for your Hero’s Journey tale.

Over the next few days, I will explore the four necessary parts of the Hero’s Journey that a business or organization should use when using storytelling. (I will now apologize in advance that I am about to ruin your ability to watch a movie without running the steps in your head to see if the director knew what he was doing.)

The basic pattern goes like this: A hero is called to leave his common everyday life to explore the wonders of the world. Mystical forces are there encountered and a conclusive victory over an adversary is won. The hero returns from this mysterious adventure – forever changed and more powerful – and with this new power, understanding and wisdom, can (and does) bestow benefits and gifts upon his fellow man and the Universe is now a safer place. The End.

Sound familiar? What does this have to do with business and how on earth do you break that down into a communication that makes a positive change in your organization or business?

Tune in tomorrow and we’ll begin to break down the four main parts. And, you’ll see there are heroes all around us.

  • sanchezjb February 20, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    Now that your four-part series on “Steps to a Powerful Story” has been posted, will you put all four parts on one page? It would make the navigation of this great content easier. Thank you.

  • Dr. Elliot McGucken October 20, 2012 at 3:58 pm

    Cool words on branding, business, art, entrepreneurship and the Hero’s Journey.

    You’ll enjoy the words and videos here:


    “A vast demand exists for the classical ideals performed in the contemporary context–for honor, integrity, courage, and comittment–on Wall Street and Main Street, in Hollywood and the Heartland, in Academia and Government. And thus opportunity abounds for entrepreneurs who keep the higher ideals above the bottom line–for humble heroes in all walks of life.”

    The same classical values guiding the rising artistic renaissance will protect the artists’ intellectual property. The immortal ideals which guide the story of blockbuster books and movies such as The Matrix, Lord of the Rings, Braveheart, The Chronicles of Narnia, and Star Wars, are the very same ideals underlying the United States Constitution. These classic ideals–which pervade Homer, Plato, Shakespeare, and the Bible–are the source of both epic story and property rights, of law and business, of academia and civilization.

    It is great to witness classical ideals performed in Middle Earth, upon the Scottish Highlands, long ago, in a galaxy far, far, away, and in Narnia, but too, such ideals must be perpetually performed in the contemporary context and living language. :)

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