Who doesn't love a good story? Remember, when as a kid you snugged into your bed at night. Maybe it was winter, dark and cold. One of your parents picked up the book and told you a story. It did very much matter which story you would want to listen to. The words were often the bridge into an unknown, maybe sometimes scary world of dreams. Those stories soothed you, helped you, gave you power, gave you peace, it all depended on the content.
Now not all stories are equal, the good one are based on what Joseph Campbell called the "Heroes Journey".
I ask you to bear with me here, I will show you how important it is that, when you want to help others with your course or blog or face to face, you need to put them in the hero's journey.
Why do we need to be great storytellers?
In this journey, the hero (you, me...) is called to adventure and will pass the 12 stages of the hero's journey.
What are these 12 stages?
1. The Ordinary World
This is where the Hero exists before his present story begins, oblivious of the adventures to come. It's his safe place. His everyday life. We learn crucial details about our Hero, his true nature, capabilities and outlook on life. This anchors the Hero as a human, just like you and me, and makes it easier for us to identify with him and hence later, empathize with his plight.
2. Call To Adventure
The Hero's adventure begins when he receives a call to action. A direct threat to his safety, his family's, his way of life or to the peace of the community in which he lives. It may not be as dramatic as a gunshot, but simply a phone call or conversation. Whatever the call is, and however it manifests itself, it ultimately disrupts the comfort of the Hero's Ordinary World. It presents a challenge or quest that must be undertaken.
3. Refusal Of The Call
Although the Hero may be eager to accept the quest, at this stage, he will have fears that need overcoming. Second thoughts or even deep personal doubts as to whether or not he is up to the challenge. When this happens, the Hero will refuse the call and as a result may suffer somehow. The problem he faces may seem too much to handle. The comfort of home is far more attractive than the perilous road ahead. This would also be our own response and once again helps us bond further with the reluctant Hero.
4. Meeting The Mentor
At this crucial turning point, where the Hero desperately needs guidance, he meets a mentor figure who gives him something he needs. He could be given an object of great importance, insight into the dilemma he faces, wise advice, practical training or even self-confidence. Whatever the mentor provides the Hero with, it serves to dispel his doubts and fears. He gives him the strength and courage to begin his quest.
5. Crossing The Threshold
The Hero is now ready to act upon his call to adventure and truly begin his quest. It could be physical, spiritual or emotional. He may go willingly or he may be pushed, but either way he finally crosses the threshold between the world he is familiar with and that which he is not. It may be leaving home for the first time in his life or just doing something he has always been scared to do. However the threshold presents itself, this action signifies the Hero's commitment to his journey an whatever it may have in store for him.
6. Tests, Allies, Enemies
Now, finally out of his comfort zone, the Hero is confronted with an even more difficult series of challenges that test him in a variety of ways. Obstacles are thrown on his path. Whether facing physical hurdles or people bent on thwarting his progress, the Hero must overcome each challenge towards his ultimate goal.
The Hero needs to find out who can be trusted and who can't be. He may earn allies and meet enemies. Each in their own way, will help prepare him for the greater ordeals yet to come. This is the stage where his skills and/or powers are tested. Every obstacle that he faces helps us gain a deeper insight into his character and ultimately identify with him even more.
7. Approach To The Inmost Cave
The inmost cave may represent many things in the Hero's story. It could be an actual location in which lies a terrible danger. It could also be inner conflict which up until now the Hero has not had to face. As the Hero approaches the cave he must make final preparations before taking that final leap into the great unknown.
At the threshold to the inmost cave the Hero may once again face some of the doubts and fears that first surfaced upon his call to adventure. He may need some time to reflect upon his journey and the treacherous road ahead in order to find the courage to continue. This brief respite helps the audience understand the magnitude of the ordeal that awaits the Hero and escalates the tension in anticipation of his ultimate test.
8. The Ordeal
The Supreme Ordeal may be a dangerous physical test or a deep inner crisis that the Hero must face in order to survive or for the world, in which the Hero lives, to continue to exist. Whether it be facing his greatest fear or most deadly foe, the Hero must draw upon all of his skills and his experiences gathered upon the path to the inmost cave in order to overcome his most difficulty challenge.
Only through some form of "death" can the Hero be reborn, experiencing a metaphorical resurrection that somehow grants him greater power or insight necessary in order to fulfill his destiny or reach his journey's end. This is the high-point of the Hero's story and where everything he holds dear is put on the line. If he fails, he will either die or life as he knows it will never be the same again.
9. The Reward (Seizing The Sword)
After defeating the enemy, surviving death and finally overcoming his greatest personal challenge, the Hero is ultimately transformed into a new state, emerging from battle as a stronger person and often with a prize.
The Reward may come in many forms: an object of great importance or power, a secret, greater knowledge or insight, or even reconciliation with a loved one or ally. Whatever the treasure, which may well facilitate his return to the Ordinary World, the Hero must quickly put celebrations aside and prepare for the last leg of his journey.
10. The Road Back
This stage in the Hero's journey represents a reverse echo of the Call to Adventure in which the Hero had to cross the first threshold. Now he must return home with his reward but this time the anticipation of danger is replaced with that of acclaim and perhaps vindication, absolution or even exoneration.
But the Hero's journey is not yet over and he may still need one last push back into the Ordinary World. The moment before the Hero finally commits to the last stage of his journey may be a moment in which he must choose between his own personal objective and that of a Higher Cause.
This is the climax in which the Hero must have his final and most dangerous encounter with death. The final battle also represents something far greater than the Hero's own existence with its outcome having far-reaching consequences to his Ordinary World and the lives of those he left behind.
If he fails, others will suffer and this not only places more weight upon his shoulders but in a movie, grips the audience so that they too feel part of the conflict and share the Hero's hopes, fears and trepidation. Ultimately the Hero will succeed, destroy his enemy and emerge from battle cleansed and reborn.
12. Return With The Elixir
This is the final stage of the Hero's journey in which he returns home to his Ordinary World a changed man. He will have grown as a person, learned many things, faced many terrible dangers and even death but now looks forward to the start of a new life. His return may bring fresh hope to those he left behind, a direct solution to their problems or perhaps a new perspective for everyone to consider.
The final reward that he obtains may be literal or metaphoric. It could be a cause for celebration, self-realization or an end to strife, but whatever it is it represents three things: change, success and proof of his journey. The return home also signals the need for resolution for the story's other key players. The Hero's doubters will be ostracized, his enemies punished and his allies rewarded. Ultimately the Hero will return to where he started but things will clearly never be the same again.
If you are interested in digging in deeper into the archetypes of the heroes journey click here
We find this plot in every good story from heroes like Anakin Skywalker (remember his ordeal and all of us hoping that finally he can outgrow the evil in Darth Vader). We love the Lord of the Rings where the hobbit Frodo Baggins and the Fellowship embark on a quest to destroy the One Ring, to ensure the destruction of its maker, the Dark Lord Sauron.
Why do I tell you this?
This is not just the plot of the Anakins and Indys in this world. Each and everyone of us is called and not just once. We are called and like our hero, we refuse the call until we cannot look away anymore.
That is where you come in. If you want to help people with your course, your blog or in any other way, you need to drop them into the hero's journey. You need to show them the path, be their mentor and help them through all the 12 stages of the journey.
So, when you talk to your audience, that is what you need to offer them. Guidance so they can commit to the journey. You cannot walk the path for them, nobody can, but you can be there for them and give the help they need and this is what you need to express when you want to sell our course.
Drop them into the Hero's Journey!
In the next post, I go into more detail on how to do that. Click here to read.
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