In my last 'Storify your Business' post, I said I would tell you more about what timeless stories are made of.
I also mentioned something about there being a formula that gets used time and again.
Well, today I hope this letter will be a good introduction to a fascinating craft that we, the audience, take for granted but is one of the most powerful skill sets anyone can possess.
For the record, I can't claim to be an expert, but I have been focused on how this can be harnessed for telling more impactful business stories.
Also for the record, I totally intend on someday becoming a 'black belt' at this.
And the reason I write you these letters is so I can take you on that learning journey with me...
So what is that 'formula' I was talking about?
THE HERO'S JOURNEY
Star Wars - one of our time's grandest tales - was allegedly initially created from a narrative structure called 'The Hero's Journey'.
This is an ancient story format that features, good, evil, underdogs, villains and character transformation.
George Lucas first created a story about a divided family and only later decided that it would take place in 'A long time ago in a galaxy far far away'.
He could have cast the story in a more medieval setting or on a more contemporary scene.
In fact that is exactly what J.R. Tolkien chose to do.
His 'Lord of the Rings' took place in the fantasy of an imaginary place with knights, horses and castles.
Yes, this was another massively successful tale based on the same recipe.
It comes as no surprise that other big hits such as 'Breaking Bad' and 'Homeland' were also made with the same template...
But you can't write about the Hero's Journey without crediting it's intellectual father: Joseph Campbell, the mythologist who devoted his life's work to unravelling the mysteries of what makes the stories that transcend generations.
Thanks to his work, we now have access to a profound body of insights about the craft of creating unforgettable stories.
I urge you to read his work. It will make so much about who we are as a civilisation will snap into place. My personal favourite is a book called 'The Power of Myth'
But what does this have to with business?
It turns out that in the most successful story lines, the audience gets on the side of the underdog (the Hero) while the 'successful' characters are often cast as the villains.
Ironically, most businesses do everything they can to portray themselves as successful and infallible without realising that their audience would be more likely to support them as an underdog in a worthy challenge. I know this sounds crazy, but hear me out on this.
From a rational standpoint, it makes sense to expect success to attract business but it also raises expectations up to challenging levels.
Furthermore, if success is the main attraction, what will happen when your business goes through a period of difficulty?
Attraction to success doesn't promise loyalty.
Deep down inside, you know this is true.
Just take it to the marriage scene...
When they tow away the Ferrari and foreclose the mansion, how often do 'friends' and 'life companions' bother to stick around?
In contrast, our relationship with the underdog is more emotionally bonding.
Can you see the difference? It all comes down to how you can tell the story of your challenge and recruit people who to support you to see the challenge through.
This brings us to the next key element that makes stories that people pay attention to: The Characters.