A long time ago, in our galaxy...
George Lucas sat down to write Star Wars. It was a different time. An analog world. The 1970s. Oil shocks, cold war, flared trousers. Apollo missions went to the moon. Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey portrayed mankind’s early exploration of our solar system.
And a young George Lucas typed.
Lucas had a guide. Joseph Campbell, literary professor. Years earlier, Campbell had published "The Hero with a Thousand Faces," an exploration of the monomyth. The monomyth, or hero’s journey, Campbell argued, was found over and over again in legend, myth, and story—it represented a profound aspect of the human experience.
The hero’s journey was a repeated pattern.
In a word, no.
It’s too complicated. As a structure to build a strategic narrative, marketing campaign, or sales presentation, it’s literally useless. Try to match your yearly kick-off to a supernatural aid or atonement of the father, and you will soon be reaching for Advil.
But there are lessons to be learned.
Your story isn’t a story without a hero and a villain. In your next presentation, pitch, or high-stakes conversation, your audience has to identify with both. You are not the hero. Your product isn’t the hero. Your idea isn’t the hero. The audience is.
When you watched Star Wars, don’t forget you weren’t up on the big screen, but remember that you identified with the characters on it.
Too many meetings just have a set of topics. Emails just contain information. Where’s the outcome? What are we expected to do with it?
In the hero’s journey, the protagonist receives a call to action. It motivates them. It’s the inciting incident. In your business story, emphasize the call to action—both as the problem you’re trying to solve and the outcome you’re taking people to. The call creates a sense of urgency and relevance for your audience.
I know we don’t like to talk about them.
Business is about change. Leadership is about choice. That means that not everything is an “opportunity.” Some “opportunities” really are actually problems to solve, things to fix, and situations to improve. Acknowledge them, just like real people.
Life has ups and downs. So should your business stories.
The hero’s journey is about the transformation of the hero.
In the end, after the supernatural aid, crossing the threshold, trials and tribulations, and the innermost cave, the hero becomes better. We all want the same. We just don’t want to go through the same hassle. We instinctively prefer the promise of a get-rich-quick scheme or a pill to make it all go away.
But we also know that’s not real.
Your business story has to project the transformation. It has to show the journey, where the hero becomes a better version of themselves, with just a hint of trial or tribulation to make it seem worth it
It’s a story. Therefore emotion. A business story wraps emotion around information. It’s the “feel” that makes people connect.
Star Wars had a great hook. It grabbed attention from the beginning and didn’t let go. That’s the lesson Lucas learned best and the lesson for you. Whether it’s a comment in a meeting, an opening to a conversation, or the beginning of a pitch, you want to set your hook.