The Hero's Journey framework is a tool you can count on to help you write a powerful origin story.
As niche experts we need to be able to convey to our audience who we are and how we got here. The Hero's journey is something we've relied on at Rich+Niche to help our clients achieve powerful personal brand stories.
This article will give you insight to the Hero's Journey framework and help you apply it to your own life.
The Hero's Journey Framework is perfect if you are seeking your 1000 True Fans.
If you haven't heard of this concept popularized by Kevin Kelly in 2006, it’s the idea that to make a living doing what you love, you only need to have 1000 “True Fans”, across the globe, that will give you $100 every year.
The trick is finding an underserved segment of the population, or niche, and offering them products and services that will genuinely enhance their lives.
How do you do this? Well the easiest way is to be one of them!
If you truly love what you’re doing, you’ll enjoy honing your craft, sharing the work with others, and engaging in conversations with other people about it. The more you do this, the more your network will grow, and the more ‘True Fans’ you’ll earn.
Whenever you put out a new product or service that caters to this specific niche, if they were ‘True Fans’, they’ll not hesitate to make a purchase because they derive enjoyment from your work.
The Hero's Journey + 1000 True Fans = A Powerful Combo!
If the goal is to make a living doing what you love, people need to know who you are.
And people won’t know who you are if you don’t know who you are.
So you need to figure that out first.*
Then you'll need to publish content that demonstrates your brand's identity through compelling stories.
Compelling stories are relatable stories. Relatable stories are authentic stories.
Authentic stories are, ultimately, human stories.
We are more similar than we are different.
Human stories, as Joseph Campbell discovered, are stories that have a very similar format throughout the ages and amongst different cultures.
In other words, no matter your skin colour or what culture you identify with, stories that seem to stand the test of time are the ones that follow the Hero’s Journey.
“The Hero's Journey is such an effective tool in modern marketing.” – Rich Ux, Founder of Rich+Niche
The Hero’s Journey, as adapted for screenwriting by Christopher Vogler, is a 12-step storytelling framework that details the major plot points that the main character(s) usually go through, from start to finish, in a compelling and relatable story.
The important thing to realize for our purposes of relating to your 1000 True Fans is that the highs and lows of the protagonist’s personal growth in any good Hero’s Journey essentially mirrors the experience of any Entrepreneur, Coach or Niche Expert.
By using the Hero's Journey as a self-reflection tool – even a cursory understanding of it – will take some of the sting out of your most painful memories and experiences, allowing you the clarity to see that those were, in hindsight, oftentimes the most transformative.
Here is how the 12 Stage Hero's Journey looks like in an infographic…
The 12-Stages of the Hero's Journey:
Here's a GREAT visual example of the Hero's Journey on YouTube.
If you prefer text, here are the 12 Stages of the Hero’s Journey:**
The Ordinary World
Shows the Hero in their natural habitat – everything’s fun, nothing’s crazy, just another day.
Call To Adventure
The Hero is presented with a challenge/adventure that can only be resolved if they leave the Ordinary World and enter the, yet unexplored, Special World.
Refusal of the Call
At first the Hero makes excuses, goes back to their normal life and DOESN'T COMMIT to the “Call-To-Action”.
Usually at this point, another triggering event happens, which forces the Hero to commit to the adventure ahead (ie. this stage represents Fear of the Unknown that every Hero must go into).
Meeting with the Mentor
The ‘Mentor’ figure is introduced to prepare our Hero to face the unknown with knowledge and/or special tools (e.g. Obi Wan-Kenobi offers lightsaber to Luke Skywalker).
Crossing the First Threshold
This stage is when the Hero fully commits to the Journey and structurally, if we’re following the 3-Act Structure of storytelling, is when we transition from Act 1 to 2.
Tests, Allies, Enemies
As the Hero enters Special World, the Hero learns new rules and progresses through a series of Tests, meeting Allies and Enemies. This is where most of the character development happens.
Approach to the Inmost Cave
This is the lead-up to the “Inmost Cave” where the final battle takes place. It is here that the Hero faces his greatest challenge, and if successful, will find the treasure they’ve been seeking throughout this entire adventure.
At this point, the Audience has known our Hero long enough to be invested in their victory.
The ‘Ordeal' is a pivotal, very suspenseful moment, in the Final Battle where things look grim for the Hero.
The possibility of death (either literally or metaphorically) is teased and, if done right, there’s a very real fear that the Hero might lose. At the last moment, they come back and is victorious!
The Hero ultimately gets the reward they were seeking, whether it is a greater understanding of their own flaws or a magical artifact that will bring peace to their Kingdom.
The Road Back
On the Road Back to the Ordinary World, the Hero faces the consequences of surviving the Ordeal and securing the Reward.
One final test of death and rebirth happens right before the Hero returns to the Ordinary World.
All the lessons and wisdom that the Hero gains is used here.
Why are there 2 Ordeals?! We’re not going to get into this here, but Vogler explains it as the Audience likes to know that their Heroes have truly brought back the lessons from the Special World and didn’t just ‘luck out’.
Return with the Elixir
Finally, the Hero returns to the Ordinary World with the lessons learned or tools gained in the Special World. If no lessons were learned or tools obtained, then the Hero is doomed to repeat their mistakes.
Ok, I know The Hero's Journey Framework – What Now?
Good stories are relatable because we can empathize with the characters in it.
A detailed understanding of your own Hero's Journey will contribute to your Brand's identity and Unique Selling Proposition (USP) because if you can articulate to yourself all the little milestones that fuel your why (or “raison d'être”) then you can definitely articulate it to your readers, viewers and potential True Fans.
Some questions to help you find these milestones are:
- What Stages of your own Hero’s Journey did you find particularly difficult? How did you overcome it?
- What tools from the Special World did you use?
- Which mentors did you have to meet? What did they teach you?
For example, in the Resurrection stage, all Heroes must sacrifice something in order to fully step back into the Ordinary World as their New Self.
The Old Self has to “die”, whether it be old ways of thinking or dealing with problematic coworkers, in order for the New Self to use the Reward to enact everlasting change in the Ordinary World.
If you feel you have all the tools and all the wisdom you need but there’s some hesitation that’s preventing you from fully embracing the new you, maybe you haven’t sacrificed enough.
Maybe there’s still some connection to the Old Self that you’re keeping alive, and in doing so, preventing you from getting to that next level.
The problems you solve for yourself will be the problems you can speak to and solve for other people.
This will be your lightning rod as you attract your 1000 True Fans at a breakneck pace.
But to get to them, perhaps you can start by being Fan #1 and making sure you’ve fully appreciated the wins and losses of your own Hero’s Journey.
Written by Aaron Yu
*Loaded question, I know. The only way to really know is to try a bunch of stuff and see what sticks, my friend. Conceptually, try starting here.
**For a more detailed explanation, I highly recommend you pick up a copy of The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler. If you really want to go full nerd and look at the mythologies that inspired the Hero’s Journey in the first place, then check out Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces.