Great storytellers – from Aristotle to the Apostles to Shakespeare to Spielberg – have used a proven story structure that has been around since the beginning of time. Joseph Campbell, America’s foremost mythologist, identified this universal pattern to story before his death in 1987. He called it the “Hero’s Journey.”

Once you understand the hero’s journey, you see it everywhere in your life. I first learned about Campbell and his monomyth when our son Parker, who is now a motion graphics artist in Hollywood, studied film at Chapman University. The more I studied the 17-steps of the hero’s journey, and saw it in action in industry books like Blake Snyder’s, Save the Cat, about how he used it to become the most successful screenwriter in Hollywood during the 1980’s, the more I realized that this pattern naturally occurs in advertising and marketing.

I overlaid the hero’s journey on how we naturally go about creating brand strategy for our clients. Bam! There it was. I used it as a filter for how we design the proper website user experience. It appeared again. You can see it in this spot we did for Goodwill of Central Arizona. Or in this Audi spot from last year’s Super Bowl. We didn’t create that one. But I loved it so much, I called the San Francisco agency who did create it, and they had no idea that they had followed the hero’s journey so precisely.

To me, this underscores how the proven universal pattern of the hero’s journey can be found everywhere in our lives. Since I first learned about it, I asked myself: what if we as brand strategists, marketers, and sustainable storytellers intentionally used the power of the journey in our work? This seven-year exploration has resulted in a hybrid of the hero’s journey specifically for business I call the “Story Cycle.”

SlideShare Named it the Top Presentation for 2/7/2o14

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Instead of 17 steps, I refined the Story Cycle to 10 steps that will help any brand better arrive at and understand its unique position, promise and personality in the marketplace. We have used the Story Cycle for everything from high level strategy, to individual tactical executions. It is a fractal of itself that works on all levels of communication. (I’ll reserve the fractal discussion for a later post.)

We have had so much success with the Story Cycle that it is now at the heart of a new communications/storytelling curriculum we have created for the innovative Executive Master’s for Sustainability Leadership program at Arizona State University. Our mission is to help turn sustainability executives into chief storytelling officers so they can bring more meaning to their missions and advance their world-changing initiatives faster.

Please try the Story Cycle, and let me know how it works for you. Download this PDF of the simple “What’s Your Story?” workbook, then follow the SlideShare presentation from above, and watch as your story unfolds before your eyes.

If you have the guts, share your story in the comment section below.