How Any Speaker, Coach, or Expert Can Make a Meaningful Impact Even During Uncertain Times
Whether you’re a speaker, podcaster, YouTuber, business coach, consultant, or some ‘guru’ or ‘ninja’ expert, your audience is craving a better story from you maybe now more than ever. The cacophony of social feeds, leading-’cause-it’s-bleeding headlines, misinformation, and frankly, just needless fluff is clouding the story your audience craves for their own lives.
They need to know it’s going to be okay. They need to know how you can help solve their new problems or questions or the ones they had before this all began.
Most importantly, they need to know you can guide them to having the peace, confidence, and clarity they’re craving. It starts with placing your audience squarely as the hero in your story.
I love studying the architecture of stories — how different stories are built and all the elements that we see working together.
Have you ever watched a movie or read a book and thought, “Huh, this story sounds a lot like that other story in that one book or movie…”
It’s because there are patterns of stories we tend to follow as a society and in different cultures. One of the key story structures we see throughout history is what is now known as the Hero’s Journey.
Thousands and thousands of stories seem to follow this story structure. From ancient stories to modern-day Hollywood blockbusters, there is the story of a hero who sets off on a quest to accomplish one burning desire or conquer a challenge.
Joseph Campbell’s iconic work “The Hero With a Thousand Faces” is an ageless masterclass detailing the twelve stages or steps of the Hero’s Journey. Over the next few minutes, we’re going to work through each stage one by one, and I’m going to share some ideas on how to connect your audience’s story within each stage during and after this COVID-19 crisis.
Stage 01: The Ordinary World
The first stage in the Hero’s Journey is what we call the ‘Ordinary World’.
Think of Luke Skywalker on Tatooine or Katniss in District 12 or Frodo in the Shire. This is their everyday status quo — nothing too exciting, mostly a comfortable, same old-same old everyday routine.
This is where life is normal before the adventure begins. In our right-here-and-now context, this wasn’t their world before COVID-19 — it’s their ‘new normal’ they’re maybe dreading with each morning.
Think about your audience: what does their everyday life look like right now? They’re likely aware of at least one unmet desire or problem under the surface that needs to change.
One of the characteristics of the Ordinary World is a lack of awareness. We don’t know what we don’t know — and that includes what we don’t cognitively realize. We may feel the disconnect, the angst chafing at our hearts and souls, but knowing and articulating exactly what that is may be elusive.
Here is the question you need to ask about your audience in their Ordinary World: “What do they not realize?”
Until you realize what your audience is missing or unaware of, then you cannot help them start on their Hero’s Journey with your message.
That’s your first step: identify what your audience isn’t aware of right now.
Stage 02: Call to Opportunity (Call to Adventure)
One of my favorite stories is the Lord of the Rings. What makes it one of my favorites is how understated Frodo’s quest is from the beginning. Bilbo gives Frodo the ring of power, and when it’s realized the danger of the ring, Gandalf tells Frodo he needs to destroy the ring in the fires of Mount Doom.
There’s no mention of Orcs, dragons, elves, dangers, none of that in the beginning — only a call to adventure. Journey to Mount Doom to destroy the ring.
Every audience I’ve ever met is looking for a call to adventure. Not just any adventure, but an adventure that stirs something deep and powerful inside their hearts.
Your audience is likely so far out of their comfort zone. It’s your job to articulate the exact feelings, thoughts, and actions they’re experiencing right now. So many of us knee-jerked into reactive mode, but now that we’re more stabilized, we can see the opportunity, not just the disruption of the moment.
That’s when you can share the vision for the opportunity you want your audience to experience. What’s the opportunity your audience needs to embrace when you open their eyes to what they didn’t realize? Losing weight, repairing a fractured relationship, resetting a mindset, building new memories with your kids, starting a new business, writing that book — these are all opportunities with far more time at home.
Stage 03: Refusing the Call
We covered the first two stages of the Hero’s Journey.
- The first stage is the Ordinary World — this is their current reality, disrupted or not.
- The second stage is the Call to Opportunity— this is where you help your audience learn what they didn’t realize or were unaware of.
There are people in your audience who aren’t comfortable with changing their status quo. These past several weeks maybe grated their patience to veil-thin reluctance. That’s normal — we crave comfort. As human beings we crave the predictable, comfortable, don’t-change-anything status quo.
It’s also the third stage of the Hero’s Journey, the Refusal of the Call.
If you’re familiar with Star Wars, this is where Luke Skywalker says he’s not ready to be a Jedi. He’d rather stay on Tatooine with his aunt and uncle.
What’s the driving force behind refusing the call? It’s fear. It’s the fear of the unknown, and it’s the fear of the known.
None of really know what’s going to happen next. Will there be a second wave? Is there light at the end of the tunnel? What will the economy do over the next 6–18 months?
People in your audience have vivid fears, concerns, worries, and questions all tied to the unknown. These are all understandable objections and reasons why they shouldn’t answer the call to seize this opportunity.
Your job is to help your audience recognize those objections and not dismiss them. There’s a reason why your audience feels that way. It’s perfectly normal to be scared right now…and it’s also perfectly normal to know there’s hope for tomorrow.
If you want your audience to have an extraordinary experience, you need to help them identify the source of their questions and fears, talk through them, and show them what it would look like to replace those questions and fears with answers and confidence.
If you’d like to get better results for your business, take the first step here.
Stage 04: Meeting with the Mentor
We started with the first stage in the Hero’s Journey — the Ordinary World. As crazy as it may sound right now with everything going due to COVID-19, your audience is in a ‘safe enough’ place.
And then, the second stage is our Call to Adventure. We bring awareness to our audience of this opportunity and give them a choice: choose to lean into this opportunity or stay in the safety of status quo.
This can bring up fears and questions, the third stage of the Hero’s Journey is refusing to accept the call. This is the fork in the road — and it’s our job as speakers, coaches, and consultants to address those questions and concerns without downplaying them.
It’s easy to believe we’re the hero in the Hero’s Journey. That’s wrong — we’re actually the mentors.
It’s our job in the fourth stage of the Hero’s Journey to connect with our audience and show our credibility as a mentor.
Your audience needs you to show why you’re the one to follow, to share the wisdom or enlightenment they need to help them make the most of this opportunity.
If you’re a health and wellness coach, your clients need to see that you have the results and certifications that can help them safely and effectively experience a healthier lifestyle during quarantine. If you’re a marriage therapist, you need to prove to your audience that you have a step-by-step process that works for healing marriages.
They get the heroic experience because you’ve proven you’re a mentor worth following.
Think about your audience: how can you show up as a mentor with the wisdom they need to hear today?
Stage 05: Crossing the First Threshold
The fifth stage of the Hero’s Journey is crossing the first threshold. It’s where your audience leaves their ordinary world or everyday routine and starts going in a new direction. Even though nothing really feels ‘normal’ right now, your audience is likely well into a ‘new normal’.
The danger is a ‘new normal’ may be more damaging than what life used to be like before COVID-19. You need to show them that staying where they are right now includes a massive opportunity cost.
What is the first step or crossing of the threshold of the journey where your audience knows things are starting to be different?
Maybe it’s starting a new workout routine or connecting with a counselor or delegating more responsibilities to start building into their team virtually instead of trying to do it all on their own.
Whatever it may be, it requires courage to take the first step. And, it’s where your support as their new mentor is so important.
Be there for them today. Encourage them. Check in with them. Make that call. Send that email. Show up in their messages.
Crossing the Threshold is about recognizing that your audience’s path looks different than before, and you’re going to be with them every step of the way.
Stage 06: Tests, Allies, and Enemies
We’re halfway through the Hero’s Journey. By now, you’ve seen how your message can invite your audience to leave their Ordinary World in search of a better tomorrow by stepping into this new opportunity.
It’s time to buckle up though because your audience is getting ready to experience disruption with this next part.
It’s the sixth stage of the Hero’s Journey — Tests, Allies, and Enemies.
Any time you shake up someone’s status quo, the rules change. Disrupting someone’s ‘new normal’ during a global pandemic may even seem unthinkable.
That’s where your audience starts to see things aren’t going to be easy. The early morning workouts are going to be miserable after Netflixing their way to gain the ‘pandemic 15′. Growing pains in their business is accentuated when face-to-face conversations can’t happen like normal. They kick open that conversation with their partner, leading to a big fight because old wounds are still open…and nobody can just go stay somewhere else.
Whatever the situation may be, this could be the breaking point for your audience. They may say, “This isn’t worth it!” or “This is too hard!” or “I’m not strong enough to handle this! Haven’t we already been through enough?!”
These are the tests that show us who our enemies are and also who may be our allies. How can you show your audience today that you’re right there with them in the challenging times? You have the chance to be their greatest ally. Give them your Zoom link. Open up your direct inbox. Host ‘office hours’ for your crowd to come and vent to you about what they’re facing.
It’s about proving to your audience they have what it takes to succeed…and that you’re on their side throughout this crazy crisis.
If you’d like to personally work with me to help you get better results with your message than ever before, visit workwithjoncook.com.
Stage 07: Approach
When your audience faces challenges, there’s a good chance they’re going to experience setbacks.
Maybe it’s falling off their new eating schedule or blowing up at their partner or going on an Amazon spree when they’re already working to get out of debt.
It’s where failure can start to cloud their thinking.
It’s also the seventh stage in the Hero’s Journey — Approach. It’s time to regroup and take another look at how you’re approaching your challenges.
In many cases, it’s reminding your audience that there’s a process to follow. It’s sharing stories about other clients you have who experienced the same type of setbacks in the same stage of their journey. If you can share stories about how others succeeded at this time doing what you recommend, that’s gold, Jerry. Gold.
This is also the time when many clients have tried to do things their own way without following a proven process. It may mean you need to have a direct, no-punches-pulled conversation with them over Zoom about why your process is designed the way it is and why trying to do things their own way hasn’t gotten them the results they wanted before meeting you.
This seventh stage is without a doubt one of the most uncomfortable parts of the Hero’s Journey, but it’s also the turning point for so many people.
Stage 08: The Showdown
Once your audience revisits their Approach, it often accelerates their journey towards the one big challenge they’ve been leading up to through the entire Hero’s Journey.
The eighth stage of the Hero’s Journey is the Showdown.
It’s the fire-breathing dragon that represents their greatest fears or biggest challenge. They likely know exactly what their ‘dragon’ is- that thing weighing on their mind ever since this all started.
It’s also often the one thing standing in their way between their current situation and true success.
What is the fire-breathing dragon that represents the greatest obstacle or challenge your audience is facing that’s keeping them from true success?
This isn’t a hard stage to describe: it’s the heavyweight deathmatch your audience is dreading. This is the fight that will define who they are and why they even started on this journey in the first place.
And, it’s unavoidable. The good news is the reward for winning the fight is a life your audience can only dream of right now.
As the mentor, you can’t fight the dragon for your audience, but you can show them the best way you know how to fight and defeat the greatest obstacle so they can start enjoying the life they really want to experience.
Stage 09: Reward
If you’ve ever ran a marathon or experienced a tremendous win, then you know the euphoria of victory. It’s the same feeling your audience is craving. Who do they want to be in the next 90 days? Who do they want the world to see them as when COVID-19 is in the rearview mirror?
The ninth stage of the Hero’s Journey is the Reward. It’s where you walked with your audience through the eighth stage of the Showdown and you watched them slay their biggest challenge.
Now is where your audience gets their reward. If you’re a health and wellness coach, it’s the Before and After photos where your client is proud to be wearing their swimsuit again, even if they can’t hit the beach for at least another month or two. If you’re a business coach, it’s the screenshot your client sends you after booking their first vacation in two years.
That’s the reward, the sweet, sweet victory your audience craves. You don’t have to wait until your audience reaches this point to talk about the Reward.
The best time to start talking about the Reward is during the second stage, the Call to Opportunity. “If you follow my process, then this could be your Reward.” Talk about their reward in your messaging, your videos, your emails, your conversations, anything you send to your audience.
Paint a picture where your audience knows they have a Reward they can’t wait to experience. This will be over eventually…and then, we will celebrate like never before.
If you’d like to get better results for your business, take the first step here.
Stage 10: The Road Back
We’re coming to a close on the Hero’s Journey as our audiences see the change. They go through the tests, they defeat their greatest challenges, those things that are really holding them back, and now it’s the tenth stage, the road back to everyday life.
This is where reminders and memories are so crucial.
We get to remind our audiences where they were when we first connected with them in their Ordinary World. We talk about the fears and questions they had when we first called them to lean into this opportunity. We share about how our processes or frameworks were designed to give them results.
We visually take them back into the Showdown with their greatest challenge and how they won — they defeated their dragon.
This is where we celebrate their experience. Today is about making a big deal out of the growth and change you see in the clients who trust you and got great results.
Send them an email. Give them a call. Do a Facebook Live and post the video everywhere you can to rave about their success. Show them those moments and celebrate with them today.
Stage 11: Resurrection
The next-to-last stage in the Hero’s Journey may be the deadliest.
This is the Resurrection stage — the moment when the draw and opportunity to revert to the way things were start to entice your audience.
Maybe they lost the weight, but it’s now a month later and there isn’t the accountability as there was during your virtual boot camp.
Maybe they’re out of debt and starting to make better decisions with their money, but a can’t-miss sale was just announced at their favorite store that’s re-opening.
This is the most dangerous stage because it’s the lethal allure of routine.
They’re faced with reverting to the only everyday life they knew before connecting with you, even before this all started.
It’s also where you need to call out this deception: they can’t afford to go back to the way things were.
That’s why this is called the Resurrection of the Hero: they rise out of the ashes of who they used to be and recognize their change. They see a new person in the mirror, even if the greater world hasn’t seen the change yet.
They’ve worked too hard, overcome too much, and made so much progress only to trade it all for where they used to be. This will be a deadly crossroads when restrictions are lifted and much of our world tries to restart the merry-go-around of ‘life as it used to be’.
This stage is about killing the lie of the familiar for your audience — there’s a reason why they were unsatisfied and unfulfilled before this journey started.
It’s your job to remind them why they connected with you in the first place.
Stage 12: Returning with the Elixir
The twelfth and final stage of the Hero’s Journey is what I call Returning with the Elixir. If your audience is a client, this is the stage where their best friends or spouse or siblings start commenting on the difference.
It’s when people see the transformation, they see your client is different than a few weeks or even months ago.
What is the reason your client will give for their transformation? The story you want them to share is their Hero’s Journey.
Most importantly, it’s where you show up in their story that shows they had the strength and you simply showed them the way and walked with them through every stage of their journey.
This is where testimonials are so essential. Try to capture your client’s journey in a video or a written testimonial that you can share. The best testimonials are where the before-and-after details are shared. That shows other prospects and audiences that they can have the same type of experience because we find our stories in the lives of others.
And that’s the Hero’s Journey, twelve clear steps that show the world you will do what it takes to help your audience have a better tomorrow starting today.
Do Your Clients Feel Heroic?
You may be thinking, “But, Jon, I don’t really think my message is that heroic.” Maybe you even doubt the impact you can create or you’re buried in Imposter Syndrome, starting to second-guess your impact.
Here’s the one truth I want you to hold onto today: you are already extraordinary.
If you give an ‘ish’ about your audience, then you are already prepared to help your clients, your readers, your subscribers, whoever it is that’s listening to you, you’re prepared to help them have a heroic experience.
It may not seem that flashy and you may even think your topic or industry is boring. I guarantee that you hold a heroic message inside that people are starving to hear from you.
It starts with believing that what you have to offer has the power to change someone else’s world. Don’t even worry about changing the whole world right now — focus on changing one person’s world. And another’s. And another’s.
And then, you’ll start to see that what you’re creating is a heroic experience where your audience has the confidence and peace to conquer the challenges right in from of them.
Believing you can is the kickstart you need to change someone else’s world with your message today. When this is all over, will you look back and be proud of the heroes you helped create? This is your opportunity — lean into today.
If you’d like to get better results for your business, take the first step here.