Understanding the Hero’s Journey for Business

CAUTION: Learning the hero’s journey will change forever how you see yourself, others, and your world. Not to mention how you view movies or read books.

Before the Hero

I love helping people get their ideas out of their heads and into the world. It’s why I crafted what is now the presentationYOU approach as part of my professional development and coaching business.

One of the more surprising discoveries in creating this approach was the power of storytelling in business. Specifically, an understanding of the hero’s journey.

When I set out to learn about storytelling, I had one goal: to learn enough to create a single lesson within my presentationYou program. What I actually learned (and am still learning) changed everything.

The Search for Story

I started where we all do: with a google search.

Focused only on storytelling in business, I came across the usual suspects in presentation design including Nancy Duarte (Resonate) and Garr Reynolds (Presentation Zen).

Most notable was Duarte’s contribution to the presentation for Al Gore’s talk on climate change.

Many Storytelling Mentors

Duarte’s ‘Resonate’ introduced me to the Hero’s Journey and includes a compelling chapter that translates the elements of the hero’s journey into a presentation formula. It reminds me of a musical score for a sophisticated orchestra. I found myself so intrigued. I had to know more about this industry changing discovery of the hero’s journey.

A Deeper Look at the Hero

My research led me to Christopher Vogler and ‘The Memo that started it all.’ In 1985 Vogler wrote a memo while working at Disney that provided a ‘Practical Guide to Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces.’

Vogler brought the classic key elements of Campbell’s hero’s journey into familiar storytelling format of current films. The most widely sited film for demonstrating the hero’s journey is Star Wars. Yes, George Lucas was influenced by Joseph Campbell’s work.

The Ultimate Storytelling Mentor

I had to cross the decades to 1949 and find out for myself. What was this amazing work from Joseph Campbell? I dove into his book: The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

On The Hero’s Journey

I found myself on a hero’s journey to learn about the hero’s journey. And true to form, I met with resistance – my own.

At I first I resisted diving into what appeared to be a theory of religions myths. How would I ever be able to tie this to a business purpose?

It was helpful to dive deep into the roots of the hero’s journey, but I found Vogler’s work in The Writer’s Journey more helpful for my business storytelling objective, and still use it as a reference.

Staying Open To New Ideas

As I turned the pages of these two iconic books from Campbell and Vogler (yes, I had to purchase actual print copies as these works were not available in ebook) I became more and more intrigued.

I found myself reminded of the existential philosophy that informed my very coaching practice. The hero’s journey expressed so eloquently that life journey we all take in our search for meaning.

Business Uses of the Hero’s Journey

Though the hero’s journey evokes images of ‘meaning of life’ and life-long story arcs, I found myself thinking about the smaller events on the journey itself.

With time it became clear how the individual obstacles we face on our roads to success can each be a seed for great stories.

Each decision, cross-roads, and hurdle on the road provides us with knowledge about ourselves and priceless life lessons we could share with others. These are the seeds of great stories for our careers.

Page by page I began to see how this journey would tie closely to what I was hoping to help my business clients express: their own hero’s journey!

Sharing My Lessons

My research journey lead to writing not just a single lesson for the presentationYou approach, but a full book and workbook on using storytelling in your career.

The Final Lesson

The reason there are so many reference to the hero’s journey (including this one) is the impact it has on the way we see the world.

Each person that feels compelled to share their hero’s journey with the world is sharing their boon to help save the world in their own way. Once we learn a life lesson that brings us such value it changes our worldview.

I’m still learning how The Hero’s Journey can be interpreted and have recently enjoyed the newest video interpretation from another mentor, Michael Wesch The Wisdom of Heroes.

A Call to Adventure

Once you understand the Hero’s Journey, it becomes part of you. The challenge then, is what you will do with it on your own hero’s journey? How will this change the way you see others and their struggles? How will this change how you view your own struggles? Are you ready to share your hero’s journey with others?


We all learn in different ways and sometimes a little comedy can help drive home a point. Enjoy this clever version of The Hero’s Journey from Glove and Boots (warning: not safe for work)