The Heroes Journey for Sales … Sorta
July 3, 2011
Featuring an interview with Dr. Elliot McGucken, author, artist, entrepreneur and physicist.
Business is nothing without story; brand is nothing without story. You have a new business or product that can change the world?
It’s nothing … without story.
Going to present your idea to family, bankers or venture capitalists for money to help change the world? Your nothing without story.
Investors, bankers and venture capitalists are nothing without your story.
Let’s begin with one such revolutionary idea – a high-tech product that will one day change this world.
THE HERO’S JOURNEY REDEFINED
Every business, entrepreneur, idealist, or visionary, wants to be the one to find the Holy Business Grail … the next big technology or product that will change the world forever. I’ve found it. I have it. The ultimate product. The benefits to humanity – “AA” (astronomically astounding). That’s right. The world you’re living in is close to the long-predicted techno “Singularity.”
One slight problem. I’ve been down this road before. So many great ideas. So little to show for it. Multiple presentations that investors just didn’t get. Probably because the brilliance blinded them. I did receive some feedback about my presentations though…
I would note that she was talking about of both sides of her mouth – which made it a double negative – therefore positive feedback. But nonetheless, I decided to seek...
I needed a doctor. Not a normal doctor. A doctor that knew how to professionally position my new venture and business plan to make investors flock to my entrepreneurial vision. I needed a doctor with entrepreneurial, yet artistic acumen. A creative genius like me - one that could appreciate ephemeral brilliance. A person that would understand and enable me to overcome adversity, obstacles and inner demons that were preventing my inevitable place in history. A person that could help paint my entrepreneurial masterpiece on the business canvas of life.
And I found one.
ENTER DOCTOR “E”
Dr. Elliot McGucken ( “Dr. E”) received a B.A. in physics from Princeton and a Ph.D. in physics from UNC Chapel Hill where his dissertation on an artificial retina for the blind received several NSF grants and a Merrill Lynch Innovations Award. The retina-chip research appeared in publications including “Popular Science” and “Business Week,” and the project continues to this day.
Dr. E is the epitome of an artistic entrepreneur. He founded Jollyroger.com, which is a virtual portal for the world’s great literary classics. The New York Times deemed Dr. E’s work as “simply unprecedented.” The Los Angeles Times referred to the classical portal as “a lavish virtual community known as The Jolly Roger.” Dr. E has published four books including two novels and a poetry collection.
Dr. E also founded the Hero’s Journey Entrepreneurship Festival in Malibu, CA. The festival pays homage to Joseph Campbell’s “Hero With a Thousand Faces” and the “Hero’s Journey” in all walks of life.
HOW TO MAKE YOUR PASSION YOUR PROFESSION
And … Dr. E teaches a spectacular business course called Artistic Entrepreneurship on how to make your passion your profession.
Steve: I need help. I have this great business idea …
Dr. E: I heard. And you need, let me guess, money?
Steve: Well, yes. A piddling amount … $250 million for initial research.
Dr. E: Oh. Is that all?
Steve: To start. I don’t want to seem overly aggressive. I sent you some info …
Dr. E: I read your business plan.
Dr. E: It sucks.
A PLAN BUT NO STORY
Dr. E: Your plan had no story. I quit reading after the first 20 words (counting by 2′s). Business is nothing without story; brand is nothing without story. Venture capitalists are nothing without story. Venture Capitalists are nothing without your story. Can you tell me your story − this world-changing idea you have?
Steve: (hesitates) I’m pretty sure no one will read or hear this, but you still have to keep it on the down-low. I don’t want any fast-talking, slick-dressing Wall Street banker business type cribbing the idea from me.
It happened once before when I was trying to start a Beerburger in Paradise Restaurant. Totally cribbed the idea from me. Gave it to some no-name relative of his.
The rest isn’t history.
Dr. E:Right. Mum’s the word then. Go on…
Steve:It’s an astronomically astounding, revolutionary, cutting-edge, robust platform-neutral, portable (almost probably), seamless (virtually, besides some minor cracks), robuster-LMNOP, robustest, interoperable, supraluminal, hypothetical, translucent, nanotech, scientific breakthrough.
Dr. E: (SILENCE) … in English?
Dr. E: What is it?
Steve: I was telling you.
DIAGNOSED WITH DEADLY UN-RARE DISEASE
Dr. E: It sucks. Words with no meaning. I diagnose you with a rarely un-rare disease.
MPCGBS – Multiple Platform Corporate Gobbledygook BS ( bureaucratic speech) with a less than tiny tinkled tinge of manic-megalomania. You’ll need to take a dose of my Artistic Entrepreneur remedy.
Steve: English please?
Dr. E: The “Artistic Entrepreneur” remedy is based on classical story elements as outlined in Aristotle’s Poetics. It helps you make your passion your profession. Think of it as combining the arts, entrepreneurial ventures, and technology with Joseph Campbell’s “Hero With a Thousand Faces” structure. It’ll help tell your entrepreneurial story in a business plan with adventures akin to Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey.” Along the way you’ll encounter antagonists and pitfalls, but these shall be overcome by the end and you will be off to pursue your artistic entrepreneurial ventures.
Steve: With money?
Dr. E: If you do it right.
Steve: Don’t you want to know what it is first?
Dr. E: No. First you need a grounded foundation of the Artistic Entrepreneur mindset. The vision. The journey. What’s the brand that has outlasted all others in history?
“I was gratified to be able to answer promptly, and I did … I said I didn’t know.” – Mark Twain
Steve: I’m not a historian. I’m a visionary.
Dr. E: Homer’s brand has outlasted every other brand in history. Homer must have known something about business. Homer must’ve spoken the truth. Since he’s passed on, billions of business plans and legal reports have come and gone. Billions of fashions and fads. Billions of politicians and false prophets.
But we still read Homer. So be like Homer.
Steve: Be like Homer?
Dr. E: Not that Homer! Tell your venture in story. Tell your story in truths.
We live in an era of stories without story, characters without character, business plans without business sense, and art without art.
We live in an era of poetry without rhyme and words without meaning.
The artist and the entrepreneur must merge in story. If you want to get it right, re-read The Declaration of Independence and Constitution. They are the two most fundamental business documents for artists and entrepreneurs.
Read the classics from Aristotle’s “Poetics” to the Bill of Rights. Every work of art tells a story, and behind that work of art is a parallel story – the business of its creation, promotion, and distribution.
Every work of art tells a story, behind that work of art is a parallel story; the business of its creation, promotion, and distribution. - Dr. E
Steve: So business is behind art?
Dr. E: And art, business. Artistic Entrepreneurship is a lot of work, but the kind of exalted work that is rooted in a creative vision. As Edison said, genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. If you study the careers of famous artists, entertainers, and entrepreneurs, you’ll see how much work, how much relentless, unyielding effort was devoted en route to achieving their dreams. A common theme will be just when it seems all is lost, a new day dawns.
Relentless, unyielding effort yields a new day dawning, a dream realized. – Dr. E
The harder one works, the more fun it will be.
Steve: I’ve heard that one before. Give me an example.
Hard work never killed anybody; but why take the chance? - Edgar Bergen
Dr. E: Steven Jobs never programmed, nor designed a microchip, and yet he’s responsible for Apple, Pixar, the Macintosh, iPod and the iPad. He lead hundreds of the best and brightest designers, programmers, and visionaries.
The harder one works, the more fun it will be. – Dr. E
Steve: Another example?
Dr. E: Richard Branson never played an instrument nor piloted an airplane, and yet he’s responsible for Virgin Airlines, Virgin Records, Virgin Mobile, and a ton of other companies. He too leads hundreds of the best and brightest.
When Alexander the Great visited Diogenes and asked whether he could do anything for the famed teacher, Diogenes replied: “Only stand out of my light.”
Steve: Want to hear my idea yet?
Dr. E: No. All successful artistic ventures require a vision encompassing a wide array of talents, disciplines, and vocations. These people brought a wide array of talented people together. Modern artistic ventures require huge respect for all professions. You need to work in groups combining writers, computer programmers, artists, marketers, business majors, and more.
Communicate. Cooperate. Collaborate.
Building businesses is not about making money, but it’s about creating wealth. To the degree you can serve people, to the degree you can enhance peoples’ lives, you will be successful.
Create. Enhance. Serve.
But first, you must communicate your vision to serve and enhance people’s lives. And, if you tell it in story – a story that resonates with the inner stirrings of the human soul – archetypes – you’re on the artistic entrepreneur’s Heroes Journey to ultimate success.
Joseph Campbell laid this out in the first part of “The Hero With a Thousand Faces,” The Adventure of the Hero. He believed everyone is born with the basic subconscious model of what a “hero” is, or a “mentor” or a “quest.” His thesis was that all myths follow this structure to at least some extent.
A Three-Step Process
- Departure deals with the hero venturing forth on his quest.
- Initiation deals with the hero’s various adventures along his or her way.
- Return deals with the hero’s return home with knowledge and powers that he or she has acquired along the way.
Steve: Hmm. That sounds suspiciously like a beginning, middle, and end.
THE CALL TO ADVENTURE
The quest begins with the hero in a state of neurotic anguish.
Dr. E:You do that well. The quest is often announced to the hero by another character who acts as a ”herald.”
Dr. E: Interesting herald. Are you trying to tell me something?
Steve: Just trying to keep up Doc.
Dr. E: In “Star Wars,” Luke Skywalker, the hero, begins the story in frustration over being unable to leave home. The heralds are the two droids who carry a message from Princess Leia. In “The Matrix,” the call comes in the form of Morpheus and his followers who encourage the hero, Neo, to question reality.
Aragorn, in a separate hero’s journey, is told by Elrond of his true name and lineage as the Heir of Isildur and rightful heir to the throne of Gondor when he is 20 years of age.
Steve: Too complicated. I just want to tell you my idea. It’s going to change the world! (And I didn’t crib that line from Guy Kawasaki — but I have read it on his blog a couple of times.)
Dr. E: Then …
REFUSAL OF THE CALL
In many stories, the hero initially refuses the call to adventure.
When this happens, the hero suffers somehow, and eventually chooses the quest.
Steve: Now I get that. I have suffered. Oh how I have suffered. Sometimes it’s a real pain in the…
Dr. E: In “Star Wars,” Luke is initially uninterested in helping the Rebel Alliance, preferring to stay on the farm; it is only when his foster parents are killed that he begins the quest.
In The Matrix, Neo refuses to take the window-washing equipment to escape and is captured by the agents.
Along the way, the hero often encounters a helper, usually a wise old man, who gives the hero both psychological and physical weapons.
Dr. E: Not quite what I was talking about.
In “The Lord of the Rings,” Frodo and Sam Gamgee receive help early in their journey from several figures, notably Tom Bombadil, Bilbo, and Gandalf.
Hannibal Lecter, in “The Silence of the Lambs” gives Agent Starling many psychological weapons.
Steve: Hmm. You don’t like my wise helper, but you like this guy? Maybe it’s not me that needs a doctor.
CROSSING THE THRESHOLD
The hero eventually must cross into a dark underworld, where he will face evil and darkness, and thereby find true enlightenment. Before this can occur, however, the hero must cross the threshold between his home world and the new world of adventure. Often this involves facing off against and quelling a “threshold guardian.”
Steve: My idea involves crossing a threshold – a real threshold!
Dr. E: Hold that thought. In “The Lord of the Rings,” Frodo finally accepts his mission in Rivendell and crosses the threshold once he leaves there.
In Rivendell, Aragorn meets Boromir who tells of the plight that Gondor is now in while at the same time confronting those present for not aiding Gondor; Aragorn sees that he must now save Gondor and claim the kingship.
In “The Odyssey,” Odysseus must pass the island of the Sirens.
BELLY OF THE WHALE
Dr. E: Having defeated the threshold guardian, the hero finds himself in a place of darkness where he begins his true adventure, perhaps discovering his true purpose. This “belly of the whale” may be an ambiguous place ofdream-like forms.
Dr. E: The name for this stage of the monomyth is based upon the story of Jonah.
In “Star Wars,” it is the Death Star, in which Luke is engulfed and in which he learns how to be a hero.
In “The Silence of the Lambs,” Starling finds the serial killer Buffalo Bill’s first victim within the dark, womblike storage facility.
INITIATION – THE ROAD OF TRIALS
Dr. E: Once in the underworld, the hero is repeatedly challenged with mental and physical obstacles that must be overcome.Often these take the form of a test, by which the hero improves his skills and proves his worth.
In “The Empire Strikes Back,” Luke undergoes his training with Yoda.
Aragorn, after the loss of Gandalf in Moria, must now take the position of leader of the Fellowship, and struggles to lead them as well as Gandalf wanted to.
MEETING WITH THE GODDESS
Dr. E: After overcoming the Road of Trials, the hero often encounters a goddess-like woman: beautiful, queen-like, or motherly. This is a grand reward for the hero.
Steve: I’m all about grand rewards.
Dr. E: In “The Matrix Reloaded,” Neo takes Trinity as a lover.
In “The Lord of the Rings,” Frodo meets Galadriel, who shows him the future. Aragorn also meets Galadriel, who counsels him on his future actions.
In “The Silence of the Lambs,” Buffalo Bill kidnaps a senator’s daughter and the female senator initially appears as a benevolent, matriarchal force.
However, the Goddess may also negate the hero’s progress through lust or greed. This may distract the hero from his ultimate goal and plunge him back into darkness.
Steve: Temptation … you have to deal with that too?
Dr. E: Yes, just like in “The Matrix Reloaded,” Persephone attempts to seduce Neo.
In “The Odyssey,” the temptress is the nymph Calypso.
In “The Silence of the Lambs,” the offer of a reduced sentence for Hannibal Lecter, supposedly authorized by the senator, is revealed as a trick. Now onto …
Steve: I’m not sick.
Dr. E: Not Apothecary. Apotheosis. The hero’s ego is disintegrated in a breakthrough expansion of consciousness. Quite frequently their idea of reality is changed. They may find themselves able to do new things or able to see a larger point of view allowing them to sacrifice themselves.
In the “Empire Strikes Back,” Luke sacrifices himself rather than turn to the dark side.
In “The Matrix Reloaded,” Neo destroys several Sentinels in the real world using only his mind.
Aragorn gains command of the immortal Army of the Dead, making his forces undefeatable.
Steve: About this sacrificing thing …
Dr. E: It’s necessary.
Steve: Then you do it. I’ll make sure you’re properly memorialized.
THE ULTIMATE BOON
Dr. E: Having achieved personal enlightenment, the hero’s psychological forces are again balanced. But this new-found knowledge, or boon, also has potential to benefit society.
Steve: Okay, my turn. The benefit to society thing. I’m with you. That’s what my idea is all about.
Dr. E: Hold on just a little bit longer, we’re not finished yet. In “The Lord of the Rings,” all of the hobbits gain wisdom and experience during their journey, which allows them to easily set things right in the Shire on their return. By calling upon his heritage as the Heir of Isildur to take command of the Army of the Dead, Aragorn is now more in tune with his true nature and purpose as rightful heir to the throne of Gondor than ever before.
THE MAGIC FLIGHT
Dr. E: A mad dash is made by the hero to return with the prize.
Steve: I’ve never been real successful with mad dashes.
Not all mad dashes are created equal. - Steve
In “The Lord of the Rings,” Frodo and Sam are rescued from the slopes of Mt. Doom by Gandalf and the Eagles (which is also a “Rescue from Without”).
Aragorn, after exiting the Paths of the Dead with his new invincible Shadow Army, must now make a mad dash across Gondor in a race against time to liberate the coast from an invasion of Corsairs, then lead the Southern army of Gondor north to save Minas Tirith from destruction, all in only six days.
Steve: I understand.
THE CROSSING OF THE RETURN THRESHOLD
Before the hero can return to the real world, he must confront another threshold guardian. The first threshold was a symbolic death; this is now a symbolic rebirth.
Steve: My symbolism is through the roof.
Dr. E: That made absolutely no sense.
Steve: It will.
Dr. E: Okaaaaaay – moving on. In “Return of the Jedi,” Luke again confronts Darth Vader.
In “The Lord of the Rings,” the final threshold for the hobbits re-entering the Shire is guarded by Saruman and his Ruffians.
For Aragorn, this means making a final confrontation with Sauron’s forces in a suicidal attack on his massive army at the Black Gate.
Steve: Call me crazy, but a suicidal attack on a massive army really doesn’t fit into my business plan.
Dr. E: Mythic symbolism … think mythic symbolism. Make it resonate with the ancient stirrings of the heart.
Steve: Is that sorta like the mythical egg-of-life symbolism?
Dr. E: I detect stirrings of intelligent life.
Steve: I’ve used the mythical “egg-of-life” symbolism before.
Dr. E: Detection of intelligent life terminated.
MASTER OF TWO WORLDS
Once the final threshold is crossed, the hero is now free to move back and forth between the two worlds at will. He has mastered the conflicting psychological forces of the mind.
Steve: That’s what my new product will allow me to do. Be a master of two worlds.
Dr. E: Almost finished … then you can tell me this fabulous invention, product, idea, and world-shaking business venture.
In “Return of the Jedi,” Luke becomes a Jedi.
In “The Lord of the Rings,” Aragorn is crowned King of Gondor and Arnor, and has defeated Mordor (later re-distributing its conquered lands to the former slaves that tilled the fields in its southern regions). Aragorn then marries Arwen, daughter of his father-figure Elrond, uniting the worlds of Elf and Man.
FREEDOM TO LIVE
With the journey now complete, the hero has found true freedom, and can turn his efforts to helping or teaching humanity.
In “The Lord of the Rings,” the hobbits become prominent citizens of the Shire with the wisdom they have gained.
Aragorn reigns as King for many decades and ushers in a new age of peace and the rebuilding of Middle Earth.
Steve: Let me get this straight. I need to know all of that stuff before I can be an artistic entrepreneur … and pitch my astronomically astounding, revolutionary, cutting-edge, robust, platform-neutral, portable (almost probably), seamless (virtually, besides some minor cracks), robuster-LMNOP, robustest, interoperable, supraluminal, hypothetical, translucent, nanotech, scientific breakthrough idea?
Dr. E: You need to understand the foundation, the vision, the message that will truly resonate – touch and move the human psyche – within the people that will help you make your passion your profession. It will help you attract and retain a diverse group of the best, the brightest, the hardest working, from writers to software coders, to bankers, to R & D geeks, and most importantly, to buyers and customers.
MESSAGE MUST MOVE AND MOTIVATE
Dr. E: Well finally, go ahead, tell me your revolutionary idea. We’ll work together to align it with the mythic symbolism that throbs inside us all seeking new vistas for humanity.
HERE WE GO – HOLD ON
Steve: Okay, I’ve discovered a nanotech material that is translucent, waterproof, impenetrable and indestructible. It also incorporates nano-size semi-conducting pinheads called quantum dots.
Dr. E: (Attention piqued) And?
Steve: I’ve successfully tested it already. Here’s the deal. You strip the roof of a house (or any building). Spray on this translucent nano-material. It sets/gels in less than 30 seconds.
Dr. E: I get it! I get it!
Steve: I’m not done yet.
Dr. E: It’ll provide high thermal insulation, reduce energy costs, and create a quieter indoor environment?
Steve: Yes – in any color imaginable. And … the best is yet to come.
Dr. E: The market and benefits of an artistically designed, eye-catching architectural roof masterpiece – unbelievable!
Steve: Doc, slow down. You need to be more like me – a renaissance thinker.
Dr. E: What?
Steve: I had the material engineered so that when applied correctly, it turns into a DONKEY MOOD ROOF! Think of it! The Homer Brand combined with da Vinci beauty and simplicity.
(Do you dare click?)
Dr. E: (Complete silence that builds to a transformational moment.)
Can you imagine the possibilities?
Steve: The nanotech roof material resonates with the mood of the people in the house and then displays it for all to see. Imagine the harmony that’ll result when you drive home and see a
Think of the social benefits! I’m all a-Twitter and Google+ with the possibilities. Or, if someone is having a bad day,
How great will that be for conflict avoidance? Maybe Clint Eastwood could do the voice over for me.
Dr. E: (transformational moment)
Steve: Dr. E? … Dr. E? Got you speechless? There’s only one bad side effect I need to resolve. For some goofy reason, this scientist I was working with (recently deceased – he had a heart attack when I told him of my plans for the Donkey Mood Roof) insisted on having the material retain and generate power. Darnedest thing.
Turns the roof into a perpetual power plant.
Dr. E: What?
Steve: Certainly are sparse with the words now Doc. Yes, turns the thing into a perpetual power-producing plant. You can even unplug your house from the electric company. Therein lies the problem.
Dr. E: What again?
Steve: To be successful, you have to focus. I can’t be focusing on two things at once. And, do you know how much trouble it would be to take down all of those wires?
Dr E: Unplug from the electric company?
He was distinguished for ignorance; for he had only one idea, and that was wrong.
Dr. E: (devious thought)
Maybe I can help you out with the pitiful power-producing problem. I’ll see if I can get anyone interested in that dreadful problem. You might have to pay me to take it off your hands though. But, on the bright side (so to speak), it would allow you to focus.
Steve: OK. But what do you think about my Donkey Mood Roof ? Can you imagine how cool the heroes’ journey will be while we weave our mystical mythical symbolism throughout the story?
Dr. E: Absolutely. It’ll be filled with heroes and knaves, saints and sinners, sorry sad sacks and overflowing money-bags. Now, about that pitiful power-producing problem you have …
First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they attack you, then you win. – Gandhi
About Dr. Elliot McGucken:
Dr. Elliot McGucken is an artistic entrepreneur. He founded jollyroger.com in 1995, and he now runs over 30 sites ranging in content from the great books and classics to Digital Rights Management (DRM) and open-source technologies. He presented Authena Open Source DRM/CMS at the Harvard Law School OSCOM, and 22surf was accepted to the Zurich OSCOM. Both Authena and 22surf are aimed at empowering indie artists/creators.
Steve: But Dr. E … you named it Moby Dick?
Dr. E: That’s right. What do you call your corvette?
Steve: I call mine a…
MY MOBY IS BIGGER
Notice it’s bigger than yours?
Dr. E: And I thought I had issues. Can you at least finish my bio before you go off the deep-end?
Dr E. received a B.A. in physics from Princeton and a Ph.D. in physics from UNC Chapel Hill where his dissertation on an artificial retina chip for the blind received a Merrill Lynch Innovations Award. He founded the Physics, Astronomy, Math, and Philosophy Forums, home for discussions of physical theories of reality alternative to the controversial, yet dominant String Theory. McGucken’s Moving Dimensions Theory posits that the fourth dimension is expanding relative to the three spatial dimensions, and with this simple postulate reflecting an underlying physical reality, the model attempts to unify and account for the physical phenomena found in quantum mechanics, relativity, and statistical mechanics.Known as Dr. E to his students, Elliot has won the Tanner Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.
Contact Dr. Elliot McGucken: