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American mythologist Joseph Campbell was best known for his theories on the power of stories and myths. Campbell’s theory of the “monomyth” stated that all great myths throughout history are simply variations of one powerful metamyth. Campbell’s theory was even able to extend to our belief or disbelief in the existence of God.
Campbell wrote, “God is a metaphor for a mystery that absolutely transcends all human categories of thought, even being and non-being. It’s as simple as that… Half the people in the world are religious people who think that their metaphors are facts. Those are what we call theists. The other half are people who know that the metaphors are not facts… Those are the atheists.”
Campbell explored myths throughout history and diverse cultures and came to the conclusion that most stories follow common repeated patterns. In his 1949 book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Campbell named this pattern the “Hero’s Journey.” Campbell’s journey establishes both the power of myths and the universally recognizable and understandable identities of people and corporations.
According to Campbell’s theory, stories throughout mankind’s history have used this template to create drama, explain the unknown, and help the listener make sense of the world. Famous tales as profound as the story of Jesus and blockbusters including Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and The Matrix all follow the pattern of Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey.”
But more than religion and entertainment can benefit from the structure Campbell diagramed. Businesses, too, create mythologies about their founders and products to help create understanding of, and desire for, their products and services.
Because of this, I always find it amazing that capable business people who have overcome great odds, built companies, and really made a difference in the world can sometimes be so inarticulate. I believe that’s because many of them have yet to figure out that the best stories are not about the protagonist of the tale itself (in this case, usually the entrepreneur). Rather, powerful stories are all about how the tale resonates with the lives and aspirations of listeners. In other words, while we may want to hear the narrator’s success story, we’re really hoping for a universal story that we can use in our own lives.
When you do a good job of creating and telling your own tale, the people who repeat it will unconsciously modify your story until they make it their own. When they retell it, not only are they introducing someone else to your brand, but they are simultaneously selling your business to their contacts.
This is where storytelling magically transforms into story selling.

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