Everyone loves a good story.  Stories are what anchor your listeners to the main point you want them to remember.  A technique that is often used to craft compelling stories is what is called “The Hero’s Journey”.  It is an archetypal story pattern, common in ancient myths as well as modern-day adventures.

In essence, it includes three stages:

  • Departure: The Hero leaves the familiar world behind.
  • Initiation: The Hero learns to navigate the unfamiliar world of challenge and adventure.
  • Return: The Hero returns to the familiar world in victory to share the lessons learned.

Over the holiday break, I found myself watching an episode of the Netflix series:  7 Days Out which tracks seven days leading up to some of the world’s biggest events.  As a native of Louisville, KY. I decided to tune into the episode on the Kentucky Derby.  While I am very familiar with all the pomp and circumstance connected to the Derby, I learned something new.  One segment featured the track announcer for Churchill Downs, Travis Stone, as he called a few races.  I never thought too much about the techniques of calling a race.  I minimized it to a guy in a booth calling out who was running first, second and third.  Upon reflection, however, I realized that the track announcer is key to revealing the inherent drama unfolding on the track – and as Travis Stone illuminated – it is classic storytelling.  He broke it down as follows:

“You’ve got to first set the stage for what is happening early.  Who breaks well out of the gate and who falters?  Then there is the rising action when things start to heat up.  Jockeys start to ask their horses to go, and horses start to make their moves.  Maybe a favorite horse is starting to back up; he is tired, he is not going to finish well, a long shot suddenly surges.  All of this creates the drama for the ultimate climatic event, which is when they turn into the stretch.  In a race like the Derby, there are 170,000 people screaming when they do it.  The run around the turn is where Derbies are won or lost.”

  • Departure: Breaking from the gate
  • Initiation: Navigating through a mile and a quarter of track fighting your way past twenty other horses trying to do the same thing.
  • Return: Making the turn for home and crossing that finish line first.

This particular story takes only about 2 minutes to tell but it is a vivid reminder that every competition, challenge, battle – whether physical, mental or emotional – can reveal a compelling story that can teach, guide, or inspire.

Here They Come
(c) Dave Black