We’re all familiar with the hero’s journey. We learned it as children. It dominates our storybooks.
The hero’s journey has been used by Disney Studios for decades. Every movie they make uses this format, and it has made them Billions. In 2019 they had at least five blockbusters based on this pattern, because we, as humans, identify with it.
In this story technique, your alternative health readers will see the hero’s problem as their own. They’ll identify with the same challenges the hero faces.
So this allows us to share information about how our products can help improve lives without making medical claims. We are just sharing a story.
Through our hero’s journey readers can discover possible solutions for their own problems.
Sometimes the hero finding a solution is simple…other times it can be quite elusive.
When a young woman discovers a mass in her breast…it’s a traumatic experience.
I was just 33. I was a working mom, in a tough marriage and my son was only eleven.
I was so darn healthy, I nearly cancelled my health insurance because it was so expensive.
So this was a shock. It didn’t feel real. It had to be a bad dream.
The days dragged as I went from general practitioner to imaging to a surgeon’s office for a biopsy.
Laying there on the hard surgical bed in a room so chilly my fingers felt numb, I waited for the report from the pathologist.
My doctor’s words will forever echo in my mind. “It’s cancer, are you going to have a mastectomy?”
I lay there stunned. I was too young for this. Too young to lose my breast.
What about my son? The thought of leaving him with his stepfather just couldn’t compute.
“I just don’t know…” my voice trailed off. My heart felt like it was in a vice.
“I’ll get all of the mass that I can, but we’ll need to take action soon,” he said gently. “Let’s talk.”
This couldn’t be happening…
My head tried to deny the realities.
The doctor wanted to do surgery quickly because of the size of the mass.
A few days later, I was in another office talking to a radiologist. “I’ve seen the report,” he said calmly.
“I don’t think radiology is a good choice for you. With the position in your breast and it’s size, I think it would leave you with more scarring than the surgery.”
He looked me in the eyes. “I think it would leave you with a lumpy hardened mess. My wife is near your age. If she were in your place, I’d tell her to have the mastectomy and get through the chemo. Then she…and you, could have reconstruction.”
“Let me show you some pictures of what they can do. It’s pretty amazing.”
That doctor gave me a glimpse of hope. Enough hope that I went home, scheduled surgery…and called my Mom.
Mom tried to offer reassurance. “Well, you remember Grandma had a breast removed when she was in her early forties.”
Something clicked. My Mom’s mother had lived until she was 94 years old. “Did she have cancer?”
“They didn’t have tests for cancer back then…but she had a radical mastectomy. I think I told you she always folded up a hanky and put it in her bra for padding.”
“I remember,” I murmured. My head was busy thinking. They wouldn’t have done a surgery like that without a good reason. Grandma probably did have breast cancer and then that horrible surgery. Far worse and more invasive than mine would be.
And she lived for another 50 years…
I had to remember that. I could do that too.
There are three phases to the journey
As a woman, mother, veteran business owner and writer, discovering and implementing solutions has been a part of my everyday life. Sharing complex “how-to” in a simple story format has been my stock-in-trade.
When writing a case study in a hero’s journey format, the one big key I want to share with you is this type of story needs a bit of tension, and suspense. It’s not always comfortable for the hero.
To do that, we use three stages, or acts if you will – the challenge stage, the road of trials stage and the resolution stage. Remember this format as you write your customer’s story.
Let’s explore each stage or act.
Act 1. The Challenge Stage
Here we get a glimpse of the hero in their everyday life. Whether in words or pictures, we see his normalcy.
In Disney’s Cinderella, we meet a pretty, happy girl who is singing and dancing in the attic. We learn that all the animals love her, especially the mice Gus and Jaq. This helps us fall in love with her too.
We get a picture of her life and how hard her stepsisters and stepmother work her. How much they hate her and are mean.
But Cinderella tries hard to make them happy.
Then the invitation to the ball comes – the call to adventure. It is an opportunity for change or to take on a challenge.
Sometimes like with Cinderella, it is a ray of hope to escape the life she, our hero, is in.
Other times, like in my cancer story, the hero doesn’t want to accept the challenge. They are afraid of the unknown. It often takes an outside person to help them face the call and take the necessary action.
Cinderella had a fairy godmother. I had my radiologist.
When you write your hero’s journey story, you too need to set the stage with images of the hero’s life and how he feels about it.
Incorporate conversation to make it real. Keep it in the story-telling mode. Make your listener feel like they’re a part of the story, or right in the room. I always say, tell the story, not about the story.
Let them feel your hero’s pain and angst. What are they missing in life? What is their attitude like?
Are they hurting so bad they can’t play with their kids or grandchildren? Are they missing dance recitals or baseball games? Did they have to cancel that month long winter holiday?
When you were gathering information about the person whose story you’re telling, did you record it? If so, go back and listen to their voice, their word choices. Listen to their emotion. Share it.
Does pain keep them awake at night? What kind of pain? Tingling? Aching? Stabbing? How bad is it?
How are his emotions and his mindset? Is he feeling depressed? Does he feel cheated from having any fun in life?
What is the trigger that made this hero decide he needed to make a change? How does he feel about this decision? Your reader wants to know this. It will help them decide to move forward.
Act 2. The “Road of Trials”
I can’t take credit for that name. Joseph Campbell is the genius behind the term. I love it because it really is apt for the journey our hero has to take.
He has made a decision, accepted the challenge, and now he must walk the path toward his goal…his reward. None of us can make that kind of journey alone. It’s not always easy. It can be scary hard.
Cinderella had the help of her mice and bird friends…and her fairy Godmother.
I had doctors, co-workers, friends and family.
With your client success stories, you do the same.
Share what he tried. Did he meet with a minor success only to have it backfire or go awry?
What was his relationship with his doctor? Was he helpful or just recommended prescription drugs?
Share what didn’t work.
Did he get bad advice?
Did he try products that gave no results or even made it worse?
Those are the concerns of your reader too…share them.
How did he discover your company or your product? Did someone tell him about you? Did he find you after hours of researching?
As with all journeys, there are sacrifices.
In alternative health and / or CBD, you and your product aren’t free. Is it hard for him to spend the money? Did he have to give up something else?
How did your hero find enough trust to make the purchase?
Follow his journey as he starts taking the product. Your reader wants all the details.
How does he take it? How frequently? How long to see initial results? How long to get him where he is today?
We know all supplements and CBD products work differently for different people. In this story, we can share details of how the hero used the product and its impact.
In every hero’s journey, there is a moment where they or their goal are in total jeopardy. The “life and death moment”. It may not be actual life or death – it is the point where he could meet with total failure, but persists.
This moment helps your reader embrace that if it worked for the hero…it might work for them too. It establishes hope. Trust. And leads them to their own steps to action.
Act 3. The Resolution
We conclude our story by showing how much our hero is enjoying life. Share what he’s able to do. Include the physical, psychological and emotional impacts.
He is feeling so great he had to tell others. In the hero’s journey, he is “sharing the knowledge”, sharing “the elixir.”
Done well, your reader has followed this journey. He has seen hope for himself. He has built trust.
Don’t abandon your reader here.
Include a soft call to action. A link for more information, a phone number to call for assistance. Guide them toward the next step you want them to take.
And my own journey?
Sunday afternoon, I poured myself a glass of wine and locked the door to the bathroom. I stepped into a long hot soak in lovely bubbles. Sitting there soaking in the tub I couldn’t help but glance down. Tears welled up and I cried for what I was losing.
I swiped my eyes and tried to pull myself together. Enough. I had to keep my thoughts on my son. I had to focus on Grandma surviving. If she could do it, I could too.
Monday morning, I talked with my son’s teacher. She was so sympathetic, a blessing and support for him.
A week after surgery I started what turned into nine long months of chemotherapy. I made every one of those trips for treatment alone.
My hair started falling out so I had it cut short. That helped with the trauma of seeing myself look older by the day in the mirror.
I bought a cute wig. I always tried to wear makeup so I didn’t “look sick,” in the mirror. It helped. “Look good, feel better,” that was the Reach to Recovery motto. It was my mantra.
Finally, “I think this is the last one,” my oncologist said. “You’re rebounding slow enough I don’t think trying to add more makes sense.
Tears welled. A wave of pure joy washed over me. It was time to celebrate! The nurse gave me a hug.
It was time to get on with life!
I started shopping for a plastic surgeon. The process was different than they do today, but the outcome was so great my current plastic surgeon said, “Don’t touch them unless there is a problem.”
Wellness became a lifestyle. I’m a supplement junkie now.
I worked doing permanent makeup. When I saw what a trailblazing colleague was doing, I was entranced. She tattooed nipple color onto the mound.
“You need to do this Judi,” she told me more than once as she helped me take this step.
She was right. I did need to do this.
I offered women the last hurdle to healing. Having those reconstructed mounds look like breasts with the addition of color.
Over the next 25 years, I helped hundreds of women get past cancer and back to life. Lots of hugs…and a few tears.
And I taught dozens of others how to do this much needed work.
Last year, I celebrated 30-years cancer-free in a Relay for Life walk-a-thon. Grandma must have smiled.
Judith Culp Pearson is a problem solver. She puts those problem-solving skills to work to help others. She loves to help people tell their personal stories, their product stories and their client success stories.