The story of your journey

(This is from Edition 14 of The Upleveler, our weekly smartletter)

"Your world is about to change."

You are heavily pregnant. You seem to be alone. You step into an unfamiliar destination. It's hot, it's muggy, it's packed. Welcome to Kolkata.

Or you are a young Hobbit with an eccentric cousin-uncle. A righteous prince whose step-mother had other plans for him. An office worker who knows something is fundamentally wrong with the world he lives in.

(You get the idea.)

So many famous stories begin this way: an ordinary person in an ordinary situation has something happen to her that kick-starts a series of events. 

Some astute observers noticed a universal pattern in these stories. Take a moment to go over this cycle:


Ordinary person hears the call, crosses the threshold to leave a comfortable but threatened world behind, finds allies and villains, battles challenges, and returns to the same old world (hopefully a victor). But now, both newly-minted hero and the hero's world are permanently transformed. They carry both scars and successes.

Can you match this to the Ramayana, the Odyssey, the Wizard of Oz, Sholay, The Matrix, the Harry Potter stories, or even a game of Mario? We are sure you can do this with ease.

Stories are powerful: they help us reflect, spread ideas, and they are capsules of wisdom. And not just the stories in films and books, but those that happen to you and within your families and teams.

A mental model like 'The Hero's Journey' helps us make sense of our own journeys, especially when one is a participant. 

Putting the Hero's Journey to use 

1. Use it to plan a story's arc. New to story-telling? Map the story you want to tell according to the elements in the Hero's Journey. When we were trying to articulate what Choose to Thinq was all about, we looked for the heroes and villains in our story. Our Darth Vader? The Status Quo. Figuring that out made telling our story easier. 

2. Recognise the Call when it comes. When things are going fine, we find no reasons to change. Trying to get your team to change or innovate? Want to build a new reading habit for yourself? These often fail in the absence of a motivating Call to Adventure. If you can't make the case for "why", it's unlikely your potential heroes will respond. So keep your eyes open for great Calls. And when they come, don't waste them.

3. Take solace and inspiration in times of despair. The Hero's Journey prepares us for difficulties on the route to transformation. Yes, we will meet obstacles, villains, and failure. So you'll need to recruit allies. Learn new skills. And hope for some luck. The stories tell you: it's been done before, don't worry. 

The Upleveling Journey

The Hero's Journey has given us at CTQ a framework of approaching change. Our mission is to help uplevel the world, overcoming villains like the Status Quo. We realised that the would-be participants in any upleveling journey go through these phases. It's helped us diagnose situations where people had not responded well to an intervention sponsored by a leader (you guessed it: they didn't hear the same Call to Adventure).

And that led to our own model for Upleveling (more about it here):


This helps us think clearly about a problem, use the right vocabulary, and track the journey. It has changed the way we help teams build a culture of innovation, seek excellence, and grow.

From now on, what's your story going to be like?

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