How Going To Work Is Like A Hollywood Movie

May 10, 2017 / The Twelve Mysteries / storytelling

Could we look at going to work as a hero’s journey, just like in the movies? How would that go?

Hollywood movies like Joy follow the arc of the Hero’s Journey, popularized by Joseph Campbell, who first identified this universal pattern in mythological stories from around the world. Campbell’s writings greatly influenced the direction of my art—which is all about creating stories with images.

The Hero’s Journey generally goes through three stages: The Departure, The Initiation, and The Return. The parts can also be referred to as The Hook, The Build, and The Payoff.

The Departure

The hero in the movie is first portrayed in her Ordinary World. This setup is essential because of contrast. Contrast is important in visual art. It’s the same thing in storytelling. The story must show that the hero improves her life in some way by the end of the movie. If it doesn’t, then it’s as if nothing happened. Why would you watch that movie? There has to be contrast. That’s the purpose of the first part of the film.

Then something happens to upend this Ordinary World.

The alarm goes off.

This is called the Inciting Incident. It’s the moment in the story where the protagonist, that’s you, gets an intention to get up and go to work.

So you take a shower and put on your business clothes and go to work.

Usually, at the beginning of the movie, there is a scene where we get to know something that the protagonist wants–some goal she wants to accomplish for the day. This could be the successful completion of a meeting, a spreadsheet, or a memo.

But things are against her.

The Initiation

In comes all this urgent matters that have nothing to do with her goal. Emails, co-workers complaining or gossiping, immediate things that have nothing to do with her project. What happens then? Well, she gets sidetracked.

So there is a series of escalating “battles,” one larger than the other. The hero will try one thing, and she fails, then she has to try something else. These escalating actions culminate in a climactic scene, where the hero sits down, closes the door, and gets down to work.

And that simply is what is different between a Hollywood story and the hero’s journey in the office.

The climactic scene at work is actually a quiet one. It’s an office worker closing the door and getting to work and focusing on ONE THING. No multi-tasking. That doesn’t work anyway, according to the New York Times.

The hero’s journey at work is different from a Hollywood movie.

Now at the end of a Hollywood story, the protagonist slays the monster and comes out victorious. In the office story, she makes an excellent presentation, finishes a significant milestone in a project, or finishes a memo. This is the climax. All is right in the world.

The hero then returns home. This is the part of the story, where it’s 5pm, and it’s time to go home.

But before she can leave, something comes up. A co-worker has a new information request. She could stay and work on it, or she could say, “there will be another day.”

I hope you choose the right answer.

The Return

The hero, after battling monsters and coming out victorious, heads home with a boon (something helpful or beneficial), that she shares with her community. Something she learned at work. She shares it with her partner, her kids, her family. And the world is never the same after that.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, in storytelling, the ending of the story must end up at a slightly higher level than the beginning. If it doesn’t, then what was the whole point of the adventure?

And that is where the problem is to start with, isn’t it?

Why We Hate Our Job So Much

The day job is seen as repeating, and you end up in the same place as before.

Could this be why you hate your job so much? And why sitting in the meeting seems so dreary and wrong, because you think that you’re not at a higher place than you were before?

“What did you do today?” is usually met with


Was it really nothing?

Is there a boon in your daily hero’s journey that you could share with your family?

Could you look at going to work every day as a Hero’s Journey?

How Creative Are You At Work? Here are Two Indicators

To Be A Leader or Follower At Work

My Inciting Incident for Storytelling
The 5 Components of Myth
The Five Laws of Storytelling

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