Categories: Speaking/TeachingUncategorized

The Story of Success: Workshop Abstract

Write-Up: Classic story structure is a universal template for goal attainment. We learn through stories. Cavemen shared survival strategies around the campfire, morals have been passed down as bedtime fables through the generations and communities have long reinforced core cultural values through religious stories.  Modern movies are no exception. Once understood, you can draw upon your favorite stories for inspiration and insight to help you achieve your dreams.

Purpose: This interactive workshop identifies and clarifies the elements of classic story-telling structure that students might not even realize they already know intuitively. By using fun and familiar cultural references, the participants literally go on their own “Hero’s Journey” and learn how to apply these goal attaining principles to their own dreams and goals.

Lecture: Classic story structure as seen in modern Hollywood movies (such as Shrek and Titanic) is used to demonstrate the universal model of goal attainment. Heroes have clear and identifiable goals. They make a plan of action. They break it down into manageable steps.  No Hero ever saves the day alone: they recruit mentors, have sidekicks and wingmen, gain insights from reflection characters. Their passion bolsters their courage and their connections help them achieve success. They stay in the moment. They recognize the consequences of failure yet keep their eye on success.

The Six Stages of Classic Story Structure = The Six Stages of Goal Achievement:

  • The Set Up: The Existing Situation
  • Catalyst/Inciting Incident: A New Development or Opportunity
  • Plan of Action put into Action
  • Complications, Obstacles and Raised Stakes
  • Final Push to the Climax
  • Aftermath (the Denouement or New Balance Achieved)

EXERCISE: Mind Mapping Your Goal: The group agrees on a significant goal they would like to achieve or an existing challenge they would like to overcome (selling a screenplay, booking more TV roles, securing A-List talent on an Indie budget, etc.). The goal is put in the center of the white board as the entire class participates by suggesting potential solutions and strategies that are “bubbled out” in ancillary spin off opportunities as tangential strategies are radiated out (facilitated by Heather) on the white board.

RESULTS: Heather shows the participants how to capture – and expand upon – the creative and collaborative process of brainstorming while teaching the timeless tool of Mind Mapping.

EXERCISE: Where are you in your story? Volunteers share where they think they are right now in terms of their goal. Each participant will mark their starting point on their individual worksheets.

RESULTS: This is a great benchmark epiphany moment that transitions to the next two exercises.

EXERCISE: Just don’t ask me to…Using film heroes as examples, we reveal “identities” (masks we all wear and fatal flaws we are blind to), our respective Achilles’ Heels which must be overcome in order to break through to higher levels of personal, team and company success. “I’ll do anything to achieve my goal, just don’t ask me to…”

RESULTS: This reveals the risks and rewards. What’s at stake in pursuit of your goals?

EXERCISE: Action Steps and Milestones: Now that you have a clearly defined goal: What Are Your Next Steps? Like any proper hero, you are bound to face a series of inevitable obstacles and challenges at each and every stage. What are they? How might you anticipate and overcome them? We’re going to identify and diffuse them. If you see them coming, you’ll be better prepared to deal with them head on and they won’t be able to derail you. We will detail specific, quantifiable milestones with specific finish lines at the end of each stage on our Six Stages of Success Chart.

RESULTS: This gives the group as well as individuals a bird’s eye view of their campus activities’ goal(s) and/or even their own personal goals – and how they all inter-relate. Looking at the challenges head on for what they are – practical matters versus perceived personality issues – enables everyone to stay “big pictured” and to respect the obligations and responsibilities of the other members of their team.

EXERCISE: What Would Failure Look like?

How it works: The worst case scenario. This is a profoundly powerful private written exercise where the participants are asked to visualize what their lives would look like if they don’t achieve their goal(s). Students have been known to cry during this portion and significant personal breakthroughs can occur. Those who are willing to share are invited to do so.

RESULTS: This can be very cathartic for the whole group even if only one person will share as it brings all those ugly unspoken fears and insecurities to light – and releases them – and bonds everyone together: failure is not an option. You don’t step out of the movie at the darkest hour. You don’t leave the theater when your Hero is beaten up and looks like he’s going to lose. That is when you suck it up and root for and cheer his comeback! That is what makes it all the more worthwhile! Passion trumps fear every time. This is an incredibly illuminating and motivating exercise to inspire them to proactively be part of the solution – as we drive towards our dramatic conclusion (and happy ending).

EXERCISE: The Happy Ending

How it works: This is a fun, private written exercise where the participants take a look at the best case scenario – what would happen if they hit all their benchmarks? If they achieved all their goals? How would that show up in their lives? What would that look like? What is their vision of that aftermath? How would it make them feel? How would it affect their personal life? Their self-esteem? Their bank account? The volunteers to share for this section have to be beaten down with a stick!

RESULTS: This is a very fun and cathartic exercise for everyone in the group because so many of us share the same goals and values – if dressed a little differently. It makes them leave inspired to take on the world!





Heather :