It was June 2013. Scott Oldford stood in the shower, tears streaming down his face. Minutes earlier, he had removed his mother from his modest email list. Because the message he had sent out contained a bomb. One that would shatter the veneer of success he'd been hiding behind for the last 12 months.
He was $726,000 in debt. He was not the wunderkind everyone around him thought he was. He had failed. And now, everyone knew (well, except his mom).
It was during that searing, hour-long shower that Oldford decided that he was going to stop pretending. " I decided I was going to let go of the "normality" of what business is and just be me."
Dyslexia, social anxiety, ma and all.
And that's when things started to really shift both personally and professionally.
It's the same shift Russell Brunson talks about in his new book, Expert Secrets, where he urges creators of all kinds to get comfortable telling their hero's journey story.
It's the same formula that the best screenwriters in Hollywood use to create blockbusters that gross millions at the box office.
It's always a story of transformation. Here's how it works:
The Beginning: Our hero or heroine is miserable. They've hit a nadir in their life and are broke, miserable, overweight, or alone.
The Epiphany: This is often a moment of crisis. Like Oldford crying in the shower and deciding that he doesn't have to pretend any more.
The Vehicle or Mentor: This is the new method or formula that is going to shift our hero away from their pain and transport them towards their new identify as a successful, happy person. Or it might be a teacher who appears to lead the way. In Oldford's case, it was finding his voice and sharing his story--the real story--openly.
The Obstacle: Pain, ridicule, natural disaster, injury. There are no shortage of reasons to quit (and most do). But not our hero, which is what makes the next part of this story so compelling.
The Achievement: This is where our hero achieves his dream and often exceeds it. Which is why they're uniquely qualified to talk about...
The Transformation: This is the real shift that happens. The internal one. The one that isn't always apparent after the weight comes off or the debt goes away.
How Oldford built a $3 million business from scratch in 18 months
"People want be seen," Oldford said to me. "And when you share the raw parts of your story--the parts that no one else is willing to talk about--that's when they feel like you can see them. That they're not alone."
If this doesn't feel like a giant epiphany, that's because most people understand this wrong.
"People share what's happening right now as opposed to sharing something that has already been processed emotionally," Oldford says. In other words, they share at the obstacle or achievement phase rather than waiting for the transformation. This can result in oversharing or content that falls flat.
By sharing content that speaks to his audience's pain points, and demonstrating both insight and action in the face of similar challenges, Oldford draws an audience of rabid followers who put their money where his mouth is.
Here's Oldford's formula
Know your audience: You can't be relevant if you don't deeply understand your audience's pain or aspirations. Dig under the surface--"making a million dollars" is almost never really about money. It's about stability, status, and love.
Mine the gap: People who are still at the beginning of their own hero's journey find it difficult to connect emotionally with you when you've made it. So you're going to have to dig into your memory and vividly, viscerally relive the gap.
What's the purpose of the piece: Since your goal is to stir emotion, it's important to always be clear about what you want your audience to do when they get to the end of your content. Do you want them to share their own story? Share your post? Buy something? Disagree?
Oldford usually breaks his posts up into the following categories for his own clarity:
- Personal philosophy (his thoughts on life, entrepreneurship, etc)
- Personal story or anecdote
- Lifestyle (wins, losses and the concrete details of life as an entrepreneur)
- Results (actual numbers, metrics and statistics)
- Question (to incite engagement)
- Invitation (to opt-in, sign up or buy)
"Most entrepreneurs focus on the last three of those types of posts," Oldford explains. "The first three though--they're the ones that will make people your people. Because those first three require you to bleed, they require authenticity. They're the ones to really master."
By using this formula for posting on social media and then systematically using media exposure to audiences of his ideal clients, Scott managed to climb out from under this debt and scale his company to just over $3 million in 18 months.
"In real world dollars and cents, we secured a $100,000-plus client within three hours of sending an email about an article to our email list--it's what gave him the confidence to sign the deal.
It's simple and elegant if not exactly easy, but it's a blueprint that almost any entrepreneur can use to transform a miserable experience to a lucrative win. Just be willing to bleed.