Monomyth: The Hero’s Journey

December 16, 2008


Joseph Campbell suggests in The Hero with a Thousand Faces that there were 12 steps in a hero’s journey. A similarity across cultures that reflect a deeper understanding that all humans share a common experience: a collective unconscious.

He believed that almost all nominally exterior journeys or trials ran along these lines.

Campbell thought all individuals should Follow your Bliss: say yes to you life’s unique purpose or destiny. A failure to say a hearty yes is the source of most individual pain. Everyone is called to be a hero in their lives.

Mythology or large stories or narratives provides clues to how we are to live our lives. Free will allows us to choose a life-giving or a life-taking philosophy.

  • There are real costs (manifested in physical and mental pain in your ordinary life) if you refuse your adventure or get “stuck” along the way.
  • I have seen many people in franchising refuse their life-task  (secular vocation from the Latin, vocatio, vocare: a call) because of their fear of death.
  • They end up losing their life in the eternally mistaken self-deception that economics or the majority view will preserve it.

I like Christopher Vogler‘s  explanation (below) although this animation is nice too.

The Hero’s Journey

1. The Ordinary World: Potential hero senses that something’s wrong and he might be able to do something about it.  A general uneasiness. (You have a problem with authority, Mr. Anderson.)

2. A Call to Adventure: It becomes clearer that you have to do something.

3. Refusal of the Call: The natural fear of something different causes you to resist changing anything.

4. Meeting with a Mentor: You are provided what seems to be supernatural aid to move you along in your trip. (At last.)

5. Crossing the 1st Threshold: Move in to a different world. The preparation has been done; now it is the start of doing. (We’re in.)

6. Test Allies & Enemies: You experience the new world; what you can eat and what will eat you.

7. Approach: Getting ready to face the big battle. Rehearsal. (Guns; Lots of guns.)

8. Ordeal: You face your biggest fear. You face and deal with your death. Test.

9. Reward, gifts  if you Survive: A new awareness. A re-ordering.

10. The Road Back: Call to come back to the ordinary world or face annihilation. Often a chase scene. (He’s beginning to believe.)

11. Rebirth, resurrection: You face death once again but in a more final, deeper way. Tested on your understanding of the lessons the journey has manifested to you.

12. Return with the Elixir: It’s all worthless effort if the prize is not returned for everyone’s benefit. (ie. Golden Fleece, Holy Grail, Star Wars, Fisher King, The Matrix: personal change but profiting the group by affirming and restoring life).

Franchisees: master storytellers caught in a literate machine

December 11, 2008

chaplinmodernFranchisees have primarily retained their geographically-specific, oral culture. As a species we have survived because of our ability to listen to and tell stories (a narrative), appropriate to a specific narrowly-defined physical landscape.

  • We’ve never needed to be that smart at rational decision making, especially if time and complexity are added.
  • We’ve evolved to look for dangers in certain places only.

The most vibrant research is coming out of the fields of behavioral finance, social psychology, law and economics, neuroeconomics, etc.

  • Basically, we walk around scratching ourselves with a belief that our rational brain (neocortex) is in charge, while in fact, 90% of what we do is caused or strongly influenced by our reptilian brain or the limbic system. [We think Spock is in control but we behave as if we’re Lucy Ball.]

Mankind has evolved primarily as a member of tribal structure within a hostile natural environment. Only since the industrial revolution,  has a phonetic alphabet gained its ascendancy in the West.

Our culture (Literate Man) views oral or tribal civilizations as more primitive, backward. Voltaire’s Bastards worked very hard to stuff the native genie in the bottle and they were extremely successful in doing so. There were some unintended consequences (externalities) though with this world view: slavery, theft, genocide, arms race, environmental collapse…

The printing press was the technology that revolutionized Western civilization. It brought with it many impressive and life-enhancing benefits. These, through a rational, Literate Man’s eyes, make them superior to the older, oral traditions.

The Gutenberg Galaxy (phonetic literacy) is an infinitely repeatable, homogenous and repetitive juggernaut. Franchise agreement is an example of an archetypal, industrial revolution machine. It is a colonial instrument intended to be used to control the savages (see indentured service).

A new technology (electronics) came along and now we in the West are in a postliterate age. And this scares the hell out of the self-identifying rational Supermen (ie. the franchise bar). They can hear the drum beats over at Blue MauMau.

  • All the franchisees have to do is to cast off their own blinders and assume their rightful leadership role via internet information sharing.

We know how to flip the switch, notwithstanding the huffing and puffing.

— Modern Times, Charlie Chaplin

Franchisees are similar to an indigenous people

December 8, 2008

barrieThe basic premise of franchising only works when local owners are more experts in their own business “landscape” than some would be some far-removed head office or franchisor.

  • In hardball economics, they must be able to drive their sales higher, faster,  AND at a higher margin while at the same time more than compensating for the increased costs of being a franchise (tax drag). If this local competitive edge is missing, there is no economic justification for buying a franchise. Period. End of story -30-

Expansion through franchising and a scorched earth military-style strategy are oxymorons. Thinking that you can destroy in order to save, is as much lunacy in franchising as it is in Iraq or non-traditional military actions. Killing insurgents willy-nilly, today, alienates those who you must co-operate with tomorrow.

  • Franchising was created to embrace, to utilize local diversity.
  • The top-down, legalistic cookie-cutter mentality that has taken over franchising is what is killing it.

I remember, with over 10 years hindsight, distinctly when my hints of a latent spatial strength, my geographic nature, came forward.

1. It was manifested in the fear I saw in my franchisor’s face.

Larry the franchisor had just told me that I should get my 68 year-old mother to sign over another $50,000 so I could pay my “debts” to the head office. (Long boring story…)

I rose up from my chair (we were seated in my office in house; actually in the house I was raised in) and said:

  • “Larry, that’s it. Do what you want: I’m going to be right here next year.”

I didn’t mean it as a threat or anything; to me I was just predicting that I’ll be right here and you won’t be. Until then, I did not appreciate how isolated, fearful and mechanical most franchisors feel.

2. I saw the same phenomenon when Nutri-Lawn’s lawyer (Mr. Tonu Toome) had to show up to my local Courthouse to plead their “irreparable harm” motion to enforce their non-compete clause. Nutri-Lawn had failed to specify that they owned my customer list and at that stage, I was not prepared to just hand it over.

Mr. Toome was asked by Justice Paul Herminston several questions to which this experienced Toronto lawyer could not easily answer. (Note to Other: It’s not that litigators can’t read. It’s just that they get used to not having to).

Since I represented myself at the two-hour hearing (this is why the injunctive hearing had to be heard on my home turf), I was thumbing through my pretty well-organized papers just in case I was asked the same question.

  • Justice Herminston asked me if I could answer his 2nd question as it appeared I was prepared.
  • After that, he asked me all the questions.

Justice Herminston decided that I pay the product tab but let me continue on in the lawn care business long enough to get to trial (over the winter and 9 months later).

  • When I look back, I think geography and time (my social equity) had something to do with being given the chance to live to fight another day.

I did not know Justice Herminston and never talked to him before he died. I suspect, however,  that I knew some people he did (very close degrees of separation in  a 50,000 population city like Barrie).

  • Relationships (blood, kin, community, adopted, group, nation, etc.) and land (franchising is all about real estate) are the very essence of the North American aboriginal experience.

Canadian First Nations have suffered over the 400 years because their culture (personal and group identity, language, culture, self-image, sense of confidence, leadership, myths, etc.) were changed to a foreign model.

  • Franchisees, whether they care to admit it or not, share in those types of experiences.

Language within Culture: A Failure to Communicate

December 6, 2008

frye1Franchisees and franchisors talk as if they are from another planet.

Language is one very important element of culture. Franchisees and franchisors have a much, much different worldview or culture.

  • I know this because after 10 years, viewed in a cultural or race sense, I should be defending franchisors not franchisees.
  • That the industry elite perceives me to be a Traitor to my own Class is why I cause some unease, over and above my willingness to share information.
  • I speak Franchising fluently, recognize that there are 2 founding languages that are totally intertwined and interdependent.
  • To reasonable participants on both “sides”, I am a credible translator and proven bilingual witness.

Outsiders must be quite confused when they survey the almost total of understanding from one side to another. In fact, they’re both alike in one key aspect:

  1. Franchisees do not understand franchisors (lack life skills that are trainable) and
  2. franchisors do not understand franchisees (no need to bother, until recently).

In this 37 second clip from the 1967 movie Cool Hand Luke demonstrates, the urgency of understanding both sides usually falls to the party in chains.

Every society whether ordered on merit, race or class, always (and I repeat, always) has an intellectual class: their teachers, scribes, writers, clerics.

  • Franchisors have the franchise bar.
  • Franchisees haven’t had anyone (until recently).

Therefore what we should be working toward is:

a sustainable economic model for the development and maintenance of an independent, international franchisee-oriented intellectual capability.

Note: The word “intellectual” should not be considered a “put down” and is not intended that way at all.  Any serious students of history know, however, that there are leaders and followers; early adopters all the way through to laggards, etc. But everyone must do their part, in their own sets of skills.

To me, franchisees must try to re-kindle their imaginations: What they really believe in.

And then they may start to gather together into small groups.

The fundamental job of the imagination in ordinary life, then, is to produce, out of the society we have to live in, a vision of the society we want to live in.  Northrop Frye

Silencing dissent via Humiliation

December 1, 2008


When you are a franchisee, you quickly learn what is and is not allowed to be said in public.

It goes like this, you can talk publicly:

  • 1,000 hours about increasing your sales but
  • 0 hours about how to increase your profits.

Those are the basic rules (norms, standards) of every trademark system that I have known.

These cultrual values are expressed during the regional and national meetings. This is what the meetings are principally for: the reinforcement cultural values within a group via a type of public demonstration or play.

Franchisors are very attuned to attitudes of dissent. They separate franchisor-friendly behavior which is rewarded and detect of franchisor-unfriendly attitudes and behavior which is punished.

  • They teach the new franchisees what is and is not to be said and done.
  • They encourage mentorship of new franchisees from someone who is “on the team”

One of the ways of showing the master’s pleasure is through the always-present Awards Ceremony. Such juvenile awards such as “Top Franchisee” or “Best Team Player, 2008” are handed out with the obligatory publication of the “grip and grin” photos. No speeches are allowed, however, unless the franchisee is one of the “anointed few: the royal priesthood, a franchisee set apart” (ie. a franchisee who is so deeply co-operative as to be a virtual extension of the current franchisor). These are baubles bestowed upon franchisees who are “on the team” (ie. acting as a franchisor collaborator).

It was no mistake that McDonald’s Canada rewarded the southwestern Ontario franchisee who was the token franchisee on the government-lead Franchise Sector Working Team. Within a month of the law being passed (the law was pushed by franchisors, not franchisees), this four-store operator won a major award: an important symbol to the hundreds of Canadian McD operators of how to properly lick the hand.

  • This franchisee’s policy competence was such that he went out into the hall to call his master whenever a thorny issue like “good faith” was brought up: he needed to hear his masters voice so he could parrot it in the meeting. This behavior was well-known.

It is very frequent that a hopelessly-compromised, compliant franchisee is forwarded as a spokesperson when a law is being proposed. this is where the term “House Slave” comes from: a, by comparison, a well-treated slave that protects his master’s interest, especially against the lower status slaves: the field slaves.

Humiliation is the usual punishment breaching the culture of franchising. The franchisee is felt to be alone (“Funny: You’re the only one who has mentioned this problem.”), the cause of the problem, lazy, overly critical and stupid.

  • To mortify someone is to make them feel deep shame for their beliefs or actions. New franchisees go through a type of “boot camp” (initial training) where their hours of work, dress, key personal relationships, etc. are all changed to fit the new, subservient identity called: a franchisee.

Shame corrodes everyone’s self-view as an autonomous adult. It decreases the person’s ability to resist authority.

The Courts: Guilt by Association This is the role of the Courts play in franchising since the Courts hold a monopoly on the coercive enforcement of the law in our society. Franchisees, lacking the conceptual and educational prerequisites to defend themselves, recoil reflexively at the thought of a lawsuit because they believe that only the guilty are ever sued.

  • The Court’s important and rightful cultural equity (respect for the law) is effectively high-jacked for the purely for the franchisor’s commercial self-interest. Since 95% of legal fees are paid by franchisors, their viewpoint is grossly overly represented (reinforcing the belief that “the Courts” are unfriendly to franchisees).
  • Based on a simple % of lawyers, a franchisee will always NEVER have a case to pursue.
  • The cost of litigation means even the most severe abuses are routinely never litigated.

No wonder I keep getting encouragement to keep writing via minor Ontario court officials: Justices do not like the law being used as a commercial intimidation tool.

  • Modern franchising mocks the law (only the rich can even hope to win) and in that way, is fundamentally anti-democratic.

Franchising as a Total institution

November 27, 2008

goffmanasylumsThere are different types of social arrangements or establishments.

Social establishments – institutions in the everyday sense of that term – are places such as rooms, suites of rooms, buildings, or plants in which activity of a particular kind regularly goes on. In sociology, we do not have a very apt way of classifying them. Some establishments, like Grand Central Station, are open to anyone who is decently behaved; others, like the Union League Club of New York or the laboratories at Los Alamos, are felt to be somewhat snippy about who it let in.

Goffman is interested in a specific type in this book:

…we find some that are encompassing to a degree discontinuously greater than the ones next in line. Thier encompassing or total character is symbolized by the barrier to social intercouse with the outside and to departure that is often built right into the physcial plant, such as locked doors, high walls, barbed wire, cliffs, water, forests, or moors. These establishments I am calling total institutions, and it is their general characterisitics I want to explore.

Total Institution definition:

…a place of residence and work where a large number of like-situated individuals, cut off from the wider society for an appreciable period of time, together lead an enclosed, formally administered round of life. Prisons serve as a clear example, providing we appreciate that what is prison-like about prisons is found in institutions whose members have broken no laws.

There are 5 classifications of a total institution. They are designed to take care of people who:

  1. are harmless but unable to care for themselves (nursing homes, retirement home),
  2. can harm self and others (mental wards. psychiatric hospitals),
  3. are a threat to others (jails, concentration camps),
  4. are doing a specialized job (military, boarding school, work camps), and
  5. are retreating or training (monasteries, convents, cloisters).

Please note that some establishments are entered into voluntarily (monastery) while some are not. Goffman defines, roughly, a total institution environment as one in which you sleep, play and work in the same place.

Asylums: Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and Other Inmates, Erving Goffman, 1961.

  • It is my experience, franchise trademark systems have many similar characeristics of total institutions.

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