An archetype is a powerful creative resource. While the concept has its origins in Jungian psychology, in a purely creative context an archetype is just a type of character in a story. Rather than being prescriptive, I hope this exploration will encourage you to devise a set of archetypal metaphors that is congruent with your own entrepreneurial journey.
Great stories mirror life
Joseph Campbell, a scholar in world mythologies, discovered a single underlying pattern in all the great stories. Chris Vogler adapted and popularised this monomyth for modern story writers. The monomyth charts the journey of a hero on a quest for some desired objective. Several archetypal characters either facilitate or hamper the hero’s progress. These are the herald who announces a call to adventure, the shadow or villain, mentors, allies, shape-shifters, threshold guardians, and tricksters. Vogler argues that satisfying stories contain a well-crafted mix of these archetypes.
Moving now from mythology to life, Carol Pearson defined several archetypes that we adopt . We start life as the innocent who trusts everything. Then comes the orphan, who has been wounded, and trusts nothing. At some point a split occurs, and some of us become carers, while others become warriors. Later, dissatisfied with the status-quo, we become wanderers in search of alternatives. Carers become more warrior-like, and warriors become more caring. Eventually, a magician emerges, who understands that all is exactly as it should be. In shedding the driving urgency to change the world, the magician is paradoxically able to bring about more profound change.
The business lesson
So what does this mean for you? As entrepreneurs we are called upon to play a variety of roles. Embracing these to create what we desire can feel overwhelming and even inauthentic. In my experience, this happens when we fail to clearly understand the roles we need to play and what these require of us.
Naming the roles as archetypes and exploring their qualities and relevance to ones entrepreneurial journey is a creative way to balance personal authenticity with entrepreneurial effectiveness. To illustrate this, I chose five archetypes that I have found useful in my own entrepreneurial endeavors.
I borrowed three of these from Arthur Koestler, for whom the personae of artist, jester, and sage were central to creativity. For entrepreneurial creativity, I added a fourth – the merchant, and a fifth – the actor. Each of these embody different, though overlapping, flavors of entrepreneurial creativity.
The Artist is concerned with elegance and inspiration, and zestfully engages with the processes and products of creation.
The Jester sees the world in unusual ways, and challenges conventional wisdom by asking why things should be the way they are.
The Sage embodies the dimensions of knowledge and wisdom.
The Merchant applies entrepreneurial creativity to the pressing question of how to bring value to the world for the benefit of both the creator and receiver.
The Actor gives full expression to each role, embracing it fully. The versatile actor also steps out of one role and into another when required, and does not become so attached to any role that it is identified as being one with the core self.
At the end of the play, the well-rounded actor is ultimately able to divest of all roles, and authentically embrace the true self.