Week 1: Overview, Strategy, Themes

Week 1: Overview, Strategy, Themes

Welcome to Week 1 (of 5) of doing work in service of learning (Week 6 is Q&A).

To orientate you to what we’ll be covering in this five-week sprint, Shawn has created a forty-five minute presentation (take #4). It unpacks the journey you’ll be creating for the people you serve (and seek to serve).

For the next forty odd minutes, remove distraction, put headphones, click play and enjoy:


You should be.

We’ll end with this: we share the same writing coach, Alida Winternheimer, who has this to say about theme and thematic arc:


The intangible something that your story is about, such as grief, love, power, or the cost of success. Theme defines the primary issues your character will struggle with over the course of the character arc. Theme is what makes your story distinct from other stories with similar plot elements.


The main character’s internal change, or evolution, brought about by elements of the story. To have a complete arc, a character must be a different person at the end of the story than she was at the beginning.

The context of these two descriptions is for fiction but translates to narrative nonfiction.

Theme and narrative arc can feel like abstract concepts that are hard to reach out and touch. This is understandable because theme is meant to be the subtle, interior meaning revealed in the story’s subtext.

To help, theme can be thought of, more broadly, as an organizing principle.

An organizing principle is not the product or service you have for sale. Instead, an organizing principle is an idea (umm, well, ‘theme’) on which to “hang” a promotion.

Example: one of the organizing principles around our promotion of ‘The Durable Business’ course, was the idea that business is a system, and therefore, subject to the insights of systems thinking.

Conventional wisdom in our little corner of the universe has popularized linear thinking. Many ‘gurus’ believe (and teach) that the path to success is a ‘funnel’ that can be optimized one piece at a time (where A leads to B, which leads to C, etc.). But that’s just not how the world works.

That’s theme.

Post your questions below.— André & Shawn

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