Jordan Peterson introduced me to the idea of writing about my life and segmenting it into epochs.
One of the exercises in his Self-Authoring Suite is to write about my life as a narrative divided into epochs – each one, a significant phase of my life. This is suppose to help with solidifying a vision for my life.
It does so because it raises the question: What defines an epoch?
What makes this epoch different from the last one?
What signifies a new epoch in my life? Which occurrence signifies the end, which one a new beginning? These were questions I had to ask myself when I reflected on my life for this exercise.
It turns out, upon reflection, these epochs – these neatly written stories that I’ve segmented my life into – are mostly defined by what ended them. That makes sense – you can’t have a beginning of something if there wasn’t an end.
And it was important moments that defined the end of many epochs.
Moments that were viscerally emotional. And that moved me and changed me, forever.
For it is the victory, tragedy and trauma of our lives that leave the biggest impact and have the most power to move us.
The moments that define our lives, thus changing its direction forever, are the one’s that we will surely always remember.
And we should write about them. By reflecting on our lives and writing out these memories, segmenting them into these epochs, we can learn a lot about ourselves and how we got to where we are, and why we are who we are and what we need to do next.
If we observe how these very important moments resulted in the subsequent emotions, we can see how they set in motion and defined the resulting epoch.
These moments are when you get your heartbroken, when you fail miserably in your career, or suffer a massive health concern. When your son becomes a drug addict. When the world-as-you-know-it ends.
By answering the question of, “what happened to you?“, you will find out… and make it easier to see what might be needed to do next – what will turn your life around for the better.
Epochs in Marketing
Similarly, if you’re trying to sell things, its useful to think of your customer’s life as occurring in periods of time called epochs.
Now, to look at it in the perspective of a marketer, every epoch in your customer’s life consists of a set of behavioral habits that are consistently performed over time.
Day to day, your customer does the same ol’ things.
Checks Gmail when he wakes up. Goes to Starbucks because it’s Wednesday and he needs to treat himself. Drives his BMW to work.
Over and over again. Day after day.
A literal pattern begins to form if you graph his actions over a period, over brand loyalty.
Really think about how many days he’s been pouring that same cup of coffee at the same time… Going to the same grocery store… watching Netflix 4 days a week to wind down after work.
For the most part, behavioral habits don’t change. Habit and routine rule us. Change is tough. Nobody likes change.
Your customer, no different from the rest of us, will go through his days in a sort of auto-pilot, where day to day actions are done solely because – well, that’s just how they’ve always been done.
We all display noticeable patterns.
How do we, as marketers, introduce our product in a way that will summon the customer’s to ditch this complacency – that sweet, comfortable complacency – and get into motion in our favor?
We have discussed how the epochs of our lives are shaped by defining moments that end them. These can also be called pattern disruptions…
To create motivation and drive. To fight off complacency…
We need to begin to influence your customer to incorporate new ideas into his life…at the same time, knowing that nobody likes new ideas.
Our ultimate goal is to switch off that default, energy-saving mode he may find himself in.
This is important because, unfortunately, this pattern, this epoch he is in does not include pulling out his credit card, filling out his billing information, and waiting for your product, excited to use it.
To create action, your message needs to be a pattern disruption.
Pattern disruptions are the emotions of urgency, scarcity, and authority. Its the emotions of fear, lust, and greed.
Pattern disruptions are big ideas that make a big difference to one’s life.
These ideas could result in actions like enrolling in an exercise regime, starting a business venture, or even buying a certain brand of toilet paper…
These ideas are powerful because they are built into everyone’s psyche… We are built to be drawn to these ideas through the triggering of our emotions.
Change is Inevitable
For a health nut, the type of guy you see at the gym every day and subscribed to a hundred fitness YouTubers, an epoch of his life may have been spent being morbidly obese.
This epoch was the sum of behavourial habits like eating as if he was a gluttonous slob…being lazy, and eating poorly… and being neglectful towards consistent exercise.
The pattern disruption was the massive heart attack.
Unfortunately for most people, this type of gut punch of sudden-change from the universe is what it will take to motivate and move them into better actions.
I mean, there is nothing like crisis to act as a catalyst for us to develop some sort of change for the better.
Certainly, life over death is the ultimate motivation.
Nowadays, the health nut gets up at 6 am to run.
In a way, he is running away from the painful memory of putting his family through something horrible again. He realizes that his selfishness in appeasing basic pleasures, instead of doing what is right, caused the misery and pain that he and his love one’s experienced. It burns a fire in him.
An epoch has ended, and he begins a new one, full of healthier ideas and actions.
By integrating the painful memory of the heart-attack into his daily behaviors, he now has the vision and the will to be victorious in the arena of health and fitness – an arena that he was once neglecting.
Of course, there are many people that try to solve their problem before the shit hits the fan – before the imposed pattern disruption.
If you’re passionate about personal growth – you’re one of these people.
Your goal is in prevention by meeting the challenges that life presents you and conquering them before you are forced to change. That’s a worthy practice.
Ultimately, both these groups of people have the same goal, though they just have arrived to them in different ways. One through wisdom, the other through pain…
Whether it is to run from a horrible memory, or escape a disaster looming in the distance, both groups of this market will respond to marketing that evokes a feeling of urgency and fear.
Through story we can communicate a feeling that change is now inevitable…
As your audience imagines this story happening in his own life, after you make it so probable in his mind…
Your product will relieve this feeling. Guaranteed. You will assure him that he is doing something to solve the urgency and fear he feels and he will need it.
You Can Do it, Too
There seems to be the inescapable need to constantly elevate in status. I hate it, sometimes.
Perhaps, the goal of life truly is to provide and protect for my loved one’s while also being as vain as possible about it.
Just part of being a man, I guess. So much our pain-points are determined by our need to be a provider and to display status to our competition.
This is an inescapable reality for a lot of men. As a result, many men go through an entrepreneurial epoch, as told:
An epoch of the entrepreneur’s life was spent being a broke loser.
He couldn’t pay for minor repairs for his car.
He went in the negatives every month.
He couldn’t do the things he wants to do, like vacations and extravagant parties.
He definitely didn’t get laid.
Eventually, these little annoying parts of life cause him enough pain so that he takes action.
He ditched bad habits, pushed himself, and conquered his weaknesses.
Perhaps, painful memories of shame are enough to summon his will to work hard, and do the right things.
It turns out, they are…
Now, it’s Lamborghini’s, thotties, and Gucci.
The entrepreneur gloats – Look At Me Now.
As a marketer, you come in around that part where action is taken, and you tell them it’s gonna cost some sort of amount of money that ends with a 7.
How does he know that he needs to take action?
Well, you did – and look at what happens.
Lamborghini, thotties, and Gucci.
The end of the broke-epoch and the beginning of baller-epoch.
Love, pain, and status are relevant emotions to every human’s story.
We can learn a lot about ourselves when we reflect upon how we deal with these emotions when they occur – how they end and start epochs in our lives. How did these elements change us for better or worse? What do we need to do now so that we could say we have learned from our past?
Likewise, we can learn a lot about how to communicate to our customers by reflecting upon which epoch they are in, and what potential stories can happen to shift them to the next one – one that involves our products and services.
Through narrative and story we will unfold our past, shape our future, and guide others.