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With a ticket to ride, he wrote the book on how buyers say yes


Joseph Burke, a married father of three, had promised to write a book. To get it done, he jumped on a train and rode up and down the coast of California for nearly four days.

“I had to handcuff myself to the project. All I did was get on a train and write,” said Burke, 51, a member of Legatus’ Orange Coast Chapter.

The strategy worked. Burke’s first book, The Anatomy of Yes: The Story Behind Every Sale, released on May 1. The book shares Burke’s insights on the three-act structure that is woven into the story of every human being and company.

In a recent interview with Legatus magazine, Burke, who is also the creator of an award winning indoor children’s ball, discussed those insights and other lessons he’s learned in his years as a top marketing executive.

Why did you write your book on a train?

I had the outline ready. I was talking to my wife, and I said, “I gotta finish this thing.” I had promised a group of people that I would write the book in a year’s time, and I had to pay off that promise. So I took a train up and down the coast of California, going nowhere. I just knew I needed to be on a train with nothing else to do, and handcuffed to the project, and 46 hours later, I’d have the book.

What does it teach businesses about customers?

The basic premise is that there are five stories that have been told in business, no matter what the product or service it is. And that comes from my perspective as a marketing executive at two of Forbes’ 25 Top Most Inspiring Companies in America.

Basically, the human mind is hard-wired to a recurring three-act story, and that story is crisis, conflict, and resolution. It happens in every story, book and film. If companies and business leaders can understand how to look at their customers as heroes in their own quest, they can better understand what the customer needs.

You divide the book into ‘three acts’ – what are they?

Act 1 details “The Five Archetypes.” The second act is about stories, specifically my personal stories in business. In the third act, I basically talk about what people are going to do with their legacy.

What are the “The Five Archetypes.”

Every single human being will go through these five archetypes in their lifetime. In the early part of our lives, we go on the “Quest for Identity,” where we seek to discover who we are. That turns into the archetype called “Dragon and Treasure,” where everyone gets good at something. Then all of a sudden, as we build our skills and our professional career we get hit by something called “The Descent into the Underworld.” It’s a setback, it can be personal or professional, and we don’t see the crisis coming. The next archetype is “The Restoration of the Wasteland,” where we emerge from the abyss with this knowledge we want to share with other people and mentor them. The final archetype is “The Quest for the Holy Grail,” which is our legacy. It’s about what story are we going to write with our lives and what impact are we going to leave on this earth for the people we leave behind.

How did the three acts figure into the invention of Ollyball?

First there is the crisis. About five years ago, my kids were playing inside with a soccer ball. That was a bad idea. There were broken picture frames, lamps, and a knocked-over spaghetti plate that stained our new couch.

We went on a quest to make a ball the kids could play with in the house. We looked at other products that kids could play with in the house. We looked at 100 prototypes at our kitchen table, and eventually we got a patent for Ollyball. The resolution was that we found something that worked, something we loved, something our kids loved, and something other parents loved.

 Ollyball won a 2019 Toy of the Year Award, in the “Rookie of the Year” category.