Tell Me a Story

Thursday, Oct 16 (2020) / 9 min read

This email is part of our email series for our Fall 2020 enrollment of SOI, ARM, and TTE (October 9-19). If this resonates with you, you can find the rest of the email series here.


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Happy Thursday.

If you’ve come in late, you’ll find a list of all previous emails from this series in the P.P.S. section at the end of this email.

Today’s topic is storytelling.

It’s a central part of what we do and what we teach.

It’s also often greatly misunderstood.

We’re going to teach this from two slightly different perspectives because we’ve both been shaped by different experiences. Together, we hope how we’ve expressed the essence of storytelling and how accessible it is to everyone (no matter how ‘boring’ you may think your life experiences are) is helpful.

If this email connects with you in the gut, or heart, let us know.

Okay, first up Shawn:

Stories convey emotion and inspire action. They pull our audiences toward us naturally, magnetically, and powerfully.

We’re going to explain how to make storytelling easier and more effective. However, before we do that, I want to take a step back, peek behind the curtain, and shine a light on what we’re really doing here.

Yes, we’re sharing ideas we’ve been thinking about for a long time (nearly four decades between us).

And yes, we’re drawing attention to how the courses we have created fit within those larger ideas so that the right people can self-select anything that fits their needs when the time is right for them.

But, we’re also doing something else — something that’s more subtle, and arguably much more powerful. And that requires some explanation…

Benjamin Zander has been the conductor for the Boston Philharmonic orchestra since 1979. His staggeringly beautiful TED talk — The transformative power of classical music — has been viewed more than fourteen millions times.

To put that in perspective, fourteen million minutes is nearly twenty-seven years.

Toward the end of his presentation, Zander described a moment that changed everything for him.

“I was 45 years old — I’d been conducting for twenty years — and I suddenly had a realization: the conductor of an orchestra doesn’t make a sound…

He depends, for his power, on his ability to make other people powerful. That changed everything for me…

I realized my job was to awaken possibility in other people.”

When you strip away all of the details, that’s what we’re really doing — awakening possibility in others — perhaps even you…

These emails are meant to educate and inspire, of course. But, more than that, we want you to see the possibility that exists when you take action in the direction of something meaningful to you.

But, it’s not just inspiration. That only lasts so long.

It’s also about action — relentless, consistent commitment to actions large and small. Day after day, iterating your way to your unique definition of success.

When it involves storytelling, taking action — putting words behind periods, as our writing coach likes to say — is where we see our customers encounter challenges.

“I don’t have any good stories to tell — what do I do?”

We get this question A LOT. So much that we’re devoting today’s email to answering it.

It’s so (so!) easy to over-complicate storytelling.

Don’t!

Think small, start with whatever is right in front of you, and you’ll realize that inspiration for stories is everywhere, including:

  • Books you’ve read.
  • Movies and videos you’ve watched.
  • Conversations you’ve had.
  • Podcasts you’ve listened to.
  • Articles you’ve read.
  • Jokes and anecdotes you’ve heard.
  • People and situations you’ve observed.
  • And much more…

The most common mistake people make when using stories in their marketing is assuming that they have to tell their story.

Personal stories certainly can work, especially if they communicate valuable insights to your audience.

More often than not, however, relying solely on your own day to day experience leads eventually to ‘stories’ like:

“The other day I was driving to the mall and someone cut me off. I was so mad, and that reminded me how I used to feel mad all the time before I discovered X, Y, Z supplement … now I feel like a million bucks every day…” (With an obligatory affiliate link to that magical supplement, of course.)

Yawn.

If you’re regularly consuming information, stories are all around you. Stories need to be interesting and engaging, but they don’t need to be about you!

In January 2020, Impact Theory founder Tim Bilyeu interviewed motivational speaker (and master storyteller) Les Brown.

After recounting a series of health and other challenges Brown has faced (including Stage 4 cancer), Bilyeu asked: “In the beginning, how did you crawl out from under the labels people were putting on you?”

What happened next is amazing. Brown began to answer the question, and then transitioned effortlessly to a story about American cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead.

Then, he switched back to his own experience and finished answering the question.

The story Brown shared about Mead is vivid and memorable. It captured the audience’s attention and made Les Brown’s point for him.

It didn’t matter that the story wasn’t about him or that he wasn’t even present for the event. It’s a story Brown had heard, and telling that story answered the question Bilyeau had asked perfectly.

Watch that exchange here (through 9m:43s).

(Make sure you watch the entire interview too. Les Brown is a master of his craft and his skills are on full display. Their conversation is awe-inspiring.)

However, a word of caution…

Not all stories have the same power. Many fall flat.

How do you know if a story is worth sharing? Simple — how does it make you feel when you tell it?

Sad?

Angry?

Inspired?

Moved?

Curious?

Engaged?

Anxious?

Powerful?

We share stories because we want our audience to feel something. If you don’t feel something when you share the story, it’s likely your audience won’t feel anything either.

Stories also create tension, and tension seeks resolution. That need to resolve tension pulls your audience forward as if they’re tethered to a giant elastic band.

And, just like the punch line of a good joke, there’s a payoff when the story resolves. If you want to experience what this resolution feels like viscerally, listen to Kevin Costner tell Graham Norton about helping a difficult friend.

In less than two and a half minutes, Costner builds tension. And, just like Ben Zander’s rendition of Chopin, that tension builds and builds and builds until it finally releases unexpectedly.

Listen to the audience’s reaction at 2m24s — that’s what resolution sounds like. That’s what you want your audience to feel when you weave stories into your communication.

Stories are all around you, waiting to be woven into your communication. Start simple — pick a favorite scene in a movie that fits what you want your audience to feel and build a message around that.

Here are three options to choose from for practice.

Pick one that fits a project you’re working on (or a project you hope to work on), and see where it leads. Weave the story in delicately, or make it the core idea.

Hey, it’s André:

In November 2012 the wifey and I attended our first Mindvalley Awesomeness Fest, this one held in Cancun Mexico. It was so inspiring, so transformative, that we returned to AFest every year for years thereafter.

The essence of AFest was the personification of storytelling: stories coming together, new stories emerging, beautiful friendships sprouting up, life transformations, business opportunities.

I want to tell you about one of those moments.

It was so powerful: the audience was either silent as a mouse hanging on every word, laughing out loud, or weeping like babies.

Brian Proctor (AFest 2012)

Brian Proctor who was a few seats in front of me.

The speaker was Lisa Nichols. I had never heard of Lisa. Her bio said she is one of the world’s most-requested motivational speakers, but that’s not what I experienced. Lisa, first and foremost, is a storyteller. It’s through story that she motivates and moves hearts and minds.

Story comes first; it is a vehicle. Simple as that.

I’ll explain why. And you’ll get to experience what I mean shortly.

Lisa says it’s not just about ‘telling’ a story — anyone can do that — it’s about SHOWING the story. For Lisa, and how she coaches her students, the ‘showing’ part is mostly visual (on stage):

Moving.

Message cadence.

Pausing for effect.

Facial expressions.

Arm movements.

Role-playing. Etc.

The takeaway for me, though, was how she uses story to ‘drive’ the audience to the point she’s teaching. Using story to create the context for a message that will be delivered later.

Although Lisa didn’t present it this way, the ‘showing’ can be done using just words on a page (or email). No different from reading a well-written book.

Language is the link between you and everything you need/want/desire.

Putting words behind periods in the right way, can be magical. It can inspire, move, motivate action.

Within the 52 minute video below, Lisa tells three stories. Each one has a ‘message,’ which she then explains afterward (how she takes ideas and experiences that later become stories she uses in her marketing).

This presentation was a real treat. Anita and I were seated at the back of the stage.

My friend Michael Hauge says the primary goal of a story is to elicit emotion. This can be overt, like with Lisa Nichols, or subtle like this email. Both work because story is the (emotional) delivery vehicle for the (marketing) message.

A simple workflow I use goes like this:

  1. What is the marketing message you want to send?
  2. Find a story that creates context and a lead-in to deliver #1 (and as Shawn masterfully demonstrated, this rarely needs to be your story).

One last thing before we wrap up today’s email. The most important lesson we shared today is hidden in plain sight. Once you see it, everything changes.

If you’re ready, come join us on this journey.

More tomorrow…

— André & Shawn

André ChaperonShawn Twing

P.S. Enrollment is open for AutoResponder Madness, Sphere of Influence, and The Traffic Engine through midnight PST, Monday, October 19, 2020.

This will be the last enrollment for these courses in 2020.

If you plan to enroll in multiple courses, you’ll receive a 10% discount for two, and a 15% discount for three. You can find enrollment info here.

(Note: You also qualify for these discounts if you’re already a customer who owns one or two courses from a previous purchase.)

P.P.S.

Here is everything we’ve sent over the past two+ weeks.

If you have the motivation, there is a masterclass of free education if you pick through the emails below (including those we sent in April for TTE and in summer for SOI/ARM). The reason is simple: we practice what we teach. By just paying attention, you’ll see us do things that will show up in our paid courses.

P.P.P.S. — Extra Credits:

For your convenience we’ve compiled an archive of all our enrollment emails from 2020 in one place:

https://tinylittlebusinesses.com/email-archive/