Chapter 19

More on Storytelling

No matter how boring you think your life is there is a story in each and every experience you’ve had.

Stories convey emotion and suck people in.

And yes, I am drawing attention to how the “Story Inception Method” fits within those larger ideas so that people can self select. 

Obviously you have to enjoy writing about what you do and the experience you have had possibly over a lifetime perfecting what you do.

This is not about writing in some dry academic style. it’s about writing as you speak. Short sentences driven by powerful verbs. Not long sentences packed with adverbs and adjectives.

Active verbs transform a sentence.

But really, my goal here is to awaken the possibility in you that you can do this. 

That telling stories that relate to the experiences that your ideal customer is living through is the fastest way of building a lasting connection with that person. 

And that…

That connection is far more powerful than any cookie could ever be… Because it comes loaded with emotion

When you spend time everyday putting words behind periods just writing whatever comes into your head, the practice will ‘force‘ your writing to become better, just like a gardener might force rhubarb. 

It is the process that matters. 

The relentless consistent commitment to the practice of writing.

This, of course, requires you to have ideas, which means that you have to set aside time to read; to gather specific information about your readers; the challenge they face; as well as general information which will add context to what you’re thinking about… 

And not just reading around your subject but just reading.

You may remember a random 40 mph gust of wind blowing innocently across the Suez Canal buffeted “The Ever Given” with such force that this behemoth was wedged across the narrow trade route for 7 days. 

Who knew that such megaships existed?

Ships that carry 20,000 containers.
Ships 5 times bigger than 20 years ago. 

It’s just one example of humanity’s desire to make more and more money while failing to see the consequences. We are ‘forcing’ the development of transport infrastructure without considering whether it can keep up.

A choke point that had 370 ships backed up on either side costing the Egyptian Government $13m per day and world trade a cumulative $10b per day.

Imagine a company 80% dependent on mobile traffic – A single point of failure over which it has no control – suddenly having its whole business model buffeted by the actions of a competitor to whom trust is its most important core value.

The stand Apple is taking to ensure the privacy of its customers is being welcomed. 99% of iOS 14 users refused App Tracking last year. Intrusive tracking by Facebook, Google or any other App unscrupulously collecting data on their users is being wiped out.

And we all know that Apple’s App store generated 80% more revenue than Google Play with one third the number of installs in the first quarter of 2019.

Now imagine that you are a coach, consultant or expert service provider dependent on Facebook for a consistent flow of new clients. A single point of failure you have no control over either. A choke point that could put you in ‘Facebook jail’ or close your Ad account for no apparent reason.

It may not cost you $13m per day but it could certainly shutter your business for a while which is why honing your storytelling chops and developing a walled garden of your own are so important…

Do you see how I did that?

A story I read on Flipboard on my iPhone with no apparent connection to the era of digital privacy or the impact it could have on your long term business has become an example of what might happen if you do not manage the risks you face.

You may be saying that you don’t have any good stories to tell but you do. You can pull them out of fresh air, just like I did, and use those narratives to deliver a pithy thought to you readers.

As Henry Ford was reported to say. 

If you believe you can or you believe you can’t, you are right

.Here’s the process…

#1: Gather raw materials – Go deep and wide.

#2: Work those materials – Think about what you’ve found.

#3: Leave them to incubate in your mind – Go do something else.

#4: Let the idea surface naturally – write your morning pages.

#5: Shape the idea into a story – Work at it.

.

We tell stories every day to…

Our wives
Our girlfriends
Our children
Our friends
Our colleagues

About almost anything…

The terrible traffic.
The crowded airport.
Your son’s football game.

The romantic meal on the white sandy beach on that tiny island you went to on holiday. 

We are constantly telling stories and have been doing so since the dawn of time.

Think small. Start with what is right in front of you and you’ll realise that you can tell stories about everything and everyone.

The trick is to relate those stories to the problem that your reader has then relate it somehow to the offer that you have put together.

Think about…

The books you’ve read.
The pithy conversations you’ve had.
The movies or videos you’ve watched.

The human drama you watch going on around you.
That thing that you heard on the radio or on a podcast.
That anecdote you were told on the way up in the elevator. 

There are stories everywhere…

The important thing to remember is that these stories are not about you. They are about the lessons you have learned and how they relate to your reader and ultimately, the process you use to achieve their outcome.

They don’t go like this…

The other day I was sitting in traffic and this guy 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.

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?

I share stories because I want my 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.

The primary goal of a story is to elicit emotion. 

This can be overt or subtle. 

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 outcome you want your audience to have?
  2. Find a story that creates context and a lead-in to deliver #1 (This rarely needs to be a story about you.).
  3. Explain the lessons learned.
  4. Show how this relates to your programme or container
  5. Call out your ideal client and deliver the CTA.

One last thing before we wrap up. 

The most important lesson I have shared with you is hidden in plain sight.

Once you see it, everything changes. If you’re ready, come join us on this journey. 

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