Archive for the ‘Storytelling’ Category

326- Story-doers

A good story can dramatically change the course of any fundraiser, movement, or campaign.

The organizations, companies, and institutions that come out with the best stories can cut through the noise more effectively to ensure that their needs and concerns are seen and heard.

But good stories alone don’t lead to change.

If social or systemic change is the goal, we must ensure that we don’t get addicted to the praise that comes with being a story-teller.

We must also remember to empower everyone, including ourselves, to become story-doers.

Ht: Conversations with Marcus Eriksen

322- Interesting vs Interested

When you walk into a room full of friends you haven’t seen in a long time, they’re usually interested in hearing what you‘ve been up to.

On the other hand, walk into a room full of strangers; chances are, you’ll get a slightly different reception.

How interesting of a human you are, hasn’t changed – but how interested the audience is in what you have to say has.

That’s because people’s interests have nothing to do with you and are more a byproduct of their pre-existing priorities, values, and goals.

If you’re trying to spread an idea, the key is not to become more interesting but to find communities interested in what you have to say and spread the word from there.

Interesting is not the same as interested.


304- Presentation Takeaway

Whenever I need to put a script or presentation together, I spend days agonizing over how the narrative flows together.

Unlike an interview or panel, which are made from multiple short and tangentially related stories, a good script requires all the micro-stories to be interconnected and woven into a single cohesive tapestry.

The purpose of that tapestry: To leave people with one key takeaway.

Often, I make the mistake of cramming so many stories into the tapestry that it muddles the takeaway.

When in doubt, present to someone who doesn’t know you and ask them what the takeaway was. Bonus points if they remember it a week later.

292- Universal Laws of Creation

The most straightforward summary of the creative process is the journey from thought to thing.

For many, that journey is magical, haphazard, and unpredictable, but that process must feel inevitable for the creative professional who wants to guarantee a thing – out of nothing more than a thought.

Rather than imagining the creative process like a game of darts, where mastery is a question of zero-sum accuracy and skill – it’s helpful to develop a process that can only improve with iteration.

Like a string wrapped around a pole located in a bullseye – we want our creative process to gradually tighten into the perfect position so long as we slowly and consistently walk in the same direction.

That process, coined by Dave Zaboski as the Universal laws of Creation, is to believe, iterate, collaborate, risk, and complete.

183- Complexity and Storytelling

High stake projects are never completed with time to spare.

No matter how much time you schedule, how well you plan, or how amazing a team you assemble, some unexpected issue will inevitably sneak up and force you to throw your plans away.

Like an ever-evolving Rube Goldberg machine, every reaction is dependent on a previous action that leads to unintended and unpredictable downstream consequences.

The key to pulling complex projects off is twofold:

– First, you want to create multiple independent Rupe Goldberg machines so that it doesn’t affect the others when one section breaks.
– Second, you have to have remembered that nobody knows how many Rupe Goldberg machines were supposed to be there and what the intended result was supposed to resemble.

The expectation is simply to have a completed project. The rest is all #storytelling and marketing.

168- The Stories We Choose

After dragging two heavy suitcases on and off two taxis and two trains over a four-hour period, I was eager to check in so I could relax and enjoy the sunset.

Preventing me from doing that – was a family that had arrived seconds before, taking forever to check-in.

Fifteen minutes went by as I paced anxiously back and forth, watching the sunset disappear behind the mountains.

How infuriating.

But the story can be told another way: I kept myself from enjoying a beautiful sunset because I wouldn’t allow myself to let go of the need to check in first.

One story is a rant; the other has a lesson.


158- Facts and Feelings

Yesterday, I took a 3-hour walking tour of Lisbon.

We roamed through a myriad of neighborhoods, visited landmarks, and learned about the various characters throughout history that shaped Lisbon into what it is today.

As we walked on ancient cobblestone through narrow alleyways – our tour guide excitedly revealed bite-sized factoids and stories, creating feelings of surprise, delight, and wonder.

By the end of the tour, my relationship with the city had changed. An invisible connection had formed, not because I remembered any details in particular, but because of the new emotions and feelings that had been created.

As Maya Angelou famously said: people won’t remember what you said or did. They will remember how you made them feel.”

To change a person’s relationship to something, don’t look for more facts. Find the feelings.

154- Reputation and Narrative

Yesterday, I learned that Ryan Reynolds had been brought on to narrate a climate documentary that I was featured in.

Not one to normally be starstruck, I found myself unexpectedly excited and giggly as I watched the trailer. Something about the voice of Deadpool chronicling my comings and goings felt impossibly surreal.

After sharing the piece with my friends and family, I couldn’t help but notice something interesting: Ryan Reynolds got a whole lot of credit for just being Ryan Reynolds.

As the most famous and recognizable name brand in the production, the social currency and story he brought with his participation completely transformed the narrative of how people re-shared the project. #Stories are not only shaped through production. They’re also crafted through reputation. When bringing new collaborators into a project, it’s essential to consider how their presence alone might influence the narrative.

Luckily for me, Ryan has a pretty good reputation for being likable and kind. Even my mom loves him for his ugly-sweater fundraising efforts for children hospitals!


151- Specificity Matters

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been trying to back up Terabytes of photos and videos captured during my travels onto the cloud.

While every hotel, co-living, and Airbnb today offers free high-speed wifi as a standard, “high-speed” is surprisingly subjective, oscillating between upload speeds of 0.1 MB/sec and 100 MB/sec.

The difference in performance on both ends of the spectrum is dramatic: At 100 MB/sec, it would take me just two days to back everything up. At 0.1 MB/sec, it would take me over five years!

Labels, standards, and criteria exist to help us simplify complexity, set #expectations, and make good #decisions – but when they get too diluted, they lose their power and #purpose .

In a world filled with #greenwashing and false advertising, specificity helps. Don’t just hide behind a certification. Celebrate the precision and progress you’ve made over the years.

129- Stories and Legacy

Stories define our lives.

There are the stories we tell ourselves and the stories others tell of us. There is the #story we thought we were going to live, and there are the stories that we remember. Some accept the recount of our story as is, while others rewrite the story based on our actions.

A few of these stories may go down in history, while most will disappear gradually. Choosing which stories will endure and which ones will fade is something we can influence but is often beyond our control.

#Legacy is like a public Wikipedia profile. We can add to it, but the community is responsible for rewriting it. All we can do is strive to push the bar higher on the stories we live and tell.

ht: Conversation with Brenton Weyi

115- Storytelling on a spectrum

How do your memories of the past look, sound, and feel?

Depending on the medium we use to capture memories, how we remember them changes accordingly.

Photos and videos generally capture peak positive moments, while journaling might skew more introspective and intimate. Creating an art piece might immortalize a feeling while journals recorded for yourself are different than those recorded for an audience, irrespective of the medium.

To practice #storytelling on a spectrum helps us paint a broader picture of who we are, how we’ve lived, and the lessons we’ve learned.

#memory #story

112- Revisiting the script of our past

I recently encountered someone new.

When I asked him to tell me his story, rather than speed through a pre-programmed script, he took his time to slowly unravel it as if he were discovering it for the first time.

I wanted to know why. Didn’t he already know his story by heart?

He told me that he uses every new recount as an opportunity to revisit every pivotal moment in his narrative, feel into it, and see if that #story was still serving him.

If our perception of the past has the power to affect our present-day beliefs, maybe it’s a good idea not to get married to a script that no longer serves us.

ht: Navin Ramachandran


98- Fighting to be a victim

I have a hard time leaning into the power of self-love.

Part cultural, part upbringing – I feel more defined by my struggles than by my gifts.

To me, success has always been synonymous to struggle, while the comforting blanket of self-love – an excuse for the complacent.

However, when I was prompted to revisit my beliefs, I began wondering why I was trying so hard to convince myself that the only way to achieve success was to shame myself into action and humiliate myself into learning – as if I had no choice but to be the victim in a tragedy of my own creation.

But I do have a choice. We all do. As the author, creator, and producer of the story of our lives – we can end this chapter and start anew.

I think I will. What about you?

#pain #love

83- Meaningful struggle

Every good story needs characters that struggle.

Without struggle, there would be nothing to overcome or grow into, no difference between good and bad decisions, no sense of accomplishment or progress.

Every day, stories of how to avoid struggle bombard us through the trillion-dollar advertising industry. They tell us that our struggles can be over if only we had that one service, object, or experience.

But the struggles never go away, and that’s not a bad thing. The struggles we choose determine the stories we live.

Don’t like your story? Pick struggles that are more meaningful to you. You won’t be able to escape them anyways.

73- Base hits

When platforms like Youtube and Facebook were still in their infancy, “Going Viral” was the goal of many creators, agencies, and brands.

In those days, if you had a catchy story that got picked up by an influential channel, platform, or news network, the social proof and reach generated from the coverage would make others want to cover you. That popularity would compound until, eventually, it became a hit (or miss).

The business model for many brands and creatives was to create a marketing home run that would generate a long-tail of clients that would discover you through that viral hit.

Today, with algorithms as our new gatekeepers – virality lives mostly in silos. Not only are the peaks lower, they no longer generate the same long-tail of interest as they used to. The goal, therefore, is to aim for base hits. Simple, repeatable, self-fundable projects that perform consistently and stay on brand.


Ht: Pye Jirsa

70- Stories that shape how we think

Making a meal requires more than just the right ingredients. It needs the right tools.

The more tools you add, the more meal options you have. And those options influence what nourishes your body. 

Crafting a good story is similar – except that our tools are the medium and distribution platform. 

Our choices of tools change the stories we tell. They also change the way we think about stories. The way we remember those stories. And maybe most important, the way others remember us. 

ht: Brian Swichkow

52- Disproportional Grief

We’ve all experienced the moment when anticipation led to disappointment.

  • A birthday surprise, ruined because of a talkative friend.
  • A first date canceled, last minute after arriving at the venue.
  • A campaign launch, derailed by unexpected world events.

The accompanying feelings of grief, anger, and frustration come from losing the story we were planning on living vs. the story we now have to live.

In those moments, the intensity of our feelings is likely disproportional to the severity of the situation.

Before making any decisions or saying something you might regret, take a moment. Or two. Or three. Everything’s going to be ok.

43- Share More Failures

After a year of epic adventures, what do you remember?

Chances are, the events you remember best are the stories you told to others. The more you retell the story of an experience, the better you remember it.

Details you choose to include in the story will be etched into memory, while the omitted parts will fade away. Eventually, reality will disappear, and all that remains is the story.

Social media trains us to tell stories of our successes – the highlight reel that celebrates our best moments.

But those are the wrong stories to tell if we want to grow. Growth comes from experimentation, failure, and the lessons learned along the way. Repeat those stories instead.