*Note: Today’s post is powerful, important, and easy to debate. I don’t have gobs of science to cite for you, but I do have millenia of cultures and societies all using the power of story to progress.
The answer to all these questions is a resounding ‘yes.’
I’m going to tell you why the answer to the above questions is yes, but first, a story.
Once Upon A Time…
Once upon a time there lived a gifted young boy, who was masterfully creative in many art forms. He was wise beyond his years, and he was raised by a very loving family, who instilled in him all the (good, awesome) values from the bible.
With me so far? Good.
So, the boy grows up and ends up having a lot of difficulty in life. No one buys his stuff, he gets scammed, people take advantage of his genius.
Was it because he wasnt’t dressed as stylish as the other kids? Was it because he didn’t stay in school?
It was neither of those things, in fact, those things helped.
The main reason he was ignored was because despite all his advantages, he hadn’t learned the most important success-skills, and no one tried to teach him.
He hadn’t learned how or why to market his creations. He hadn’t learned how to tell stories that move people.
He was smart, he knew things, but he couldn’t get anyone to really embrace his ideas.
He was a terrible story-teller.
Success Is A Story
What does every successful person do that the average person doesn’t?
They rock stories. They live their lives like an epic story. They’re ‘worth’ writing biographies about. Not only that, but they tell epic stories. Whether it’s an entertainer like Lady Gaga or an innovator like Steve Jobs, they all shared (and lived) amazing stories that moved people.
How’d they do it?
They aimed to move the world and influence others, and they succeeded using stories.
I’ll give you the basics to get you started.
The most general – but most important – rule for a story is: It must be compelling. (this is also the #1 acid test for your communications).
I repeat, your story must be compelling.
If you can’t say 100%, with confidence & eye-contact – to all the world – that your idea is setup as a super compelling story — go back to the drawing board.
If your idea isn’t presented in a way that makes the receiver ‘come alive’ and instead they feel ‘bored, stale, and dead’ — you have work to do.
This applies in business communications, relationship chats, and even in textbooks and thesis essays (the stories are a little different, but they’re still there.)
Yes, it can be complicated. Yes, you might have to learn something or try again or study, but you can’t expect good results if your story is not compelling.
I have a genius-level IQ and I still spent 7 years in mediocrity, basically because I couldn’t present compelling stories.
So the question is – how do you make your story compelling?
There’s lots of ways, and I’ll share 5 main ones.
1. Start with an idea, present it with emotion.
A successful song has a catchy hook, a successful blog post has a catchy headline, and a story that moves people has an intriguing idea.
For example: "What if material luxury and spiritual success played nice?" – RyzeOnline’s core idea interests many.
Ask yourself if your idea is fascinating, exciting, and not-too-out-there, and then ask yourself if "other people" would agree. If you can’t say a quick and solid yes — back to the drawing board.
Ask yourself if it makes people curious to anticipate how it plays out.
Human DNA is wired to value fresh, new ideas.
2. Make it personal, but with ‘mass’ appeal.
Ohhhh no… not mass appeal! That ruins *everything*, right?
Yeah, I’ve been there. I was an elitist smart-ass when I was young – I was too good for anyone popular or successful. They wasted their money, they diluted their art. They sucked.
Clearly, I’ve 180’d on that.
The personal part is easy, it’s the deep, moving message you really want to talk about. If you’re not clear on this, check out How To Have Fun Finding Your Life Purpose (With Pretty Pictures).
‘Mass appeal’ is usually misunderstood; at least it was by me for a long time.
The reason some people have so much reach and people supporting them, is because they’ve taken ideas and stories that are personal to them, and translated them into something that does appeal to everyone, no matter what language, race, sex, culture, religion, etc. — they jam-packed their delivery with emotion.
Ask yourself: does your delivery inspire powerful emotions. If the answer is not yes, yes, and more yes — back to the drawing board.
The articles on RyzeOnline have very emotional responses in the comments sections, and I intend it that way.
Many people share their own stories here – and it’s not just "great post" – because the ideas are fresh, and they’re presented in ways that get people feeling something.
3. Characters we care about.
Why do we pay so much attention and resonate so strongly with big personalities like Barack Obama, Angelina Jolie, and Eminem?
When you communicate something you can move people like a boring teacher, lecturing a student. He’s someone we don’t really care about, we just want to skip class.
Or you can move people like a leader.
Obama, Jolie, and Eminem are people we pay attention to and care about, because they’re the opposite of the boring-ass teacher (you know you’ve had one or two :P).
They’re unique characters who transformed stuff that looked like limits and turned them into charming quirks.
Limit: "There’s never been a black President."
Charm: Support from Jay-Z, Oprah and a world ready for change embrace the freshness.
Result: A very interesting character.
Limit: "The UN won’t hire some scandalous goth actress."
Charm: What if she matures, handles her scandals with grace, helps the world and adopts a bunch of kids?
Result: A very interesting character.
Limit: "The world’s not going to embrace a white rapper."
Charm: Underdog keeps at it, driven, committed, and ryzes up, proving everybody wrong
Result: A very interesting character.
You know all the ideas I share on Ryze?
Well, guess what… I’ve had them for a really, really long time. The ideas I had are great, and I’ve been sharing them in lots of ways. I’ve written books, essays, had conversations, and ran another blog for 7 years.
During that time, how many people commented on my ideas? How many people CARED?
Answer: "Barely any…"
… but then, I had very little character. My language was dull and intellectual, my quirks were hidden because I thought they were flaws. Everything that made me interesting, I hid as ‘failure’.
So no one cared about me or my ideas until I decided to admit that I love timeless, sexy success, and shared fresh ideas about that through my own brand of intelligence-meets-party-rockin’ – those things made me far more interesting.
Who else in the personal development industry talks high-level, insanely articulate Tony-Robbins-style success with pop culture references, sexy imagery and cussing? (No offense Ashley + Johnny).
People care even more, when they hear I went through 8 businesses, 12 partnerships, and 7 years of mediocrity – peppered with homelessness, arrest, and betrayal. That makes me even more interesting, and it developed my "character" – literally.
Am I saying you need to play as big as all these examples?
No, not at all, there are interesting characters all over. Check out Toronto-ites Neil Pasricha and Nathalie Lussier. They do well for themselves, because they’re interesting, they embrace their quirks, and they feel like people we can care about and connect with easily.
4. Conflict – danh, danh, daaaaaaaahhh.
I used to avoid conflict so much. Really, I just wanted to everyone to get along.
I thought that was a great thing — until I realized this paradox: people need to live emotionally fulfilling lives, it’s important, and we can’t have full emotional lives, without a full range of emotions…
…and an emotionally fulfilling life means conflict is necessary.
It doesn’t mean war, it doesn’t mean violence, but it does mean conflict. Tension of some kind.
If your idea/story doesn’t stir up some groups, and cause some tension… you won’t ‘succeed’ in any noticeable ways.
It’s true in a relationship: no one wants to stay with a no-conflict push-over. They just don’t.
If you aren’t turning people off, you aren’t turning people on – so make peace with conflict and start generating some. You generate this best by being yourself and expressing your strongest, deepest views, on topics most people avoid.
Do it for real and know what you’re doing and why. People want something fresh, and anything new always bothers *someone* with authority.
5. Engaging big emotions.
Can a cold machine inspire people to action, or does there need to be a passionate, emotional element involved?
Exactly, emotion is key and it requires passionate, personal people involved.
If you refuse to generate and inspire emotions in your communications, you’re shooting yourself in the foot. Big time. If you don’t use emotional language, if you don’t setup dramatic structure, if everything you do is information and intellect… you’re screwed.
When you go to communicate something, take a breath, and focus on the emotion you intend to create, it’s what separates the powerfully influential from the easily influenced.
If what you’re inspiring doesn’t have some of this list:
Back to the drawing board.
The Point Of This Story
There’s so much involved in telling a powerful story, and there’s a reason why so few do it well.
Great storytelling takes mastery, and balls.
Study Kurt Vonnegut, Peter Guber, and my personal favourite, Karl Iglesias.
If you communicate, wrap your stuff in as much compelling story as you can.
Oh, and don’t act like you can’t, it’s too hard, etc.
There are story-tellers everywhere, and stories are the foundations of our lives. You’re born genetically to do this. I know no one taught you, but now I’ve pointed you in the right direction.
No excuses, get out and make your story count.
Here, I’ll even take care of the biggest excuse for you:
"But Jason, there’s no time to tell a story in a short conversation or a blog post or a tweet."
There are immensely powerful one-sentence stories, that move people very strongly, and blow most of your ‘tweets’ out of the water.
"For Sale: baby shoes – never used."
"Longed for him. Got him. Shit."
And Neal Stephenson uses two simple words to create his:
"Tick tock tick tock tick tick."
Not to mention, songs and poems are often brief, but the really successful ones nail all of the above elements.
Or you can even use videos, short clips can move many and youtube is very accessible.
I’d love to see more people succeeding with their desires, hopes, dreams and all the tasks they set out to do in the world. I’d also be way more interested to listen to people if they were able to speak & write with the power of stories.
And I haven’t even gotten into what it’s like to Live Your Life Like A Story, but that… that’s another story.
So, that’s your call — get into the comments section and move me with a personal story… I’m looking forward to it.