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To Change Reality-Change the Story P1

If you want to change reality—then change the story.

Sometimes, it is just a matter of seeing the same story from a different perspective, sometimes the story must be told from a different character in your story, and sometimes, the rules need to be changed. Stories have power to influence, inform, and educate. Maybe it’s time to take time to re-examine your story and retell it.

This week we will explore how individuals or companies were able to move forward into positions of influence by just changing their story. Let’s start back in the 1980’s, under Steve Jobs, the Apple mission statement, which was his company’s story was, “Man is the creator of change in this world. As such, he should be above systems and structures, and not subordinate to them.”

I think, back in the 80’s, this statement was ringing true with many people who were now starting to use more and more technology. For example, when you bought software it generally came with a lot of technical instructions, same with the computer and its components. The joke being played around during that time was that you needed a degree in engineering or be a programmer to understand the instructions.


In the 1980’s, there were many computers: Atari, Commodore, Texas Instruments, Kaypros and more. Compatibility and standardization did not exist across the board in these early years.

imac-vs-dellBy 1996, Apple was in a mess. Leadership was weak, Apple was searching for a new OS for the new millennium, and internal strife for recognition and power had brought Apple to a grinding halt. In 1996, Jobs returned and immediately changed the story. It was simple in its design and complex in its operation—a new term “Simplexity.”
Simplexity refers to an idea, or concept that appears to be simple to understand, yet is quite complex in its design structure. The PC back in 90’s was not user friendly. The back of the PC had multiple cables requiring multiple outlets for the monitor, PC, printer, and modem. Using the computer was not easy for the average person either. Cryptic commands and symbols were common.

Apple since that time has changed their story to, “Apple is committed to bringing the best personal computing experience to students, educators, creative professionals and consumers around the world through its innovative hardware, software and Internet offerings.”

Steve Jobs
FILE – This 1998 file photo provided by Apple, shows Apple CEO Steve Jobs pose for a photo with an iMac computer. Apple on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2011 said Jobs has died. He was 56. (AP Photo/Apple, Moshe Brakha, File)

Jobs announced the simplicity of his machine with a new story advertisement– “There’s No Step Three.” Mac’s screen icons were easy to identify, and you didn’t have to type commands anymore—just use your mouse and click. Mac’s sales were soon back in the playing field and its momentum hasn’t lost ground.

A lot has been written about Steve Jobs, but I think in the end, it was not technology that changed our reality but his story. A story that captured people because they wanted to move from the complexity of getting the job done to the simplicity of being creative. So, how will your story impact the world?

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In Medias Res

It was not a mutiny in the old-time sense, of course, with flashing of cutlasses, a captain in chains,and desperate sailors turning outlaws. After all, it happened in 1944 in the United States Navy, but the court of inquiry recommended trial for mutiny, and the episode became known as “the Caine mutiny” throughout the service.

The story begins with Willie Keith because the event turned on his personality as the massive door of a vault turns on a small jewel bearing.  Caine’s Mutiny by Hernan Wouk.

These are the opening lines for the 1951, Pulitzer Prize novel, which starts the story at the court martial; whereas, the 1954 movie version begins with the 2nd Lt. Willie Keith being assigned to the Caine ship.  The screenplay builds the characters and the causes for the mutiny.  The book novel is a good example of In Medias Res.

Today, I will introduce, “In Medias Res,” or learning how to begin the story in the middle where there is an action or dramatic scene that captures, engages, and motivates your listener to want more.  In Medias Res creates questions.  Questions like, ‘What happened before this?’  or ‘What caused this to happen?’  or ‘Who is he?’  These questions create engagement and capture the audience’s attention.

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cumbelineIn Medias Res is a well establish style of storytelling.  For example, Homer’s Odysseus’ journey already is at the end when the story begins, what happens after this are flashbacks to different points of time, building the story, the characters, and answering the ‘Why’ questions.   William Shakespeare also used this format in one of his plays called, “Cymbeline.”

There are three good reasons for considering the use of In Medias Res.  The first has an advantage of focusing attention to the high point of the story.  A good analogy is on how movie trailers are designed.  They tend to place the audience right into the middle of the action to entice and motivate future ticket sales.  In storytelling, placing the audience in the middle of the action or dramatic scene has advantages.

The second reason gives you an opportunity to seize the attention of your audience.  But what is meant by attention?  The attention here means to engage or to invite a listener along the journey.

The third and what I think is the most important point is it creates questions immediately.  If the next turn on the road can be anticipated there isn’t much suspense.  Suspense comes from not knowing what will happen next.  The middle initiates the action, the beginning explains how we got there, and the end, which we are not sure, still lies around the bend unknown.

First-World-War-so_2786176bOPENING SCENE:   The soldier is writing into his diary his last thoughts before the final battle, he then stops to reflect on his earlier entries as we journey back in time through his memory.  Suddenly, we’re back, the battle begins.  How will it end?   Will the soldier survive? We don’t know. That’s the advantage of In Medias Res.

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Getting Results

 

Consider this: 

st-valentine-s-day-massacre90 years ago, On February 14, 1929, at 10:30 a.m. four hoods dressed as policemen, two in uniform and two dressed in suits, walked into a garage of a known local gang hangout.  Once in, they lined up, facing the wall, seven men. The four poser officers suddenly brandished four sub-machine guns and massacred all seven.

Newspapers called it, “The Valentine Day Massacre.”  This was followed by a nationwide  outcry to halt gang violence.

submachinegunIn 1934, under the leadership of the new President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt, the National Firearms Act of 1934, was passed.  Its intentions were specifically to keep the Tommy sub-machine gun out of private hands.  Interesting enough the NRA supported the enactment of the new law.  It makes one ask what has changed?gun-control-7-728

90 years later, on February 14, 2018, at 2:30 p.m. one young man with a AK-assault rifle killed 17 people at a local public high school.  Besides the 17 killed, 14 were wounded.  In 90 years, what took four perpetrators to kill seven men—now only took one murderer to kill 17.

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sparkyIn 1929, it was J. Edgar Hoover, who voiced the cause for gun laws and more power for the FBI.  Today, it is Al Hoffmann Jr., a real-estate tycoon, who in the past has been the major Republican donator, and who has donated millions to the party.

But as of this massacre was personal in his own backyard of Florida, he had decided, “Enough is enough!” and has written an open letter to all donators and Republican leadership that funds will halt if future candidates oppose new gun legislation.

I have interpreted Al’s message as:  No Bucks for Buckshot!

This type of genre is called, “Spark-line’s.”  There are three reasons to use it:

  1. To inspire an audience to action
  2. To create hope and excitement
  3. To create a following.

As of today, 100-plus student from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School took a bus to Tallahassee to speak to their representatives.  Other schools around the country are following suite.  There is great hope in changing the laws pertaining to assault rifles.

Online social media, television, newspapers, and talk radio topics are hot on this one.  The students are being backed by Hoffmann and other contributors, students turning 18 and parents across the nation are excited about making the change our nation needs to protect it’s future children and government.

Back to my lesson, Spark-lines draw attention to problems we have in our society and our personal lives.  The idea is to create fuel to motivate an audience towards a specific goal or action.

Throughout history, people have been moved to action even one speech.  I think of Mahatma Gandhi, Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy and so many others.  Spark-line stories are great to motivate engagement for all social causes.  The main idea presenting what the world will look like if the following changes are made.

I look forward to reading your spark-lines in the future.

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The Nested-Loop

In my junior high years, I loved collecting, trading and reading comics.  As kids, we brought our comics to school where all kinds of deals were made for the right story.  But, it was in my last year of junior high when my cousin Joel visited me with a special gift—a book.  He told me that as much as comics were fun to read he thought it was time for me to expand my vocabulary and world while reading science fiction.

s-l640My first book from him, “I, Robot,” a 1950 first edition.  This series was made up of nine stories which I savored every evening.  So popular was Isaac Asimov’s robot stories I continued reading them to Asimov’s passing.  I still have that original “I, Robot” book in my collection.

In more modern times, I have enjoyed stories from James Clavell, Michael Crichton, and Dan Brown.  These authors have a genius for weaving a network of stories into one complete story.  Nested-loop stories are the second classical genres I will be sharing with you today.

I saw Julie Heffernan’s artwork called, “The Scout III” (above) and asked permission to include it in this blog.  She asked me what I saw?  I told her, it reminded me of a storyteller who is creating a nested loop of stories within stories.  She agreed and granted me permission to display her artwork—which I’m most grateful for.

Speakers who perform nested-loop stories, like Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk, have the ability to explain a process while inspiring an audience.  The use of analogies and metaphors are also key in stimulating visual imagery for better understanding and comprehension.  In the end, the authors impart not only knowledge but wisdom, which the listener can pass on to others.  Check out James Burke’s, The Day the Universe Changed, and Connections.”

The nested-loop works like this.  You place your most important story (thought, concept, or idea) in the center and use stories at the beginning to draw your listener in.  The last story finishes the first story and ties in the center story into one neat package.

maxresdefaultWe find a good analogy of a nested-loop in the story of the “Godfather II.”  The story opens with young Vito Corieone witnessing the murder of his father, mother, and brother.  The center of the story covers the boy’s growth into manhood, where he becomes prosperous as both a businessman and a godfather. It ends with the beginning of the story as Vito returns to Sicily to take revenge on his family’s murderer.

stan-lee5Now it’s time for me to end this article, but I need to end it like a nested-loop, somehow bringing the beginning topic of comics through the middle and tying it at the end.  How?  How about—Stan Lee!

Stan Lee is known as the godfather of comics.   Stan Lee’s stories have moved from comics to television, to the silver screen; from movies to the game industry, now to online. Now that’s a real 3D nested-loop!

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Experiences Are Best Shared

This reminds me of a story when I was branch manager of a Southern California S&L back in the 1980’s.  My supervisor was Samantha (Sammy) Galluzzo.  Our branch was open every Saturday but Sammy was never available because she went to the City of Hope each weekend.  When I first found out where she was going I wasn’t sure if she was going in for treatment or testing.

One day, she shared with me the reason for her weekly attendance.  She told me that she had had cancer.  She recalled in some detail her weekly trips for chemotherapy.  She said, “The minute I got out of the car and saw the hospital building, where my therapy would take place, I would immediately get sick.”

She continued, “There was a young girl who brought me and the other patients blankets, magazines, and even games to occupy our minds.  She would be so encouraging always saying, “This will soon be over and you will be well and never have to return—I know you will do fine.””

Sammy decided to ask her what cancer she had beaten and her reply was not comforting, “Oh, I’ve never had cancer, I’m just a volunteer.”

Sammy said she felt abandoned at that point.  All the good wishes and encouragement that this young girl had given was useless since she never had the experience.  She told me that she made a prayer that if God spared her she would return.  She would be able to tell others she knew what they were going through because she had also gone through the same treatment.  She would become the light at the end of long dark tunnel.

Well, Sammy was cured and she kept her promise.  Now when she got out of her car she could stare at the building that once made her sick and no longer feel the sickness but the strength to challenge others as a form of encouragement.  Hidden in her thoughts were the hopes that she might live long enough to see that building torn down.

Sammy used Strategic Stories from her own life experiences to give hope and encouragement to other cancer patients.  She volunteered, brought in the blankets, magazines and games, but she also brought in something more powerful—her testimony and strength.

I recalled this story because Strategic Stories are more powerful when they come from your own stories, and if you are telling another person’s story then you must be able to identify with the emotions to deliver the message.

Whenever you think, “I’ve been there,” you are hovering over a story that holds not only your experience but your emotions as well.  Leonardo Da Vinci wrote, “There are three classes of people: those who see, those who see when they are shown, those who do not see.”  Knowing which class of people, you are addressing, while understanding the real obstacle restricting movement forward are all part of Strategic Storytelling.

See you next week with more Strategic Story tips.

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What Is Your Lynchpin?

There are seven types of openings a speaker can start with but given that I keep my blog to 500 words I will not detail them but cover the only one that pertains to Strategic Storytelling:  Stories\Persuasive.

A Strategic Story is a short persuasive argument whose purpose is explain a stand, clarify a point, or alter an opinion.  The story gets its appeal from the action which occurs, the struggle of protagonists leading to some climax, and the natural tendencies of listeners to sympathize or identify with the characters.

Great movies do this by placing you in a darkened room, accenting the story with background music, colors chosen, scene staging, close-ups of facial expressions, and other effects.  If done correctly you are entirely unaware of the bad popcorn taste and maybe that you ate without remembering any of the bites you took.

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Unfortunately, you can’t drag your client into a darken room and play background music as you tell your story.  You hold the listener’s attention through your voice, eye contact, and gestures.  You must draw your listener into the story with imagery and emotions he can identify and feel.  There are techniques and skills that you can learn and use, which I teach in workshops; however, there is not enough space to teach it all here.

I have a young friend, we’ll come him Erick, who wanted to start up his own business.  His number one problem was where do I start?  He was 22, had a Masters, no experience, but some great insights.    That fear of not knowing and fearing any direction might lead to disaster caused him to procrastinated until he ‘knew’ for sure how and when to start his business.

I told him there was a story about a king named Gordius who created a massive knot.  It was said, that if any man could untie it he would rule Asia.  Hundreds of men tried, failed, and walked away; however, when young Alexander the Great examined the knot he made several attempts and failed.  He didn’t know where the knot started or ended, the knot was most intimidating– then he said, “It makes no difference how they are loosed.”  At this point, he reached down in the center of the knot, pulled out the lynchpin that ran through the yoke that loosened the knot so that it could be untied.  While everyone else concentrated on how the knot was tied, Alexander focused on what was keeping it together.  In the end, what seemed so difficult was easy because the lynchpin was the key to the knots existence.  Alexander went forth to conquer Asia.

I then asked him what is the lynchpin in your problem?  Once he did he started his successful SEO Internet business and is successful today.

Strategic Stories must lead the listener through a short journey.  The end must always be a surprise or unexpected.  Timing on the end is key.  Because it is what lights up the ‘Ah-haa’ moment.  What is your lynchpin?

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Answer The Why!

Continued from Tuesday’s blog.

There is at least a good dozen books on the shelves today explaining how to tell your story for your business.  They center from writing a story to branding an image.  However, what is common in all of them is the story format they present.  Generally, a five-segmented format that consists of: Problem, Reaction, Action, Trouble, and Resolution.  William Shakespeare generally wrote 5 acts that mimicked these five-segmented concepts.  But his plays were 2-3 hours long and Strategic Stories are designed and crafted for minutes not hours.

While I really enjoyed Esther K. Choy’s book, “Let the Story Do the Work,” I felt the one element that was missing was the ‘Why.’  Choy did a great job in telling how to craft a story with some great examples; however, the one thing that was understated was the why stories should be told.  In Strategic Storytelling, the WHY is the most important element because it explains, teaches, or directs the listener to an understanding of his problem and the direction he needs to take to solve it.

It was said when you were in the presence of Abraham Lincoln you felt his full attention.  What he was doing was listening very carefully.  After someone spoke he generally paused before he spoke.  Too many people today are already at the gate ready to latch out as soon as the other person takes a breath.  That’s because they already have the answer and were just waiting for an opportunity to deliver it.  Listening is an important skill especially in Strategic Storytelling.

Listening is not a one-way street.  A good listener not only listens to the words but observes the body language (facial expressions, hand gestures, body posture) another topic I will cover in future topics.  Lincoln would only interrupt to clarify a point. When the person completed his request, demand, or anguish then he would speak.  If he decided to use a story for an answer he generally began, “That reminds me of a story I heard . . .”

LincolnIA

Lincoln used metaphors both in his negotiations and persuasive arguments.  I strongly suggest you read his Gettysburg Address.  A two-minute strategic speech that has been admired for the past 155 years.  Compare that to Edward Everett who spoke before Lincoln on that same day.  Everett’s speech lasted two hours.  Lincoln used a Chronological approach to his Gettysburg address.  I will cover seven introduction genre’s tomorrow.  As a master Strategic Storyteller he was, Lincoln ended his presentation with the most powerful punchline in history.  The punchline, not humorous, but so explosive it has been heard down the ages for the past 155 years, “. . .that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Lincoln focused on the living honoring the dead and why their deaths were important. Everett focused on the battle’s place in history.  See you tomorrow.