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Am I Telling a Narrative or a Business Story?

Am I Telling a Narrative or a Business Story?

A common mistake is to assume everything is a story.  A story is a series of episodic, influential, connected events that changes a person’s life.  More simply put, a story is a journey.  And a journey has conflict and energy and obstacles and stakes and things that create a struggle between the dynamic positive and negative changes of life! We will break down this definition in a later post but let’s assume for the sake of our discussion here this definition is in deed accurate. The key point to understand here is that a story revolves around change. Positive change and negative change. If there’s no change, there’s no story. If you’re not telling or hearing a story then you are most likely experiencing a narrative. All stories have narratives but all narratives are not a story.

If you’re not telling or hearing a story then you are most likely experiencing a narrative. All stories have narratives but all narratives are not a story.

A story follows a very specific form and structure and so a lot of times when someone says, “tell me the story of your company” the other person begin to immediately throw-up and rattle off a lot of different things. Reciting your org chart to someone who asks that question is a narrative. “Well, we have a CEO. He oversees the CMO, the CTO, the CIO, the CFO.” Describing how your assembly line process and works is a narrative. Story is not a list of things in you life. Here’s another example. Imagine someone asked me to tell them the story of the United States of America.  I start off by telling them about our Presidents. “We started the country with our first President George Washington then there was John Adams, then Thomas Jefferson, moved into JFK, then we there was George Bush, moved into Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and then we finished with Donald Trump”.   That is not a story.   That is a list. That’s not the story of America. That’s a narrative. It’s very common to mistake chronology as a story but instead is a narrative. A good way to spot a “chronology narrative” is when someone is consistently saying, “and then”, in their story. So for example today I got up, and then I had coffee, and then I went to yoga and then I came home and then I wrote this blog post and then I took the kids out to the Boulder Creek Fest. That is not a story. That is a narrative. Your resume is also a narrative and not a story. “Hey, I worked at this tech company. Then I worked for Oliver Stone. Then I worked for 20th Century Fox. Then I worked over at WILDSTORY. Then I started WILDSTORY. “ Again, that’s a narrative and not a story.

Remember, a story is a journey. And a journey has conflict and energy and obstacles and stakes and things that create a struggle between the dynamic positive and negative changes in life.

Do any of these narrative examples fit that description? No they do not. One of the problems with story is we all think we can tell great stories. And here’s the conundrum. We can. We have the ability. Most of us were amazing storytellers as children but have lost the skill of storytelling as we move into business communications and marketing jargon. We all have the ability to tell electric, life changing stories but it is also important to understand the craft and form of storytelling to maximize its effect in our businesses. When I was working for Oliver Stone, as a story editor we used to get hundreds of scripts a week submitted for consideration. Turns out  everyone who has seen a movie in their life assumes that they can write a movie. 99% of these scripts and stories were no good. And the simple reason is not the story they chose to tell, but how they told it.  First rule in storytelling is to tell something personal, something you know — and they all did this. Usually some sort of life story. But…these aspiring storytellers never studied the craft and the skill and the structure of a great story. So ultimately their script would fall flat and be rejected. I’ve had the experience of reading thousands of bad stories as well as hundreds of great ones. I hope that now you’ll notice the differentiation between story and narrative in your business storytelling. Some tips to make sure your business story isn’t turning into a narrative:

  1. Story has a beginning, middle, and end.
  2. Make sure there’s a protagonist or hero.  And often it’s you when it should be your customer.
  3. Create empathy by developing a human connection.  Empathy means “like me”.
  4. There’s no drama.  Everything is connected in a causal sequence.
  5. Create suspense by not summarizing everything. Let it unfold naturally.
  6. Create clear stakes. What happens if this plan doesn’t work out? What happens if it does?
  7. Create emotion by understanding your audience and what matters to them.
  8. Create a “move to action”, what do you want your audience to do after hearing your story? What is your story about?

Have questions about narrative vs story? Let’s start the conversation by leaving your comments below.

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Top 13 Books for Business Storytelling

Top 13 Books for Business Storytelling

Top 13 Books for Business Storytelling


“What are the best books on storytelling for my business?”  OR “I’m discovering how powerful storytelling can be for my business, but I want to learn more. What books should I read?” I’ve been hearing these questions more and more.  The challenge with recommending books always comes back to a question of my own, “What do you want to know about story? The science, the structure, what stories to tell, how to tell a great story, how to use them in your business, etc?”  The study and practice of story is a science, art, craft, and passion. Just like if I asked my favorite musician to recommend the best books on music, I’m sure they’d have a list of their own questions and a laundry list of books to recommend. I am approaching this list to include what I think would be a well rounded list of getting anyone up to speed and schooled up to a story pro.  This is what I would personally recommend and why — in no particular order:

1. The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell


It all starts here, with Joseph Campbell and The Hero with a Thousand Faces. First published in 1949, Campbell was the first to identify the concept of the mono-myth and mythic structure of stories.  Anyone that has ever heard of the Hero’s Journey has this book to thank. It’s a foundational text that I consider the modern day “bible” for storytellers.  If you’re a story nerd this is a must read. But I warn you – it’s a dry read. After reading I thought to myself “Well, now I can say I read that…but it didn’t change my world.”  If you are a Star Wars fan, thank Campbell as George Lucas has cited Campbell’s influence on the Star Wars films. That movie follows Campbell’s Hero’s Journey almost to a T. Campbell’s theories and ideas are much better relayed into modern times in the books by Margaret Mark and Carol S. Pearson described below. If you’re short on time, read those. If you have to notch the master’s books off your list like I do, start here.


Why do I want to read this?: You are the type of person who needs to know where it all began and appreciates foundational works and insights. You want to be able to brag to your friends while sipping craft beer or kombucha out of a mason jar that you’ve read Joseph Campbell and find him to be the grandfather of modern storytelling. This also will make you feel like you’re back in college taking a semester of Joseph Campbell – which is like having a Delorean time machine in a way.


2. The Hero & The Outlaw by Margaret Mark & Carol S. Pearson


A deep dive on archetypes is one of the most overlooked areas of “story” study and books. For some reason, most people think archetypes are specific to branding.  However, the idea of applying archetypes was popularized by Joseph Campbell in The Hero with A Thousand Faces as they apply to stories. Whenever, we start to build out story campaigns we start with archetypes – it’s akin to setting the genre and world of your movie.  I want to know, am I going to see a comedy, action-adventure, 


romantic comedy, etc? Just by setting the stage I am prepared to accept the format of these genres. Your business audience is looking for the same thing – to know what to expect so they can received your message. The Hero and the Outlaw by Margaret Mark & Carol S Pearson is pretty much THE authority on the topic of using archetypes in modern day messaging. I think Margaret Mark & Carol S. Pearson have crushed it on this topic. Looking to go to level two on archetypes? Also check out Awakening The Heroes Within by Carol S. Pearson.

Why do I want to read this?: You are looking for the definitive source on archetypes, what they mean, and how to apply them to your marketing or branding.  This is akin to identifying your genre or world in storytelling. You can’t tell a good story unless you know either of these. If you want to make one immediate, impactful change to your marketing archetypes are the best place to start.

3. STORY by Robert McKee


If you’ve been a screenwriter in the last 30 years you know who McKee is – and you probably owe him your career. McKee is known as a screenwriting teacher and guru. He has long taught in person seminars on screenwriting and story structure long before this info was commonly available on the internet.  McKee loves to go deep on story structure, breaking it down to the parts of parts.  I was lucky enough to study with him in my screenwriting days. And most recently, McKee is applying his screenwriting story techniques to the business world.  I was fortunate to spend a day with him a couple of weeks ago in New York City in a class on storytelling for business. Another book that gets geeky on story structure.  Great for an overview of understanding the nuances of what drives a story and how a story should turn.  A word of caution though – this stuff may become a bit overwhelming. I recently presented on these structure techniques with McKee’s exact charts and I think I left everyone more confused than not. But if you like to go deep, the teachings are pure gold.

Why do I want to read this?: You are movie lover or film buff. Or you’ve always dreamed yourself as a screenwriter. This is not just for screenwriters only howvever. If you want to nerd out on story structure and get an inside look on how Hollywood tells a story read this. I keep a copy of this near my desk at all times and reference it often.

4. Wired For Story by Lisa Cron


When applying story to our businesses knowing that we connect emotionally is great but we also want to know WHY story is the #1 communication tool in our arsenal.  Lisa Cron has written a text that covers this topic without being dry or putting me to sleep. She does a great job of explaining WHY the brain craves story and how to keep readers “hooked” from the very first word.  She stresses that while beatiful prose and metaphors are fun, those are not the components of your story that are hooking your audience. Spoiler alert: It all comes down to structure. 


Why do I want to read this?: You need to know the science and process behind why story resonates with the brain. You are looking for step by step processes and guidelines to sharpen your storytelling skills.

5. Story Proof by Kendall Haven


Another scientific deep dive into the science of story.  This book is both fascinating and probably the toughest to read on this list. Caution, do not read before bed and make sure you have a strong cup of coffee at your side. It’s very technical but it’s the information inside that we’re after.  Haven goes into intricate detail on the effects stories have on the brain. Once we understand these effects it’s clear how we can apply this to our business and business stories for maximum results (and profits!) Haven’s research validates the importance of story, story reading, and storytelling to the brain development and education of children and adults. Haven goes deep on the topics of neural psychology and brain development and the value of a common definition of story if one is to fully grasp the importance and necessity of story to the development of the human mind. Go get it! 


Why do I want to read this?: You love Bill Nye the Science Guy and all things science.  If you don’t have every scientific proof point you’re not satisfied.  Well this will satsify you and then some.  This is a research driven book and if you are all about the data – this is your book.


6. Tell to Win by Peter Guber


You may not think you know the name Peter Guber but you know his work. Guber is the mega producer behind such hits as Rain Man, Gorillas In the Mist, Batman, Flashdance, Basic Instinct, A Few Good Men, The Witches of Eastwick. His producing credits are too numerous to list. He’s a co-owner of the Golden State Warriors and the LA Dodgers. He ‘s a professor at UCLA in the film and theater department. Simply put, Guber is one of the world’s best storytellers.  In this book Guber quite succinctly points out that “If you can’t tell it, you can’t sell it!” And Guber promises to show you how to do both in his book. He focuses on what he calls “purposeful storytelling” to win over, shape, motivate, and sell.  This guy knows what he is talking about. Plus the cover testimonial is from President Bill Clinton. Say what?



Why do I want to read this?: You want to learn insights from one of the greatest storytellers of our time while at the same time relating it to movies and being entertained. You want your book to cover some theory, but not too much.


7. Resonate by Nancy Duarte


If I were only going to recommend one book to anyone this would probably be it? Why is it buried at number 7? Because I don’t want everyone catching on and finding out the source of some of my best secrets!  I think this might be the most underrated book because of its visual nature and simplicity of presenting complex ideas – but I assure you – it’s pure gold. I actually discounted it when I first ordered it because it looked so pretty! But Duarte doesn’t waste any type – everything in the book is useable and applicable to your business. Resonate is the prequel to her other book, Slide-ology and is a brilliant primer on business storytelling. Duarte’s expertise is in presentations and talks so predictably this book does focus on that. However, these teaches can be extrapolated into all areas of your business storytelling.

Why do I want to read this?: You are ready to step into learning all about story AND applying to real life business examples. Or if you have a big upcoming presentation this is a perfect read for you.

8. Significant Objects by Jason Grote


Thanks and shout out to my buddy Russel L for turning me on to this book.  I know what you’re saying, “stories are great Marc but what are they WORTH to my business?”  Significant Objects will answer that question for you in a fun, page turning way.   This is a fun book on how narrative can greatly increase the value of anything (in this case it was insignificant objects).  The premise is simple. Two researchers wanted to understand the value (in actual dollars) that stories have on buyers. So they set out to recruit a highly impressive crew of creative writers to invent stories about an unimpressive menagerie of items rescued from thrift stores and yard sales. The results? An incredible 2700% increase in value!


Why do I want to read this?: You love creative writing and stories and want to see what stories created the most value for these objects.  The data basically contained in my synopsis above. The rest of the book are the actual stories and the starting value and ending sale price of each object.  Love this book but for most people you probably don’t need to read.


9. Descartes’ Error by Antonio Damasio


This book starts with the famous idea of “I think, therefore I am” and delves into the scientific study of how memory and emotion work — which it turns out is key in understanding why a story should be used (to tag memories with an emotional charge). Damasio, “one of the world’™s leading neurologists” (The New York Times) challenges traditional ideas about the connection between emotions and rationality. In this surprisingly engaging book, Damasio takes us on a journey of scientific discovery through a series of case studies, demonstrating what many of us have long suspected: emotions are not a luxury, they are essential to rational thinking and to normal social behavior.




Why do I want to read this?: You want to understand the connecting between emotion, memories, and storytelling. This book is an engaging read that gets into the psychology of how emtion and memory work. If you like going deep into the workings of the brain without it being too academic this is a good read.


10. The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler


Vogler is another one of those story “gurus” that has dedicated his life to teaching story.  He takes Joseph Campbell’s work to the next level and translates it into current day understanding.  Vogler cleanly breaks down the Hero’s Journey and maps it to Star Wars which makes it very easy to understand how the Hero’s Journey applies to a modern movie story. If you’re a professional screenwriter, novelist, or writer you most likely havea . copy of this book in your library.






Why do I want to read this?: You are getting serious about story and story structure. This is a book the “pros” like to reference. Not becasue it’s so complicated or for “pros” only, but it is very complete and thorough as it relates to the Hero’s Journey and structure.  If you’ve wanted to up your game on those topics, this is a good one. I also keep this one by the desk for ongoing reference.


11. The Seven Basic Plots by Christopher Booker


A lot of people I talk to become overwhelmed at the idea of writing a story. Booker identifies the most common basic plots (7 of them) that just about every story falls into. Once you understand these seven basic plots it’s easy to reconfigure them for your own needs. Using a wealth of examples, from ancient myths and folk tales via the plays and novels of great literature to the popular movies and TV soap operas of today, it shows that there are seven archetypal themes which recur throughout every kind of storytelling. Booker then takes these findings and goes deeper on the psychology of stories, why many stories have become watered down because they have lost the connection to their archetypal roots, and how stories have affected our psychological development over the past 5000 years.




Why do I want to read this?: You are looking to breakdown your stortelling into more bite size chunks and are looking to understand plots and plot structure. Once mastered, knowing these plots can be applied to your own storytelling thus shortening your time from concept to finished story.


12. The Dream Society by Rolf Jensen


Jensen elouently describes how the coming shift from an information society to an imagination society will transform your business.  He quickly details the historical evolution from a hunter gatherer society, to agaraian, to industrial, and to industrial. He posits that we are at the sunset of the information society and at the dawn of the imagination or dream society.  This book goes into detail on why those companies that embrace storytelling will win the future while those that don’t will perish.  Great stuff.






Why do I want to read this?: You are a marketer or interested in getting a jump on the future of marketing.  You are a progressive thinker and embrace the new in your business strategies.  If you’re a futurist and always want to be on the leading edge of new ideas and philosophies this book is for you.

13. Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari


Saved the best for last. After having both read this book and listened to it on tape I literally laugh out loud when I read the title where it says “A Brief History of Mankind”.  There is nothing “brief” about this book. However, as it covers the complete evolution of homo sapiens it’s understandable that there are some things to cover.  Biggest story takeaway from this book is that stories are essentially what separates homosapiens from every other animal in the kingdom. It’s our ability to manufacture fiction and create things that don’t exist that has resulted in our evolution and progress. When you get into it it’s a real mind blower and one of my favorites. Sapiens integrates history and science to reconsider accepted narratives, connect past developments with contemporary concerns, and examine specific events within the context of larger ideas.



Why do I want to read this?: You are fascinated by human evolution and the concepts of human choice and consiousness blow your mind.  You want to know more about who you are, who we are, and where we may be headed.  If you like challenging previously accepted beliefs and theories on history check this one out.


Bonus Section

Fiction Book

What Makes Sammy Run by Budd Schulberg


Looking for a fun page turner that is like a fly on the wall in old Hollywood? Here you go. The funny thing is, even though this takes place in the 50s (?) it might as well be today. Nothing has changed.  This book came out to great reviews and was a huge success and continues to be a must read of story lovers and movie afficiandos.  The story is all about the inner workings of screenwriters in Hollywood and the main character, Sammy Glick, is a composite of the archetypal movie producer hustling his way to the top.  Schulberg who wrote the screenplay for On the Waterfront delivers a character study that we just can’t turn away from.





The Player


This is THE movie on how the movie industry works. I must have seen this movie 50 times. Tim Robbins portrayal of the ultimate Hollywood climber is spot on. This is from the great director, Robert Altman. Another bonus, a ton of cool Hollywood cameos throughout this one.




Princess Bride


It’s a story within a story and just an awesome movie. It’s the movie that keeps giving and is a true classic. Not sure why it’s on this list other than it’s fantastic. If you haven’t seen it go stream it immediately. Better yet buy it and add it to your collection. You won’t be sorry.




Books Mentioned in Article:


Hero and the Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands Through the Power of Archetypes, by Margaret Mark & Carol S. Pearson


The Hero with a Thousand Faces, by Joseph Campbell


Awakening The Heroes Within: Twelve Archetypes to Help Us Find Ourselves and Transform Our World, by Carol S Pearson


Story: Style, Structure, Substance, and the Principles of Screenwriting, by Robert McKee


Story Proof: The Science Behind the Startling Power of Story, by Kendall Haven


Tell to Win: Connect, Persuade, and Triumph with the Hidden Power of Story, by Peter Guber


Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences, by Nancy Duarte


The Dream Society, by Rolf Jensen


Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain, by Anthony Damasio


Significant Objects, by Jason Grote


The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, by Christopher Vogler


The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories, by Christopher Booker


Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, by Yuval Noah Harari


What Makes Sammy Run, by Budd Schulberg


Movies Mentioned in Article


The Player


Princess Bride


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I Don’t Believe in Story Formulas & Neither Should You

I Don’t Believe in Story Formulas & Neither Should You

Look, there are a lot of people running around talking about story and story formulas.

They reference the hero’s journey and promise a formula to make it as easy as filling out a Mad-Libs book.  I see the ads everyday on Facebook or in my inbox: “Follow this 5 step formula and you’ll be an amazing storyteller!”  Sound remotely familiar?

Sorry, but it’s not happening.  I don’t believe in story formulas and neither should you.


PowerPoint (PPT) is Dead…

PowerPoint (PPT) is Dead…

Powerpoint is dead.

Sorry, to have to be the bearer of bad news but the sooner we all realize this and move on the better.  

That fancy sales presentation with all the best figures and data in it? Dead.

That huge investor deck with 10 bullets per slide? Dead.

That recruiting deck showing your prospective A-players and employees the reason they should lay it all on the line or come work for you? Dead.

All of them. Dead. Dead. Dead.  

Look, I’ll answer the immediate objection that you’re screaming at the screen right now.

I’m sure Microsoft will continue to sell a bajillion dollars in Powerpoint. People love Power Point.  And you should be thrilled! This means that while your competition is playing the laggard, you and your company can leverage the Power Point killer – story and storytelling.


Story and storytelling IS the new power point.


Powerpoint is easy. Powerpoint is lazy.  There’s no human emotion, struggle, or storytelling in Powerpoint.

It’s Story that builds empathy and emotion with your audience. It’s Story that creates an instant connection. It’s Story that connects with raving fans. And it’s story that allows entrepreneurs to create amazing products and change the world through entrepreneurship.  Story is the most powerful business tool we, as entrepreneurs posses!

This Story strategy isn’t just for entrepreneurs.  No company has arguably changed the way we live, purchase, or consume in the last 10 years than Amazon.  Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s visionary CEO, is lauded as one of the greatest business leaders, not just of this decade or century, but all time.

And wait for it… Jeff Bezos, one of the greatest CEO’s and visionary entrepreneurs EVER, has outlawed Powerpoint presentations from use by his Senior Leadership Team (SLT)!

Instead, Bezos requires a 4-6 page “narrative” that each member must read before the team.

Why would a huge corporate company like Amazon forbid Powerpoint (PPT) from it’s most critical thinkers?

Because PPT contains just the facts but no story. No heart. No emotion. No critical thought. No customer experience. No differentiator. Bezos says that a story is more effective because it forces better thought and understanding of what’s important and how things are connected.

In other words, if there’s a story that sells there will be belief, emotional connection, and energy behind an idea or product.  No story, no belief, no connection = no sale.

In addition, everyone knows your Powerpoint is a lie. Or at it’s best it’s a very incomplete story. We all do the same thing when it comes to Powerpint – we put in all the best data points, all the best facts, and tell a very one-sided story.  We’ve been doing it for the past 30 or so years and everyone knows it!  You know it.  As soon as a sales rep or your boss puts up a PPT full of stats — you instantly call out “bulls**t!” in your mind.  Right?  And if you’re thinking it, everyone else is thinking the same thing.

If Bezo’s forward thinking story focus didn’t convince you – there’s another well known company down the block focussing on story – Google.

Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai is discouraging and training senior managers from using bullets and test in their presentation slides. Now Pichai isn’t going as far as outlawing PPT but the message is the same. No one believes all your bullets and text in your presentation.

Pichai is focused on moving Google to a storytelling organization and is pushing the use of visual storytelling in all presentations.

He calls this his new storytelling slides “brain-friendly presentations”.

Pichai cites science to back his vision. It’s been well documented by cognitive scientists that we are unable to multitask as well as we think we can. The brain cannot do two things at once and do them equally well.

Personally, I’ve participated in several exercises where this has proven the case. One of my favorites was with a partner who gave me a list of 7 items in order and I had to put them in order while watching a video for some other specifics. It was a hilarious train-wreck and illustrated the point perfectly. I wasn’t able to multitask at all.

Pichai has data that supports the notion that when we see and read text on the screen we can’t listen to the speaker and retain all the info.

Even University of Washington biologist John Medina, who has done in depth research into persuasion and how the brain processes information has similar advice.  The author of Brain Rules, says, to burn most PowerPoint decks and start over with fewer words and more pictures.

Essentially, get rid of all the bullets and add some story!

If science, Amazon, and Google aren’t enough to convince you I don’t know what will. Leave your competition in the dust, differentiate your business in your market — simply by ditching the Power Point and telling your story.

Powerpoint is dead.

And it is the dawn of the business storytelling era.

Are you and your company leading the pack or being left behind in the Powerpoint crew?

Claim your competitive advantage and integrate storytelling into every touch point of your business before your competition does.


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The Power of Your Business Story Can Add More Profit to Your Bottom Line Than Any Other Asset...

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Do I want Empathy or Sympathy in my Storytelling?

Do I want Empathy or Sympathy in my Storytelling?






Same thing right?


Well no, not even close. And understanding the difference between these two words and ideas is what will separate your storytelling from blah to Yeah!


When talking story, the words empathy and sympathy come up often.  Most entrepreneurs and businesses use the words empathy and sympathy incorrectly and many times interchangeably (which is also incorrect.)


As we go out and spread the idea of the importance of story in business, we find that a many people understand the idea that story in itself makes an emotional connection and therefore makes the audience or the listener empathetic to the story teller or the story itself.

However, just as many people like to say that a story makes them sympathetic to the storyteller or the story.  While this could be true, what we’re really after in every story we tell is to create an emotional connection with our audience based on empathy.

The difference between sympathy and empathy?










Subtle change in letters but the meaning and end result is huge.

So WHY is this relevant anyway?  Glad you finally asked!

In any given story there’s actually two stories happening simultaneously, in parallel!

Say what?

That’s right.  During any story that’s being heard, seen, or experienced there’s actually two stories happening at the same time.

The “first” story is the obvious story. The explicit story. The story we hear.  The story that someone is telling.

In a cinematic story it’s the movie that’s happening.  For example, one of my favorite movies is Tommy Boy starring Chris Farley.  That movie opens up with Tommy at college, partying hard, finally graduating, heading back to his hometown where he tries to live up to the larger than life reputation of his dad and the family biz…etc.  That’s the obvious story.

The “second” story is what I’ll call the empathy story or mirror story.

When we’re in the audience (put yourself in this position now), we are constantly trying to figure out how WE fit into that story. How it relates to our lives.  In the empathy story everyone is interpreting the story via their own filter and their own worldview. In a movie theater of 50 people watching Tommy Boy there is only one “first story” but there are 50 “empathy” or secondary stories happening simultaneously.

Back to our Tommy Boy example as I’m watching Tommy Boy the second the movie starts I’m immediately trying to make meaning of the story and relate to Tommy so I can understand what’s going on.

In the opening of the movie we see Tommy partying partying, crashing through the table, being kind of fat, dumb, drunk and stupid.  That’s the obvious story.  But I’m also thinking to myself, “hey, I went to college.  I had buddies that we got crazy with. I remember partying the night before my graduation ceremony – man was I hungover. And that grad ceremony at the Big House in Ann Arbor — ah… UM football games in the fall — was HOT. I was so sweaty and nauseous, man my parents must have been pissed.  If my son does that I’ll….” And so on. That’s how the brain works.

Now my experience wasn’t exactly like Tommy’s but I was in a fraternity. We had some good times and I went to college, like just about everyone else I know.  

There is enough human universality in the story of Tommy Boy it that as I’m experiencing this story I can say, “You know what?  Tommy’s a lot like me in a lot of ways. Not every way but in some ways.  Yeah, he’s like me…”

As that story progresses Tommy has this very close relationship with his father and whether or not you had a close relationship with your father, a distant relationship with your father,  or something in between, what’s happening in the audience’s mind is an internal conversation that says, “Hey my relationship’s a lot like that with my dad. I can relate to what Tommy is going through. He’s like me.

Or you might be on a different spectrum where you’re like, “My dad was never like that. Man, I wish I had a dad like Tommy. He’s like me.” or “…my father passed away too early from a heart attack. He’s like mine…” or a billion other possibilities of how we might relate to this scene.

In any story, not just the movies we’re constantly creating these parallel stories, in the amount of time it takes for us to take a breath. It all happens so quickly and is unconscious. I know you’re not sitting in your seat asking yourself, “Is he like me?”. It just happens. Like blinking your eyes.

And it’s these parallel stories, these second stories that create empathy (not sympathy) that have the real story power.  

And this is the goal for our stories to ultimately drive empathy in our audience so that we can build an emotional connection and in a business story move our prospects and customers to action.


It has been scientifically proven that when we feel empathy our brain releases a chemical called cortisol and that cortisol focuses our attention.


Cortisol commands,  “Pay attention to what you’re experiencing!”


The second chemical that is released in the brain is oxytocin. Oxytocin is a chemical that is associated with care, connection, and empathy and the more oxytocin that you release the more empathy you will feel. Studies have proven that the amount of oxytocin released in your brain can actually predict your willingness to buy and connect with a brand!


Let’s hop back to those parallel stories that are happening. It’s very important that we understand that when a story starts instantly the audience is trying to figure out what’s happening so that they can go into this state called empathy.  It’s a natural, hardwired mission our brain is set on figuring out.


One of my favorite Story experts, Robert McKee loves to ask “… and for whom is the audience rooting for??”  He let’s hang out there with a pregnant pause then exclaims, “Themselves!!  The answer is themselves!!”


What McKee means by this is the audience is always trying to understand what’s going on  – from the second you start your story.  Whether this is a movie, a business story, a sales story, a brand story, your personal story, it doesn’t matter.


Any audience will always recognize shared humanity and this is the ultimate goal of creating empathy in the stories we tell about ourselves and our businesses.


At the end of the day empathy lets people know that your company, brand, product, you, etc is HUMAN, just like you. JUST LIKE ME. Just like good ole Tommy Boy.

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What Do You Stand For? – Write Your Manifesto

What Do You Stand For? – Write Your Manifesto


Super cool word isn’t it?


Sometimes I just like to over enunciate it. Maaaaan-i-feeeees-toe….


But beyond it being one of those great words like “pants” or “pickle”, a manifesto is something every company should have.

So, what’s a manifesto?

A manifesto is essentially a statement of beliefs that allows both your internal team, employees, and prospects as well as your external customers (only if you want – more on this later) to understand who you are and what you stand for.


And why is it important to let the people who touch your company in anyway know what you believe in? Because this is WHY they do business with you.

This is WHY they stay after work and finish that long project instead of looking for another job. This is WHY they select your product or service over another.

This is WHY they stay after work and finish that long project instead of looking for another job. This is WHY they select your product or service over another.

One of the biggest misconceptions in business is that people want to know what we do and how we do it.  

This is where most business leaders, marketing, and sales people mistakenly spend their efforts.


To give you an example I can spend a ton of time if I’m talking to a prospect or a customer telling them that we’re all about story and that we believe that story changes the world and story is going to impact your business and drive results. How do we do it?  Let me tell you, I love talking about it (although no one else really does)!  “Well, we have this framework that we take you through, this seven step process that’s going to change the way you approach the way you communicate… etc.”


Don’t get me wrong.  The what and how ARE important. You do need to clearly articulate that to your team and customers.  But a little goes a long way.  Essentially the what and how are what we call “permission to play” attributes. You have to have them just to get in the conversation.


Apple and Samsung definitely tell you about their products and what they do… but only so you can check those requirements off your list.  


4G LTE, check.


Black case, check.


Can download any app I need? Check.

So once the “permission to play” boxes are checked off, then it quickly comes down to what each company is about and what YOU believe in that determines your purchasing decision.  I’m an Apple-lover for the record.

When it comes down to it, it is getting harder and harder for companies to differentiate in today’s market.

Look at Apple and Samsung. They are in a feature race and the features they have are really no different. Will either phone handle voice, text, or data any better than the other? No, they both get the job done superbly.

What customers really want to know are  the WHY and WHO.

These are the questions that really matter and these are the questions that we’re always asking at WILDSTORY when we attempt to solve any problem or work with a customer. When we’re trying to sell our services it’s all about WHY and WHO and a manifesto allows you to do just that.


I’ve posted our company manifesto here for WILDSTORY and so you can see first hand how this might look and feel.  Immediately, you’ll get an understanding for our company tone and values.

This manifesto is written in our company nomenclature and personality. We say things like “we can’t stand people who poop on dreams!”  And while that is true for us, it may not be the right message for you or your company.  If you’re a company that doesn’t use that language you shouldn’t put that in your manifesto. The only real rule is to be honest about who you are then to scream your true essence from the rooftops.


By being true to yourself you will let others know if you’re a good business fit.


Right away when you read our manifesto you know what we’re all about, what’s important to us, and if you might like working with us (or not – that’s great too! We’re not for everybody).


At the end of the day people crave, whether it’s in your personal relationships or your business relationships, to know what you stand for.  


And if you stand for everything people know inherently that you stand for nothing.

If you stand for everything you stand for nothing.

If you stand for everything you have communicated to the world that you’re beige and unclear on who you are as a company. Think about that. Are you attracted to people or companies like that? I’m guessing not.


It’s so important to communicate what you stand for to your employees, prospects, and your new hires. Everyone talks about wanting to attract A-talent but outside of evaluating on skill set, this is a great way to know if they are the right fit for your team — not every A-player is.


We use this document when we’re going out to the market to both look for new hires and let people know what our company is all about.


It’s one of the first pages in our new business proposal because right away we want clients and prospective clients to know who we are and what we stand for and you’re either with us or against us and either one is fine.  We just want to know sooner than later in the relationship.  Many customers are initially afraid to share their manifesto with the outside world. They are worried about offending potential or existing customers. But what they soon find is the exact opposite happens. They begin to develop deeper and stronger relationships.  But if you’re not comfortable sharing your manifesto with the world it’s fine to keep it as an internal document.


A little note on this “you’re either with us or against us” idea.  Look, it’s not us against the world. You don’t have to believe what we believe but what we believe is an inherent part of how we do business . Like most people, we want to work with people who have the same values as us and who want to accomplish the similar goals. How to communicate this? Through your manifesto of course.


You can also create a personal manifesto. This is an example of one that I have personally for myself.

This is what I personally believe. This is representative of my personal outlook on life, my world-view as it’s called, and it’s a great way to let people know what you stand for.


Perhaps more importantly it’s a great way to remind yourself what you stand for.


So many times we get lost in confusion about who we are and it really all starts with ourselves. I work with so many visionary entrepreneurs that want to get right into crafting their business story, but I remind them that first we need to develop your story, remember who YOU are, so we can have a proper foundation for the business story.


So once you’re very clear on who you are you can then go out into the world and do amazing things and change the world through your business – but first you need to know what’s really really important to you.


At WILDSTORY creating a manifesto is one of the core pieces of our intensive course and something that we do often with clients to set the stage to really transform and animate their business. The process of creating a manifesto also ensures that everybody on the team  is in alignment. Your manifesto can also serve as your company vision.


At its essence a manifesto is just a public declaration, a written statement of your intentions, what you’re trying to do in the world, your opinions, what you believe most about, what you hold dear, what are your non-negotiables and your company “world-view”.

After reading your manifesto your reader, your customer, your employee should be like either yes, this is me, these guys are for me or no, this  company really isn’t for me and I need to go another way.

A manifesto is designed to elicit emotion and make you feel something and connect you (or repel you) with whomever is reading your manifesto.


At WILDSTORY we have a whole worksheet and exercise template to walk you through in the extraction and crafting of your manifesto but if you’d like to try one on your own here are some quick prompts.


  1. Start with the sentence “Around here we …
  2. “Here’s what we know for sure…..”
  3. “We believe in…”
  4. “We want to live in a world where….”
  5. “I hope to one day…..”
  6. “We think the world would be better if…”
  7. “We think you should fire us if…”
  8. “We fight for…..”
  9. “What does everything else in your industry get wrong…”
  10. “ What breaks your heart…?”

As an example, let’s look at the first prompt. A brainstorm on that might sound like…. “Around here we laugh… Around here we respect one another no matter what… Around here we drink beer on Fridays… Around here we only take on the most challenging projects ..”


What will happen, is once you start riffing on that prompt you will get some great some ideas for your manifesto.Those are just a few examples.  The key here is to brainstorm and really let the ideas flow. We find the BEST IDEAS happen way down the line. When we’re laughing, being silly, or taking a stand against something that makes us angry!  The most important thing? Have fun. Be you.


One you’re done send it to your designer and display it for all to see!


Feel free to drop me a line at marc@wildstory.com if you have any questions or to share your manifesto!

Looking to Transform Your Business?


The Power of Your Business Story Can Add More Profit to Your Bottom Line Than Any Other Asset...

Download Our
Free Snapstory Guide

Use the same framework Hollywood uses to create BILLIONS in revenue (BE CAUTIONED - You'll never watch movies the same again)