Storytelling and the audience’s capacity to open up their hearts and minds

In this episode we geek out about the art of storytelling, and it’s magical ability to touch and move us, to think new thoughts, to live life in new ways.

Books discussed:

so the book story, the book story by Robert, what’s his name? Mickey Mickey. So you recommend this book.
[00:00:15], it’s Robert McKee story, substance structure, style and principles of screenwriting. So it’s screenwriting, it’s a screenwriting guide.
[00:00:23]I’ve fallen in love again, or gotten much more interested in writing.
[00:00:28] You’ve been sharing tips about writing because of you have started doing the 10 minute writing exercise every morning, where just right. For 10 minutes, the pen can stop. It doesn’t matter what I’ll write. I started reading more books about writing. One of the ones that you recommended is the book story.
[00:00:45] The other one that you had brought up that I started reading that I’ve also been enjoying is consider this. So I’m getting more into storytelling, more into writing, and I started reading story. There was, and we’ve exchanged messages used. I told you yesterday that I started reading it and you told me that you would reread it in parallel so we can nerd out and geek out on it.
[00:01:09] And you shared a few quotes at the beginning that you already loved. And there were quotes that I had highlighted as well. I made notes about, but I wanted to talk to you about this one. Paragraph very early in the book that I find fascinating. And I wanted to kind of unpack with you and dig a bit deeper.
[00:01:28] So I’ll read out of the book stories about respect, not disdain for the audience when talented people, you know what I’m going to read. Right. All right. This is a D this fucking book is dope. This is page, I don’t know, 10 or something, or 20 it’s barely starting. But it’s a sharp fucking book. The master, he has, he, he like really understands and communicate so clear with, so few words gets to the point it’s but, but it’s beautiful is beautiful.
[00:01:58] I love like when you tell me a book is great. I know just like you do sometimes, but this is such sharp writing, so beautiful. So. When talented people write badly, it’s generally for one of two reasons, either they’re blinded by an idea they feel compelled to prove, or they’ve driven by an emotion. They must express when talented people.
[00:02:26] Right? Well, it is generally for this reason, they’re moved by desire to touch to the audience. Yes. I love that sentence so powerful. They’re moved by a desire to touch the audience. And now I, I didn’t fully understand this at this point. And now he continues night after night. Through years of performing and directing I’ve stood in all of the audience of its capacity for response as if by magic masks, fall away, faces become vulnerable, receptive.
[00:03:05] Film Gores do not defend their emotions. Rather they open to the storyteller in ways even their lovers never know welcoming laughter tears, terror, rage, compassion, passion, love eight. The ritual often exhaust them. So fucking dope. Yes, this is fucking gold. They’re moved by desire to touch the audience.
[00:03:36] That’s it game over this is it. Wrap it up folks. This is all you need to know, but it’s not just the, you know, what really struck me here was not just the part on the storyteller. That’s moved by desire to touch the audience. It is the other side that he. Highlighted for me, which is the capacity of the audience to be touched.
[00:04:02] Isn’t that true? Look at all these fucking conversations we’ve had in the last six months about feelings discovering your heart, discovering emotions, feeling feelings, not just thinking feelings. Think about all the struggles that lovers have couples married people, people with their parents. I was just a friend of ours.
[00:04:22] Just let you know. At the stooge drama at there with his parents, because he wrote them a letter about some of his childhood challenges with them. And it turned into this huge thing, a family that has always been pretty quote, unquote harmonious and all of a sudden there’s some honesty that’s unpleasant or hurtful.
[00:04:42] And everything implodes. The father tells the son to leave and never come back. The mother writes the son a message that she’s never been more heard and he destroyed their family. And she’s destroyed now all this drama, like because their whole lives, they were not able to express their feelings like fathers, sons, mother, daughters, best friends, coworkers.
[00:05:06] Co-founders we all struggle. To truly touch each other to open up and show our inner world to each other, be truly open and vulnerable and show how we feel. But in the anonymity, in the shadow of the audience, when we become one with the audience, somehow we’re open and we’re ready and we’re willing to be touched, right?
[00:05:32] A movie can move us to tears, a book. Can make us, you know, jump up, enjoy or feel love when you’re the audience or being an audience to a storyteller. There’s a unique relationship between storytelling, audience and storyteller. Here could be, anything could be a song, could be a piece of art, could be a movie, whatever, but I’ve never considered that.
[00:05:57] If I’m honest, I’ve never considered the gift. Of having an audience and the ability and willingness of audiences to feel right. To be touched by what, but by the story that unfolds, it’s a beautiful, beautiful, magical thing that is happening, but I never really, you know, I always thought about it from the storyteller’s perspective.
[00:06:22] And I’ve talked about this there’s LinkedIn posts, there’s blog posts, there’s podcast recordings. Many many places where people can find me talking about my secrets to public speaking and there not many, but one of the core things I’ve always told people was that the first time I give a talk on stage that really worked, that really touched the audience and a talk that really changed my life because it was that talk that made.
[00:06:52]Me a speaker that made lots and lots of lots of conference attendees and conference organizers, reach out to me and go, we saw you’re on this stage. We want you at our conference too. That was the beginning. We should, by the way, we should rewatch the very first pioneers. Festival talk that I gave, it’s not the best talk that I gave, but it’s the most, one of the most important ones.
[00:07:17] And I dissect it and record that. Just like go through that one. But the reason why that talk was so impactful was that it was the first time that I had given a talk where I asked myself, what does the, what, who is my audience here? And what does the audience need to hear that only I can tell them what is something I possess that I can give them?
[00:07:43] How can I give the best gift I know, and I possess to the audience tomorrow before then, anytime I had to give a talk, my core guiding compass of a question was always, how can I make myself look as good as possible? How can I be as perfect as possible? That was usually my only concern. How can I give a talk that will make me look good?
[00:08:14] And then I would practice a talk that was aiming for perfection. Like every word was really meditated. Every Joe calculated every movement orchestrated. And so it was very sterile and very. Plastic mechanic was not Schuman was not alive. There was no art in it and it was selfish and I’d never, I, would’ve never known without Buren, a common friend who I once gave a big, important, not talk.
[00:08:43] It was a product demo at a big startup conference in my early years in Silicon Valley. And I thought I had delivered it to perfection. And then I talked to our friend Buren and he said, nah, it was okay. Sort of like you typically give me a map when I know I’m not good. And I’m reaching out for feedback to you because I know I’m going to hear the bitter truth.
[00:09:05] I’d reached to Buren and said, what do you think about my talk? And I knew, I didn’t know what was wrong with it, but I knew something was wrong with it. And he was like, eh, it was fine. I’m like, what do you mean fine. Tell me what’s wrong with it. It’s like, yeah, you know, you said everything perfect then.
[00:09:20] Seemed like a professional public speaker, but I did not recognize you on stage. There was no personality. There was no honesty. There was just not you. It could have been anybody. It was so, so, unremarkable. You know, it was just some performance by somebody that knows how to do public speaking. That hurt me so much.
[00:09:43] Had feedback hurt so much that I knew it was true. No one of my guiding principles, if it hurts, it’s true. Right. If it hurts, it hit, you know, it hit the target. There was something there that was hit. And so that really made me think. But it wasn’t until the day before my first talk at a big, my first keynote speech at a big startup conference at pioneers festivals back in the day and in Austria, where I was preparing the way I would always prepare.
[00:10:15] And then I stop myself and ask myself, wait a second. What if I did it differently tomorrow? What if I didn’t deliver a perfect performance, but I just was an honest delivery of a gift. What do I want to give this audience? That question really triggered the performance of me being on stage and being much more loud, much more aggressive because the answer that I’ve given myself for that talk was these people all day long, they sit at this conference and they listen about innovation and they listen about all these great stories about raising money and building new technology.
[00:10:52] And they’re kind of too comfortable in their seats. They want to be entrepreneurs, but they also just want to observe. Start up porn on stage and feel good about themselves. And what I can deliver is a little bit of a kick in the ass, like some inconvenient truth that we all need to hear about doing the work, going out there, making the calls, talking to your customers, pushing yourself beyond what you’re comfortable and really getting your hands dirty.
[00:11:18] That was what I wanted to do. And I didn’t just want to talk about it. Theoretically. I wanted to give them some practical tools and the ass kick that might move a few of them to take action. And so that was the intent. And you can tell first when we do the, the breakdown of that talk and we’ll upload it on the podcast.
[00:11:37] The first couple of seconds, you can tell I’m nervous as fuck stumbling. Over some words. She said I was not buttery smooth from the get go, but once I got into a groove. You know, I was on fire and more importantly than what my performance was like, I connected to the audience, the room was filling up. It was becoming fuller and fuller and fuller.
[00:12:01] Eventually people were sitting on the floors on every cranny and every little corner of that room. And afterwards, so many people came and felt moved. And felt connected to me and many friendships in many, many beautiful things and gifts in my life have come out of that one talk, but why I went on stage and I had the audience in mind and I was moved to touch the audience.
[00:12:22] I wanted to touch them. I wanted to give them a gift. I wanted to offer something of value and that was more important to me than being perfect. And people could feel it and it made a difference, but I never considered the gift I received, which was an audience that opened up to me. And that was willing to feel connected to me that was willing to receive the ass kicking.
[00:12:47] And then the was inspired. You know, I’ve always gone on stage and. Exposed myself and really emptied my tank for the audience. But then when the audience wanted to come back to me and give me something, tell me how, what kind of impact that talk had on them or connect with me in some way. I never accepted that gift.
[00:13:16] I would always block it. You know, usually after talks, it’d be lots and lots of people that would want to talk to me, shake my hands, take selfies and would go through all of this in a very professional, but also very cold manner and try to leave the venue as fast as possible and get back to my hotel room.
[00:13:33] And it would never accept any compliment, any warmth, any honest desire to connect? I would. Downplay. All of that is like, Oh, they’re all drunk. They all drunk on my talk for a second, but they will forget in a couple of minutes. So this is all meaningless. And I could never really fully take it in and say, yes, I’ve given you all.
[00:13:51] I’ve got, and now some of you want to come and give me something you have, and maybe I can also learn to say thank you and like fully receive it. So it rejuvenates me. It fills my batteries back up. Right. It, it charges me back up. I can’t wait to get back on fucking stage by the way I’ve been, I haven’t been on a stage.
[00:14:07] What now? Over a year, one, one, one and a half years. That’s insane. It’s insanity and not just me, fucking everybody. Right. But, but I can’t wait to get back on set. And one of the things that I’m really looking forward to what I’m on stages, I really next time, if, if there’s a next time, anytime soon that I’m on a stage, I want to practice to receive the gift at first to recognize the gift of the audience.
[00:14:33] And their willingness to be moved and touched, but then also to receive whatever gifts they want to give me back after I’ve finished my talk. Cause that’s something I’ve never been able to do or never been willing to do. That’s maybe a better way of saying it, but yeah, I never thought about this. I never thought about how crazy it is that, you know, some men would never cry in front of their, whatever girlfriends or wives, but then in a movie alone, they might cry.
[00:15:00]That’s beautiful
[00:15:01] storytelling. Oh, there’s another quote about story telling in that book, but I’m sitting in the dark, you know, it’s my life. Isn’t easy. It’s hard to do all this when there’s full darkness envelopes in you, but well, put the book close to my fucking screen. Where is the, there was another. Another beautiful.
[00:15:25] Yeah. I mean the very, the very beginning, the very beginning, there’s a quote where he says stories are equipment for living kind of worker, but there was another quote. I thought, what do you, I thought it was interesting to hear that. Leading up to the pioneers talk. You had that, thought process of, all.
[00:15:44] Okay. They’re going to sit in the audience all day here, all these smart people talk about all these small things. What is something that I can give them? you never, you never shared that with me. I really it’s cool to see that. That was the thing. that’s one thing in, in that book that I really loved also like in the, kind of in the early stages where it was, and I don’t have, but it’s something along the lines of like, people don’t want to escape life through story. They want to experience life in new ways through story. Um, Oh, that was a powerful one.
[00:16:18]Yeah. That’s so beautiful that, that, yeah, I got it. I got it. We do not wish to risk life, but to find life, to use our minds and fresh experimental ways to flex our emotions, to enjoy, to learn, to add, to add depth to our days. Right. Yeah. That’s powerful. That’s powerful shit. That re you know, that reminds me of got them in.
[00:16:40] What’s his name? Chuck pollen. I don’t know how to say his name, fucking name is this Paula New York. You know, the, the, the writer of fight club. Yeah, just recently, somebody asked me, what are your top five movies? And I was like, top one is fight club. And they laughed and said, that’s not surprising as I was continuing on my list.
[00:17:03] You know, I don’t know if this is, I take this as a compliment, but it was funny. Like, they’re like, Oh, well, what are some of your favorite moves? I’m like fight club Paul fiction. And they’re like fight club, not surprising. Anyways, the, the writer of, you know, of fight club. That reminds me of the interview there at Joe Rogan that he had, where he broke this down.
[00:17:22] We talked about this many times of, you know, the, the hallmark of a good story for him is not when the audience is silenced in gripped by every word in every scene. That’s not a truly great story. That might be a good one, but the hallmark of a really, truly great stories that the audience connects yeah.
[00:17:41] Connects with the story so much that they, they cannot wait for you to finish, to tell their story. Right. When you’re telling somebody about an experience that you’ve made and the person almost needs to interrupt you to share their story with you, it kind of overwhelms them. That’s the hallmark of a great story because you connect it with something really deep and experience they’ve gone through themselves that relates, I’d never heard or thought about that before.
[00:18:05] I always thought before that the more the audience sits there with open mouth and like big eyes and can’t think of anything to say wordless by your magical story, the better I’ve done in some ways when I’m telling you a story and that really hearing him think about what makes a story truly impactful and powerful changed me.
[00:18:26] Like if it’s changed the way I think about what is a successful. And powerful interaction between two humans that are sharing stories. And, you know, you can extrapolate that to one too many humans and their response, even with dune dude, he is a very interesting point about that book that I don’t quite understand myself yet.
[00:18:51] So let’s digest it. First of all, if you’re listening to this and you have not read dune, read dune and. All you need to do is suffer through the first a hundred pages. And then you’re going to be kissed by bliss. Your life is going to be changed. Just trust me anyways, in that book. I mean, this is a scifi classic world.
[00:19:11] So Wars intrigues, all kinds of things are going on in that book. Right? Who cares? There’s one scene in that book where a, an important character though, a character that is introduced very late in the story that is not necessarily. A character that gets a lot of page time, right? He is introduced and he dies fairly quickly within the store within the entire story arc, but he’s still a very key character in the entire story.
[00:19:43] The part of the book, the whatever it is, 10 pages, 15 pages, seven pages. I don’t know how long that part is, but the part of the book where that character dies.
[00:19:55]The way it’s described the way that Frank Herbert is painting the picture. But also, I mean, it’s not just the beautiful, painful metaphor of this guy being an ecologist and being kind of the, the one that wants to transform this, this desert planet into something that’s more alive that then dies in the desert.
[00:20:15] Right. Being literally killed by the desert. And then in his last dying breasts, there’s all these vultures that are showing up and it’s just beautifully since suspenseful and intense the way he describes that. But what makes it brings back the imagery? Like almost like being on the sand, this vultures, then next to you, testing the head, looking at you, doing a little, you know, kind of jump.
[00:20:41]So fucking riveting. And then during that entire time, this character was just about to, you know, die and they’d be eaten by these vultures that are like starting to circle around him. And one of them that’s the most aggressive one is coming closer and it’s like, you know, considering this with patients, should I go now?
[00:21:01] Should I wait a little longer? Is he already dead enough or not the inner dialogue of that character? Where he hallucinates or whatever it is, where he’s hearing the voice of his father, lecturing him about the planet, about the universe, about this and that, the other. And he’s arguing in his mind with his fucking father lecturing telling him things he already knows is so fucking powerful.
[00:21:25]that whole scene, the way it’s written is amazing. But even the idea of this character’s death never is anything described about this characters, upbringing, nothing, but when at his dying moments, his father shows up being. Kind of, and they don’t, it’s not a dialogue where he says, Oh, you’ve never loved me.
[00:21:45] Oh yeah. It’s not none of that bullshit. Right. The kind of dollars they’re having is about fucking ecological systems and some fucking science. But in that dialogue, in that conflict, they’re having about some science facts. You can tell a lifetime of pain. Of never being accepted by his father. I’ve never been good enough for his father of striving to become.
[00:22:09] And that’s, he’s, uh, an incredible man, a man of incredible authority on this planet. And you can, it all makes sense. You understand why? Because he had this father that was unreachable. So he lived his whole life trying to surpass that motherfucker because he was so angry. So it again, yeah. He’s trying like Matt, not to be not good enough.
[00:22:33] Yes. And that pain of a lifetime is so beautifully and powerfully captured magically. There I say captured in that dying hallucination dialogue that it, no, not a single word is about that conflict. Not a single word is about their relationship. Nothing about him dying. There’s not a single moment where his death is part of his inner dialogue.
[00:22:58] Right. It’s that the pain, the pain that he’d carried along his whole life of not being good enough in the eyes of his father, dude, that fucking scene, those 10 pages, 20 pages of whatever the fuck it is killed me. It was so powerfully written. And while I was reading it, I was very much enjoying it. But I did not know how much he touched me.
[00:23:27] I was not fully aware of it. I first realized it once I finished dune and a week later I’m taking a shower and that scene hits me. It just comes back to me, but it doesn’t just hit me as a thing that I remember. It hits me as pain in my chest. It feeling the pain. Of those dying moments of that character.
[00:23:55] And I remember going mother fucker. Fuck. I didn’t like I was both, I was amazed at what Frank Herbert was able to do with me. You know what I mean? It’s almost like I was both so incredibly grateful and in awe at how deep he touched me. In those pages. I didn’t, I hadn’t recognized it at first. It’s been now.
[00:24:23] I don’t know. I want to say maybe three months since I finished that book. There’s not a week where don’t think about that scene sometimes just for two seconds, but that scene, that little part of the story, those 10 pages, they’re not letting me go. Yeah. They gripped me and I’m carrying around with me.
[00:24:47] How amazing is this? This, this is it. This is the thing. It touched something in me that I, something that lives inside of me before that kind of the pain of not being enough. Now, my father died when I was really young. I was six and my father was not a harsh individual, a ambitious you’re never good enough for him type.
[00:25:11] Right. I didn’t experience that directly from my physical father. He died too young and he supposedly, I mean, I remember a little bit of him, but not too much, but from everything I know about him, he was not that type of person anyways. But I, for whatever reason, created that kind of a punishing father inside of me.
[00:25:34] Right. I created. The type of energy that I try to hit to become a real man to become worthy like that, that fatherly energy and whatever I created as a father archetype in my own mind, my own psyche is a punishing. You’re never going to be good enough. Always going to point out what wasn’t good. Always going to be dissatisfied with you.
[00:26:02] That’s the energy. I felt my whole life. So in some ways that fucking little scene really touch me and move me beyond what I can fully express myself as still sit here and think, how the fuck did he do it? You know, how did he do it? How did he think of this? This is an Epic Saifai saga world-building and there’s so much shit going on in that story.
[00:26:33] Millions of fucking things happening. People, characters, conflicts, action, scenes, mystery, wisdom, nuggets, politics is so much going on and I’m sure everybody’s touched by something else or moved or, you know, we’ll take other things away from that story. And maybe the next time I read it it’ll be something else, but I don’t, I can’t even describe how he thought of setting that scene that way.
[00:27:01] How did you within the Saifai extravaganza, how did you from think about doing something that is this deep in the middle of a million other things he’s doing? I mean, just, I am truly in awe of that fucking book. And this is a part of the book that, where I feel as the audience is the reader. I was touched so deeply that I can’t quite fully comprehend.
[00:27:31] How this is something, again, it reminds me of, because I just started yesterday right. Of the storybook, where he talks about archetypal stories and he says, first in a story, we discover a new world. And then we find ourselves in the new world, like you own this alien planet.
[00:27:47]Do you, and in some cipher universe, I don’t know how many tens of thousands of years in the future. And then you find yourself in there and say, cool. Yeah. Yeah. So it sort of reminds me of something, some internet marketing guru said like years ago in a, in a course, and I don’t know where he got it from.
[00:28:03] I’m sure it’s not his, but, that statement really was from me eyeopening where he said, if you can describe. A struggle, a problem, a challenge, or express it better than the person who has it themselves can, people will automatically assume that you also have the solution to it. Right.
[00:28:19] And they, they will want more from you. you know, I used to, tell people, or we used to talk about in, in sales about, How powerful it is when you bring up objections, when you bring them up practically at the time that your prospect most likely will think them. And you know, it, the same, same principle applies when I taught people how to do cold calls and it was telling them if you put yourself in the shoes of somebody that randomly gets a call and picks up, what’s the first question they have, who the fuck is this?
[00:28:55] Right. Okay. So you need to address that once you’ve addressed that. Oh, my name is so-and-so from, so-and-so. The reason I’m calling you is X, Y, and Z. What’s the next, most likely thing they’re thinking. I don’t want this. This is not for me or whatever. How do you address that? Now, if you set a pattern where you are answering the questions, they have not yet asked to you, but I’ve just thought, what does that do?
[00:29:21] It makes them feel like you are a mind reader. It makes them feel like, wow, this person is answering. He knows exactly what I’m thinking. And he’s addressing this now. People don’t think this out loud. It’s just a feeling of being fully seen and recognized and getting the sense that this person has authority.
[00:29:43] This person somehow knows exactly when to say what, what does that suggest? That’s suggest authority. Somebody here is probably successful. Has a lot of skills, has a lot of knowledge. Cause how often is it that we talk to a stranger and that stranger knows exactly what we think when we think and knows exactly what to say next.
[00:30:04]Right? It’s not often you can get on the train, you can follow along. Yeah. And you know, it’s funny. I was just, as we were speaking, as you just brought up this, this quote of like, if you can express something better than the person that is having the problem. When you brought that up, it reminded me of the core thing.
[00:30:25] One of the core things that I took away from my interview with Ryan, one of the things that Ryan said early in our interview was that he, you know, he felt his relationships now with his friends and also with strangers have reached a completely new depth. Because he fully sees them. He’s there fully open, fully ready to see who they really are.
[00:30:58] They, when they feel really seen and recognized, it changes them, it opens them up and they connect with them much deeper. And that gives them a lot of joy and pride and fulfillment. And I had stopped him and I asked. It is probably because you are now showing up at these relationships willing to be so honest about who you are, that now, like you see yourself and now other people can see you.
[00:31:30] And since they can see you now, you can see them right. And what really feels so awesome. I mean, it does feel good to see others, but what really feels awesome is be feeling seen and accepted and loved and taken care of and recognized that happens when you see someone and they see you like really? Yeah.
[00:31:56] Yeah. That’s really powerful ship. Right. And in some way, when.
[00:32:07] I read the scifi book dude. And he describes the last moments of a heroic character going through the struggle and pain of his father figure that pain he described. He described so much better than I could have ever described the pain I have that I did not recognize or realize. And through that reflection of that little bit of a story, I felt seen the only, the only way to touch somebody like to, for me to be able to touch you, I need to be able to know where you are.
[00:32:41] Right. I need to be able to locate you, you know? And so first I need to be able to look at you and then I, you need to feel comfortable that me touching you is enriching you. This is good for you. You don’t need to block yourself from me. Right? My influence is good, but when, when a story really hits us hard, it is also in some weird way.
[00:33:07] That’s whoever wrote that story is seeing us in that moment and making us feel seen in a way that we weren’t able to before, like, There’s a pain. There’s a joy. There’s something expressed that lives inside of us, that nobody was able to shine a light on until that story is in front of us. And we like, we watch the story, but the story is high, you know, shining a light on who we are.
[00:33:36]Or part of what we’ve lived through. It’s incredible. How powerful, how amazing storytelling is stories, how human like to tell story. There’s almost nothing more human than that, right? To tell stories, to explain the world, to make, to try to make sense, to teach. To connect all this, all this through storytelling, telling each other stories.
It’s incredible.

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