The heart of every story

Tension is at the heart of every captivating plot line. The forbidden love, the missing person, the unsolved mystery.

Something feels incomplete, so you keep watching or turning the pages. Tension can be a torturous tool because it’s so powerful. You REALLY want to know how a movie ends, or what the final chapter of a book will say.

As storytellers ourselves, tension can move a group, hold attention and keep big promises. I’m just starting to play around with tension in stories I tell and the copy I write. It’s a craft that will be valuable, but will take years to hone.

This is the start of a dive into storytelling. I have a lot to learn, but I’m reading a great book, Whiskey Foxtrot Tango, and I found a new podcast (thanks Rama). It’s called The Longform Podcast and it goes deep into talking with writers about their processes. More stories coming soon….

 

10 years old

There comes a moment when we realize the world is bigger. At that same time, our imagination gets smaller.

We start to notice all the clothes people wear, and the things cool people do. We watch people getting teased for looking different. We see the older kids and how cool it looks that they don’t care about anything.

Our eyes open up to a big world, then we start to get small.

We wear the clothes that help us fit in. We do the things cool people do. We talk behind the backs of those who are different. We act like we don’t care about school and work.

Those things slow us down. They make us quieter. Less creative. Unwilling to leap and try something new.

That shift usually happens around when we start middle school. Between the ages of 9 and 12 maybe. That’s what I saw growing up and that’s what I saw today after giving workshops to kids around this age.

I facilitated a session for 6th-8th graders and we were pulling teeth to get them to share new ideas. Other than a select few, most everyone stayed quiet and didn’t contribute their thoughts unless heavily prompted.

Then, I moved into the other room and gave a workshop for 3rd-5th graders. The energy was back in the room and ideas were thrown around like crazy. These kids had three times as many guesses as to what the word “entrepreneurship” meant compared to their older peers. Were they smarter? Probably not. They just weren’t as scared of being wrong.

Is this decline in creativity an inevitable byproduct of growing up? I don’t believe so. All that matters is that it’s real. We’re fighting against it and it’s an uphill battle to help every kid believe their ideas matter.

That’s what I’m here for and I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.

The crisis of a generation

The crisis of our generation is the lost sense of belonging.

  • Bands don’t have tribal followings
  • Communities aren’t as stable
  • Families move far apart
  • Relationships are more transactional

What’s missing is a sense of community. Maybe it didn’t exist in the past and it’s naive of me to believe it did. I don’t know. All I know is that from the ground level, it’s clear that shared sense of purpose is missing nearly everywhere we go.

The solutions are complex, but I think they involve empowerment, creativity and the space to try new things together. But the first step is recognizing just how valuable that feeling of belonging is. Embrace it when you have it, because it’s more special than you think.

Our Deepest Fear

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God.

Your playing small does not serve the world.

There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine, as children do.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.

It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

 

We’ve all heard the first two lines. They’re brilliant and they’re all you need. But I’ve never read the rest of the passage in full. It just gets better and better. This is as good as it gets. Enjoy

The perfect age for a mentor

I’ve always struggled with finding a mentor.

It’s advice is so often given to budding entrepreneurs, but I’ve never cracked the code. Sure, I have some phenomenal role models that have taught me a lot, but I’ve never found that stable mentoring relationship you hear people talk about. Maybe that’s okay. Or maybe I just haven’t found the sweet spot yet.

Just the other day I had an experience that gave me hope. I met with someone who was about ten years older than me. The meeting went surprisingly well and for the first time ever I could see myself reaching out again.

As I thought more about what made the connection so good, I started to believe there’s something special about that ten year difference. I know plenty of people who are two or three years older than me. Some are great role models, but none of been through the same trials as someone ten years into the working world.

I also knew plenty of people who are 20-30 years older than me. So many of them are wildly successful and were kind enough to speak to the Entrepreneurship Club. While they have tons of experience, someone that’s been working longer than I’ve been alive is tough to relate to. They didn’t grow up in the same era. When they entered the workforce things looked drastically different.

It seems like there’s a gap in my network right around the ten year mark. People that were too old to be in college at the same time as me, yet too young to be friends with my parents.

From my tiny personal experience and the verification of one other friend, I officially have a hunch that approximately ten years is the magic number. It could be as low as six or seven and as high as fifteen. I’m not sure. But for now, my guess is that the perfect mentor should be about ten years older than you.

Rule number one of event design

It’s about the attendee.

People go to events to meet people, to learn new things and to have a good time. The more events you attend, the more you realize just how rare those three things are. When you really think about what was going through the organizer’s mind, you wonder if they even considered those factors.

This rule seems so straightforward, but when you ask the question, what was the organizer optimizing this event for?

More often than not, the answer is: ease of planning.

Your typical event format is, bring in a speaker (pray they’re not boring) and then leave time for networking after. That’s an easy event to plan. It’s safe. Nothing out of the ordinary.

But we’ve all seen time and time again that events like that don’t teach us much and don’t allow us to walk away with valuable connections.

On the other hand, a focused meetup for WordPress fanatics that brings in members to run short workshops where people can follow along on their laptops. Then, the host breaks the room into small groups where the attendees can discuss best practices and share tips with each other.

That kind of event takes a little more trouble to plan. You have to know what topics will resonate with the audience. You have to convince attendees that it’s worth lugging their laptop to a meetup at 7:30 in the evening. You have to organize discussion groups. It takes a lot more planning than simply throwing people in a room hoping they “network.”

Overall, great events requires more thoughtful consideration of what it feels like to be an attendee. I think the extra planning is time well spent. The result is better conversations, stronger connections and more learning. Those things are the goal, after all.

Choices are hard

This morning I didn’t choose to exercise. It just happens because it’s that time of day. It’s a habit.

I didn’t choose to write a blog post today. It’s just a habit. I write one every day.

When you make it a choice, it’s too easy to say “no.” The path of least resistance is to not do it. But when you make it a habit and integrate it into your day, it feels wrong not to perform the task.

As busy people, we don’t need any more choices to make. Put your schedule on auto-pilot and start forming productive habits.

The Story Formula

I’ve never been a great storyteller. So much of it comes with practice, and I’m trying my hand more and more these days. Telling great stories is a craft that you can hone for decades. When I was watching some videos from Seth Godin’s Marketing Seminar the other day, he introduced a formula for telling marketing stories. As someone looking for tips, this immediately caught my eye. I’ll share it with you here:

I thought ____

Then I realized ____

And now I _____

 

To put this in action, here’s an example of how Casper, the online mattress company, might tell their story.

I thought buying a mattress was always a pain. The sales people were untrustworthy, there were too many models and you always left feeling like you got ripped off.

Then I found casper. They send you your mattress in the mail. If you don’t like it, you can send it back. There are no salespeople to deal with, it’s all straightforward.

Now I recommend Casper to all my friends who need new mattresses. I believe experiences like Casper are the future”

 

Boom. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but that’s the basis for a marketing story. It’s a neat little structure with plenty of wiggle room, I hope it’s helpful.

Giving yourself an A

Imagine all the stress and anxiety we have around grades in school. Now what if all of that could disappear while at the same time improving the performance of the students?

Here’s an idea from Rosamund and Benjamin Zander’s book, The Art of Possibility of how it might work:

As someone who teaches the art of music, Ben Zander had hesitations about grading his students. He saw how grades caused stress and turned musicians into mechanized script followers. It took his students out of the moment and the result was music that didn’t sound as good as it could have. He knew that if he could get them to relax and not worry so much about grades, they would play better.

But eliminating grades wouldn’t solve the problem and the school wouldn’t be on board with that plan anyways. Instead, each student was given an assignment to write a letter. The letter was to be dated the end of the school year. In the letter, each student was to write: Dear Mr. Zander, I got an A because…” and then as much detail as possible about all of the great things they accomplished throughout the year to earn such a grade.

In a class full of perfectionists, Zander found that this technique helped them let loose. They could take creative risks and really fall in love with the music without the concern about how they would be evaluated. The result was a positive environment for students to immerse themselves in music and grow as performers.

Not every class is full of the same hard-driving, perfectionist-type people, but there’s something powerful about making a promise to yourself. There’s magic in picturing a bright future, then having the space to make it come true. That, I think, is the beauty in giving yourself an A. The opportunity to dream and know you’ll be supported in making it become a reality.

Lots of credit to Ben and Roz Zander for their book, The Art of Possibility

My secret oatmeal recipe that I make every morning

This blog post has been requested frequently. Oatmeal has been a part of my morning routine for just over a year now thanks to Sophia’s oatmeal loving influence. This keeps me full and energized for hours. It helps me start off each day with a reliable meal filled with good things that all taste amazing together.

Here is my secret recipe:

  • Fill the bowl about half way with Old Fashioned oats
  • Drizzle in chia seeds
  • Sprinkle some cinnamon
  • Mix lightly
  • Pour in Fairlife Whole Ultra-filtered Milk to the same level as the oats
  • Microwave for 90 seconds
  • Scoop one spoonful of smooth almond butter onto the hot oats
  • Peel one banana, breaking it in half and placing it on top of the oats
  • note: you can get the almond butter off your spoon by chopping the banana with the spoon a little
  • Drizzle your favorite local honey on top of it all
  • Enjoy