Storytell like Anthony Bourdain
Greetings, Chief Storytellers.
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This week was tech week here in Miami. I had lots of dinners and deep conversations with investors that were here to see how they’re feeling and thinking about the market right now. Most were optimistic about the future but they shared how tough things are right now.
For founders, that means rough seas ahead. Rough seas mean the best captains will make it through the storm. Since you’re here, let’s make sure you make it to your final destination safe and richly rewarded.
DEEP DIVE: Tell it like Tony
In 2019 I was sitting on my brown leather couch in Dallas watching an episode of Parts Unknown where Anthony Bourdain was in Tokyo, Japan. I was mesmerized and by the end of the episode I had booked a ticket to go and visit Japan.
I didn’t know anyone in Japan. I didn’t have anyone that would go with me. But it didn’t matter because I knew I needed to go.
A few months later the date of my trip arrived and I ended up in Tokyo. To say I stuck out would be an understatement as a six foot two white guy from Texas. When I got to Shibuya, I knew there was one thing I needed to do. Find 7/11 and get the egg salad sandwich while watching the madness of Shibuya crossing.
Why did I need to do this?
Because Tony said to do it. And Tony was right. That experience was magical. The entire trip opened my eyes to a new world and new possibilities.
I spent thousands of dollars on a trip simply because of the story Tony shared in that episode of television.
Now imagine if you had that kind of power and influence.
What would it look like if you were able to tell a story and make people take immediate action? What would it feel like? How would that change your business?
Here’s the thing…you don’t need to imagine it. You can make it real.
To do this, you need to create a future vision that feels real. It must feel inevitable to the person hearing it. That means you have to speak with absolute certainty even though you know the future is uncertain.
The other day I was talking to one of my founders raising $30m about why they were using so many qualifiers. Qualifiers are words like “hope, think, might, guess”. The problem with qualifiers is they create uncertainty and doubt. So the future story didn’t land with the force it needed to from the founder.
So like a good former trial lawyer who loves frame control, I asked a question that made the founder look at things differently. “Would you be working on this if you didn’t think you will pull it off?”
They answered with of course not. Because they could make a huge salary working somewhere else. So they’ve already done the analysis.
Once you realize that reality, qualifiers disappear. Then you speak about the future with certainty.
When you’re speaking about the future vision there are TWO futures you need to speak about. The Micro Future and The Macro Future.
The Micro Future makes it feel attainable. The Macro Future makes it feel huge.
The Micro Future plays into immediate gratification. The Macro Future plays into greed. And greed is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s a powerful motivator for people that can be weaponized for good.
Here’s a visual that shows how I think about it when I craft a future vision story for a client.
It’s titled Investor Mindset since this is how you need to position it to land investment but the same fundamental approach applies across the board. This works for recruiting talent, setting the internal vision for your team, and talking to the public to get them bought in around your brand.
I go much deeper into all of this in my book that will be up for pre-order in the next few weeks.
3 Questions to help you build out your future vision story
- What’s the most successful version of that future if everything goes perfectly?
- What does that world look like, feel like, sound like, etc.?
- What are the second and third order consequences?
These will help you visualize and do the deep work necessary to put it all together. It’s the 80/20. By answering these questions and thinking how it all goes together you will get 80% of the way to a masterful and influential future vision story.
The reality is that getting it to 100% is something few people will ever achieve. Not because it’s impossible but because they will sabotage it.
It’s work and many will give up. I hope you don’t.
Because one of the most interesting things about great storytellers is how they transcend their industry and era. Tony passed in June of 2018, yet we continue to talk about him and draw inspiration from him. I continue to read his writing, listen to his interviews, and watch his episodes. He puts more emotion into his words than anyone I’ve ever seen.
This past week one of my friends Jeremy Connell-Waite put together a gorgeous post about Tony. Jeremy is the communications designer for IBM. We’d never talked about our love for Tony but here we were on Saturday discussing it. Two professional storytellers talking about a drug addict turned chef turned television personality and how he’s one of our idols.
Here’s Jeremy’s visual on Tony.
I write this newsletter because I want you to transcend your industry and era. I want future founders, entrepreneurs, and investors to use YOU as an example of what a legendary storyteller looks like. I want you ready to guide your company and team through the rough seas to the other side.
I want you to inspire like Tony.
I want people to take immediate action for you just like I did with that spur of the moment trip to Japan.
You can and will do it. As long as you learn to deliver the perfect future story.
RESOURCES for Founders and Storytellers
Here’s a YT video I did on making your story feel inevitable by looking at a classic scene from The Big Short.
“Cream rises. Excellence does have its rewards.” -Tony Bourdain
Have any questions you want answered for future issues? Send them my way.
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A former trial lawyer and prosecutor in Dallas, TX, Robbie trains founders to become world-class storytellers and venture capital fundraisers.
In barely two years, he's helped founders raise $575,000,000 of venture capital.