Why Does Storytelling Work?
A friend texted me the other day.
He said, Robbie, have you read the book sapiens? I said, no, I haven't read it, but I know what book you're talking about.
“So you need to read it because as I was going through it, I immediately thought of you.” Now, as you can imagine, when I get that statement, I'm thinking to myself, is this a good thing or a bad thing that you're thinking of me reading this book.
And so I asked, why do you think of me?
He said, the first two chapters are all about storytelling and specifically how storytelling allowed homosapiens to become the dominant species and to essentially take over planet earth. Becoming the premier species on this planet. And I thought to myself that that's obviously very interesting.
I know storytelling works.
I've said this before it's built into our DNA, but this is obviously a very well-known author, a very respected book that has pointed this.
And it's true. It's really what allowed us to understand where danger comes and good things as well that allow us to thrive.
Essentially storytelling allows us to both educate and inspire.
We educate so that we stay away from danger and that we do good things and inspire us to go for more. Inspires us to get away from just staying, you know, in our small tribes from just being a hunter gatherer and to try to build great civilizations, to try to create something that's going to last a lifetime, create a legacy, build something that stands the test of time.
We want the stories to pass on.
And so I went into this book and it was pulling some, some quotes from it. One stood out to me and it was this: “homosapiens is a storytelling animal that thinks in stories rather than in numbers or graphs and believes that the universe itself works like a story replete with heroes and villains, conflicts and resolutions, climaxes and happy endings.
When we look for the meaning of life, we want a story that will explain what reality is all about and what my particular role is in the cosmic drama. This role makes me a part of something bigger than myself and gives meaning to all my experiences and choices.”
You see, as I think of that quote, it's so true.
Right? Why does storytelling work?
It's because it gives us something to grasp onto, to feel like we're a character in a bigger thing going on than just ourselves.
And it's true when I work with founders and clients. And if this is you, you need to pay attention because storytelling is the way that you can inspire an investor to get on board, that you can speak to customers and educate them about why they should be using your product or service and why they should continue to want to support you.
That's how you build brand loyalty by telling that great story.
Look at Nike, look at Apple, look at what they do around storytelling. There's a reason why Steve Jobs was far more successful post Pixar than he was pre-Pixar, because he understood the value of stories and what storytelling really looks like.
So as you're going into a fundraise or as you're going into a leadership position and trying to hire people and that CEO role, as you move on in your founder journey, you've got to be telling stories. You've got to create this because stories allow you to educate and to inspire… two main ingredients, to get people to buy into what you're selling.
When we think about this on a very granular level, we're looking at fundraising. Essentially what we're looking at is educate, inspire, right? Educate is helping investors feel safe. It's allowing them to see, Hey, this person thought it out. This person is a safe bet. This person has a plan of action. But you do that through story, right?
There has to be something there that makes them say this person has it figured out. They can put the pieces together. They can explain it in a compelling way that makes me want to invest.
But the inspiring part, that's where you're selling the potential, the vision of where this can go in the future.
Look at what Elon Musk has done with Space X. The entire story was around the need to colonize another planet to become multi-planetary species. For our survival and also so that we can thrive. Now, that seems very far-fetched. If he just would've given numbers about rockets and population and all sorts of numbers and data, it wouldn't have worked, but selling the story of, we are pioneers…now that we can understand.
We are adventurers. We survived. It makes you want to believe it makes you want to take part in that it makes you want to, to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. And if we go back to that quote, that's exactly what storytelling is all about. It makes us feel like we are a part of a bigger story in the grand cosmic scheme.
That's why storytelling works.
You've got to do it well.
That's how you become an iconic brand.
That's how you build a billion dollar company.
That's how you lead a team. That's how you get investment. That's how you become a change maker, a world builder, somebody that can stand the test of time.
As Steve Jobs said, “a storyteller is the most powerful person in the world. They set the vision and the values of the future.”
That's what you're trying to achieve.
But my favorite quote around storytelling comes down to this: “opposable thumbs allow humans to hold onto things, but it's stories that allow us to know what's worth holding onto.”
Your job as a founder, as a CEO, as a storyteller is to show people what they should be holding onto.
What's worth it?
What's worth their time?
What's worth their energy?
What's going to take them to that next level?
How can you invite them into a larger story than just themselves?
When you can do that, you can do anything. And that's how people change the world.
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