Storytelling struggles without a catalyst
Yet a catalyst doesn't have to be in your face. It can be quiet, almost introspective.
So how do you create powerful catalysts for your stories?
And then once you have the catalyst in place, how do you connect the story back to your article, podcast or presentation?
In this storytelling episode Sean talks about
Part 1: What is a catalyst and why you need it in your story
Part 2: What is the point of a story
Part 3: How to use storytelling in your presentations, articles and sales letters
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This is The 3 Month Vacation and I'm Sean D'Souza.
In 2003, I stopped watching TV. It wasn't like I didn’t like TV. In fact, I probably liked it too much. I'd spend two, three hours every single day, watching TV. It didn't seem like two or three hours; it seemed like just might be half an hour. I’d switch it on at six o'clock in the evening, then it would be seven o'clock, then eight o'clock and then nine o'clock. And of course, there was the morning news. In effect, I was spending three or four hours watching completely crazy stuff. At this point, my brother-in-law Ranjit moved to New Zealand. He lived with us for several months before finding his own place. In the month before he left, we had a conversation. It wasn't a conversation really. It was more like a bet. He said that I watched too much TV, and I said, “No, no, no, you watch too much TV.” We took this bet, and the bet was that the next person that switches on the TV loses. We didn’t say what that person loses, but right after that discussion, not one of us touched that remote control. The TV sat in the corner for a week, two weeks, three weeks, four weeks. Ranjit moved out, and it still sat in the corner. We didn't switch it on.
A few months later, we put the TV in the closet and eventually we just got rid of it. What's the point of the story? What we're listening to here is this unfolding of the story, but right at the core of it is a catalyst and that catalyst is causing us to move the story forward because that catalyst has speeded up some action, and that's taking us towards an endpoint. When we look at the same story without the catalyst, it becomes very boring. Let's run that same story once again. Let’s say, my brother-in-law, Ranjit wasn't around and that one day I decided to stop watching TV and so I kept the remote to the side. That was it, 13 years have passed, and I haven't watched TV. It's not as interesting, isn't it? That one little factor that came into play, which is my brother-in-law stepping in, the bet and then both of us being very pigheaded about it and not watching TV that's what causes all the drama.
You've got to have a catalyst in your story, but you also have to get that story to an end point, and that is what we're going to cover in today's podcast. We're going to look at this understanding of the catalyst, which could be an active catalyst or an inactive catalyst. The second thing that we look at is what is this catalyst leading to, why are we doing this whole story thing in the first place? What is the endpoint? The third thing that we're going to look at is how are you going to use this storytelling in your presentations, in your articles, in your sales letters? We'll take a look at some of those things.
Part 1:What Is The Catalyst
Let's get started with the first thing, which is understanding the catalyst and how it can be active or inactive. If you look at the rating of all the podcasts, you'll see a little C symbol on it. That C symbol, it stands for clean. It means that you'll never get any bad language on this podcast, you’ll never hear any swear words, you'll never hear anything that you would hear on another podcast. All of this goes back to one moment in time when I was in school. I didn't use any bad language and then suddenly when I was in the sixth grade, I decided that every third word had to be a swear word. I don't know how it started. I don't know why it started, but the moment I’d get on to the playground with my friends at school, I would start to use the swear words. One day, my brother showed up, and he's standing there and he's watching me. I'm playing and using all these swear words. Suddenly I realize, “Oh, what is he doing standing there?” He's got this evil grin on his face, and he goes and he says, “I'm going to tell daddy about this.” That's the first moment that I realize, “Oh, all these swear words, all the stuff that I've been doing, he's going to report me.” He's my brother; I couldn't do anything to him. He still had to get home in one piece.
I go home, but now I'm terrified. I know my brother, he is going to tell his story. He is going to tell my father that I'm using all these swear words. I'm expecting some real trouble. I don't know what the trouble is going to be, but I know there is going to be trouble. My father says to me, “Sean, I would prefer that you didn't use bad language anymore.” “That’s it?” That was it. That was pretty much it. Over 30 years have passed since that moment and to this day, I am deeply embarrassed if I have to use bad language even by mistake. What we're experiencing here is this concept called the catalyst. For the story to reach drama level, you need that catalyst. You need something to happen; you need something to speed up those bunch of events, so that you get to the other side, whatever that other side is. When we examine this, we say, “Well, what was the catalyst or who was the catalyst?”
We could say that my brother was the catalyst because if he hadn’t gone on this big tell-tell mission, then I wouldn't have had the problem. Somehow I think that wasn’t the catalyst. It was the calm. The fact that my father didn't punish me that struck a chord. That calm, it became the inactive catalyst. When we look at the catalyst, we look at something that's active and something that’s inactive. To me at least, the active catalyst is someone or something that's pretty much in your face. When I told you some stories in some other podcasts about how my friend Joan, she got into the space and she asked me about my trip to New Zealand. When we were immigrating to New Zealand, she became the active catalyst. She was that one force that pushed me along the journey or did I tell you the story about my mother-in-law and how we went for a week into Northland, which is just a couple of hours from Auckland. These were the early days of Psychotactics. I took some books with me, some business books and she said, “No, no, no, we're going on a break, and you're not going to read anything on that break.”
Here's what I did, when they went for a walk, I read my business books, sitting in the hotel. When they went to the beach, I continued to read my business books. When I got back to Auckland several days later, I’d finished all those books. I didn't get any walk and didn't go to the beach, but I finished reading my books, and that catapulted me into this world of Psychotactics, which is what you know of today. When I'm looking at story-telling, I'm looking at, “Well, is this an active catalyst or is this an inactive catalyst?” To me, an active catalyst is something like the drip drip, drip that water that leak that instant fix that has to happen now. The inactive catalyst is something that is introspective that you have to think about. I would say the mother-in-law story that would be an active catalyst. The story by Joan and how she got us moving to New Zealand that would be an active catalyst. The story about my father and how he was so calm, to me that became an inactive catalyst. It became something that was introspective, something that I had to go back and think about what I was doing.
If you want to segregate them into two bits, you can say, “Well, we're going to have an active catalyst here, someone that is agitating you to move towards that destination that urgency is in place and then you see the interactive catalyst, where you ponder, and you think about it or you read a book and that book changes your life and that becomes the inactive catalyst.” Whether you choose an interactive or an active catalyst, the point is that when you're telling a story, those elements need to be in place. When you write your story, you need to know very quickly what is that catalyst, who is that catalyst and how did it change whatever you were doing? All that bad language that I was using with my friends that was my everyday life, nothing was changing, nothing changed in that world until the catalyst came along. The catalyst became calm and then I got to a destination.
Part 2: What Does The Catalyst Lead To?
That takes us to our second part, which is what is the point of this story? What is the point of the catalyst? Christopher Vogler has this story telling seminar, and it's about the hero's journey and how the hero goes on this massive journey somewhere and then he comes back a changed person. In one of his story telling seminars, he talks about this sheriff. The sheriff decides he wants to retire, so he's hanging up his guns. He doesn't want anything to do with all this violence and gun slinging. He just wants to live peacefully, and while he's going about doing this peaceful routine of his every single day, he notices this pretty woman. He sees her buying some groceries and then another time; he sees her walking down the street and slowly he's falling in love with this woman. Suddenly, a group of bandits ride into town, and one of the people that they kidnap is the woman.
Suddenly, his whole peaceful routine, it's finished. Now, he's got to pick up those guns and get back into this world of violence that he has left behind. Let's assume the story unfolds as it should. He meets the bad guys. He gets rid of them. He gets the woman back, but what's the point of the story? When I tell you the story about how Joan got us to New Zealand, there is a point to that story. When I tell you about how I read the book by Jim Collins, which is “Good to Great” and it asked me, “What can you be the best in the world at?” Well, there is a point to that story. When my father said, “Hey, Sean I would prefer you don't use this filthy language,” there was a point to that story, and that is critical. Most people think that if they just tell the story that's fine, but it's not. You have to have a point through the story. As kids, we know that this is the moral of the story, and it's not necessarily the moral that we're looking at here. We're looking at why are you telling me the story?
When we started selling the Brain Audit, which was way back in 2002, I had written this book, this PDF and then I went to this guy who was selling stuff online. His name was Joe Vitale. Joe was very excited with the book. He said, “Hey, this book is really good, I could promote it for you.” He got us to do stuff. He got us to get our credit card system in place. He got us to get the sales page up. All of this had to be done in a week and then we were waiting for him to promote it. A week passed, and he didn't do anything. A month passed, he didn't do anything. Suddenly, we noticed that people were buying the Brain Audit. The point of the story is that Joe was not supposed to sell anything for us in the first place. He was supposed to be a kicking angel. What I call a kicking angle and kicking angle is someone that comes in there and kicks you and gets you moving and then moves out of the way. They don't buy anything from you. They don't sign up for any of your courses. They just make sure that somehow you get moving. Now, you know the point of the story because if I wrote an article about kicking angels, and I started out with the Joe Vitale story, you know Joe was the kicking angle.
The point of the story is that when someone promises to sign of course or they decide that they want to come to your workshop, or maybe they just decide to promote your book, but do nothing and yet there is a point to that story. There was a catalyst that catalyst was Joe. He came and he created all of this boat rocking and then he disappeared, and that was the point of the story. His disappearance was the whole point of the story, and so you’ve got to have these two elements in your storytelling. You've got to know who or what is the catalyst? Is that catalyst just something that you're thinking about? Is it something that is introspective and inactive or active like Joe, like, “Come on, get your credit cards together, get your stuff together.” Once we know that catalyst and then we need to know well what was the point of the story because that point of the story helps us reconnect to the article, to the sales, to everything else. Without that point of the story, it doesn't matter. The story is just a story with no real connection.
Part 3: How To Use The Storytelling In Your Presentations, Articles And Sales Letters
This takes us to the third part, where we start to look at how do we use this in our communication, whether we're doing sales letters or articles or presentations or anything at all, how do we use it? On the Psychotactics website, there is a product called Black Belt Presentations. In Black Belt Presentations, I talk about how we manage to sell $20,000 worth of product at a single conference. The story that precedes that conference is even more interesting. That is because I went to Australia, and I spoke at this conference and I hardly sold anything. I watched as other presenters not only sold stuff, but people were stampeding to the back of the room to get their stuff. I wanted to create that stampede, so what I have there is this whole point of the catalyst. I stood there like an idiot, watching as other people succeeded while I failed miserably. The point of the story is very simple; I needed to figure out what they did and how they did it and how I could do the same. That day when we sold $20,000 in a single hour at a conference, it goes all the way back to the point where I failed, and that point of failure was the catalyst. What is the point of the story?
Well, if we were just at a party, and we're drinking some wine and eating some cheese, it makes for some great entertainment because hey you succeeded, but what are you going to do with it when you get to the sales page? This is where stories are so effective because they help the reader to get into that same mindset that you were in. When this goes on to a sales page, and I tell the story, I can then connect it to the Black Belt series. Then you realize, “Well, if I'm going to make a presentation, if I'm going to fail, then no, I'd rather not fail, I’d rather figure out how to be able to set up my slides, how to work out, how the audience participates, how they react, I need to know all this information and me need to know how to put my presentation together.”
The reason a client is going to buy the Black Belt Presentations, even though it's not a cheap product is because of the story. The story starts them on that journey. It sends them through the catalyst and eventually there is a point that you do not want to be standing there and watching while others sell and you do nothing. You don't always have to tell a story to sell a product, but you have to tell a story to get an idea across. Let's say I was going to tell a story about how kindness is more powerful when dealing with human beings than say brute force or anger or frustration. Then, I could tell you the story of how my father said, “I wish you wouldn't use that language.” Now, we have a point to the story. The whole point of the story is that you've created change, and so this takes you right into writing your article about change, about kindness. You start off with the story about the father and the son, you then move through the catalytic moment and then finally what's the point of the story. It's kindness works better and then talk about how kindness works with dolphins and dogs and people and how all the elements that you're going to cover in your article. The storytelling that’s the whole magnet. That's the thing that sucks me into reading the rest of the article.
If you do not have the skills to tell a story and you don't get it through the catalyst and you don't finally get to the point of the story, well it's a not wasted exercise, but it's entertainment, possibly entertainment is good enough. When you're in business, when you're writing that article, when you're writing your sales letter, you need to be able to tell those stories using this catalyst.
Let's summarize what we have covered today. We covered three things. The first thing is the catalyst and how we can have that active catalyst and the interactive catalyst. The active catalyst is something urgent. The roof has just fallen, you have to fix it. Your friend runs into you while you're grocery shopping, and she says, “No, no, no, you have to get to New Zealand now.” Then there is the inactive catalyst, something you read, something that's introspective. The catalyst alone is not that important if there's no point to it, so there must be a point. It's like, why is this happening? Why is my brother-in-law stepping into my life and taking a bet with me about the television? It's changed my life. I stopped spending two, three, four hours. I thought I was spending just a little time in front of the TV, but when I stopped watching TV and when I threw it out and gave it away that's when I realized, “Oh my God, I was spending so much time in front of this stupid device that taught me nothing.” There was a point to the story, and it wasn't just entertainment. Now, it could be entertainment, but in business, you're going to have to connect it to something that you're selling or something that you're telling. If it is something you're telling, like an article, then how does it connect?
We saw that with the Black Belt Presentation, the whole story could then fit in, so that you would decide, “Well, yes I don't want to be in that situation,” or if I'm talking about my father's story then I could connect it to kindness and how kindness works very well in changing the perception of other people. There you have it, the catalyst, the point of the catalyst and then how to connect it back to whatever you're telling or whatever you're selling. What's the one thing that you can do today? Well, the one thing that you can do today it start off with the point of the story. Why are you telling the story? What change do you want to occur? When you do that, then you have to go out and seek the story that fits into that point. You can work it from there forward. It's not easy. We have to learn how to do this, but always there has to be the point. Otherwise, it's just entertainment.
Talking about entertainment, have you been to a Psychotactics Workshop? Well, there is one showing up in Nashville, Tennessee on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th of December, and then we go to Amsterdam, the Netherlands on the 15th, 16th, and 17th. Psychotactics Workshop is a lot of fun. I know lots of people promised fun, but this is a lot of fun and you learn systematically, just like you’ve been learning on this podcast, there is a system and by the end of it, you are exceedingly good at story telling. That's the goal. The goal is not to give you information. Information will come to you in notes and like in all workshops, there will be slides and presentation, but most of the time you will be working and having fun in your groups and learning to write stories, which is what the goal is after all.