The Importance of Storytelling

The Importance of Storytelling

I still remember a conversation I had with Renat Gabitov in Bali:

(Not sure if these were his exact words, but let’s just pretend they were.)

“In a time where there is more information we could ever consume, storytelling has become the most important thing. There is so much information out there but still, no one does something about it. Only a few people act on the information they consume.”

“That’s why storytelling is so important. You can’t get people to do things, just with plain information. It’s not exciting. You have to tell stories. Share experiences, results, and failures — it’s the best way to get people to do things”.

He said this back in 2018. At the time I didn’t fully grasp what made him so excited about storytelling. I could get his point, but not the underlying principle he was trying to get across.

Now, two years later this conversation still stuck with me. I still remember it so vividly. Storytelling is powerful.

This is not a post bashing on self-help videos. The information inside these videos obviously are valuable.

Rather, I want to show you the importance of storytelling. I want you to understand how you can actually apply self-help information.

Why information is not sufficient in the 21st Century

You know this, right? You watch a Youtube Video, feel super excited about what you just consumed. You want to start doing things now but mehhh, somehow don’t get started.

Hardly any one acts on information. A lot of times information is super shallow and not “actionable”, but even with concrete step-by-step guides, most people don’t do anything with the information.

Why is that the case?

Our brain is wired to want us make us feel good about ourselves. We just want the dopamine that comes with watching a Youtube Video.

You feel good about yourself watching some self-help videos from Graham Stephan or Matt D’avella (those were my go-to dopamine sources).

Every time you watch a video like this your brain releases dopamine.

You think you are “improving”, “accomplishing things”, “getting better” but the truth is you aren’t accomplishing anything watching a video.

Don’t get me wrong, what those folks are teaching is awesome. But again plain information or motivation won’t get us far. Often it’s just not tangible.

Watching Self-help videos releases dopamine, therefore, our brain wants us to feel good about ourselves even though we didn’t accomplish anything.

Quick change of subject:

Back in the day’s information was power. As information wasn’t yet democratized, only the rich and powerful could get their hands on information.

People couldn’t read, and those who could had to pay a lot for information.

Information was valued, as it was scarce and expensive.

Now the internet has democratized and demonetized access to information.

With social platforms like Facebook and Youtube, now everyone has gotten a voice. And this is the main reason, why there has been an exponential growth of consumable content — everyone wants to speak now.

When everyone has access to information, information is losing value.

I don’t want to undermine the importance of information, but when information is abundant it also loses power.

So let’s face it: There is no secret 997$ course that will save you. It all comes down to what you do with the information that is available to you.

Why Stories are so powerful

You remember information. You even are aware of the importance of that information, yet you still don’t do anything about it. I mean how many times have people reminded you that you should work out more, meditate, take care of your sleep or eat healthier.

Stories are wired differently. When someone tells a story, you typically don’t just remember information.

Stories paint a picture and you remember the story itself. The underlying moral of the story therefore automatically sticks in your subconscious.

When a story has a positive outcome, your subconscious connects the action (information) inside the story with the positive outcome.

When a story has a negative outcome, your brain connects the action with the negative outcome.

While pure information doesn’t outline the outcome, stories vividly remind you of the consequences.

So the next time you want to smoke a cigarette your brain remembers the terrifying story of uncle James, who died because of lung cancer, rather than the fact that cigarette smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals.

Stories are outcome-moral-centric, while information is information-centric. Stories make everything much more tangible.

(Quick side-note: Stories are not the holy cure for all of your problems. However I believe they can be a good catalyst, better than any self-help video out there. The best “self-help videos” actually are stories.)

How to tell stories

Most people think that storytelling is a sophisticated skill to learn. I don’t agree. I believe that every one of us can tell stories, as a matter of fact, is telling a story every day. The post you are reading right now is a form of storytelling.

You may think that no one cares about you and your stories but I believe this is simply not true. I always remind myself of the impact that small circle storytelling can have:

My grandmother was the person who had the biggest impact on my entire life (and no, she didn’t have millions of followers):

I still remember my grandmother at the age of 85, working the entire day in our home garden.

My grandmother was a person who would persist in some of the hardest situations. Being a teenager during WWII she was forced to be taken away from her family to serve for the army.

A couple of years later she was put into prison because she had to steal bags of corn, otherwise, she would have starved to death.

Even as I already mentioned, at the age of 85, she had the drive and mental willpower to work in her garden. Work was the only thing that this person knew.

The most important thing about storytelling is authenticity. As long as what you are sharing is true, it is relatable and powerful.

Don’t be afraid to tell stories. Do it often and soon you will see the impact that it can have.

Kobe Bryant on Storytelling

You know I had to include this. This year, one of my childhood legends has passed away. Most people remember him as a basketball legend, but only a few people knew his ambitions post-retirement.

Kobe Bryant wants to be known as a Storyteller. In this video he articulates pretty well, how meaningful storytelling can be.

Kobe Bryant on the importance of storytelling.

Dear Basketball won an Academy Award for the best animated short film. I just hope that he will be remembered for a long time. Rest in Peace.

Why I am passionate about media companies

What’s my takeaway from this? I truly believe that one of the best ways to positively affect people is by purposefully telling stories.

Sharing valuable experiences can have a massive impact on people for the rest of their life.

I know jack shit about coding or retail, but now I realize that actually, I was always interested in media and storytelling. Renat just had to explain me the importance of storytelling. Now the conversation with Renat has become a story in itself.

That’s why media companies always have come naturally to me. Luckily (coincidentally) it’s also the greatest time to start a media company now: Whether it’s a Personal Brand, digital publishing house or even making music or art.

You can share your stories with the entire world. You can have a massive impact right now.

There are a bunch of other reasons why media companies are amazing (like network effects and the antifragile nature of the business model), but let me go into more details in my next post.

Richard Hopp: