Story-telling for Entrepreneurs – with Michael Margolis

Michael Margolis is the founder of "Get Storied" - a company who helps businesses and entrepreneurs to transform through story telling. When it comes to presenting to potential customers or investors, storytelling is a great way to get the m to believe in you and your product, and Michael helps people to maximize the effect of their story through the way that it is told. He comes from a long history of interest and study in society and culture and uses this to help businesses to get the best out of unique stories.

In This Interview You’ll Learn...

  • 56  What Michael does in his business
  • 45  What makes a good story
  • 29  Michael`s tips for someone who is starting out as an entrepreneur
  • 20  Michael`s superhero analogy
  • 39  Why stories are so powerful in bonding people
  • 00  Why it`s important to understand your story
  • 30  Michael`s story
  • 40  What Michael would do different if he started over again

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Show Notes

Podcast transcript:

Starting from Nothing – The Foundation Podcast
Guest Name Interview – Michael Margolis
Introduction: Welcome to Starting from Nothing – The Foundation Podcast, the place
where incredible entrepreneur show you how they built their businesses
entirely from scratch before they knew what the heck they were doing.
Now here’s your host, Andy Drish.
Andy: Welcome everyone to another episode of Starting from Nothing, the
Foundation podcast. Thank you all for the messages that you guys have been
sending.
Just a quick reminder that if you’re interested, in December, we’re going to
feature a Q&A episode. So if you have any questions you would like me or
Dane to answer, please send them to me before December. Just email
podcast@thefoundation.com and we’ll get some of the best question and
answer it on an episode just for that.
With that, let’s bring us to today’s guest who is Michael Margolis. So I’ll give
you Michael’s bio.
For more than a decade, Michael has explored the frontiers of
transformational storytelling. As one of the world’s first business storytellers,
he has consulted a hundreds of organizations, have taught more than 30,000
people about this.
As the founder of Get Storied, Michael leads client engagements, delivers
learning programs, and coaches executive clients. His work and ideas have
been featured in Fast Company, Brandweek, Inc, Mashable, Lifehacker, and
lots of other places.
His latest book, Believe Me: A Storytelling Manifesto for Change-Makers and
Innovators helped to redefine the potential and relevance of business
storytelling.
In 2010 and 2012, he produced the Reinvention Summit, storytelling’s biggest
online conference, as a way to celebrate storytelling insights from across
many disciplines. He’s also been a frequent speaker at conferences like TEDx,
South by Southwest, and CultureCon and others.
Michael, welcome to the show.
Michael: Thanks, brother. It is great to catch up with you.
Andy: So, fun things with Michael. Sometimes when we have people on this guest
or guest on the show is we tell the story of their hero’s journey, from the
beginning until the end, and that’s what we’ve done a lot of.
And the reason that I’m bringing Michael on is because he’s an expert at
crafting stories. And if there’s anything that I’ve learned over the past decade
of being in business, it’s that stories are what sell more than anything.
We spoke at an event this weekend with like Jack Canfield and Tony Hsieh
and Arianna Huffington and the first thing we did, we told two stories. That
was the entire 20 minutes that we had. We told two stories because that’s
what engages people.
Michael and I met, what, couple of years ago. I don’t remember exactly how
we met. Maybe Amber Ray or someone, but I just remember playing poker
with you in New York City at some little place.
Michael, first thing, give us the big picture of you of what you do.
Michael: Yeah.
Andy: 10,000 feet.
Michael: You bet.
What you read in my bio actually, it’s an interesting thing. We’re going
through a big step change in evolution around all of our work. The best way
to describe to everybody what we do with Get Storied is that we’re building a
global learning community that’s devoted to transformational storytelling.
So we work with coaches, consultants, change agents. Basically anybody
who’s in the business of transformation where you want to humanize the
way that people do business, you want to empower innovation. This is what
we teach people how to do using the principles, the heart and the soul of
storytelling.
Andy: Beautiful.
Michael: Yeah.
Andy: What makes a good story?
Michael: Oh man, that’s such a great question, what makes a good story.
Here’s the thing. A lot of people think of story and they think about it as an
artifact like how to tell a better anecdote and they think about it as
performance. What I’ve come to realize is that presence actually trumps
performance. So what makes a good story is authenticity.
See, we’re trying to figure out these days, are you for real? I mean can I trust
you? Are you just trying to sell me more shit or you give a shit? Do you care
about my world and want to make a difference in my world.
When we think about story, and this is the big thing, the mission that we’re
on with Get Storied is that people think of story into small little way. This isn’t
just about having a good little anecdote to sell something or explain
something but it’s quite literally the story you inhabit and do people belong
in that story.
The best way to get there is to really be able to become more comfortable
with being the real you. Really putting yourself out on the line and helping
people understand why you care about what you’re doing and how that fits
into their world and what is it that people desire most and how you make
people feel good about that.
Andy: So if I’m listening and I’m somebody who’s just getting my business off the
ground and doing idea extraction with potential customers and just getting
the foot in the door. In many cases, they have no track record so they have
no trust built with people and they’re starting entirely from scratch. How
does this help them?
Michael: Yeah. Alright, this is great question.
So the first thing you got to remember. Any time you’re doing something
that’s new or different you have to anchor it in the familiar. And so the more
history something has, the more we perceive it to be real or true.
So one of the mistakes that people make as entrepreneurs is I’m doing
something new and I’m like, “Oh, I don’t know. Are you going to believe me?
Are you going to trust me?” like we put on this whole front trying to puff up
our chest and make it as if like we got it all figured out and it comes off as
inauthentic. Whereas you can actually use your history and give people a
back story that makes your work more legitimate and real.
So, we can unpack that a little bit more. I’ll give you --
Andy: Can you make an example? Can you tie it to reality for me?
Michael: Yeah, for sure, man.
Think about it this way, man. What people want to know when they’re
talking to an entrepreneur -- I’ll give you an example that comes to mind. We
just did a coaching session with our learning community earlier today and
one of our members in our community actually is an entrepreneur who’s
creating a new fashion lifestyle brand. Basically clothing that is for the world
traveler.
He’s just getting started with this totally new brand. He’s like, “Alright, how
do I tell the story? Are people going to believe me and trust me?” The reality
is this is a guy who’s an expat, location independent who’s been traveling and
living all around the world for decades.
The rationale behind his product is that he has lived it. Like it’s in his bones,
right? And so there’s this way where he can tell more of his own story and he
shares this great anecdote of being on the streets in Bangkok and like eating
at this noodle shop and he’s like describing everything going on in that scene.
And how some dude who’s been working in the noodle shop starts talking to
him and says, “You know, you’re actually the first Farang, the first foreigner
I’ve ever spoken to at my noodle shop. But the reason I did was the way you
were using your chopsticks, you actually really know how to use your
chopsticks.” And it was like this way of --
Because what he’s doing with his fashion label is creating clothes that are for
-- There’s certain lifestyle where you want clothes that are meant for travel
but you still -- So it needs to be comfortable but you don’t want to be too
geeky and at the same time you don’t want to be like super geeky, techie
dude, and at the same time you don’t want to be a schlub that people don’t
take seriously.
Andy: Yeah.
Michael: So there’s this way about how can you travel the world in a way you don’t
feel in sort of come off like the douchey American tourist, right?
Andy: Yeah.
Michael: That’s basically what he’s solving for.
Anyways, there’s a way that you can use your back story to legitimize that
you were like born to do this. It’s basically what I’m getting at. Does that
make sense?
Andy: It makes total sense.
Michael: Yeah.
Andy: It’s kind of like the origin story of the hero. What led to where you at right
now?
Michael: Yes. As entrepreneurs, I talk about -- Actually, there’s three core stories that
you need to master right out of the gate. Origin story is one of them; the
other two are your customer story and your product story.
Andy: Can you go through all three of them?
Michael: Yeah, for sure.
By the way, I have a TED Talk that actually breaks down those three stories.
So if anybody’s interested, just Google it. What it’s called? I think it’s called
the Three Pearls of Entrepreneurial Storytelling. Or you can find it on my
website.
Andy: Beautiful.
Michael: Anyways, alright.
The first one’s the origin story. The critical thing about the origin story is this
is about helping people understand you’re for real, that I can trust you, right?
Because remember, anytime you’re presenting something to me, I want to
know where it comes from. The more history, the more provenance and
object has the more value or worth it has.
Do you ever watch -- what’s it called? Pawn Stars.
Andy: Hell yeah!
Michael: Right? To anybody who doesn’t know, Pawn Stars, it’s like Antiques
Roadshow only cooler. It’s basically a bunch of random stuff, people come in,
they’re like, “Oh, I want to sell this thing.” So then they’re like, “Alright, let’s
figure out what it is.”
Andy: Where it come from.
Michael: Exactly. Sometimes they bring in the experts and they’ll evaluate it. So the
more story that object has, the more interesting and special that story is and
there’s different ways that that works. But basically the more story it has, the
more it’s worth.
So, that’s what’s important around your own origin story is that you’ve got to
give people an understanding of where the hell is this coming from and what
is it about where this comes from that gives me a sense of trust? Where it
comes from could be you’ve been on a journey for the last 20 years to
decode this issue.
It could be a seminal moment that happened in your life where you
experienced tragedy or you got fired from some job. It could be a certain
technology or scientific breakthrough that you’ve come up with. But you
need something to anchor sort of the origin and one where people go,
“Alright, I like what’s motivating this person. There’s something personal at
stake for them beyond just wanting to make a million bucks. I get a sense of
what makes you tick.” So that’s the origin story.
Andy: Beautiful. I’m thinking, like, for an entrepreneur who is just getting started.
When I was in corporate America, my entire goal was just to get out of
corporate America. I feel like I didn’t really have a story around that. Well,
maybe that’s a story in and of itself though. Yeah.
When I was still in real estate agents on this referral system, really all I
wanted to do is get out of corporate America. But I bet they could all -- like
every single one of them could relate. It’s like, “Oh, I just want to get out of
corporate America so I wanted to do something where I could help people
where I could also have free time. Even though it’s not focused on the
product, I think people would still relate with that, you know.
Michael: Well, yeah. What you’re speaking to there which is actually a nice little segue
to the customer story. You ever see that movie Stand and Deliver with
Edward James Olmos?
Andy: No.
Michael: It was a movie that was like -- It was, I think, in the 1990s or late ‘80s and it
was this great movie in the inner city of LA in a school where a bunch of kids
were written off and he was the math teacher and he came in and basically
taught them calculus and they became this amazing sort of place where --
They won this competitions like academic decathlon and mathematics. Sort
of this wonderful kind of very Disney sort of style story but it had a lot of
humor.
One of the things he says in there, he’s talking to these kids and he’s like,
“You got to have ganas.” “What the hell’s ganas?” Ganas is desire. And so we
forget -- And this is one of the big mistakes I see people do all the time with
the customer story. People talk about your avatar. Who’s your audience?
How you want to relate to them. Too often we think about what somebody
needs versus what they want.
See, ganas is desire. Like what’s the desire that somebody has and how do
you remind them and speak about that desire? So, like your example about
these guys that you were selling to, you were speaking about that bigger
desire. Their desire for more freedom, for a sense of possibility that there
was a pathway for them to -- whether it was just them being able to live
more of their life on their own terms, right?
But we often forget this. This is one of the biggest things. It’s been actually a
big breakthrough around my own teaching that what I’ve noticed is one of
the biggest mistakes that we make with the way we tell our story is problem
solution. It’s an interesting thing to unpack here, Andy, because problem
solution is what we’ve all been taught to do, right?
Andy: Yeah.
Michael: It’s like define your problem and describe the solution, you know? It’s like it’s
the smart thing to do except problem solution makes for a crappy story,
right? You start with the problem. Well, the problem is you’re basically telling
people, and usually your audience, their complicit if not responsible for the
problem. So you’re telling your audience “you know you’re wrong and kind of
stupid but wait, don’t worry. I’ve got the answer.”
I used to hit my head against the wall because I started looking at, like, the
actual structure of how we tell stories as an entrepreneur, as an innovator, as
a disruptor, and there’s something about that that’s actually off.
So, there’s actually a very simple way to restructure it. It’s super simple and
intuitive but then it takes a while for it to click. Instead of the problem
solution story, you have to tell the possibility obstacle story.
So possibility obstacle, if we take it back to this -- for instance, the
entrepreneur in our course right now who’s got this fashion label.
Andy: Yeah.
Michael: You start with the possibility which is isn’t it incredible how -- You can be a
citizen of the world, you can be location independent. That it doesn’t matter
where you live, there’s a way that you can basically become part of the local
community, right? That you can kind of live life on your own terms. That’s the
possibility. It’s like make people feel good. Help people step into it.
And then, only then, do you want to introduce the obstacle, or the problem,
or kind of the rub which is “Look, you’re traveling all around the world and
you kind of need to have the right clothing for it and you don’t want
something that’s too geeky and you don’t want something that’s too
schlubby.”
So it’s just flipping the order of things but you’d be amazed at how many
people are telling the problem solution story and then they wonder why as a
disruptor people think they’re a douche or a jerk and people are like, “Yeah.
I’m not feeling it.”
Anyways, that’s the thing with the customer story is that too often times I see
people create their avatars and the avatars are condescending or judgmental.
It’s like patronizing, talking down to somebody, and it’s all about this frame of
problem solution because it’s like we’re better than them. “Oh, well, I’ve got
it figured out.” Instead of really validating our customer’s world like, “Yeah.
Well, I feel your pain. I get it, man. I’ve been traveling the world too. I was
like, what the hell? I don’t have the right clothes for this.”
It’s just changing the stance that we take with our storytelling which is the
thing I find gets most overlooked. It’s like everybody’s talking about
storytelling these days but we’re not thinking enough about what’s the story
we’re telling and is it the right story for the future we want to create?
Andy: Yeah.
Michael: And is the story we’re telling, how does it make people feel? Does it make
them feel good or does it make people feel like crap?
Andy: So, that’s origin in customer. But customer and product, are those pretty
similar stories? What’s the difference there?
Michael: Yeah. So the product story then actually becomes where you need to
describe, like, basically the secret sauce, right? And there’s a lot of things
with the product story. You can talk about the formulation of it, like, how it’s
made. You can talk about the ingredients of what goes into it. You can talk
about the science or the technology. You can talk about basically more like
the story of what it’s going to do for you, right?
The product story is something that becomes more of the tangible, “Okay,
now you’re making this thing real for me.” This is how this product is going to
touch and shape my life in doing that from an emotional place.
Andy: It reminds me of Sam Adams. Like Sam Adams’ beer. How they always talk
about how the beer is brewed and how, like, all of the things they do and the
hops that they use. That’s what it reminds me of.
Michael: Everybody does this.
If you walk down the supermarket aisle and you take any new product off the
shelf, they all have that little story. It’s like Nantucket Nectars dudes. Like
Tom and Tom, “We used to hang out in Nantucket making smoothies off a
little boat. And then we got this idea. One thing led to the next.”
Or the guy who started Clif Bar. He’s got a whole origin story where he used
to actually -- He was a big bicyclist and he used to go on these long 5000 mile
rides. He was really into lifestyle. Look, I’m just going to be an outdoors dude.
He was truthfully living out of his parents’ garage, right? Just kind of being
that sort of like version of a ski bum except riding his bike.
He was on these long bike rides and he was like, “Man, I’m eating this stuff
that I need to keep going my energy but it tastes like crap. There’s got to be a
better way to -- there’s got to be something else.” He’s in the garage so he
starts tinkering around and he invents the Clif Bar. And since he’s living at
home and he feels a little guilty about it so he names it after his dad, Clif, in
honor of the fact that he invented it in the garage.
There’s dozens of these kinds of stories and the whole purpose of them is just
to humanize.
Andy: You don’t forget them. When you hear the story, you become so wrapped up
in the story of the experience and how you want to tell more of it and
whatnot. It’s beautiful really.
Michael: Yeah. One of the ways that I like to talk about this is superhero origins. It kind
of makes it fun for us to look at it which is we forget. Pick your favorite
superhero: Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman. We forget there are few
superheroes that are born superheroes in the sense of there’s something
that happens where they discover their superhero-ness.
Andy: Yeah.
Michael: Right? So it’s through circumstances and then the choices they make in the
face of those circumstances they’re like, “Whoa! Wait a second. Whoa! I’ve
got this power and this responsibility and this mantel.” and then I got to carry
this through. It’s like Batman seeing his parents gunned down before his very
eyes at the age of five. “Okay, for the rest of my life, I’m going to devote my
family’s fortune to basically making the world right again.”
Andy: Yeah.
Michael: So that’s the piece where we forget we got to be willing to make it personal
especially when you’re an entrepreneur. People say this all the time when it
comes to investors. What they’re really investing is in you.
Andy: Yeah.
Michael: And so people want to know, like, what’s driving you, what’s your underlying
motivation, and that’s where the story can be really powerful.
Andy: Beautiful.
Michael: Yeah.
Andy: It’s really interesting. I’m just thinking like the stories [unclear 00:21:31] and
just considering, like, why do stories bond us like they do? What ends up
happening is there’s a bond between you and the person. Why does that
happen?
Michael: Yeah. Let’s talk about the science of storytelling. It’s a fascinating area and
there’s tons of scientific study that’s looking at this.
First of all, we got to remember that we are a storytelling species. We’re
literally hardwired for this. We’ve been telling stories for 100,000 years.
Andy: Yup.
Michael: Right? All the way back to hanging around in the cave, sitting around the
campfire; what we’re doing, we were drawing pictures and telling stories on
the wall of basically the days of the hunt. There’s a way as a storytelling
species, it’s how we make sense and meaning of everything. Why that
matters more now than ever before is that it used to be a very few controlled
elite control the stories of our lives. Let me explain this, right?
We were born into a set of stories, the stories from our family, our religion,
our culture, education, and these stories basically said, “This is how the world
works, this is what’s right and wrong, this is your place in the world. Now go
forth but be mindful. This is the box.”
Now, if you choose to step out of that box, you can. But don’t think you can
come back around here, right? You’re going to have to leave the garden.
You’re going to have to become an outsider. You’re thrown out into exile.
And so if you wanted to be a revolutionary, if you wanted to be a visionary, if
you wanted to be an adventurer you could, but you basically became an
orphan. That’s the great stories of people who made history 500 years ago,
2,000 years ago. It’s like Odysseus. You go out on that journey.
What’s different today though is what used to be the purview of the shaman
and the elder and the priest is actually available to all of us. This is mind
blowing what’s going on right now which is everybody is a storyteller. And so
that place out in our regular lives with, you know, where do you want to live,
what kind of a job or career do you want to have, what fate or religion do you
take on, what kind of lifestyle. Whether that’s who you love or whatever
freak flag you want to fly.
If you’re an entrepreneur, you’re taking in a step even further because you’re
saying, “I see something that other people don’t see and I want to take that
thing that I see and turn it into something tangible or real that other people
can experience. And that, by the way, is literally what we’re hardwired for as
the storytelling species is the ability to dream or envision something that
actually becomes tangible reality that outlives our own life.
This is how we built civilization. This is literally the DNA source code for how
we create everything and anything. The only thing is today is we got it all at
our fingertips, you know. Like the barrier of entry to actually build your own
world or to take an idea and make it real for people. You can do it with a
computer and internet connection. I mean this is what you guys teach.
Andy: Totally.
Michael: Right? That’s all you need. It’s such a low barrier of entry to start basically
storing your own world.
Andy: Well, it’s so beautiful because not only [unclear 00:25:08] create the reality
that you want to live in. For the first time ever, you know, like for so long
you’re born into that class, right? And when you’re in that class, you’re stuck
in that class and that is your entire destiny. I think it’s so neat that we have a
freedom in the culture that we live in, with the technology that we have now.
We’re born into a class and we can choose if we want to continue staying in
that class or if we want to move to another one. It’s incredible.
Michael: It’s revolutionary.
Andy: It is revolutionary. It’s phenomenal. And it’s so important to have the story
that ties with it, right? Like what your story is and how that narrative ties in
to what it is that you want to create in the world.
Michael: And Andy, you know, the thing I see around that a lot that I think is important
to share is most of us are lost in the story.
Andy: What do you mean?
Michael: Most people don’t know what story they’re in which is, by the way, why
there’s a lot of people out there that are looking for a story. This is why, as a
good entrepreneur, you’re giving people a story to belong to a story they can
identify with, the story that makes sense in “Oh, now that you put it that
way, wow! Okay, now you’re connecting the dots for me. You say it better
than I could but I totally believe and agree in that too.” People are
desperately looking for a story.
So this is how you find your customers by giving them a story that makes
sense of it.
Andy: Yeah.
Michael: Alright?
Andy: Well, it’s so neat because you’re giving your customers a story too but you’re
also writing your own story, you know? I think people lose sight of the fact
that, like, your life is this story that you get it right. If you’re unhappy or if
you’re unsatisfied with something, think of it in the context of your favorite
movie character. Think of your favorite movie, what your favorite movie
character is, and then ask yourself what that character would do in the
situation that you’re in. And I bet you would get a wildly different answer
than what you’re actually doing. Yeah, it’s a fun exercise.
Michael: And what you’re speaking to is the other half of it. So not only is often times
our customer or our audience lost in the story but the biggest Jedi mind trick
as an entrepreneur is making sure you’re not lost in your story because that’s
where you lose people, right? What people are looking for, what investors
are looking for, what your customers are looking for is coherence.
When you’re an entrepreneur, the challenge is there’s so much creative
tension because what you’re literally doing is you’re trying to store yourself
into reality. Any entrepreneur, there’s that creative tension between your
vision or your dream versus the actually reality of where you are and there’s
always a gap. I mean that’s what an entrepreneur does is fills that gap and
you’re usually -- you’re selling from the place of dream with hopefully enough
of a window or sort of a runway to make it a reality.
Andy: Yeah.
Michael: Like “Alright, I sold that product. Holy fuck! Now I better deliver on it. Okay,
do I have enough time?” right? There’s a inherent creative tension that every
entrepreneur has of this differential and in the mistake that we can make.
This happens all the time is actually we psych ourselves out because there’s a
part of us that’s like, “Yeah, it’s not real yet. I sold this thing but I haven’t
made it possible. I don’t have the product yet.”
What you have to do is live from the future backwards. You have to train
yourself to truly believe and inhabit that future story as if it already exists in
the present.
That’s how you become like Steve Jobs and create your own reality distortion
field. But you have to believe it, know it, and see it in every fiber of your
being. And then people are just drawn to it because literally you’re talking,
you’re speaking, you’re living from the future and everybody’s like “I want
that too. How do I go over there?” People are just drawn to it like a magnet.
It’s some Jedi stuff that you really have to cultivate.
Andy: It really is. It really, really is.
Tell us a little bit about your story. You’ve been through some ups and downs
and how did you end up here?
Michael: Man. Well, there’s a lot of twist and turns to that journey.
There’s a few pieces of it that I want to share. The first thing that’s important
is just in helping people understand kind of why I come to this work.
Andy: Yeah.
Michael: And so for myself, I grew up a rather unusual childhood. My father is a mad
scientist and inventor who himself was born in the bush of Africa. And my
mom’s a teacher, artist, and toy designer. I mean I never knew growing up,
Andy, whether my day was going to be a science experiment or an art
project.
Andy: Wow!
Michael: My parents are two creative visionaries who definitely live in their own
reality distortion fields in each their own ways; hyper creatives. But there’s
an aspect of my life where for all that creative freedom, they never taught
me how to fit in or belong anywhere.
So my dad, as I said born in the bush of Africa. I grew up in Switzerland the
first nine years of my life as an expat and then I moved around some more
and stuff. So there’s always a part of me that felt lost in translation.
Andy: Yeah.
Michael: Where the hell do I belong? Where do I fit in? And then anybody who’s close
to the creative process, there’s this frustration of “Don’t you see it? That is so
obvious. Don’t you see? Don’t you see what’s possible here?” For each of us
it’s different. I mean some people can look at a page full of numbers and they
see the story.
Andy: Yup.
Michael: Somebody else, you can give them buckets of paint and they’ll be like, “Oh, I
see a story,” or somebody knows how to decorate a room. Whereas myself, I
couldn’t decorate my way out of paper bag, right? So it’s like we all have
different things that we naturally see. That was part of my frustration of
wanting to help all of us see the bigger story that there’s so much more that’s
possible.
I became an anthropologist, fascinated with culture, and then when I
graduated in the late ‘90s, internet economy took hold. I realized then that
you could study, like, ancient culture or indigenous culture but I was more
interested in, like, the culture of now and how we were literally inventing or
creating culture.
And so that continued to be a running theme. I was a social entrepreneur in
my first career -- had a lot of early success with that. Basically applying
business principles to social change, and then I also had some failure and
disappointment, all sorts of health issues and breakdown. I came out of all of
that feeling like something was missing from the conversation. That’s what
got me started in this. It’s been about 12 years, back in 2002.
Back in 2002, I basically hung out of shingle and started one of the world’s
first consultancies for business storytelling, working with some of the biggest
brands and institutions in the world.
Well, fast forward, doing that for about seven years, in 2009 I went through
divorce. It was some rough stuff. $100,000 in debts; verge of personal
bankruptcy. I lose my business because it gets pulled into the divorce. So I
literally had to just press the reset button.
Andy: Wow!
Michael: Oh yeah. I was living in New York City at the time and I was so broke I
couldn’t afford to move out of New York City. Which I know is a bit of an
oxymoron. I don’t even have the extra scratch to put my stuff in a truck and
move out of the city. I was in this divorce dragging on. But I got to stay in the
city for a while.
But what I did have, like so many of us, was I had a computer with an internet
connection. This was in 2009. It was right at the time where social media had
gone from, like, the super geeky thing to -- it was just hitting that tipping
point of “Oh yeah, web 2.0 is going to change everything.”
Andy: Yeah, I remember that.
Michael: Remember that? We used to say web 2.0.
Andy: Oh yeah.
Michael: It’s such an antiquated term now. But in 2009, that was the jam, right?
Andy: Yup.
Michael: And so I looked at everything I’ve been doing which was more like consultant
and speaker and teacher. I realize though what was at the heart of it from the
beginning had always been a mission of wanting to democratize this stuff;
wanting to like empower the entire world, especially entrepreneurs, and
creatives, and innovators. You got to know this stuff.
So what I did was I wrote a manifesto. Actually I wrote that manifesto, this
book, in 90 days from the first word on paper to having it for sale on Amazon.
Andy: Wow!
Michael: I ate 5 lbs of chocolate covered almonds. I got real fat over the course of a
summer. It was the summer of 2009 and literally I just sat there popping
chocolate covered almonds. I was on a mission, mission from God. I was like,
“I’m fucking doing this thing.”
I got the book out. After a few months, I actually then released it as a digital
download for free and that’s how it’s been downloaded 30,000 times.
Everything snowballed from there. But the big shift to all of that, Andy, was
really taking a stance of working in service to something larger than myself. I
think that’s one of the mistakes people in the consultant, coach, sort of
trusted adviser world. You basically work in-service to your ego or your
clients but you’re not doing an in-service to something bigger.
So that’s the thing that really turned me on these days in really building
basically the learning community that I never had. I had to go out in the
fucking deserts, on a horse with no name, and lots of blood, sweat, and tears
in that process of trying to figure it out by myself. That was just the reality of
those times back in 2002. You couldn’t learn this stuff anywhere.
Andy: Yeah.
Michael: Storytelling, people looked at me like I was freaking nuts. But today, it’s like
the world has caught up to make the thing that I’m most obsessed and
curious about, more interesting and relevant to more people than ever
before. And social media really was the tipping point.
Andy: Interesting. Well, it’s like the world is caught up but you’ve also pushed for it
so much too. So it’s funny how they kind of play together.
Before we wrap, if you were to start over and do it all differently, what would
you do differently?
Michael: Such a great question.
It’s what I’m going through right now which is -- like tell the real story. Not
the story that you think people want to hear, the story that you think you
need to sanitize for -- making sure you fit in and you sell to your corporate
people. There’s all these ways that I feel like we compromise our story as
innovators because we’re so afraid of being judged and rejected versus really
going open kimono about what is this work really about.
And so for me, I mean there’s an aspect to this work, this is shamanic work,
like we’re dealing with, like, the soul of things. And it’s always been there for
me but it’s taken me many years to really get to a place to say, “You know
what, this is what this work is about. Let me put a stake in the ground and
take that stance to not water it down into …” Because the moment you water
it down, you become an also-ran. You sound like every other person out
there talking about the subject [unclear 00:37:54] no point of view.
So, yeah. So that’s what we’re taking a lot. We’re really pushing the edge
right now and in 2015 with what we’re putting out that’s really pushing the
intersection of innovation and spirituality and really looking at these deeper
principles of how we literally -- the stories we tell make our world.
Andy: Beautiful.
Before we wrap, is there anywhere people can learn more about this stuff? If
they want to get in touch with you, where can they do that?
Michael: Yeah, absolutely.
First of all, check me out on Twitter @GetStoried; more than 200,000
followers. I’m constantly on there sharing a lot. If you get to getstoried.com,
that will invite you into our learning community.
And then we have an upcoming program, if you’re interested, called
Undeniable Story. That’s a 10-week virtual training program that teaches you
step-by-step actually. What is the architecture of the story? How do you
switch from problem solution to possibility obstacle? Right? In the ways
where you want to tell a story that attracts more than repels.
That’s our next upcoming course and then lots of other invitations and tons
of free content in ways people can join us on this journey and hopefully be an
oasis for anybody who believes that they have a bigger story to tell and want
to bring that to life through your entrepreneurial venture.
Andy: Beautiful. Michael, thanks for coming on, man.
Michael: It is a pleasure, Andy. Absolutely love everything you’re up to and look
forward to talking again.
Andy: Thanks, brother.
If you’re listening, remember email me podcast@thefoundation.com. Let me
know any questions you have. We’ll get those answered in the December
episode. Thank you all and I will see you next week.
Closing: Thank you for joining us. We’ve taken this interview and created a custom
action guide so you know exactly what action steps to take to grow your
business. Just head over to thefoundationpodcast.com to download it for
free. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week.

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