Archives for category: Archetypes

Chris Brogan is one of the smartest guys online, and his blog blows most others away.

He’s hit on one of the hot buzzwords in a recent post: a fave in the world of sustainability: “authentic” Chris basically says he’s sick of the term, and offers instead that one should be “helpful”: “…be honest with yourself and filter that into whatever it takes to be helpful to others. Present your most helpful side to the people who need it, and do so with as much genuine interest in other people’s success as you can possibly muster.”

I get Chris’ sentiment here – when marketing folk toss around the new buzz words like “authentic” – it can actually leave you cold.

But a) I’m not convinced that “helpful” is the alternative to strive for. And b) I think his adverse reaction to “authentic” comes from someone being too lazy or superficial to deliver the real meaning (the “authentic” meaning…).

When I advise a client to be authentic, what I’m advising (and will be sure to clarify ) is to be real and to only make promises that you can keep.

A company/person/brand must promise their stakeholders (customers, clients, partners, advisors) only what they will deliver as well as what they stand for, and to deliver on those promises.

Be clear about your intentions, your abilities and your limitations, and that’s authenticity you can take to the bank.

~ Christopher Smith

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“…That, my friends, is the power of storytelling in action.”

And so Brandon Yanofsky turns a blog post from a laundry list of “remember the time when…” to “Here’s what it all means:”

This blog post is simply terrific, and so simply lays out the fundamntals of good storytelling as a CORPORATE IMPERATIVE-

  • The Protagonist Leads the Way
  • Your Antagonist is Their Antagonist
  • The Protagonist Must be on the Move
  • No Plot, Big Problem
  • The Moral of the Story Is…

And this wonderful little biscuit is fished with a cherry on top, courtesy of Apple.

~Christopher Smith

I’ve got a 40-something single female friend.

This friend of mine  – who hits the trifecta of gorgeous, brilliant and kind –  has a great job, does amazingly interesting things, and takes 2 big international trips each year. Every night it seems she’s experiencing new restaurants, music, art, performances. She lives the MOST AMAZING life.

BUT in this day and age where it seems everyone (friends, family, neighbors) is married and completely unabashed about talking about it until they pass out – or you do – and then blah blah about their kids, who can do no wrong… her story is different.

I have to stop myself and ask: so?

Know what? Her adventures are like OXYGEN to the people that drink up her pages and love her. They are thrilled and jealous and longingly wish they could live her life – – even though it might seem THEY have it all with their families and whatnot.

And now I’m reminded of talking to an old school chum who is a partner in a big NY law firm. Same company for X years, big home, big $$ – – he was set for life before he was 40.

I remember telling him of the vagabond way I’d traveled through those same years, from the East Coast to an island to Europe to Wyoming to California, Oregon, back to California… Nowhere near retiring, I felt like a totally unfocused gypsy loser – – until he said, “Wow, I wish I had your life.”

Huh?

“I never did any of that. I wish to God I had.”

What’s THE STORY?

First – YOUR story has power – personal, business, whatever – it crackles because it’s yours.

That’s Point 1: be authentic. Whatever you are, OWN IT.

You don’t have to be Richard Branson, Larry Ellison, or Ernest Hemingway – – (and by extension, the founding of your company doesn’t have to fit into a Harvard B-School case study, and your product can hit the market before anyone knows they need yet (ahem: iPod)…).

But if you do feel like you’re swimming upstream, you might just be an archetypical MAVERICK, EXPLORER or MAGICIAN.

Figure out what your archetype is, and TELL THAT STORY. Tell it again and again until you breathe it, bleed it, can’t live without it.

OWN IT.

And BUILD ON IT.

~ Christopher Smith

Yvon Chouinard didn’t like the quality of the climbing hardware he had to use, so he started making his own – which eventually led to one of the most innovative clothing companies in the world, Patagonia. Steve Jobs didn’t like the beige boxes available in personal computing (or BASIC), so he and Steve Wozniak designed their own computers and operating system – and founded the world’s most valuable company, Apple. Bill Bowerman wanted a lighter, more grippy sole for running shoes, and so he poured rubber in his wife’s waffle iron to make the first Blue Ribbon Sports running shoes, which became Nike. Ginger Smith was driving elderly people to their medical appointments (because there wasn’t a service that did this in Nashville until she started one), and noticed that all wheelchairs look the same – so she formed Ann Sloane to design wheelchair covers that could be personalized, as well as handbags for walkers, which make these elderly people happy. Now she’s making them for Veterans, cancer patients and wheelchair athletes, too.

The Founder’s Legend can be one of the most powerful assets you have to differentiate yourself and your company from the rest. The Legend shows your knowledge of an industry or product, your insight into what could make it better, and your drive to share that knowledge with the world.

In my humble opinion, ALL businesses need a Founders Legend. What’s yours?

 

~ Christopher Smith

The largest animal ever to live on earth, the blue whale

In reading this article about a heated argument between Japanese whalers and the captain of the Sea Shepherd, I was immediately drawn into the emotional drama of an epic good vs. evil battle.

And even though this blog is about storytelling, one of the best storytelling structures is using archetypes. As my friend Sam likes to tell me, “Of course you love hero stories, you’re a bloody American.”

To me, whalers are the vilest bad guys. When I was a kid I was shattered to read about whales being driven to extinction with explosive harpoons – missiles designed to penetrate and shred the soft tissue of the world’s largest animals. It broke my heart then, and it does today. (You won’t be surprised that I feel no sympathy for the “cultural right” argument expressed by the Japanese government, and believe their “scientific research” argument for killing 1,000 whales each year is pure bullsh*t – especially when they have 6,000 tonnes of whale meat on ice  – or enough for 18 months of consumption (not scientific research)).

Here, the bad guy says “we are going to kill 1,000 whales each year” and they lie about their reasons for doing so.

The good guy says (quoted in the article): “Our objective right from the beginning was to sink the Japanese whaling fleet economically, to bankrupt them.”

Is it working?

  • “In February, Japan recalled its Antarctic fleet a month ahead of schedule with only one fifth of its planned catch, citing interference from Sea Shepherd’s vessels.”
  • “Japanese were increasingly shunning whale meat as they accepted ecologists’ arguments to protect the giant mammals”, according to Tokyo University Professor Atsushi Ishii
  • “Frozen stocks of whale meat stand at more than 6,000 tonnes, enough to keep the country in supply at current consumption rates for 18 months, he said

In the end, the guy with the clearest, simplest, most defensible intention is going to win.

The trick is to communicate the intention to the Japanese whale-eating public in such a way that they can get in line with the global sentiment about whales, without losing face. That public then needs to convince the politicians to back down.

Those battles won’t be won on the high seas, but on the page.

~ Christopher Smith