Today at WORLDZ I got to witness two of the greatest storytellers – recording artist Mike Posner and author Alex Banayan – share their secrets.
They walked through the three steps to a successful story –
1/Focusing on the Origin
It’s important to understand the starting point – The root of the story must pull on the heart strings of the audience.
Mike explained how our story sometimes can feel boring to us since we lived it, but to others it’s brand new and as exciting as we make it.
Alex gave the example of “I grew up in Columbus, Ohio” vs. “I grew up in Columbus, Ohio, but felt like I never had a home”.
At the end of the day, facts are not the story. In their words, the story is the emotional architecture, whereas the facts are just the carpeting or paint.
2/Having a Powerful Intention
What is the mission?
Alex gave the example of the Hangover. It’s not about a bunch of guys going crazy in Vegas, but actually about a guy who may miss his wedding – you keep watching to see if he’s going to make it.
Why should others keep watching or listening to your story?
Alex is the perfect example of this – After deciding he didn’t want to be a doctor, he dropped out of school in an effort to interview living legends on how they launched their careers. He didn’t know how to fund it, so he hacked the Price is Right, won the showcase, sold the boat, and started working toward his mission.
The last 7 years he’s been writing a book called the Third Door with an intention to discover what makes the world’s most successful people tick.
But it wasn’t their stories which made his book a national bestseller… It was his… Alex’s unique ability to share his adventure of how he got in front of these leaders in the first place actually provides life’s most valuable lessons.
But who would have thought Alex’s story would be more appealing than transcribed interviews with Bill Gates, Lady Gaga, or Quincy Jones?
It all comes back to the intention and Alex’s intention was to make the book which moved people, regardless if that meant being vulnerable on his journey.
Every great story has obstacles.
Mike pointed out they don’t always have to be resolved – Great stories do not need a happy ending to be interesting.
Mike told us about how when he met Kanye, Ye told him he didn’t like his song, but three months later, he met Jay-Z and played him the same song. Jay loved it, asked him why he didn’t play that song first, and sent him a record deal offer shortly thereafter.
Alex gave the example of Harry Potter – The fantasy school and Quidditch games may give context, but the life or death situation Harry faces with Voldemort keeps the reader on the edge of their seat and validates the story.
In closing, an audience member asked how to focus on being creative and getting your content out there at the same time. “Everybody she talks to says you need 500,000 followers – is it true?”
The answer is no.
Alex has less than 50,000 followers and is a national bestseller and Mike didn’t have more fans than that when his recording career started to take off.
Here’s an example of if you were Alex how you know you’re on the right path: when you have fans of your book taking it off the shelf at stores and turning it so the cover instead of the binding facespotential buyers.
No quantity of fans guarantees that level of engagement… But that level of engagement is the first sign of a story headed for success.