Posting this right now. I’m doing an experiment where basically anything I’m making that’s public should start from the blog.
An outline post before the podcast episode, an outline post before a video, a blog post before turning it into a Twitter thread, etc.
So this is an outline for a podcast episode, which I can happily say that I actually recorded and just need to edit. (“Just.”)
What do humans have that other animals don’t?
In Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari writes about the power of storytelling. Not to unlock the power of your imagination, but to get huge groups of people working together:
Telling effective stories is not easy. The difficulty lies not in telling the story, but in convincing everyone else to believe it. Much of history revolves around this question: how does one convince millions of people to believe particular stories about gods, or nations, or limited liability companies? Yet when it succeeds, it gives Sapiens immense power, because it enables millions of strangers to cooperate and work towards common goals.
That said, with the podcast, I’m sort of looking to write more for the former—I just want to entertain one person at a time.
Even if that person is me, it could still be worth it.
In Storyworthy, Matthew Dicks explains a 5-minute exercise he calls homework for life.
Take 5 minutes and write down the answer to this question: what made today different?
Five minutes a day is all I’m asking. At the end of every day, take a moment and sit down. Reflect upon your day. Find your most storyworthy moment, even if it doesn’t feel very storyworthy. Write it down. Not the whole story, but a few sentences at most. Something that will keep you moving, and will make it feel doable. That will allow you to do it the next day. If you have commitment and faith, you will find stories. So many stories.
From there, you can relate your own stories to problems the audience relates to by connecting to a shared mental model.
Create a gap
I was watching some blackhead extraction videos the other day (because I hate myself). The formula is the same: the doctor comes in with a scalpel to open a gap, removes some junk, adds some cleaner, then closes it up again.
And if you can learn to become surgical with gaps, you’ll be a better storyteller.
In Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath write about why some ideas stick around and others die. They write about six principles of sticky ideas. Principle 2 is unexpectedness—creating gaps in people’s heads then filling them in.
How do you keep students engaged during the forty-eighth history class of the year? We can engage people’s curiosity over a long period of time by systematically “opening gaps” in their knowledge—and then filling those gaps.
Create an opening, remove any of their misunderstanding, fill the gap with a clear explanation. Make it stick.