The pinnacle of my radio career

I stood, nervously playing with the corner of Jim’s desk. Below me, he was on the phone. He pointed at the receiver and mouthed, ‘One minute’. Lips pressed together, I smiled and gave a quick nod. Anxiety tugged at my stomach. What if he doesn’t say yes? Jim was the events organiser at Xfm, the…

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Having a rough week? And/or: Are a lady? This one’s for you

If you’re in a hurry, scan down, because that first 5 lines of Wild Geese might be something you really, really need to hear today.

Before then – a short, excellent story along with something that’ll make you want to punch the air and take to the streets. Seriously, it’s one of the best things you’ve ever heard.

It’s national poetry month, so here are two of my favourites.

1. A big hero of mine, one of the most charismatic, articulate and smart…

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However bad things get, you’ll ALWAYS have this

It’s a bit of a wonder I’ve survived.

Last Friday evening, I sat in the cavernous hallway of a room that had built in 1933, underneath a giant gold mosaic, and cried…

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Teaching new ideas that people sometimes resist? Try this!

“So guys,” he said, from the front of the large room. “Try this, and you can get to the root of your issue.”

I was on a table right down at the back, so he couldn’t see me rolling my eyes. Jaw set in fury, I looked down at my paper.

It was the Sunday before last, I was at a business retreat, and I was very, very angry.

This year, I’m in a group program, run by Jonathan “Good Life Project” Fields. I’ve been following him for years, and he’s always steered me right. Under his guidance, my business went from doing okaaaaayyy to suddenly making a living doing the thing I’m best at and most enjoy. Working with him again seemed like a good idea.

On this afternoon, 70 other people and I were in a session led by productivity coach, Charlie Gilkey. I’ve hung out with Charlie before – just that morning, he’d been telling me about his recent trip to Hawaii. We get on well and I really like him. I know a lot of people who’ve been coached by him to wild success. He’s a charismatic, clear and powerful speaker.

But, right now, I was cross with him. Furious, actually. Seething.

Or – to be clearer, I wasn’t so much angry with him, as with what he was asking me to do…

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Want to build trust, connection, influence and loyalty? Use THIS in stories. (Science!)

“My stomach was in a tight knot as I walked up to the front door.”

If you want people to really care about your stories, and be inspired to take action, there’s one element you MUST include… and yet, I see people leave it out all of the time.

What is this magic bullet?

EMOTION.

Consider the difference between these two stories:

‘I walked up to the front door.
For thirty seconds, nothing happened.
Then, the door opened, and Sally appeared. I took a deep breath, and said, “Hello.”’

Now, read this one:

‘My stomach was in a tight knot as I walked up to the front door.
For thirty seconds, nothing happened.
I started panicking. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea, I thought. Maybe I should stay out of it.
Then, the door opened, and Sally appeared, smiling. Nervously, I took a deep breath, and said, “Hello.”’

Which story do you care more about? Which one makes you want to keep reading? Which has the strongest effect on you?

I’m guessing it’s the second one. The difference between the two?

In the second, I told you how I FEEL.

Emotions make your story more powerful for five reasons:

(1) We invest in your story
In the second version above, did you wonder WHY I was so nervous – and what might be about to happen?

Telling us how you feel builds tension in a story. Suddenly, there are high stakes, that might not otherwise exist. Researcher Paul Zak discovered that tension is an essential ingredient to keeping us interested in a story.

(2) We trust you more
Have you ever got nervous…

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When your cab journey gets very serious, very quickly

“But that sounds nice! No?” I asked, holding onto the handrail as the cab turned a corner.

I couldn’t see much of the driver’s face. One of the small glass windows was slid open, and through it, I looked at his eyes in the rearview mirror.

He glanced at me and shook his head.

“Nah,” he said, in his South London accent. “It’s pathetic.”…

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Telling a story in just one minute

We sat in the lobby of the conference hall. Janne had told me I could be brutal. “I’m Dutch”, she’d said, “I can take it!” But now, I wondered if I’d gone too far.

And then, she burst into tears.

“Oh my goodness!” I cried. “I’m so sorry!”

“It’s ok!” she said, smiling. “It’s a hard thing to do this, because it’s important to me that I get it right. But it’s ok.”

I’m the Storytelling Coach at the Portland conference World Domination Summit (think less Lex Luther, more do-gooders, trying to make the world a better place). Each year, Attendee Storytellers are invited to go onstage and share their stories.

This summer, hundreds of people applied on Saturday morning to tell a story. On Saturday afternoon, Jolie (the conference’s “Fixer and Voice of Reason”) and I combed through the entries, chose five.

Then, I had just half an hour with each, to pull the story out, and figure out they could tell it in one minute. A process I’d usually spend two or three hours with each person for.

Janne’s story was particularly tough, because she wanted to talk about…

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The Best Life-Hack I Know

Not the actual people's feet.

Sitting in the circle of 30 people, I scanned their faces and tried to read them. My chest felt fizzy; a rampant mix that was equal parts excitement and utter terror.

I was in New York for a weekend workshop on coaching. It was directed at people like me at the time – those who only recently learned that coaching was even a thing – to give us some basics and help us decide whether or not we wanted to make a career out of it. I was excited because this felt like a job that had been invented for me; in one way or another, I’ve been coaching (for free) my entire life.

And I was terrified, because of all those people.

What if they realised I had no idea what I was doing? What if they thought I wasn’t cut out to be a coach? What if they knew I hadn’t had a proper job for months?
And, deep down, another question:

What if…

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Want to find your best stories? Do this in restaurants.

I’m breaking a rule by writing to you today.

This week – last Friday until today – I was supposed to be in New York. On the final trip of a spate that has lasted almost three months, I was going to be hanging out with my mum, who had a week-long job there. But then her job got cancelled, and so I decided to do something I’ve never done before:

Take an internet break.

Email and social media. Not because I’m in the woods, not because it’s Christmas, just… to see what happens.

What’s happened is that…

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What happened when I got locked out of my Air bnb with no shoes on

Perched on the edge of the porch swing, my face and toes in the sun, I balanced my plate in one hand and thought, ‘This isn’t such a bad consolation’.

I was in Nashville. The following day, I was going to be speaking at Jeff Goins’ Tribe Conference, and I’d come out a day early to enjoy some of Music City.

Except… work was keeping me bound to my Airbnb. A last-minute change in my stage time meant I had re-writing to do, and there were a couple of unavoidable Skype meetings. The first in ten minutes, in fact.

I took a snack to eat on the porch, so that I’d at least get a little of the glorious midday sun on my face and bare feet. There was some construction happening across the road, but otherwise it was quiet on the leafy street.

Five minutes later, I finished and carried my plate up to the front door. I clasped the handle, and…nothing. It didn’t turn. What?

Then I realised. The door was locked.

The door that was the only door in. The door whose key was inside. Along with my host’s number. And my phone. And my shoes. Oh. NO.

After trying…

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