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#27 The Power of Story to Strengthen Your Business Brand, with Park Howell

Story is the software that drives the hardware of our brains, says today’s guest, Park Howell, as he takes us through the ten steps of the story cycle process based on Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey. We learn to super focus on ourselves and the stories we tell ourselves, and from the outset of this interview I was busy doing my homework on my business brand. If you want to own both your personal and business brand, I strongly recommend you download the notes for this interview, so you, too, can get on with your homework to make sure you’re telling the right story at the right time to the right people. Ever generous, Park shares a couple of resources to get you started. These are the 12 Primary Personality Archetypes, here and the 10 questions you need to ask to brand your story here. You can find out more about Park and the business of story here.

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Park Howell
Melinda: Welcome to another episode of Writer on the Road. Today we're traveling across to the U.S. and I have the master storyteller himself with me, I have Park Howell and he is the owner of the business of story. Welcome to Australia Park!
Park Howell: It's great to be here, I appreciate you taking the time especially so early on your Saturday morning kicking off the weekend. So it's an honor to be here.
Melinda: As my listeners know I end up all over the world, I've spoken to people in Germany, I've spoken to people in Newfoundland, I just love getting around the place. So Park it's a pleasure, one day I'll get to see you all in person but in the meantime I just have to talk to you at these ungodly hours over here in Oz. If you'd like to introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your story.
Park Howell: Absolutely, thank you Melinda. Again, my name is Park Howell as you mentioned with The Business of Story. I'm in Phoenix, Arizona it's 95 degrees out right now at one in the afternoon on Friday, so you've got a full day ahead of me here. I have been in the advertising marketing world for thirty years, working for other agencies, I've run my own ad agency for twenty of those years, one of our specialties was really in brand strategy development, we did everything from traditional advertising, TV, radio, print, outdoor, that sort of thing when we got our start. Of course everything has moved into the digital realm.
For the past ten plus/twelve years, I have really studied storytelling especially starting out of Hollywood, what does Hollywood know about telling a great story that we all can use in our own lives to really own that story, our personal brand and our professional brands so that we can connect with people on a more human level and Melinda that's important in this day and age because as you know as we're doing right here the masses are the media, brands used to own that influence of mass media of TV, radio and print but now because the masses are the media there is an absolute cacophony of communication out there and it's really, really difficult for brands whether it's a solopreneur, entrepreneur, mid-market company or very large brand to cut through the clutter, rise above the noise of the attention economy and really stand out.
I found through kind of a hypothesis of using The Hero's Journey, Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey, and we can talk a little bit about that, created a process that we could use in business, kind of simplifying it but very much approaching our brand stories like an author would so that we can create more of a human connection with our audiences and get away from the features and benefits din that's happening out there that we're all competing with and going back to literally the irony of this is the ancient power of story how our brains are hardwired to create meaning out of the madness around us through story so that we can overcome our technological advances that makes us all a broadcast station. So that's kind of the quick synopsis of traditional advertising, having to understand story just to be successful with ourselves and our brands to, again rise above the noise.
Melinda: Thanks Park. What you've done, you've summed up what our problem is as indie authors, defining our stories, getting our name out there, being heard above the noise. Now I've had another guest on, Brian Crisp, he works for Newscorp here in Australia and he's head of their digital content marketing. Brian has already talked a little about what Park's talking about and it's that power of story, how we tell our stories, how we define ourselves.
Today Park's going to talk us through a little bit how we do that. He doesn't know that yet, he's looking at me saying am I? Yeah, so yeah that's what we'd like to know pal, we want to make sure that we get it right because we, our businesses are I guess miniscule in the big realm of that digital world but a lot of us are storywriters, we're novelists and a lot of us are in that, I guess that romance writing world and adventure thriller writing world and there's a lot of noise out there. But that art of story seems to allow us to break through I guess a little bit more easily then some.
So what it'd like you to do is you take us through that story cycle because you’re very good at it. I've listening to Park, if anyone wants to go back it's, I think it's episode 39 with Daniel Gefen, we've had Daniel on guys and Park actually took Daniel through that whole process, I'm not going to let him to do that to me today because I might cry. So Park go for it!
Park Howell: Sure, oh thank you. Melinda let me start by saying it's really important what I've learned in this processes of proving out this hypothesis that what Hollywood knows and the story structure that we need to know and use is that we're all dealing in this world of abundance, there are abundance opportunities for our clients and customers to choose from abundant different people and the only way, ironically enough that we can really stake out our own claim as we have to get super focused on ourselves and that begins with truly understanding our story.
I tell my classes I teach at Arizona State University this process and all the brands I work with, the most potent story you will ever tell is the story you tell yourself, so make it a good one, let's start there. But number two really understand how you are unique in what you bring to the market. Anybody can use this process on themselves, as a writer, as a communicator, as a leader to help start separating you from the ocean of people out there that are doing the exact same thing but I guarantee you we are all unique in our ways and what we bring to the world and when you understand and are able to quickly articulate that story you will start separating yourself from the pack.
The little bit of a history lesson on Joseph Campbell and you may well have covered this on your show, he was America's foremost mythologist. He studied story starting with Native Americans over here and he found that the tribes shared a lot of the same stories they were just told in their own language and their own region with their own characters but he realized that there was this absolute pattern to story. He started digging deeper into that and he found that this dates back to the beginning of time, Aristotle talked about it, the Apostles, Shakespeare, up to Spielberg in this day and age. It's this universal structure he calls The Hero's Journey.
I've boiled it down to this ten step processes I call the story cycle, very much inspired by The Hero's Journey and again what I say how Hollywood was using it and how screenwriters were using to make just some of the most magnificent movies out there but there is a formula to it, there's a from, there's a pattern to it. So what I do is, I'll take you very quickly through it, the ten steps.
Step number one is simply the backstory, you got to set the stage for you story. If it's your personal brand you just ask yourself where have you been, where are you now, where are you going and ultimately want to get to that point of what are you the best at. Now I don't mean by bragging, I'm just saying what is your personal passion that drives your professional pursuit. When you find that, you find that now you're rising above people because you're just doing something you naturally love and you're probably already pretty good at and you're willing and have the grit to pursue it. So that's the backstory for your own personal stories to try to define what is your number one position in the marketplace.
Number two is who's your hero, chapter two. So we have to know who this story is for, in this case the story is about you but you're not the hero, you are the guide and we'll talk about that in a minute. So you want to identify who your hero is, who's your hero. It's not only for your brand but for big brands we ask them to identify who are your top three audiences that you're talking to and what is it that each one of them wants. Alright, so every story has a protagonist that we can live vicariously through, relate with, and cheer for them as they are on their journey to achieve something. So in this case your protagonist hero needs to match up with your audience, so you have to really know who they are.
Step three is what's at stake. You don't have a story unless you have something at stake, something you are willing to go after no matter what and knowing that you're probably going to have to pivot a couple times along the way is, the universe has a way of punching us in the nose when we go after something to test ourselves. But you want to know what's at stake in this journey, hat do you stand to gain when you go after it and what do you stand to lose if you do nothing, if you stay in status quo.
Number four then speaking of status quo is what Hollywood calls the inciting incident. I call it, that's sort of jargon-y, so I call it simply the call to adventure. Now what is happening in the marketplace out there that is changing either a disruption that's going on that your brand is responding to or a disruption that you are actually creating in the marketplace and this is really important. It's as important if not important than stakes because if we stay in status quo nothing changes we have no story. We need this inciting incident to propel us forward.
Get into chapter five of the story cycle process and we are talking about what I call villains, fog and crevices or the obstacles and antagonists that are in our way. So I break it down into these three Melinda because they're kind of fun, I find it really works for the business mind to get them out of their left brain and into their right brain and into their hearts and have some more fun. Who are the villains that stand in your way? Could be competition, often competition someone who's trying to keep you from succeeding or taking your market.
There's also internal villains, that little voice inside of us that says oh I'm not so sure you're smart enough, fast enough, good enough to pull this off. We even have loved the ones that become the euphemism of a villain in that they have our best interests at heart but they're going to say well are you sure, hasn't somebody already done that or if this idea's so good someone would have already done it. They're always trying to protect ourselves. So we have to recognize those folks in this story arch and understand how we're going to deal with them.
Then we have fog, the blind spots, what it is we don't know that we don't know. If we're talking about our customers what is it that they don't know about us that are blind to that we need to illuminate through how we share our stories. Then finally the third part of this is the crevices. What are the gaps in our story and in our performance, we may say one thing but are actually doing something else. That will destroy a story faster than anything else. When we work with big brands this is really a kind of come to Jesus part of the process because often they will tell us an aspirational story of where they want to be but then they have to come to grips that they aren't operationally delivering on that yet. So they have to get their story and really understand it internally and deliver on it before they can talk about it externally.
Alright, so five chapters right there, very quick. Do you have any questions before I go to the second half of this?
Melinda: Yes, my question is Park what's my podcast about again, I've forgotten now. I'm starting to think oh I've got to go back, I'm going to have to do some homework team. Bear with me I'm going to the end of Howell's, sorry, Park's little talk here and then I'm going to redefine myself and all my audience will probably go away and I'll get whole new one. Keeping going!
Park Howell: Well what we will do after this, I've got ten questions, I can boil these ten steps down to the ten most basic questions that you can use and you listeners can use very quickly to kind of write down the answers to and you'll see gaps in your answers, you'll see areas that you don't know that answer is and that's totally cool. But that's where you use this process to truly author your story. So I'll get to that in a minute after that.
Let's review, we went through the backstory, the setting of the stage or your number one position in the marketplace, what do you do better than anybody else. Number two, who's your hero. So you are your audiences that you are sharing this story with and what do they want because you have to share the story from their point of view, not yours. Number three is what's at stake, what is it that they want to achieve in the hearing of the story that you can help them achieve? You help your audiences get what they want, they will go out of their way to help you get what you want. Number four you can't sell them the status quo unless you're the low price leader like Wal-Mart so what disruption is going in the marketplace that makes you more relevant and more urgent than anybody else out there because of how you helped them answer that disruption. Number five you got your villains, fog and crevices, the obstacles and antagonists.
This is where you as a brand really step in honestly. This is called chapter six enter the mentor, the guide. Now a lot of people think the protagonist is the most important part of any story but if you think about it, you know Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz she was the protagonist we could live vicariously through her, we could experience her. But without the mentors that she has Glenda Good Witch of the North and her sidekicks that went along the way, they were hugely important for her to find herself and find her journey. Same is true with Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda with Luke Skywalker, Luke was of course at the center of the story but without those folks aiding him he would get nowhere. So that's the beautiful thing about this is you are not the center of the story your audience is because you are the guider, the mentor.
What I do is ask the guides and mentors to really think about three things. What emotional promise do people get by simply interacting with you and the brand? Is it peaceful, is it confidence, is it excitement, I mean what is that emotion that they get when they interact with you? Number two what gift do you provide them? So as a writer a lot of people might think well my gift is I am a wonderful romance novelist and I focus on Queensland area, to get it really focused that's what I do, so my gift are these wonderful books I write. My argument would be that's what you make but what do you actually make happen in their lives.
Your gift really might be the gift of transport, you are transporting them into another world. It could be the gift of freedom, you're allowing them to get out of their own lives and enjoy something different for a while, it's escape or something. So ask yourself as the mentor you're building this personality around it, what is the emotional promise people get every time they interact with you and what is the gift they receive that goes beyond what it is you make, it's what you make happen in their lives.
Then thirdly in this area is what personality do you take to market and how authentic is that personality. So we use in our branding process the famous Swiss psychologist Carl Jung's twelve architypes, everybody knows about them. The people that really geek on archetype take these into thirty-four, thirty-two, sixty-four, I mean you can go deep, deep, deep. I have found twelve primary archetypes are a great way to go in and look at the different archetypes and how they relate to you and you will probably find one that is your absolute primary archetype and then you might find one or two that are supporting archetypes, most people typically do.
Melinda I can tell you I've got a Slideshare and I can send you a link to this so you can have it in the notes of these twelve archetypes spelled out, it's really quick your listeners can go and pull up a slide per archetype, very quickly understand, seem some examples there of what each archetype is and start trying to define which one is good for them, right for them and this is important because the archetype now informs the personality and the expression of your brand. So for instance one archetype is the jester archetype, the fun archetype. Do you have Ben and Jerry's ice cream out there? Is that an ice cream brand?
Melinda: We do, yes, we do.
Park Howell: So that's a jester brand. Premium, they have fun with it, very much with jester brand. Do you have Haagen-Dazs out there?
Melinda: No, I don't think so.
Park Howell: Okay, another very high end, premium brand but that's a lover brand. They are selling the same commodity of ice cream, both of them are delicious but one of them has very much this jester personality, Ben and Jerry's, and one of them has this lover personality. Just to be able to cut through the clutter, separate themselves on the shelf just like we all need to do when we're talking out there. It's really important to because it helps guide our content creation on our websites, the visuals we want to use, it gets out of just thinking of features and benefits and bullet points and listicles and that kind of thing because your voice needs to resonate through to really spell out your brand.
I've been going on and on, any questions? More questions so far? I know I'm throwing a lot at you.
Melinda: I want lover's ice cream, I'm still hung up I haven't got, and I know the fun one I'm doing it all wrong. Park I'm fascinating and I'm listening with avid ears and I'll certainly transcribe this everyone and get it up there. I immediately started jotting Carl Jung's primary archetypes for all us everyone, but we're really spoiled here today because Park's going to supply it all for us. I'm guessing that this will be one podcast that we can take so much from that we'll probably listen to again and again. I will of course refocus on my three gifts to my audience and my reasons for being here. But we all know I'm here so that we can bring on guys like you to help us make, be better story tellers. So look don't let me interrupt you, they'd rather listen to you then me today.
Park Howell: We'll move into chapter seven, and chapter seven is actually where you get talk about your features and benefits a little bit. It's all been setting the stage for that. Chapter seven I call "The Road of Trials" this is where the journey is, where your audiences start truly connecting with you on their terms, not yours. But what you obviously are trying to do is share with them is a story that they can live into and prosper from and it happens to be your story. You're trying to build our audiences of shared values.
We look at three primary mile markers in this journey. Brand awareness, where do they first hear about you and what was I doing within my own journey that you are connecting with me on? Brand adoption, oh I like what you have to say, I'm going to buy into that, I'm going to adopt it. It doesn't mean I'm going to keep you around I'm going to adopt. What part of the journey are they on when that happens and which stories do you connect with them? The next one is brand appreciation, I love you, I'm coming back, I'm buying more of your books, I'm buying more, I'm sharing you around, I really appreciate what you do. So each of those three areas are very critical because you need to tell the right story at the right time to the right people when they're in each of those to keep ushering them forward, progressing in the story from brand awareness to adoption to appreciation.
Then keeping those same three things in mind let's go to chapter eight "Victory is at Hand." What we want to do here is pay very close attention to those stories we're telling and design into the stories that you're telling them that they're living into, victories, little wins. So when someone first hears about you or any of your listeners and maybe they find you first on the website, what victory do you give them, what do they get to leave with that you just have leveled them up in their pursuit to something? So much so that then they come back for more and maybe now they're buying something from you, now that's brand adoption. What success metric, what victory do you design into that story journey that you keep leveling them up?
In the digital realm you hear this equation when you're trying to sell a book or a webinar or something, give away seven things before you ask for your audience to buy something, give away seven things. So in that first around is man that's seven rounds of awareness victories that you're giving them something that makes them better, better, better. Finally you're going to ask for the sale, you're going to adopt them, get them to adopt in. Then the brand awareness and appreciation is what do you do there, how do you arm them with your stories so that they can freely go out and share it with their audiences.
They become your ambassador, you're really starting to move them up out of brand appreciation into brand evangelism and Melinda this is hugely important at this point because what we are now trying to do as a brand is no longer become the brand's storyteller, we are the brand maker and we're handing the story off to our audiences and enabling them and equipping them to go out and share and tell our stories, they become the brand storytellers in that appreciation stage.
We have two last chapters, these go by very quickly but they're hugely important. Some might even say start on chapter nine. Chapter nine is the moral of the story. Now every story we hear, literally I would even argue every joke we hear, every line that really stops us in our track that we hear has a moral to it. Here's the reason why, there's a terrific book if you haven't read it highly recommend by Lisa Cron C-R-O-N called Wired for Story, Lisa was on my Business of Story podcast and you will love it. If you haven't read, especially from a writing/teaching standpoint she is of course an author and she's a professor at University of California, UCLA, and she teaches writers.
The book about Wired for Stories is working with writers. One of the great things I pulled from is she said we can go weeks without eating, we can go days without drinking but we can only go about thirty-five seconds without creating meaning out of something going on around us. So we are constantly scanning our environment, probing beneath the surface of what's actually happening, searching for clues with this embedded app called curiosity, we all have it.
Curiosity, think of it as kind of a basal search engine that allows again to take in all of this stimuli, real time that's happening, filtering it through this membrane of experience so we're trying to give our brains an opportunity to predict the future, all in trying to create this clarity of this chaos going around us. So we use story to do all of that and we use story in our subconscious.
This is why the moral of the story is so critical. Your audiences are going to read meaning into your story no matter what that story is. If you are not crystal clear on how you tell that story and truly own that story from your standpoint they make a meaning you never intended. Their subconscious’ constantly, think of it story is the software that drives the hardware of our brain and we got to have it purely for survival.
I ask you this and to be thinking about starting with the moral of the story is because this is where you are connecting your values with the values you share with your audiences. Beliefs and values when you connect those and you deliver on those you build trust. Then that of course levels them up from brand adoption into brand appreciation. But always ask yourself what am I trying to say, what is the meaning of what I'm trying to say, what does this mean to them and then be very either implicit or if your story is really good, well let me take that backwards, be very explicit about it or if you really got your story dialed in you can be implicit about it's meaning. But make sure that whatever story you're sharing has the meaning you want it to come across and in the branding world the number one goal is simply to connect your shared values with their shared values.
What I love about that Melinda is it's not only a human connection but you can't lie about it. People, brands in the past could, they could get away with suggesting that they valued something you did and tell you a wonderful story on TV and radio and print and you didn't have much recourse if it wasn't true. Well now again because they don't own the influence of mass media because the masses are the media you've got to be dead on with your values and you have to back them up otherwise they will call you out in a heartbeat. So chapter nine of the story cycle process is the moral of your story, what does this mean to connect the beliefs, values to build trust.
Then finally chapter ten is to be continued. This is not a one and done cycle that once you're done you want to build that audience and get them to grow. So for instance you think about it, the first revolution of the story cycle process is about brand awareness in a lot of cases, I don't know who you are tell me a little bit more about you, how can you help, what am I up against from adopting you. Oh okay, I like what you have to say, alright I'm going to give you a try. All of a sudden you're now on the second revolution of the story cycle process. It's an absolute fractal of itself.
The backstory now becomes well they now know of us and they're actually buying into us, here's our audience and we're leveling them up in each of the process, so now here's what they want. Here's what's changing in their life that makes it more relevant than ever to have us. Here's what they're up against to not adopt us and here's how we're helping them overcome it. We get them through the ten stages and now we're back at stage one again but they are brand aficionados or they truly appreciate the brand. We want to take them through the whole cycle again as we level them up, empower them in each revolution of this process.
It goes back to basic story, universal story structure that literally has been around since the beginning of time and the reason why that is it is simply how we survive, we survive through story. The more we know about that in our personal and professional branding life the better we can be not only authentic with our own stories but we can connect with audiences like we never have before.
Melinda: What do you think everybody? Do we like listening to this man, does he speak beautifully? He's known internationally as a raconteur, I love that word. Park you're inspirational in what you say and what I'm taking from it is my audience I'm thinking is very well positioned as storytellers to start with. So we have very, very good storytellers, we have storytellers who are only just starting out, giving ourselves permission to trust our voices because it's instinctive in every one of us to tell our stories would you agree with that?
Park Howell: Without a doubt, yeah. It's what makes us human. Another terrific book, The Storytelling Animal by Jonathan Gottschall if you haven't read that it's why stories make us human. It is the thing that really separates from all mammals, from all other animals is that we tell stories. So yes, it is innate in our being and I always say we were at the tops of our storytelling games in kindergarten. Do you call it kindergarten out there, it's kindergarten here.
Melinda: Yes, it's kindergarten, or preschool.
Park Howell: Especially in America. Yeah think about it we had fun with it, we acted it out, we freely shared our stories. I can't tell you Melinda how many times I was told Park stop telling stories. But that's just it our educational systems, our corporate cultures, political correctness, social construct has a way of absolutely closing that curtain on our inner storyteller. But it never kills it, it just silences it. I have found working with leaders around the world and with brands that when they give themselves permission and get intentional about approaching their storytelling it reignites this one, true superpower we all have and that is truly the power of story to literally nudge the world in any direction we choose through our persuasive abilities that come out of storytelling.
Melinda: I work a lot with teenagers Park and encouraging them to tell their stories. So we run a lot of workshops and I watched those students, I was up in the Hinterland, up in the beautiful sunshine coast Hinterland on Wednesday and I had a group of young teenagers and they took an idea and they ran with it and they took it places that I could never, never take it. But I was allowed to be there and be privileged to guide that group as they grew their little wings and they flew because no one was telling them not to, it was out of the school environment, there was no testing, there was no correct grammar and no one told them that they couldn't. To watch their imaginations and curiosities fly is an amazing privilege and I find that tapping into that actually energizes me as a storyteller as well.
Park Howell: Oh good on you, isn't that the term you use that there? The reason why is you are helping to re-reveal that inner storyteller and it's the teenagers that so often get shushed, they're the ones that like be quite just go and do your thing. So I love that, the fact that you just keep them out. I think we would not have the crazy, crazy election that we have going on in America, the despicable in a lot of respects if we had more civil civic discourse and that comes from allowing people to truly speak their minds but in very respectable ways on both sides of the aisle and I think that comes from allowing people to maintain that storyteller within them, stop shushing them. Let them speak and I think you're going to get much more civil civic discourse, it just is going to happen.
Melinda: There's a lot of talk and it fits very much in with what we're talking about here Park, with our education system and you're tapping into a little bit of a passion of mine now, there's a change in what the future holds for our teenagers, I've got two teenagers myself, one girl's 16 and she's going off into the theater as everybody knows and yeah. I'm cutting all this stuff out of the newspapers and listening to stuff online, the jobs for our kids in the future aren't what they traditionally have been and to be able to adapt and to be able to link into this digital world is a huge, I guess, plus for them. So even though you pitch a lot of your stories to big business and big brands I'm guessing there's a lot of young people there could really benefit from the kind of things that you're saying.
Park Howell: I work a lot with the educational system here in Arizona here too. So I work with brands of all sizes but I work with some kinds down in high school in south Phoenix that really come from troubled homes, troubled neighborhoods and our whole work with them is just like hey man we're here to listen to your story. I take them through the process because I think it has, it gets them to get real with what their story is. A lot of them like to come in a do a lot of BS-ing, they like to hold up masks because God knows what they've been through and we find when you do let that inner in a lot of case childish storyteller come out in them it's a freeing thing for them, it's just something we all innately know and can appreciate because it literally is how we're hardwired to make sense of the madness going on around us.
Melinda: We have an education system here in Australia and I think it's coming from you guys over there, we blame you for everything and it's all testing and it's all passing and failing and we fail more kids then we pass and everybody gets really stressed and even our high achievers don't achieve to the extent that we want them to so we're having nervous breakdowns with kids who are fifteen. Park's shaking his head here he knows exactly what I'm talking about.
Park Howell: It goes back to what I'd like to say I guess, maybe others say it too but I don't know, but it's this learning by rote vs lore. I like the lore part of it because you can only memorize so much stuff but when you really get down to the stuff you remember it's been delivered to you through an event of a story.
Now let me give you an example and this is really good for your listeners too especially those that are really well educated, high end, you know engineers big thinkers that have been taught that data is the story and data is not the story, data is the foundation for a story. But in order to communicate and make meaning out of that data you have to start with the story. So here's my example that I share and I work with ASU I do this a lot with our students. I say you know data does one of three things, and this is why I'm against rote learning by the way because it's data based. Data does one of three things, data either reports an event that has happened, yesterday it was, what was the temperature there in Queensland yesterday?
Melinda: 27/28? Oh wait...
Park Howell: 27/28. There's the data. Okay, let's say it's 28 degrees Celsius that's the data. What is it today? Do you have any appreciable change?
Melinda: We've been spoiled. The rest of Australia, I'm feeling a bit uncomfortable Park because the rest of Australia's getting battered and blown around and disaster, we've got sunshine here and it's glorious.
Park Howell: Very good example. Okay, so we can talk about your sunshine and your 28 degrees Celsius there, that's a data point. Now today we can talk about maybe a huge windstorm or being battered somewhere else. You can watch the meteorologist and that data is going to monitor the event as it happens. Then we have data that it says well what's tomorrow to be? So we have data that tries to predict the future, tries to predict the event of the future. But what does our mind care about? Our mind doesn't care about the data, it cares about the event and why is that Melinda? Why does our mind not care about the data but it cares about the event?
Melinda: Because it impacts on us.
Park Howell: Because events can kill us, data can't. I know I mean if you looked down to the most basal level of what are brains designed to and our brain stems there and that reptilian brain stem it is to keep ourselves alive. So what does it care about? What are events that can kill us that we either have to fight or flight? So when we have our kids in schools and we're asking them to memorize this and memorize that and memorize that, we're asking them to commit data to their brain in some sort of categorized logical order that they hope to be able to recall at some point. Yet, we think of any of our experiences and what do we recall? We recall the story around that data.
Now, I will say data's important to back up the emotional points that you make in your story, so you can get up and absolutely move an audience with the stories you tell and you should because you are selling to their hearts and their head's going to follow. But boy that's head's going to dive into the data and make sure that you're telling the truth. It's going to back it up with the data points, that's when the data comes in. But what too often happens especially in business is we lead with the data. We think that data is the hero of the journey and it's not. It's just the support structure, it's the undercarriage of the race car of story.
Melinda: Isn't that beautiful? I'm immediately thinking of living in my caravan and how life is such more immediate out there from drinking my cup of milo with the kookaburras at five o'clock in the morning to when it rains, we're huddled in. In a house you don't have that immediacy, you don't have that contact because you're sheltered and you're shut off from it to a certain extent. That inhibits your story.
Some of the things that I talk about with my guests and as, and my author guests is how do you tap into that raw emotion. Do you need to be out there living it? We're spoiled now for research, we're spoiled now, we can Google search everything we need, we can go onto Trove and get all the historical stuff. But I'm still old-fashioned I like the idea of actually being out there doing it, touching it, seeing it, smelling it because that inspires me to be more passionate about my story.
Park Howell: Yeah, without a doubt, very good point. When we are researching online we are pulling data points, we're reading, we're getting a lot of information on something but until we put that to action it's hard to truly appreciate it. It's kind of one dimensional in a lot of respects.
For instance, before we were recording here we talking a trip that I took to Liverpool and London and Amsterdam doing Story Mastermind workshops there in June. I got to Liverpool and there were a lot of things I wanted to see and one of them was the Cavern, the famous bar where so many rock bands, they say it truly was the birth of rock and roll.
But when I was there working with Brian Adams of Ph Creative he goes well that's actually mate not where rock and roll begain you should go to the Casbah Coffee Club and he sent me this taxi cab out to this little suburb of Liverpool and here stood this 2 1/2ish, this 3 story house, very old place, very non-descript and in there was the basement where the Beatles actually got their start when they were in high school. It is still left untouched from when they were there.
I got a chance to get a tour of the place, they shared me where John and Paul painting the ceilings and all this and they gave me the backstory of how the Beatles were all playing there, John and Paul were playing together but Ringo was in different band and George Harrison was in yet another band and then of course they've got their famous trip to Hamburg and the 10,000 hours of practice and they came back and really started killing it in 61,2,3, 63 I guess. It wasn't until they got to the Cavern where Ringo then finally joined the band, so they said well the Beatles, the birth of rock and roll happened in the Cavern when they all got together.
Now I've learned by purely that experience, after reading all the data, doing all my homework not even realizing this story existed, having experienced it and I know in a lot of your work you're talking about traveling and sharing those stories. Well I wrote a big long article on Business of Story just about that, about oh my god this whole new vision of how rock and roll was absolutely open to me and I got a change to actually go in and walk through it and live it. Without that all my real interactions with the Beatles per say would be all data driven, I listen to their music, I experience it, I love it, but everything else about their history, but it really came down to that event of that day of finding that very surprising true, to me anyways, birth of rock and roll in that basement of a non-descript home in a suburb of Liverpool. That's a story I can really live into.
Melinda: You can hear it in Park's voice as he speaks and he's very passionate and I'm sitting here just going I'm in love, I'm watching all this, this is fantastic. But I think we run a very real risk of losing I guess, losing our adventure by not getting out there and experiencing things. I know they say you can't write a story unless you're out there experiencing it and I'm wondering whether there's more and more truth in that. We get a lot of stuff in our inboxes about how to write a story in two weeks and how to write a story in three weeks and use this program, that program and stick in a few extra sentence, grammar check it and you've got a story. It's not how it works, it's got to have, you've got to have that passion.
Park Howell: Without a doubt and you've got to go out and get bloodied. You've got to try things, have adventure. My father, 90 years old, wonderful man, still going strong up in the Seattle area he always taught us adventure, he says life is nothing without adventure, you have to get out in it and I am a big, big believer in that. You can only sit there with your iPad in your lap for so long reading these things or that wonderful novel you're reading through.
That's marvelous, but man if you're not out there mixing it up with the world and people in it and the universe and trying things you're afraid of, Joseph Campbell has a terrific line that he says if you were in the woods on a well beaten path you're on the wrong path because that's somebody else's path. You need to pull your machete out and start carving your own path through the forest. He says this from after studying story that lead to his Hero's Journey from the ancients in every culture, race, religion, it all says the same thing. You have to go out and find your path and that's scary. But when you go for it it's extraordinarily rewarding too.
Melinda: I guess everybody if you're listening, if you're still listening to this discussion because I've sort of taken over here, it's the message that I guess that I want to get out the most and encourage you all out there who are out there doing it, who are living that wonderful life of traveling around that you do have something to offer, you do have something to share with the rest of us and by you telling your stories you may just impact on someone else and allow them to tell their stories as well. I think that's the benefit of sharing our stories. As you said it goes right back to the olden days.
Park Howell: Without a doubt, without a doubt you know. I ran this agency for twenty years and I just got to the point that I didn't really care to run an ad agency anymore so I had to make a big change and I pivoted. I'm 55 years old and I pivoted at the beginning of this year to go on full on with the Business of Story and help work with wonderful people like you around the world to share what I have learned because I'm absolutely fascinated with this power of story and the structures of story and how it works in our lives both internally, both professionally and externally with our brands that it was a big leap and a lot people asked me why would you do that, why. I just said I wasn't happy with the story I was on, the path I was on any more and I had to create an opening which I did and I worked up to it because I've studied this for a long time and I've used it in a lot of different ways. I just found a new application or a more focused application how I wanted to use it.
Melinda I'm still learning as I go but it's been so much fun, it's exhilarating, it's frightening, I make missteps, I bloody my nose, but then I have a lot of successes. I have great people that come up to me after workshops and say thank you. I had a lady in Harlingen, Netherlands who came up to me and said you gave me a present today and I said what is that? She goes I know understand what my story needs to be and I haven't been living into for my kids. I'm like wow that's not what I designed to do but that's what happened.
So I have all these marvelous little wins along the way that tells me even though as I'm hashing through the forest with my machete, creating/blazing my new trail and sometimes running into waterfalls and off of cliffs that I am absolutely heading in the right directions and I think I'm going to do it literally until I die. I can't imagine stopping. You have to be that adventure on this road especially if you’re making a living as a story teller because that's where you really get the marrow of your story of all that's happening around you, the people you run into and what you experience in the process.
Melinda: We ended exactly where I needed Park to end because at the beginning there I was going oh my gosh oh my gosh I can't tell my story, but Park's just told it for me. What you're saying Park is what I'm living, it's what I'm living for my children, it's what I want for my guests and my readers. I’m giving us all permission, you can listen to the passion in this man's voice, you can listen to his enthusiasm. I was, went for a train trip with my daughters into the city and I bought this wonderful book called Pivot because it comes up a lot in conversations. Now you're going to tell me who wrote it aren't you?
Park Howell: No, I wish I had.
Melinda: Adam Markel. Can you say that?
Park Howell: I'm familiar with yeah, I haven't read it, I've heard it's very, very good.
Melinda: For everybody out there who's listening it's called The Art and Science of Reinventing your Career and Life. Now I actually reinvented my career and my life without reading the book, but now I'm reading the book and I'll share it with you. It comes up time and time again in the podcast that I'm listening to, the people that I talk to. This word "pivot" I'm guessing it's quite, oh I don't like the word fashionable, but it's around at the moment because there's a lot of dissatisfaction and people realize that we're not actually living the lives that we're meant to be living and it's almost giving us a permission to redirect ourselves a little bit and get on that path machetes, oh I love machetes, I've got a few ex-husbands I could machete on the way through.
I guess that's what you're talking about and that's why you're so alive and that's why people are listening to you and leaning forward, I'm leaning forward listening to Park as we speak. You, just to finish off because I've taken up more of your time than I said I would, everyone's used to that as well sorry guys. Is there anything you'd like to finish off with?
Park Howell: I'll finish with how I started, I really, truly believe the most potent story you'll ever tell is the story you tell yourself. You have to own that first before anybody else is going to buy into and by owning it I mean it's got to be true to you, it's got be the story that you're living for yourself, that you're not living someone else's story and that's true from very large brands right down to us in solopreneurs working.
So Melinda let me ask you these ten questions. You don't have to answer any of them, but this will be something good for your listeners to write down, this takes the story cycle and boils it down into thirty seconds. Answer these questions and if you can't, it's hard to answer all ten of them it'll give you points to dig into a little bit deeper into your story and how to really refine and clarify your story.
number one, what do you do better than anybody else?
Melinda: Talk.
Park Howell: Number two who cares?
Melinda: My children.
Park Howell: Great, number three what do they want?
Melinda: They want to I guess have permission to be passionate about what they want to be passionate about.
Park Howell: Okay, loaded question for you then. Number four why don't they already have it.
Melinda: I think they already do.
Park Howell: In most cases we'll be looking at audiences that want something but they don't already have it.
Melinda: That's what we're giving to you guys, we're giving you permission.
Park Howell: Exactly, what do they want, why don't they have it, what is standing in there way from getting it? That again is related to how you can help them get it. Then it goes on to number six, so how are you equipped as their mentor to help them get it.
Melinda: I'm bringing in people, I'm bringing in you guys I'm educating and learning every step of the way so that I can share my knowledges with everybody else.
Park Howell: Yeah, and so then how do you do that? Through podcasts? Through your website and whatever? So how are you equipped and how do you do it?
Melinda: How do I share the message?
Park Howell: Mhm.
Melinda: I'm equipped because I'm learning every day, reading every day, studying every day, listening to the experts every day then I take and distill what I've heard, what I've learned and what I've listened to and I share it.
Park Howell: And then share it, great. For them what does success look like?
Melinda: I hope success looks like for you guys out there listening is that you do what I'm doing and you say wow I can do this too and wow Mel's got some great tools there that I'm going to borrow and I'm going to take them away and I'm going to tell my story too.
Park Howell: What does success feel like?
Melinda: For them or me?
Park Howell: For them, it's always about them. Remember your audience is always the center. What does success--
Melinda: I knew I was going to fail this one!
Park Howell: You're alright.
Melinda: Alright so success for you guys is you now feel empowered after listening to Park speak and you are, you have more tools to go out there and have a go.
Park Howell: Great. Final question, how do you keep them coming back for more?
Melinda: You keep coming back for more because I'm so enthusiastic about what I do and I'm out there searching for people for you to learn from next time!
Park Howell: Perfect, so those are the ten questions. You go right down there. Again, you can find those questions on my website at which I have very simple little blog post there. Answers those questions and where you've got a hole in your answers, if you're not real clear, that's when you just start diving deeper and you can use the story cycle process to really get clear with your story.
Melinda: It's scary, isn't it everyone? I'm giving you a little tests, we got little tests. I think I got stuck on about, when I answered for my children I probably should have answered my guests, that would have been easier okay go.
Park Howell: Well you did wonderfully, you did great.
Melinda: Oh I'm oh see, see, we all need affirmation guys.
Park Howell: Enablers.
Melinda: I've adopted Park as my new influencer, I'll go on and super study his website and that storyteller cycle which seriously I think we will all benefit from studying in depth even though I guess a lot of us know it I guess intuitively anyway, we've adopted it in our lives to start with. Now I've been speaking to Park and he's sort of, I don't know whether he feigned interest or he may be really be interested in coming out to Australia and running some Mastermind Storytelling workshops with us.
Park Howell: Absolutely.
Melinda: Oh see absolutely everybody.
Park Howell: Absolutely!
Melinda: We have a commitment, it may take a little bit of time to organize because his wife wants to go to Melbourne but I reckon we'll get him up here in Queensland as well. Park thank you very much for being a beautiful guest, sorry guys we're up to an hour again, it's not my fault, it's Park's for being so very, very interesting.
Park Howell: It is, it's totally my fault.
Melinda: And a very, more passionate man solopreneur doing what he wants, he's pivoted, he's out there extolling the virtues of the power of story. Thank you very much Park and I look forward to a long and lasting friendship for me and my audience.
Park Howell: Thank you Melinda, it's an absolute honor to be here and I'm blessed to know you now.
Melinda: I'll work on that branding things, guy, we've got to work out what we're doing here. Okay, talk again soon, it's bye from Writer on the Road!

About the author, Melinda

I'm an authorpreneur, English teacher and podcaster who dreams of a life on the road full of adventures and handsome heroes, whilst making squizillions of dollars in book sales to pay for my chocolate fix. In the real world, I write novels and non-fiction, and offer my expert advice via online courses (as soon as I make them) and writing retreats (as soon as I organise them).

1 Comment

  1. Brian Burkard on October 11, 2016 at 6:34 pm

    Melinda, great interview! Park’s steps to story telling and his enthusiasm was wonderful to hear. I am definitely going to listen to this again with pen and paper in hand. Thanks so much for sharing, I definitely learned some things and realized I need to incorporate them into my business and what I do.

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