In this episode, you will learn about the history of storytelling and why some stories die while others continue to live on throughout the ages. Learn why traditional marketing tactics won’t help you take your business to the next level unless you tell a story that resonates with your audience. Figure out what is meant by the term "Hero" and find out who your Hero is.
Guest: Samuel P.N. Cook and Patrick Ney
Date Added: Dec 23, 2017 2:58:05 PM
Length: 62 min
Podcast moments that will matter to you:
Structure and themes of StoryMatters podcast
How to use storytelling to resonate with potential customers
How storytelling has evolved over the last couple thousand years
History of Greek storytelling and how it has changed storytelling forever
Roman history and its impact on how people tell stories (even today!)
The rise of Christianity and why it took the world by storm. How Paul the Greek revolutionised storytelling by changing the means of how story was told
How governments began to use storytelling to change the mindset's of the masses
The Industrial Revolution and what it meant for information distribution
How storytelling changed drastically over the 20th century
How the internet caused the second great disruption in the media by destroying the gatekeepers that had control of information distribution
James Cook Media's key ideas on marketing and storytelling
Where the future of marketing is going and how storytelling will be an essential element to master in order to keep up with the times
Preview of what's to come during the next episode of StoryMatters
Key points you will learn in this episode:
How to use storytelling to resonate with potential audiences.
How storytelling has evolved throughout history.
How Storytelling has been revolutionized since the 20th century.
How the rise in popularity of the internet influenced how stories are told.
How StoryMatters is different than all the other online marketing educational materials.
What the future of marketing and storytelling looks like.
Paddy: [00:00:17] Welcome back ladies and gentlemen to the StoryMatters podcast with your hosts Patrick Ney and Sam Cook.
Sam: [00:00:20] Paddy, great to continue this amazing, let's call it drinks with addy and Sam talking about great stories, none of which are totally true, but let's hope that they're useful.
Paddy: [00:00:36] So I'm excited about today because we're launching our four-part storytelling series, where we're going to talk in depth about storytelling. So, Sam can you just quickly tell us what it is that we can be covering over the next episodes?
Sam: [00:00:49] Yes, so the way the StoryMatters podcast is structured is, we're going to do this a little bit like House of Cards style or Game of Thrones, where we're going to do a series of connected podcasts together that will follow a theme.
[00:01:08] So, the first theme that I would like to explore, Paddy, on this podcast is, actually, the same as are our basic construct around storytelling, and many people who listen to this podcast might have come to us through our four free videos on storytelling in the digital age. And this podcast is going to follow those themes, but at a very much more informal and deeper level philosophically and storytelling, because I think it's important for me to communicate in this a bit more intimate medium.
[00:01:43] Every medium in the digital age has its different purposes. Video can be quite formal and educational and instructional, but in podcast, it's really getting behind the thoughts that go into those presentations and the deep research and underpinning, and the thinking that goes in our agency behind storytelling. So, when we go over for things in the next series the first episode right now we're going to talk about why story matters and you listen to this podcast or you buy into our free videos if you believe that story matters.
[00:02:22] So that's like the first I call it a gateway to entry if you don't believe that fundamental concept then this probably isn't the right show for you to learn storytelling how to apply it to business and life for whatever kind of influence you want to achieve. But if it does matter to you and you'd you do intuitively understand why story matters. I want to go into the deep history of storytelling so that everyone can understand why story matters so much you might intuitively get it and you understand that and it resonates with you and it grabs you.
[00:02:55] But I want to go into why then at the end of the show after this bit of a rant on the history of storytelling we'll go into the future storytelling so if this is the history of storytelling where do we stand right now in this continuum of history. And then that's going to finish up today's episode or the episode that you're listening to right now because you could, in theory, listen to all four of these episodes and one day. The next episode right after this one is going to be the core foundation of storytelling is: who is your hero. Everyone, when they learn about storytelling, gets excited about telling their story and I believe that storytelling should be a bit different.
[00:03:43] So when you think about your story as a business owner or your story as a leader or your story as anyone who's trying to influence other people. I would submit to you that they're far more interested in their own story than your story. And they only become interested in your story when it relates to how it can help them.
[00:04:01] So for example, the first podcast that we did, Paddy, we actually probably broke that principle little bit, when we when we told our stories on the podcast and I think the reason we broke that rule is simply if you listen as podcast and buy into it you're going to get to know Paddy and I quite well. You might as well start out knowing a little bit about our beliefs and what shapes us as we launch into teaching in this very intimate medium story time. But generally, you need to really start out with your own avatar or your own hero's story. And the greatest works, and I'll talk about this a little bit today, the greatest works of influence ever produced always intuitively understand and connect with at a very deep level that audience. If you know who you're writing for, or you know who you're helping, tell their story. You can have a massive impact on that group of people or even just an individual that you're working with.
[00:05:05] The third part of the story matters construct after finding out who is your hero is understanding what your hero's journey is. So for example, if you understand who your hero is they are living a story and they have a story that describes their life and they have a story that describes different parts of their life they're living multiple subplots within their life.
[00:05:21] They have a health subplot, they have a family subplot, they have a work subplot. They have all these different threads and stories and these stories are separate but they're also interconnected and they add up to this meta-story that people tell about their lives. And we all tell about our lives.
[00:05:50] And most people, if we're honest with ourselves are not totally happy with where we are in life, not because we view ourselves maybe as a failure we're self loathing or anything like that, although many people actually the vast majority of people in my experience do live in a place of a bit of despair in at least some areas of their life.
[00:06:08] But even if you're comfortable with where you are in life, you have this heroic construct of what you want to accomplish in your life. And paradoxically some of the most successful people have the biggest gap between where they are and where they really wish they could be just because what drives people to be successful is this idea of a heroic journey in their life and we'll talk about their hero's journey construct in detail and how that construct can be used to give you a framework as an influence or to help people imagine a better way to live their life and everyone has this heroic journey potentially that they want to live in their life but they have no idea how to do it.
[00:07:00] And how do you marry up people's aspirations with the pathway to get them there? So that's the third part of this series. And then the last one is what I call mapping your heroes digital journey. And today we're going to talk about the timeless principles of storytelling. But the reality of the situation which we'll touch on at the end of this podcast is we're in the digital age. And the digital age, the irony of the digital age, is it's never been easier to get your story out there. It's never been easier to tell your story. You don't have to be literate, you don't have to be able to write.
[00:07:32] You don't have to go through a publisher. You don't need anything. You just need a cheap smartphone the prices of which keep going down and you can instantly connect to over a billion people on the biggest networks in the world, YouTube and Facebook. So it's never been easier to get your story out there. But it's never been harder to get people to listen or to care a story out there whether it's your story or the story you want people to be inspired by. To produce a better outcome in their life which is one of the things we teach is don't focus on your story but focus on their story.
[00:08:06] But if you tell someone a story about their life it's never been harder to get them to care. And that's the great struggle and why so many business owners have come to us and why we ended up launching this educational initiative StoryMatters is to teach people how to tell better stories that connect with people, that inspire people, that grab people and get them to actually listen in the first place. And we're going to talk about some of the things we've learned as of 2017 when this podcast has been recorded. And I have to caveat when we do this especially when we speak about technology because everything I say right now in August of 2017 will be out of date in six months from a technological perspective.
[00:08:47] Which is one of the reasons we don't want to get too much into technology on this podcast, we want to talk about the interaction of technology with storytelling. But understanding that any specific tactics tricks techniques that you learn about storytelling is going to change. Everything that I knew about digital marketing two years ago is wrong now in terms of the tactics, the principles remain the same. So that's why in this podcast we're trying to stay at the principles of storytelling and dip down every so often into what's working right now. Talk about a try and put it in context. But if you're going to follow with us and become a master storyteller, it's really time to take it to the highest level in terms of thinking about story. And that brings us to today's show.
[00:09:40] You know just as a small aside. It always strikes me when I'm sitting on the bus and I listen to people talking to each other. They're not talking about art or anything highbrow. What they're doing is telling each other the stories of their lives.
Paddy: [00:09:53] We're talking about the stories of other people that they know and it never ceases to amaze me that in this technological world much of our communication is about the people and the relationships we have. And we are all from that point of view expert storytellers because we're constantly telling each other stories. There's something innate in us which absolutely is in tune with the history of storytelling that we're going to talk about now. So maybe that brings us back to go back home way back in time and talk about how storytelling has evolved over the past couple of thousand years if it's not too big an order in a 45 minute, 60 minute podcast.
Sam: [00:10:28] Well, please don't put a time limit on this because we never know how long this will go. But storytelling is is something that has fascinated me through my entire life and if you listen to the first podcast we got a bit of our life story is you know why this was ingrained in me because I very early on learned that storytelling was my way to connect you know an issue with my family specifically my father but I became good at it. And that's the way I impress people and connect with them.
[00:10:59] So when I went to West Point the United States military academy to study I knew that the next nine years of my life were going to be pretty intense. First, as a cadet studying and you know as a cadet at the military academy you're working really really hard waking up early do military duties and then you go to class. And then after that as an Army officer. And I I remember when I made the decision on what to study I just was sitting back thinking well, I'm going to get paid for the next nine years I pretty much know what that's going to be. I might as well enjoy some part of this and so I'm going to study history even though I had better marks in physics and math. And I started what was just a magical journey deep into European history.
[00:11:44] One of the reasons people asked me, so why do you live in Poland of all places when I could live in America where I'm from there and also half British. And to me, the answer is very simple. I studied German history at, focused in European history, but mainly on German history and undergraduate at West Point and then in graduate school I studied Russian history and I taught Russian history to the cadets at West Point and Poland in between. So I get to see the aftermath the result of the clash of these two great cultures that are in the heart of Europe.
[00:12:20] But more broadly Europe like Disneyland for historians I mean I can go walk down the street and find a bit of history here in Poland. I can I can hop on a flight or take a train somewhere and very quickly find some completely different culture and history and story. And to me, it's like a never-ending journey, but it all started, my love of history really started actually with a guess that we're going to have on the podcast my favorite class at West Point.
[00:12:52] From all the military history classes and all the cool things I learned was actually a story about ancient Greece and the professor was a major Chris Kolenda at the time and he'll come on this podcast and he's since retired colonel.
[00:13:07] And I learn something very very powerful about history from him which was history's really a battle of ideas. It's a struggle of ideas and great ideas stand the test of time and live and poor ideas tend to die off. And I learned this from this class and well so what I mean by this will if you live in Europe, or even in the United States, or you're of the Western tradition, there's a very very strong canon of literature that we are taught from the beginning and it and it all starts in ancient Greece and Homer's Odyssey and then from there you get the great philosophers of Socrates then Plato and Aristotle who who form this body of knowledge that's been passed down and informed the, let's call it the operating system of how Western society thinks, how individuals think, how society organizes itself.
[00:14:14] And the really interesting part about storytelling was before the written word Homer's Odyssey, no one actually knows who wrote it, because I mean, Homer obviously wrote it down is credited with it but this no one actually knows Homer. Sorry he didn't write it down, he is credited with the origination of it. But people were telling this story and passing it down through word of mouth and the most famous people in ancient Greece, the the celebrities and actually not much has changed if you look at it. We're the we're the public speakers the orators who were able to recite perfectly, by memory this epic tale, called Homer's Odyssey.
[00:14:49] And what people got when they heard these stories was a common language through which they understood how they lived their history, their heritage. And this really bound people together and created this this Greek culture which rose up to become dominant in the Mediterranean world at that time. And from Homer you get the great philo- you know the you get that the first big innovation in storytelling was that the written word.
[00:15:13] Where people were able to write something down and take it from the oral and document it. And when that happened, was a massive, you know, first big shift in the Information Age was the ability to write down and document stories because before that it was all done orally. And that brings in the age of writing, and the age of language, and this construction of ever more elaborate philosophies and things that come out of story.
[00:15:49] Then you get the great philosophers and Plato. Plato's Republic I remember Chris Kolenda had us read this for 10 out of 40 lessons. We were just reading Plato's Republic because he said you need to understand the ancient world through the eyes of what they believed.
[00:16:04] And Plato's Republic was the foundational text and come to find out as I studied all my other European history was British, you know, the great British leaders all refer referred back to Plato's Republic, American founding fathers basically constructed the American Constitution off of the ideas of Plato's Republic and then later on Ciceros Republica and the philosophers of the ancient world really were successful in taking this mythology and then moving it a step beyond when the written word comes to a framework for understanding ethics, society, and they tell these great stories and the famous story the Plato tells is the cave analogy where you're sitting in a cave. And it our perception of truth as humans is is as if you're sitting in a cave with a little fire in the corner and in what you see as are actually just shadows on the wall dancing whereas truth would be outside looking at everything and it's it's full, you know, detail and everything like that.
[00:17:24] And he said our understanding of truth is really as if you're sitting in a cave watching flickered reflections on the wall and that's our ability to comprehend truth and really not much has changed since then despite all of the advances in information technology and in all the all the advances in world.
[00:17:44] Not much has changed in terms of our understanding of what is actually the reality. Plato ended up influencing obviously Aristotle who created some more concrete scientific texts, which guided western thinking for next 1500 years. So Socrates taught Plato, who taught Aristotle. And you get this moving from mythology into philosophy. And then the Romans the great entrepreneurial warfighters that they were realized that while these Greeks really have the intellectual stuff figured out.
[00:18:24] Now we can beat them on the battlefield, but if we want to create an enduring society let's just take all the Greek Mythology, rename the Roman Roman to Greek gods let's take their philosophy. So you know all the great Roman philosophy actually grows out of Greek philosophy they shamelessly stole that Cicero in his classic text De Republica, which Chris also had us read in this course, Chris Kolenda, was actually a much more specific, okay how do we take what played a role from a philosophical level where he talked about Guardians and, you know, wise kings and the promise and the perils of democracy, the rule of the mob and Cicero said, well what's a practical blueprint around which we can organize this? And this is actually how the Romans organized their government.
[00:19:20] A very brilliant form of government, the Roman Republic, where they had a Senate that was counterbalancing the power of the councils and then you had the plebians and some basic democracy among the landowning classes, at least.
[00:19:32] And that a very solid form of government until the empire comes about. And that was solid for different reasons. But the expansion of Rome was really built on a very practical application of these ideas that came from the Greek world. And all that educated Romans spoke Greek. And that was still the language of the intellectuals in the Greek world.
[00:19:57] And a very interesting thing happens during this time as the rise of Christianity. Now I happen to know a bit about this subject if you listen to the first episode because I grew up as the son of a church being a minister. But when I went to Chris Kolenda's class I really understood why Christianity took off. And what why Christianity took off, it was really struggling in the beginning, you know, you had this historical religious character Jesus who died he had this fanatical band of followers.
[00:20:28] It was really struggling. In fact, they're being persecuted by the Romans who viewed this as a threat. And the great break in Christianity was when this guy Saul actually gets converted on the road to Damascus to becoming an apostle. He becomes the Apostle Paul. He writes most of the New Testament in a series of letters. And why did Paul become the most influential apostle, even though he didn't know Jesus personally in his lifetime is because Paul wrote in Koine Greek and he was an intellectual and he was able to translate very very powerful ideas like Plato was not talking about the Greek Gods, he was talking about one unifying idea which was called logos which was truth in Greek.
[00:21:17] And first John, the first chapter of John most famous verses of the Bible, I remember my dad's favorite, is, in the beginning, was the word in English, that's what it says but in Greek it says, in the beginning, was the Logos. In the beginning was truth. The truth became God you know and this whole Bible verse really is starting out in argument to the Greek intellectuals. What Plato said has now been manifested itself in flesh and this is this is a continuation of your intellectual tradition, your philosophy. And took off. And the educated classes started to read these letters by Paul. And this great viral movement started before Facebook shares when it's really hard, is people started copying these letters of Paul and distribute him in the early Church of Christianity. And for three hundred years Christian Christians were persecuted in the Roman Empire, not allowed to be. I mean, they were burned at the stake, crucified upside down, put in the entertainment in the Roman Coliseum. But it's spread anyway, and it has the power of the idea.
[00:22:23] The power of the ideas which Paul wrote about where he was speaking to the Greek intellectual class, but also the power really of stories. I mean, if if you grew up in any way in the Christian tradition like like I did, and in many people who are older can remember this, is Jesus told great stories. I mean hugely powerful stories, whether or not you believe in Christianity and all the dogma in the church. No one can deny that his stories are really powerful. I mean, you think about the Prodigal Son and all these other stories. And who cannot relate to the stories they're universal. And that was really the power of Christianity was the stories. And eventually Christianity becomes accepted in the Roman Empire, as a Roman Empire is declining.
[00:23:10] And they actually embrace it because they realize this thing's not going away it's so popular. And we're gonna embrace it. And actually that helped to sustain the Roman Empire after a while for another couple hundred years when Constantine did embrace Christianity because he had latched on to something rather than trying to suppress it. Something that was very powerful popular and that gave credibility to a declining empire. And when Rome fell to the barbarians officially it crumbled over a couple hundred years, but for 476 when Rome was officially sacked and kind of given up on, the eastern part of the empire survive in Constantinople which is now Istanbul in Turkey focused on the Greek part of the Roman Empire.
[00:22:58] That idea of Christian Christianity became, especially in Western Europe, the only force to organize things around. And the Pope became tremendously powerful and is as Europe fragmented into many different worrying kingdoms.
[00:24:06] The Pope basically became kingmaker and everyone had to pay homage to the Pope and why why did the Pope and the Catholic Church, specifically and obviously the Eastern Church, had the same thing going on but they are a more stable government. Why did these two churches east and west, the Orthodox tradition and especially the Catholic tradition, become so powerful?
[00:24:29] It's because the church became the custodian of ideas. They became the storytellers. The storytellers in chief. And they weren't publishing news stories every day they weren't thinking of new things to think about. They were just taking these great stories from Christianity and, you know, what was the most influential position in the church, the most revered, the most looked up to is the monks. The guys who go out and copy the Bible and keep that tradition alive over many centuries. I mean, information distribution was very very hard. Most people were illiterate. To have the attention to detail and the literacy and the discipline to copy an entire book like the Bible and reproduce it, with high fidelity, without changing things was a huge undertaking. And because of that the leaders of every community in Europe, the gatekeepers of the stories were the clergy.
[00:25:33] And all over Europe these clergy had been educated in Latin and they're reading these stories which have been translated and the monks actually kept a lot of the original stories in Greek, and that was one of the things you needed to know Latin also Greek and it was a huge industry. I mean, really the Catholic Church was the world's greatest publishing house. And also in the Eastern Orthodox tradition, in Greek also, was the same thing. And I mentioned the Catholic Church because there was no political power in Western Europe compared to the Eastern Empire which survived the fall of Rome.
[00:26:17] And it just became massively influential. That goes on you know in ebbs and flows, obviously, from the fall of Rome up until the 15th century and then you have this monk, a German monk, named Martin Luther who basically goes to war against the church. But Martin Luther was not the first monk to act up and say things are a little bit corrupt and we need to reform things. But what was different about Martin Luther versus some of the other ones that preceded him who weren't successful was the printing press had happened. Gutenberg in Germany had invented the printing press and now the Catholic Church no longer has a monopoly on monks, who are the only printing press that existed for a thousand years.
[00:27:07] And people can now take something like the Bible and reproduce it very very quickly and then more and more people are getting access they start reading the Bible and they start saying, well the ones that are literate, saying oh wait a minute what this says versus maybe what society is doing or is is not necessarily congruent.
[00:27:27] And Martin Luther just basically used the fact that the gatekeeper, the first great disruption in information production since the written word had been established and this industry around reproduction of the written word had grown up around the church. They lost that monopoly and that was the big disruption that causes a huge change in Western civilization you get kingdoms that start to form national identities.
[00:27:50] For example, the King James Bible in England, still to this day revered as like the world's greatest language as all the other translations of the Bible in English don't stand up to the King James Bible, and and Shakespeare and the great way in which English was communicated during that period is still like the stuff of legend in the English speaking world. Every child studies Shakespeare who's really a product of that time when said, OK, this is what English means because we're going to take the world's greatest stories and put it in our language.
[00:28:34] Same thing happens in Germany. I mean, German as a language gets established because that whole area of Europe was never politically unified it was completely fragmented and they get their own Bible. And then you get these different, and then the French do the same thing and you get these different cultures you start to get this awareness around their own language which they never had before because the Bible is no longer in Latin it's in their own language.
[00:28:59]And this causes a huge struggle you have the counter-Reformation, where the Catholic Church comes back and really reinvigorates its intellectual foundations. The Jesuits come in and they clean up some of the corruption in the church around some of the ideas where you can basically buy salvation through the Catholic Church which basically gave the Catholic Church a lot of money and they realize, OK that's probably not a good story to have out there about us.
[00:29:24] And they clean that up and really reinvigorated the ideas around which the church was originally founded and got a little bit back to their roots of being a much more positive, less corrupt church and pushed back and Catholicism survived. And then you had this the Pope's backing the Spanish king, or sort of the Hapsburg King who controls most of Spain and a lot of the Austrian Empire and parts of Netherlands now. You know, largest army, or sorry empire in Europe is Catholic empire and then you have these Protestant States fighting against it. And you have Sweden and England and the German states half Protestant, half Catholic.
[00:30:05] And France has a, you know, large Protestant minority. So there's all kinds of war that happens between basically the middle of the 15th century all the way up until the start of the 18th hundreds until the beginning of the 19th century that are all around religion.
[00:30:21] Kingdoms that are backed by the Protestants that are broken away from the Catholic Church. And it's really this is this massive competition between what's the best ideas around which to organize society. And the printing press keeps fueling this.
[00:30:38] And a great example for the Americans who might be listeners or Brits who don't have amnesia about this is the American Revolution which really grew up around the fact that printing press was like a blog. Everyone had one in their in their town or you know the neighbors had won and there were all these pamphlets coming out saying, hey the way the Brits are ruling us over here in America is corrupt.
[00:30:52] And American Revolution is very famous for these great ideas and great thinkers that come in. And it's because for that period from the Protestant Reformation all the way until the late 18th century, early 19th century no one had managed for 300 years to control the distribution of information. And kings couldn't get their arms around it. And it was really really quite disruptive in reordering all that you go from kingdoms and all the way to starting to emerge different nation states that starting to get this consciousness.
[00:31:30] And the big European leaders started to get smart and said, OK we need to start controlling this printing, this idea of media. We need to start getting control of this. And there was this big war to consolidate control of information. And one of the brilliant things leaders in Europe did starting with Napoleon and then, you know, some of the great romantic thinkers in the German-speaking world was they started this idea of nationalism, which never really existed through most of the European history was there's this thing of being French. You know, there's this language that we have because it's what our Bibles now written.
[00:32:22] We have this food. We have this culture. We have these songs now songs really are a product of nationalist flags. Everyone starts to invent their own flags which in marketing world is like logos. And really nationalism was the world's first mass marketing exercise, where powers in Europe, elites in Europe, kings in Europe tried to reassert some kind of unifying control over great masses of people.
[00:32:51] And they did this through telling stories about nations. And every nation developed that story, its founding myth. You have the French with their very big myths about Joan of Arc and then the war against the English. You have English with King Arthur. You have different narratives that grew up in German history around which the Germans and the Germans were quite late to nationalism.
[00:33:16] Germany, as we know it today, did not even exist until 1871 and they got a late start in unifying. But boy when they mastered nationalism they got really good at it. And any German today will tell you nationalism is not a good thing, but the Germans were late to it because they're powerful economically. They got really good at the storytelling side of things. Got everyone in the German-speaking world on their side. And as we know this-this trend towards nationalism and storytelling created this massive consolidation in Europe again.
[00:33:48] During the Industrial Age, something else starts to happen, which is mass-produced newspapers. You start to get the industrial scale applied to information against. You start to get some consolidation around publishing houses big newspapers grow up, puts a lot of the small ones out of business. So the gatekeepers start forming and then governments are getting stronger they're regulating newspapers a bit. And then you have this massive clash of national stories which basically in Europe becomes the 20 or 30 years leading up to World War One was you had this sense in Europe that, boy we've been peace for a while and we're all very competitive.
[00:34:35] Europe's are going all over the globe, colonizing things. And everyone knew that there's a great competition between these national ideologies and stories. And the knew it was a matter of time or they were scared that it was a matter of time before something would happen. And that thing that happened was in 1914, World War One broke up and broke out and there's these vivid stories in the history of town celebrating that finally, we had some outlet for our national patriotism and pride against which we could measure ourselves. We've been telling ourselves these great stories the last hundred years in Europe about how great Britain is, how great Germany is, and how great France is now we get to prove it, on the battlefield.
[00:35:19] And this innocence, this romanticism everyone who had lived through the last great war under Napoleon, obviously was no longer alive, and then it was kind of like a loss of innocence for Europe in World War One as everyone knows in Europe was a massive tragedy. In fact, Europe was the most well off continent by far, way ahead of everyone else. And really Europe over the course of war one and then World War One ended and then there was this 20-year truce between World War One and Two basically committed mass suicide, as a civilization. These stories that European nations have been telling themselves got so out of hand that there was this massive competition and to come out on top, I mean, technically Great Britain won World War Two was on the winning side but was completely spent as a result of it as a world power. And what rose out of World War Two was a new world order. And one of the really interesting parts about this period of World War 1 and 2 was how intensely competitive those narratives got.
[00:36:35] And one of the reasons that that happened was you had a consolidation of the printing press where information became industrialized in terms of its production. Books are mass produced now. But also you had the rise of two great new forms of communication that become way more powerful than just the written word, and that's Radio first. The power of hearing your leader their voice in this kind of format. The very intimate fireside chats of Franklin Roosevelt. Or the very, let's say passionate, mesmerizing words of other great national leaders, Adolf Hitler's Germany, was really the first leader that rose out of completely nothing.
[00:37:22] I mean Napoleon Bonaparte kind of did, but he was an officer and he'd been educated and lead. Hitler was a corporal in the Austrian army who had no pedigree or no training whatsoever to rise from obscurity to lead a great country like Germany and eventually conquer most of Europe. And it's because of these great new powerful mediums of storytelling that the Germans mastered and also their great adversaries, the Soviet Union, the Russians mastered and the Bolsheviks who came out of World War 1 and 1917, were expert mythmakers and storytellers through great filmmakers. And in fact, Dziga Vertov's filmmaking around the Russian revolution and the story of the Bolsheviks and the October, 13 days of October was absolutely, he still studied in film school.
[00:38:18] Anyone who's been to film school to this day will tell you how great the first filmmakers were the Soviets. And why was that? Well, it was a matter of like survival because Soviet Union, this radical idea of communism never would have come out, never would have made it without great storytelling and the same thing in National Socialism Germany. Hitler, if you ever want to see a great work of another thing that they still study and film school to this day is Leni Riefenstahl's as Triumph of the Will, where it documents the Nuremberg rallies of Hitler and portrays him as a god coming out of the sky, like the first scene is him flying down in a historic aircraft through the clouds, like descending on the on the masses who are waiting to hear him speak.
[00:39:04] And if you watch Hitler speak, whether or not you speak German, whether or not you agree with them, which you know thankfully most people don't know. He was amazing speaker and you can see how he managed to hypnotize a country and empathize at least with the people who lived during that time. And if you think about Hitler it's not just because he's a great speaker.
[00:39:28] He absolutely understood his audience which was every single veteran of the German army in World War One, which was the most proud army in Europe before and after World War One, the best man for man in terms of skill the greatest traditions. They felt betrayed by the fact that Germany never been invaded, but their leaders had stopped the war.
[00:39:52] And they felt like it wasn't their fault that they'd lost and their pride was wounded. And Hitler just understood better than anyone, because he came from that those ranks. The pain of his audience and the story that they wanted to hear which is make "Germany Great Again", some scary echoes right now of some other politics going on in the world. And he said this is how we're going to do it. I mean, the contract I'm going to teach in the next three lessons is nothing new.
[00:40:24] It's understanding your audience. Telling them that hey I get your pain. I understand exactly what's upsetting you. Here's here's how can be how we can change it and here's how we're going to do it. And unfortunately for the world, that causes the second World War.
[00:40:40] You have great filmmaking and World War II, propaganda films that really have a big impact. Hollywood, the film industry in America, grows out of an American recognition that they needed to get into this information warfare game, this idea, a battle of ideas and the great film industries, there's so much technology involved in these things, you know, perfect weather needs to be there, you need good lighting, you need hugely expensive equipment, and only great nationally sponsored and subsidized film industries can produce works of art that connect with people. So you actually a lot of the consolidation of power during this time and bigger and bigger countries comes from this information dominance that, you know, England is never going to have a great film industry compared to Hollywood or America because one, there's there's a wealth issue, but to like the weather is never good in England and you know you can see why America rose up as this great cultural imperialist, I guess the great purveyor of ideas it is still is today through its movies and other things.
[00:41:50] And this is really just a reconsolidation, which had been a long march in the industrial era of reconsolidating in control of the narrative. You know, for a thousand years the Catholic Church owned the narrative and it maintained a bit of control based on that it was broken for about 300, 350 years from the era of the printing press through the beginning the industrial revolution.
[00:42:14] Then you see the Industrial Revolution reconsolidate it. And that remains with us in the in the Cold War after World War 2, you have the Soviets and you have the Americans competing for this great two ideologies left standing out of World War Two. Obviously, national socialism had lost in between the idea of communism and democracy.
[00:42:39] There are two great ideologies left that divided the globe in terms of influence and depending on what part of your view you sit in right now or what part of the globe even you know which side that your country fell in this battle of ideas which is capitalism and democratically organized societies, free markets versus like centralized control, classless societies, Marxist ideology and which one of these was a better organizing principle for society.
[00:43:11] And as we know in 1989 the Berlin Wall fell here in Poland. You know, the first free elections were held really Poland was instrumental in breaking up the Soviet Union's grip on Eastern Europe and then we get to this period of great freedom, you know, that the world is now free and everyone's going to come democratic and peaceful. And as we know that hasn't happened.
[00:43:40] And one of the great sources of turbulence now in this era has been what I call the second great disruption in information history which is we've killed the gatekeepers again. And you and I sitting here on this podcast without having to go through CBS or NBC or BBC to publish a radio show and reach out directly to our audience is emblematic of the fact that the internet has absolutely destroyed the gatekeepers. And that's caused a huge amount of turbulence. First of all, blogging rises up and anyone can publish anything and people can find it. And if you have an idea that's worth spreading, it will get shared.
[00:44:22] And the rise of Facebook and social media has only amplified the ease with which great ideas only, great stories can spread like wildfire. Then there's obviously a podcast which breaks up the radio industry and we're sitting here obviously as part of that movement and that was one of the earlier technologies that were released in the age of the internet. Then you have the video wave, and YouTube comes along and Google buys YouTube and YouTube starts to get into live stream and then Facebook gets in the game of video. Now Facebook's really going after YouTube for dominance in the world of video eyeballs and views, and I think Facebook's winning that right now. And we find ourselves now where anyone out there can publish a story and no one can control whether or not it gets distributed.
[00:45:16] And the gatekeepers, the publishing houses are dying, the print publishing houses are dying. The radio stations are having a hard time keeping up with all the different podcasts that are moving out there. And same thing on YouTube. Now you have influencers coming out of nowhere. Paddy, you're one of them who had no publisher tell them that they had a right to be on air and say what they were saying and they just came up with a story that connected with an audience. So it's never been easier to get your information out there. And if you look back at history the consequences of that are not all rosy. In fact, it was quite a turbulent period of world history for 350 years when the printing press came in and destroyed the gatekeeper of information distribution and production, which was the Catholic church. So the really fascinating thing that I find right now is what the current era is going to bring, in terms of the fact that everyone can tell stories and the implication of that is quite daunting. It's exciting, but it's also can be a bit daunting when you look back at the history of how information has affected everything in our lives.
Paddy: [00:46:22] This that's why this podcast does have a health warning.
Sam: [00:46:27] If you do not like history, please don't list this podcast.
Paddy: [00:46:31] That's one of them. And then if you do like storytelling you intend to use it for evil then please also because you will learn some dark. And Sam I've let you riff on this cause cause cause I really enjoy listening to you and I think many of the people listening right now probably came to a StoryMatters through our Facebook ads. And if they thought that if they had a suspicion, oh here's another American marketer to just copying someone else off a blog post he read, you know, it doesn't really know anything about stories and if they thought that then I think they can now rest assured that this is something that you spent quite a lot of time thinking about. And I've really enjoyed listening to.
Sam: [00:47:01] Well, Paddy one of the things that I never set out to be a professional marketer. I joined the Army at 18 and, you know, imagine for a while when I left the army I might teach history and I just kind of fell into it when I was playing around with online. I was just fascinated by the possibilities of the internet. But I was it was never my plan to teach marketing or storytelling because I don't view myself as a really as a marketing educator per se although that's one thing we have as specialized out in doing this agency, but as much as I view myself as someone who loves great stories, I'm very aware of the impact they've had on history and would like to play some small part in influencing the direction of storytelling in the digital age and that's what our humble movement or story matters is about right now in our agency try and help people one at a time tell great stories, try coach business owners on telling better stories, but then, you know, hopefully you know we've got some bigger plans to help more people in terms of telling a better story.
Paddy: [00:48:33] So just thinking about maybe what some of the listeners might be thinking about right now. OK, so we've we've we've traveled through time quite literally over 2000 years of history and storytelling. What does this mean for me the listener or business owner or a marketing manager right now for the future?
Sam: [00:48:47] Well there's there's a couple of things that I think everyone should be aware of. If if you are committed to influencing through storytelling is you are a small vessel or even person on a surfboard in a big ocean, and the currents of that ocean you can't control. The the the historical wave that you're surfing right now is what it is. And before you create a strategy as a business owner, understanding the waves that you're surfing and the currents that you cannot control, I think gives you a chance to influence your your destiny as a business owner and that's that's why I like to start out with the big picture and zoom back in.
[00:49:34] A great book about this, and then in fact where I got some of these ideas from, is a book called Ryan Holiday's by Ryan Holiday called Trust me I'm lying Confessions of a Media Manipulator and he starts with not such a grand scope of history that I just described in terms of like taking it all the way back. But he does talk about the recent history of storytelling and he describes why the Trump phenomenon, for example, happens and why you're getting this massive very vicious war right now on the internet and on Facebook and through blogs and other news sites that you weren't seeing before and you have to understand what you're competing with as a business owner. I mean, you're competing as a business owner with great forces that are competing for attention to really consolidate power in this world.
[00:50:38] I mean, Donald Trump came out of nowhere as a provocateur real estate tycoon celebrity television personality to become president of the United States. That would not have happened 20 years ago. That he never would have gotten into the presidential race. And he did it through social media. He did it through micro-targeting on Facebook ads and really understanding who he was speaking to at a very granular level. His campaign and speaking to them and tell them what they wanted to hear.
[00:51:05] So first of all, you are competing with big forces that are competing for information for your, the people that you're trying to influence online. So if you're just a small business owner you need to understand the big currents of what's at stake. OK. Because when you understand what's at stake, you can understand how you fit into it and where people's attention is going and what the great forces that control information, where people where they want people's attention to go. And I can't predict history, in fact, that the thing I love about or I can't predict the future and the thing I love about history and people ask me well was the Iraq war a good idea, because I was there twice. I said, well give me give me 50 years and I'll tell you, you know when all the generals and people made all the decisions are dead and everyone can speak honestly about what they observed.
[00:51:55] But at the risk of making a few predictions one of two things is going to happen. There's going to be more and more disruption and strife as a result of the disruption of the gatekeepers. And that could have huge geopolitical consequences even so that's something to be aware of as a business owner is if war happens as a result of this trend in terms of information disruption and revolution, I mean for the first time in my lifetime it looks like civil strife could potentially happen in America. It's quite scary to watch. Certainly, you see what's happening with Russia trying to influence European elections and American elections and things like that. So there's there are huge trends that could influence you as a business owner.
[00:52:44] Whether you want to think about our own geopolitics matters especially when things are not going well and I've been in situations and seen it where society is not working it's not peaceful and that's a whole new reality for business owners. Everything will change if that happens. That's that's one possibility. The other possibility and the more hopeful one and the one I'd like to participate in is the last great information disruption 350 years before the information revolution. It took a long long time for publishing houses and responsible sorters and purveyors of information to grow up.
[00:53:20] And these became governments and obviously to use it all that responsibly when you think about some of the wars that started as a result of it. And we have a great disruption and the question is, when is the consolidation going to start to happen again? When our digital publishing houses going to start to come together and create stories that are so compelling that people just don't listen to all the noise out there. Because you know people are so frustrated, I know I personally am so frustrated about all the news sites out there that I don't know if I can trust, I don't know where this information came from, that I only read a couple very trusted sources of information; the Economist magazine is my favorite.
[00:53:59] Sometimes I read some other, you know, very well respected publications where I know that these editors are checking facts and that there's something responsible and considered and not just totally one-sided. Now, you have to know that every newspaper has an agenda and always you know that agenda starting out. Which ones are responsible versus completely irresponsible and inciting things in. And for a consolidation to happen where these forces that are out there, that are disrupting society.
[00:54:28] It's a war, it's an arms race to tell better stories that make people trust and connect with you as a storyteller. Whether you're a publishing house that's publishing great authors with great ideas or you know you're a newspaper or you're a brand, that just wants to really connect with your audience. I mean, there's a huge consolidation happening and there's only going to be a couple of big players standing I think when what I what I believe is a great consolidation in digital publishing and digital information gatekeeper's happens.
[00:55:04] And and just to understand that that's going to happen and that if you and your industry, you will be swamped. I mean, 10 years ago I knew a guy who is who is dispatching black cars in New York City and was running a thriving limousine service. And look what happened when Uber came around and just absolutely consolidated that entire industry and has told a great and compelling story in, you know, as of late can controversial in terms of some of the politics that are going on with their company, and that story by the way of Uber is imperiling the great success that they've had and whether or not they can continue. But whether Uber succeeds in this, like, reinventing transportation or it's Lift or some other technology, someone's going to do it.
[00:55:45] And there is a great disruption and a great consolidation that will start, and I believe is starting, in control for information and governments are going to try and do it and gatekeepers, you know, even Facebook is going to start becoming really really picky about who it lets on its ad platform. Because the Facebook news inventory is, you know, more and more people are coming on every day putting up ads on Facebook. The cost per click on Facebook is going to go up and Facebook's going to severely prejudice quality because its inventory is now going to be depleted and only quality will survive on Facebook. And I've even heard predictions that after a while Facebook won't let certain kind of ads on there that they're certainly letting on right now because it's just not creating a good experience.
[00:56:31] So you have to surf that wave and stay ahead of this demand this craving for better stories, better authenticity, the truth that people can believe, you know, no story is 100 percent true. But is it useful? Is it productive? And is it not? There's great pressure on Facebook to get rid of all the junk on there because the users aren't going to stay there if they're not having a great experience because people are taken advantage them from an information side and it's an arms race.
[00:57:00] And to me the great consolidation in every industry, no matter what industry you're in, if you're in a local business market or in a global market it's going to become down to who can tell a better story. And the ones that survive in the publishing world are certainly going to be the ones who become the trusted places where stories are great and curated and stuff that's dishonest and harmful and not useful is is really thrown to the side. And then you know even in your industry no matter what an issue is it's going to be a battle of stories and everyone can tell their story right now and if you don't tell a good story for your business or whatever you do and someone else will. They'll listen to the podcast and figure it out. And they'll tell their story and I think that's what's coming.
Paddy: [00:57:47] So I'm listening to this thinking myself as a business owner, thinking cor blimey, this is a bit much. I just want to sell my stuff to people I do care about. But I kind of don't want to reinvent the wheel and I've been doing the same thing maybe 10, 15, 20, 30 years. Is there a way forward for me?
Sam: [00:58:04] Well the good the good news is, I don't want to I want to come out of the clouds a little bit and there is hope and I don't think small businesses are going anywhere. I mean 90 percent 80 90 percent of the economy will remain in many ways small businesses, but they're going to be massive consolidations in certain industries, like transportation other things that you're seeing.
[00:58:28] So be aware of those metatrends. Look for stories, great stories that are being told. Understand the impact those could have on you. But I don't want to scare people into thinking that they're just all going to be put out of business because of storytelling. But I would say is the battleground because storytelling now is so easy and the cost has gone down next to nothing, will become who can tell a better story. And that's always been the case. But the complexity of storytelling has just multiplied. The all the tools that you can use to connect with people and, you know, there's never been a time in history where you can instantly connect with a billion people and pick the best 100,000 that you can target with your service and sell it all over the world and your competition in many cases is global. You know you could you could say well I'm just going to create a little e-book on, you know, my specific thing. But when you create an e-book you're competing with every single offer in the world and you can go on Amazon and you know there's a battle for your attention of everyone who's written a book ever could be your competition. Even though they might not have a book about what you're writing about. You just have to understand that.
[00:59:38] But there are certainly ways to connect and the good news is you don't have to be world class at this stuff, you just have to be better than your competition; the local banker in your town, if that's what industry you're in. Or maybe if you're in, the beauty of Europe and my love Europe is the language creates such a huge safety barrier. You know, if you're in a small European country where you know language shields you from all these global competitive forces like in the United States, there's no hiding. That's why the greatest marketers and marketing thinking has come out of the United States is it's so hard in such a big lucrative unified market.
[01:00:07] But in Europe, you've got all these national markets. So if you can take these ideas from the great innovators in storytelling and marketing and the intersection of those and English, move it down in your national market. You've got a bit of a comparative advantage.
Paddy: [01:00:28] Yeah so often telling people I'm the number one British guy who speaks Poland and vlogs in Polish, in Poland, what I normally fail to mention is the fact I'm pretty much the only one.
Sam: [01:00:39] Yeah, I mean Paddy, you've won you've managed to pick a great field to dominate because you've got this shirt that says what, you know, my superpower is I speak Polish or, you know, what yours? I mean that alone is just a huge barrier to entry.
Paddy: [01:00:53] Yeah, it's pretty niche. So all the way from ancient Greece to Paddy's t-shirt. I think it's probably time to end this show before we go deeper into my satirical habits. Sam, what's coming up in the next episode?
Sam: [01:01:06] Yeah, Paddy I think that's quite a journey that we just two people on was to figure out a T-shirt about what your superpower is in Polish. So yeah what's next. Well first of all just to summarize what we what we just spoke about. OK so we've now finished the history and future of storytelling and I think that's enough to digest for now and the next episode we're going to go into the second of this four-part series which is, who is your hero? And we're going to go into really what do you need to do to tell a great story and the first, most important step, is get out of your own head. Get out of your own story as it will. Forget about your own story really and learn about your hero. And learn about how you can really think and put yourself in the shoes of the people you're trying to influence. And that to me is is the absolute differentiator between great storytellers and people who tell great stories that no one ever listens to because they never thought to think of who cares about my story.
Paddy: [01:02:19] So that's a great note to end on. We'll see you in the next episode.
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