Table of contents
🚀 The Book in 3 Sentences
- Learning to tell better stories can change our lives in so many more ways than just that telling better stories.
- We all have stories to tell, about the tiny moments of transformation in our lives.
- This book is a guide to some of the simple, yet powerful, techniques for discovering, uncovering and telling better stories.
This is one of the most engaging books I’ve ever read and has already changed my outlook on the stories that happen every single day in our lives that usually just pass us by.
🔍 How I Discovered It
Around April 2020, I was going through an 8-week YouTube coaching programme called Video Labs. In week 5, we talked a lot about storytelling, and how we can make our YouTube videos more engaging by incorporating elements of storytelling into them.
👤 Who Should Read It?
Honestly, this has to be on my "everyone in the world should ready this book" list. But, if you fit these, you might want to prioritise it:
- If you've ever been interested in the art of storytelling.
- If you've ever been interested in being able to tell better stories in social settings.
- If you enjoy reading engaging and introspective books.
- If you like the idea of your life being full of story-worthy moments that you'd rather not pass by without acknowledging.
☘️ How the Book Changed Me
How my life / behaviour / thoughts / ideas have changed as a result of reading the book.
- It made me appreciate that life is full of storyworthy moments.
- Stories don't have to be 'omg you won't believe how drunk I was when I did X' and 'omg you won't believe how great a time I had when travelling in Y'. In fact, alcohol and travel often make for not-very-interesting stories.
- Matthew introduces the exercise Homework for Life - At the end of every day, ask yourself "what was the most storyworthy moment of my day?" and write a few words about it in a spreadsheet / table. I did this semi-religiously for a few months, and then forgot about it. Trying to make it a part of my life forever. Realised that I remember much more of life on days when I remember to do my Homework for Life.
✍️ My Top 3 Quotes
- You need not spend time in jail or crash through a windshield or have a gun jammed against the side of your head to tell a great story. In fact the simplest stories about the smallest moments in our lives are often the most compelling.
- Your story must reflect change over time. A story cannot simply be a series of remarkable events. You must start out as one version of yourself and end as something new. The change can be infinitesimal. It need not reflect an improvement in yourself or your character, but change must happen. Even the worst movies in the world reflect some change in a character over time. So must your story. Stories that fail to reflect change over time are known as anecdotes. Romps. Drinking stories. Vacation stories. They recount humorous, harrowing, and even heartfelt moments from our lives that burned brightly but left no lasting mark on our souls.
- In searching for stories, I discovered that my life is filled with them. Filled with precious moments that once seemed decidedly less than precious. Filled with moments that are more storyworthy than I’d ever imagined. I’d just been failing to notice them. Or discounting them. Or ignoring them. In some instances, I tried to forget them completely. Now I can see them. I can’t help but see them. They are everywhere. I collect them. Record them. Craft them. I tell them onstage. I share them on the golf course and to dinner companions. But most important, I hold them close to my heart. They are my most treasured possessions.
📒 Summary + Notes
- ❤️ "Trying to get better at storytelling also means trying to get better at being a friend, or a son, a boyfriend, a brother, or just a better person" <- this is gold
- 😂 Storytelling is less-funny stand-up comedy. You don't need to make people laugh to tell a good story.
- 🔫 "You need not spend time in jail or crash through a windshield or have a gun jammed against the side of your head to tell a great story. The simplest stories about the smallest moments in our lives are often the most compelling"
- 🏌️♂️ "Storytelling makes me a better dinner companion. It compensates for my inability to hit a golf ball accurately. It makes me far more palatable to my in-laws"
- 📘 Stories reflect change over time. Without change, without transformation, you don't have a story. "Stories that fail to reflect change over time are known as anecdotes".
- 🏝 "Matt’s 3 Rules of Vacation Stories: (1) No one wants to hear about your vacation. (2) If someone asks to hear about your vacation, they are being polite. See rule #1."
- ⛵️ "If you had a moment that was actually storyworthy while you were on vacation, that is a story that should be told. But it should not include the quality of the local cuisine or anything related to the beauty or charm of the destination."
- 📚 Homework for Life - Every evening, ask yourself "what is my story from today? What is the thing about today that has made it different from any previous day?" Write this down. If you do this, before long you'll have more stories than you can ever imagine.
- ⏰ "I give this to you: Homework for Life. Five minutes a day is all I’m asking. At the end of every day, take a moment and sit down. Reflect upon your day. Find your most storyworthy moment, even if it doesn’t feel very storyworthy..."
- ✍️ "... Write it down. Not the whole story, but a few sentences at most. Something that will keep you moving, and will make it feel doable. That will allow you to do it the next day. If you have commitment and faith, you will find stories. So many stories."
- 🧞♀️ I did Homework for Life semi-religiously for a few months after I read about it. I REALLY wish I'd kept it going. Going to make a concerted effort to continue. I remember those H4L days so much better than the rest of this year.
- 👑 Tell me the facts and I’ll learn. Tell me the truth and I’ll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever. — Ancient proverb
- ⏳ "All great stories — regardless of length or depth or tone — tell the story of a five-second moment in a person’s life. Got that?"
- 🧠 "Let me say it again: Every great story ever told is essentially about a five-second moment in the life of a human being, and the purpose of the story is to bring that moment to the greatest clarity possible."
- 🌤 Stories are about tiny moments. This is one of the most important aspects of storytelling, yet we fail to understand it. Instead we think that if something interesting or incredible or unbelievable has happened to us, we have a great story to tell.
- ⌛️ "If you think you have a story, ask yourself: Does it contain a five-second moment? A moment of true transformation? Your five-second moment may be difficult to find. You may have to dig for it."
- 🏁 Once you've found your 5-second moment of transformation, you've got the end of your story. Find the opposite of that transformation, and that's where your story should start.
- 😂 "The story of how you’re an amazing person who did an amazing thing and ended up in an amazing place is not a story. It’s a recipe for a douchebag."
- 💰 "Don’t start by setting expectations. Listen to people in the world tell you stories. Often they start with a sentence like, “This is hilarious,” or “You need to hear this,” or “You’re not going to believe this.” This is always a mistake."
- 🥩 "Boring stories lack stakes, or their stakes are not high enough. Stories that fail to hold your attention lack stakes. Stories that allow your mind to wander lack stakes."
- 🎬 Storytelling is cinema of the mind. There's an easy trick to making your stories cinematic - make sure that every moment has a physical location attached. "Every moment should be a scene, and ever scene needs a setting"
- 🔪 We all tend to connect our sentences with the word "and". This is a mistake. The ideal connective tissue in any story are the words "but" and "therefore".
- 🦠 “First we went here, and it was amazing, and then we went here, and it was also amazing, and then we saw this, which was so amazing.” Kill me.
- ❤️ "Applying the but-and-therefore principle to your stories, both formal and anecdotal, will make you the kind of person people want to listen to"
- 🌁 "The goal of storytelling is to connect with your audience. It's not about a rollercoaster ride of excitement. It's about bridging the gap between you and another person by creating a space of authenticity, vulnerability and universal truth."
- 💕 End your stories on heart. Don't try to end your stories on a laugh. "We like to laugh; we want to laugh. But we listen to stories to be moved"
- 🤑 "There is nothing wrong with sharing your success stories, but they are hard stories to tell well. The truth is this: failure is more engaging than success"
- 😩 "Tragic first-date stories are far better than perfect first-date stories. The story of an F is almost always better than the story of an A+."
- 🪜 If you're telling a success story, (1) malign yourself, and (2) marginalise your accomplishment. Make the story about a small step rather than a large leap. Tell a story about a small part of the success. Small steps only.
- 🧠 Don't memorise your story word-for-word. Memorise 3 parts instead: (1) the first few sentences, (2) the last few sentences, (3) the scenes of your story. Always start and end strong.