On a cold fall morning a few years ago, my college son and I boarded a bus in Krakow, Poland for Auschwitz. The verdant rolling hills were spotted with beautiful hamlets. It was cold, and a gentle drizzle fell that morning. We walked the cobbled roads, stood in the dingy prison quarters, and even walked through the gate of Auschwitz I with the sign overhead which read “Arbeit macht frei” (“work makes you free”). One of my driving forces for visiting this “off the beaten path” landmark was a book I read years earlier by an Austrian psychiatrist named Viktor Emil Frankl. His famous book? “Man’s Search for Meaning”
Frankl was Jewish prisoner in various Nazi concentration camps, including Auschwitz. Because of his psychiatric background, Frankl was asked to establish a special unit to help newcomers to the camp overcome shock and grief. He later set up a suicide watch unit, and all indications or attempts of suicide were reported to him. In that unique crucible, he was able to observe many that were physically strong and healthy and who should have survived, suffer and die. He also observed many weak and sickly prisoners who should have died, struggle yet survive. What gave the weak the power to survive? Meaning, a purpose to live.
Frankl uncovered a simple, yet powerful truth… men and women’s search for meaning gives them the passion and power to not only survive, but to inspire and help others. Frankl codified his findings into a new treatment he called “logotherapy” which literally means “meaning therapy.” The basic tenets of logotherapy are:
– Life has meaning under all circumstances, even the most miserable ones.
– Our main motivation for living is our will to find meaning in life.
– We have freedom to find meaning in what we do, experience or take a stand with.
Now, what does this have to do with selling, marketing and storytelling? Everything! At about this same time I was doing much research in story structure, and I was trying to understand what the irreducible essence of “Story” was, and why was “Story” so omnipresent and effective. I was reading Joseph Campbell’s landmark book “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”, Christopher Vogler’s “The Writers Journey”, and Robert McKee’s classic “Story”.
After Auschwitz it hit me, the crystallization of “Story” is PURPOSE, or using Frankl’s word, MEANING. A great story describes a hero trying to accomplish some purpose, typically with great obstacles, but the hero struggles and either succeeds or fails. Our minds and hearts are attracted to “Story” like teenagers to texting; it’s been built into our DNA after generations of problem-solving and storytelling. We intuitively see stories as a rehearsal of someone, somewhere trying to overcome or accomplish something, and we know if we hear the end of the story, it just might give us a new tip or trick in how to better survive. We just can’t help loving stories.
Think of your favorite movie and ask yourself, who was the hero, what was their struggle or purpose, and what was the outcome. Wizard of Oz… Dorothy’s PURPOSE was to get back to Kansas and ultimately she confessed that “Oh, Auntie Em, there’s no place like home!” Star Wars… Luke Skywalker’s PURPOSE as to become a Jedi, and he deftly used the Force to destroy the Death Star. I love it when all these things come together!
But have you ever tried to put your product or solution into such a story? If you can, your buyer will quickly grasp what you do (because the story is about them), and they will easily be able to re-tell your story to others. That’s why I created the StoryArc to do just that, but that’s another discussion. Suffice it to say, “Facts tell, but Stories sell.” Contrast this to a dark room, 45 PowerPoint slides overloaded with bullets and tiny text, and gobs of features and functions and a dull, lifeless presenter… how hard will you make your buyer work to buy your product?
Yet when a team can determine the Purpose of their product or solution, they discover the heart of their Story, and it’s much easier to then wrap a story structure around it, and see how the buyer neatly fits in. When a team can know what their product can do, and how it can change the world… that is Passion!
What does Passion do for any sales person? Have your ever purchased a box of cookies from a Girl Scout because you liked their attitude when they showed up at your doorstep? Or did you ever forego a purchase, even something that you really, really wanted because the sales person was dull and lackluster in their enthusiasm for their product? Passion leads to POWER.
Trust me on this one. Over the years I’ve learned that if you can help a team discover their Purpose, you will notice a step-change in Passion for the product, and that Passion will close business; it’s pure power! So if you ever hear me ask you, “what is your story?” know that I’m asking you to tell me your Purpose. Your Purpose leads to Passion, and your Passion results in Power.