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Promotion—Stories Give Us Visibility

Besides providing us with perspective and permission, stories also provide promotion. At least the “sticky” ones do, anyway.

According to the market research firm Yankelovich, the average city dweller sees more than five thousand ads every day. Each ad is a kind of mini narrative competing for your attention. Your brain adapts by tuning out most of these stories. The only stories it allows to survive are the “sticky” ones—those that elicit one of the responses below. 

Sticky Stories Cause People To:

1. See themselves—They’re relatable.

2. Free themselves—They’re liberating.

3. Be themselves—They’re authentic.

4. Pee themselves—They’re memorable.

I wanted to give you some examples of sticky stories. Below you’ll meet a high school dropout turned entrepreneur millionaire (see yourself), a female author who overcame childhood rape (free yourself), a famous actress who battled the Imposter Syndrome (be yourself), and a shocking movie for reasons you wouldn’t expect (pee yourself).

1. See Themselves - They’re Relatable

Design your story so people can see themselves.

danbioAlthough your G.P.S. is unique, you must tell it in a way people can relate with.

In his own words, he was “backed in a corner.” He had racked-up $400,000 worth of debt and his creditors, including the IRS, were expecting payment.

With that kind of tab to pay, he knew that a standard 9-to-5 job wouldn’t make much of a dent in his liabilities. And, he also knew that it would take a lot more than a side job with low wages to dig out from the hole in which he found himself. It would take a powerful blend of five ingredients – passion, determination, talent, self discipline, and faith. Dan eventually overcame that deficit and today his business is thriving.

Slicing through all the nuances, Dan now helps people get unstuck, just like he once was. Although not everyone has been $400,000 in debt, everyone has struggled. Dan positions his story in a way that connects with everyone on some level.

He specializes in creative thinking for increased personal and business success. Dan believes that meaningful work blends our natural skills and abilities, our unique personality traits and our dreams and passions.

Dan is active in helping individuals redirect careers, evaluate new income sources, and achieve balanced living. He believes that a clear sense of direction can help us become all that God designed us to be.

Although his audience changes and perhaps even his topic, he never changes his G.P.S. His sticky story finds its way into the heads and hearts of his listeners.

Dan's G.P.S. proves the power of telling a story with a universal theme. If you want people to see themselves when they hear your G.P.S., then you must use a relatable tone. Dan positions his sticky story well and gained clear results:

  • Dan is the author of the New York Times best-selling 48 Days To The Work You Love, No More Dreaded Mondays and Wisdom Meets Passion.
  • Dan has been a guest on CBS’ ‘The Early Show,’ MSNBC’s ‘Hardball with Chris Mathews,’ Moody MidDay Connection, and the Dave Ramsey Show.  
  • Over 130,000 people have subscribed to his weekly newsletter, his 48 Days Podcast consistently ranks in the top 3 under Careers on iTunes, and the business community is viewed as an example around the world for those seeking to find – or create – work they love.

2. Free Themselves - They’re Liberating

Design your story so people can free themselves.

I met Mary about a year ago at a conference. Both authors, she spoke the first night and I the second. Listening to her story, in a matter of moments, I caught the theme of her G.P.S. - freedom.

Recently, I heard her do an interview. Although she spoke on a different topic, I caught her G.P.S. again. She told the host, “I write hoping to set people free.” With her permission, and in her own voice, I’ve included her story. By reading it, I hope you hear a story of a woman freed from her past. Even more, I hope her story frees you a little from your own past:

I grew up in a world full of deep wounds, both inside my family and outside. When I was five, two boys abused me regularly. As a result, I felt dirty, unwanted, uncared for, and quite alone. I attribute my joy and survival to God’s sweet grace, and a providential move far, far away from the neighborhood bullies.



At ten years old, my world crumbled again when my biological father died. He’d been my hero, so his sudden, tragic loss sent me reeling. My fear of death magnified. A giant hole opened up in me. A daddy-shaped hole that sat unfilled. It seemed to grow every year, and the loneliness I felt without him sometimes felt stifling. Too much. Too hard. Too much grief for a girl ten years old.

I fought my emotions, tried to wrangle them into submission. But they weren’t easily managed. They stayed deep inside and erupted when I didn’t want them to. I spent my sixth grade year making a decision. I would be a success. I would fill my great big hole with academic prowess. So I worked hard. From that point on, I would get an A in every subject I took.

But I still missed my father, and I clung to my stepdad and mom, hoping they wouldn’t die, all the while fearing death would nab me.

During junior high, life felt unbearable and I considered killing myself-- even though I feared death. I continued down the road to academic success, sang solos, and tried to fill my heart up with school. But the empty part of me remained.


Then came hope! mary-demuth-sm

My freshman year of high school, a friend invited me to Young Life. Every time the speaker said, “Jesus,” my heart pounded. The leader ended one of his talks by asking,

“What kind of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” (Matthew 8:27)

I sat under an evergreen tree that evening and looked up into the star- pocked night, searching for the face of God. In that moment I gave Him my heart, life, past, pains, countless tears, and wounds of my childhood to the Father who would never leave me, to the God who conquered death. Here’s my retelling of that event:

I’ve sought after him ever since. I didn’t instantly heal, though. The road back to an uncaged, freedom-infused life has been long and tenuous. I’ve still dealt with a Daddy hole, but God is good to bring wholeness in those empty parts.

The healing came when I chose to no longer be silent.

Today I’m a happily married (22+ years) mother of three. I’m still learning how to live free from the past, to rejoice in the great right now. What used to be a shameful, scary story is now my testimony of an uncaged life. I’ve written about it in my memoir, Thin Places.

I’m no longer the little girl who experienced repeated rape at five. I’m not the daughter who lost a father to the specter of death. I’m not the teenager bent on destroying herself. I’m not the look-at-me-notice-me young adult who needed success.

I’m simply Mary, loved wildly by Jesus.

Mary’s G.P.S. proves the power of a story that liberates people. If you want people to experience freedom when they hear your G.P.S., then you must use the proper tone. Mary positioned her sticky story well and gained clear results: Published fifteen books with various publishers.

  • Built a community of 75,000 blog readers.
  • Sought after speaker.
  • Currently lives stateside with her family doing her dream job.

3. Be Themselves - They’re Authentic

Design your story so people can free themselves.

Design your story so people can be themselves. Your audience desperately wants you to be real. Intuitively, you feel this, but you’re not sure why. Truth is, the majority of your audience isn’t real in their own lives. As a result, they sniff out the slightest scent of insincerity. They crave brave authenticity, knowing it will give them courage for their own journey.

According to experts, 70% of people struggle with the Impostor Syndrome. They feel they don’t know themselves—like they’re phonies and frauds. They describe their fears with phrases like:

“I’m a fake.” “I’m going to be found out.” “’They’ made a mistake and I shouldn’t be here.”

Put another way, suffers of this syndrome believe a discrepancy exists between how they see themselves and how others see them. Although other people might see them as successful, brilliant, and balanced on the outside, they hardly feel this way on the inside. Fixating on this gap, they feel like phonies and frauds. Believing it’s only a matter of time until their cover is blown and the world finds out what they already know to be true–they’re imposters.

Actors aren’t immune. In an article called “Behind the Mask” published in the Toronto Star, celebrities like Mike Myers, Kate Winslet, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Jodie Foster admitted feeling like imposters, like they’re only a breath away from being found out by the “talent police.”

globes-jodie-foster-13In an interview with Mike Wallace of 60 minutes, Foster explained that upon notification of winning the Academy Award for best actress she thought it was a fluke. “The same way [I did] when I walked on the campus at Yale. I thought everybody would find out, and they'd take the Oscar back. They'd come to my house, knocking on the door, `Excuse me, we meant to give that to someone else. That was going to Meryl Streep.’”

Jodie spent nearly her entire life in the spotlight. And she’s one of the most respected and highest-paid actresses working today. Yet she has trouble wearing her own success because of her struggle with inadequacy.

Thankfully, people like Jodie risk authenticity when telling their G.P.S. You might wonder if being this real is worth the risk. But who can argue with the result? Her audience identifies with her struggle because it’s their struggle too, at least 70% of them.

By being brave, Jodie helps her audience feel brave too. If you want people to be themselves when they hear your G.P.S. then you must speak with authenticity. Jodie positioned her sticky story well and gained clear results:

  • 2 Academy Awards.
  • 3 BAFTA Awards.
  • 3 Golden Globe Awards.
  • The Cecil B DeMille Award for "outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment."
  • A Screen Actors Guild Award.

 4. Pee Themselves - They’re Memorable

Design your story so people pee themselves.

Pee themselves? Seriously?

Maybe offensive to a few, but worth the risk. How can I talk about being memorable in an unmemorable way? (That’s hypocrisy.) But just so you’re the same page, I’ll explain what I mean by “pee themselves.”

People pee themselves when they feel extremes. We equate this with incredible humor, intense emotion, or perplexing shock. When I say pee themselves, I mean telling a memorable story because it invokes a response.

I’ll provide an example of each:

Incredible Humor:

I still laugh when I see it. Although I wouldn’t consider myself a robust laugher, I can’t help it with this video. One woman in the audience laughed so hard that before the end of the program the producers called the paramedics to assist her. (I’m quite certain she peed herself.)  James Lipton attempts to “interview” the late Robin William on his program Inside the Actors Studio. But rather than an interview, Robin takes the stage in dominant fashion and performs a standup comedy routine, much to the audience’s delight. Robin-Williams-danger

Finally, at 5 minutes and 16 seconds James manages to successfully ask his first question. Instead of a serious response, Robin continues the comedy. By positioning his “story,” he invites the audience into one of the most memorable episodes James ever experienced.

Robin took amazing risks in that interview, putting it all on the line. Yet those who know him know this tone characterizes his G.P.S. Robin positions his sticky story so effectively the awards keep coming:

  • 1 Academy Award, Best Supporting Actor.
  • 3 time nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor.
  • 2 Emmy Awards.
  • 4 Golden Globes.
  • 2 Screen Actors Guild Awards.
  • 5 Grammy Awards.

Intense Emotion:

If you saw the movie you had a reaction. Love or hate! It polarized the audience at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival eliciting both boos and applause. Infused with experimental elements, Terrence Malick wrote and directed this American drama.

Starring Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, and Jessica Chastain, the film takes place in Texas in the 1950s. Viewers join a middle-aged man's childhood memories as he chronicles the meaning of life. At the risk of losing some viewers, Malick nearly jeopardizes the linear storyline by integrating a narrative backdrop of the origins of the universe and the inception and end of life on Earth.”

Critics didn’t refrain from publishing their reviews. Some praised Malick's use of technical and artistic imagery, directorial style, and fragmented non-linear narrative. Others detested it for the same reasons. Renowned critic Roger Ebert blogged, “The only other film I've seen with this boldness of vision is Kubrick's ‘2001: A Space Odyssey,’ and it lacked Malick's fierce evocation of human feeling.”

Evocation of human feeling? Sounds incredibly sticky to me.

Terrence took amazing risks in the film, putting it all on the line. Yet those who know him, know this tone characterizes his G.P.S. Terrence positions his sticky story well and the accolades followed his film:

  • Nominated for three Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Cinematography.
  • In 2012 Sight & Sound critics' poll, 16 critics voted for it as one of their 10 greatest films ever made.
  • Awarded the prestigious Palme d'Or. The Tree of Life is the first American film to win the Palme d'Or since Fahrenheit 9/11 in 2004.
  • On August 19, 2011 it was announced that the film had won the FIPRESCI (International Federation of Film Critics) Big Prize for the Best Film Of the Year.
  • At Metacritic which assigns a weighted mean rating out of 100 reviews from film critics, the film has a rating score of 85 indicating "universal acclaim."

Perplexing Shock:

In 1952 American experimental composer John Cage published a piece of silent music titled 4'33'. “The pianist sat quietly at the piano without touching the keys for four minutes and thirty-three seconds so that incidental sounds in the surrounding environment—such as the wind in the trees outside or the whispering of audience members—determined the content of the piece.” imgres  Not the first composer who desired music to transcend time and space, Cage took a big risk to prove a point. Integrating chance and randomness, 4'33'' never sounds exactly the same when performed live. Ambient sounds always fill in the silence.

Cage understood the cost of telling a completely silent “story.” Still controversial over fifty years later, the piece challenged the very essence and definition of music. His motivation transcended entertainment and sought to educate his audience by inviting them to participate in the composition. Sometimes the audience participated with respect, other times with anger.

Robert Rauschenberg, a friend and contemporary paved the way for Cage. In 1951, this pioneer artist created his revolutionary White Paintings - comprised of several white canvases. Created with the intention of the reducing clutter and noise, he desired a pure experience for the observer. Much like Cage invited ambient sounds to fill in the space, Rauschenberg invited inherent shadows.

Similar to Cage’s silent “story,” Rauschenberg’s blank “story” evoked a sharp response. “Word of the ‘scandal’ spread to the New York art world long before they were first exhibited at the Stable Gallery in October 1953.”

The controversial 4'33' became Cage’s G.P.S. Similarly, the infamous White Paintings became Rauschenberg’s G.P.S. Both creatives took amazing risks with their unconventional works. To this day, these two memorable creations still stick in the minds of their respective audiences.

Which story would you like to tell? One where people...

1. See themselves—They’re relatable.

2. Free themselves—They’re liberating.

3. Be themselves—They’re authentic.

4. Pee themselves—They’re memorable.

The choice is up to you. Now go tell it. Need help? Click here to learn more about Dream Job Bootcamp.