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  • Francisco Mahfuz

E29. Why Great Stories End Twice with Antonia Baedt



Below is an AI-generated transcript and therefore it may contain errors.


Francisco Mahfuz 0:00

Hi everyone, Francisco here. Just before we get started, I wanted to share something I'm really excited about. I recently launched the story powers bootcamp, a course that teaches you everything you need to know about how to find craft and tell stories that work. But it's not just an online course, because you get personalised feedback from me for all the practical activities in three hours of life coaching to work through any challenges, or focus on specific projects. So it's like if you bought a cookbook, but the chef came along with it. So go to story powers.com and click on Course, all the information you need will be there. So please check it out. And if you love the show, and would like to support us, you can go to buy me a coffee.com forward slash story powers. I drink about five coffees a day, so any support would be much appreciated. All right on with the show.


Welcome to the story powers podcast, the show about the power of stories that people who tell them and why you should be doing it too. I'm your host, keynote speaker and storytelling coach Francisco mahfuz. My guest today is Antonio. Antonio studied film production and started her career working in documentaries, reality TV shows and later feature films. In 2012, she became a creative producer for commercials and branded documentaries. Today, she helps experts and business owners amplify their voice and build a loyal community through storytelling. And Tony is also someone who really wants to write a very long novel, and is clearly hiding from it, which is the only sensible explanation for why she writes a gigantic comments on social media. They even have character development in plot twists, ladies and gentlemen, and diner bed. And welcome to the show.


Antonia Baedt 1:55

Thank you so much. That was amazing things.


Francisco Mahfuz 1:59

So as I told you, I made the mistake of watching your short film. And he really messed up my preparation for this for this episode, because we've already had so much to talk about. And now Now I just added a whole bunch of things to the list. So perhaps not my not my smartest move there once I already had a page full of topics I wanted to address. So So for the people who who don't know that you produce this short film, and it is called Ben, frankly, which is a pretty amazing title. He came out earlier this year.


Antonia Baedt 2:39

And yeah, we published it on YouTube, I think in June, but it's been doing festival rounds for pretty much one and a half, almost two years now.


Francisco Mahfuz 2:51

It's difficult to talk about it without spoiling it much because it's a short film of eight minutes. But the basic premise is this is the sort of clueless Professor, University professor called Harrison, and he wants to have a movie made about the life of Benjamin Franklin. And then as a favour to him. He is, you know, his wife's cousin who's, uh, seems to be like a hot shot movie producer is meeting him and trying to, you know, help him get a story out of this very uninteresting script that he has in front of him in I just thought that that was, it's such an interesting parallel to or a such an interesting way to get into a lot of the conversations I think we're going to have, because Harrison, the professor knows nothing about story, he clearly has no idea what a story is what makes it interesting, or a Caesar the producer, he does. So I just want to talk to start talking about, you know, this idea of, you know, Harrison, to me, sort of the, you know, the civilians or the common public, who just has no real idea what a story is and how much you come across people that either, you know, talk to you about work, or better come across it in your life who just don't get what a story is.


Antonia Baedt 4:10

Exactly. They are just very passionate about the topic. And what they also usually have is kind of a nose for that story. They're kind of like this something and that's what he does in the movie. He goes in and says there's something about this character, this character is amazing and see that the producer even acknowledges it. He says, Yeah, he's an interesting guy. But what's the story? And I came across the story because I laughed about that that thing because I was watching a YouTube video that had that story in it that that little because it's a play and these two SEC two actors were just reading it on a stage I was really low quality video and I was watching it laughing because I was saying like, that's the exact same conversation that we're having with our clients. They have that brilliant idea. They have a new product, they have a great idea they want to communicate they have, you know, whatever it is. And then they come to us and say, Can we turn this into a little video? And my question always is, what's the story? And I think they don't realise a lot of people don't realise that they are actually not telling a story. They think they're telling a story. And what they're talking about, it's interesting that the content has a lot of, you know, interesting things to it. But because they're not structuring it like a story, and they don't have certain elements of a story, it just never works out. And that's what this,


Francisco Mahfuz 5:38

this is a trick. This is a tricky one, I think. But, you know, I've seen many people try to answer this, and I'm not sure I've ever been overly happy with with most of the responses. But what is the story? A story


Antonia Baedt 5:50

is an experience. I think a story is an immersive, memorable and meaningful experience. And what that means is when we're telling a story, what we're actually doing is we're getting our listeners our audience's brain to think they're living through something. So when we're just giving facts, or you know, info in a chronological order, basically, when we're telling a narrative and not a story, then what will happen is that our brains are mostly using their speech recognition. So they'll go in, and they'll, they'll take the words, and they, they'll give meaning to the words. So when you're giving a PowerPoint presentation, people totally get what you're saying. It just doesn't mean anything. It's just info. So meaning is meaning is important. And with meat, what meaning is, that's a whole long story, what meaning is, but what what stories do is they always teach us something. And they teach us something not on the on the intellectual level, but at an emotional level. And so that's the meaning part. And immersion is really your ability to tell or your ability to write, if you know how to use the right words to evoke emotion in your audience, they'll get immersed, they'll tune out everything else around him. So immersion is kind of the holy grail of storytelling, the deeper you can immerse someone in your tale, the better you are. And that's one of the reasons why people are supposed to turn off their phones in the in the cinemas is because people don't want to disrupt other people's immersion when that phone goes off.


Francisco Mahfuz 7:25

Or common acquaintance acquaintance, JJ Peterson would probably call that narrative transportation.


Antonia Baedt 7:32

Exactly. Yeah. That's yeah, that's the even more technical word. But But that's exactly


Francisco Mahfuz 7:37

it. Yeah, I find I find I've seen I've come across a lot of descriptions of stories that focus on the result of story or the benefit, what do you need to get out of a story for it to count as a story. So usually, you get things like memorable, you need to have learned something, there is a lesson there's a point to it. I sometimes disagree with with that, just because you can tell a story to a friend about something that happened to you yesterday, without any point to it, you just telling what happened. And I would argue that's the what story is not a story going to use in business. It's not a story that's going to be be used in any other way than to let someone perhaps, to some degree, relieve the experience you've had. Again, you could argue that there's a teaching in there. But you know, I also like that type of description of storage. I think I've gotten the most defiant I've gotten it might have been from Sean Callahan, where it was just the most basic elements. So in he's not saying this makes a good story. He's just saying a story is almost certainly going to have most of these things. It's, you know, time and place. There's people doing things, there is a sequence of events. And there's typically some type of surprise, or something unexpected. So I I like those two approaches. But but it's shocking how it's very difficult to find a well defined, wildly agreed definition of horror stories.


Antonia Baedt 9:08

I think the most important thing to remember though, is all of the things that you mentioned, also make a narrative. And their story is always a narrative, but not all narrative, a story. And the main reason that his story needs transformation. That's what actually makes the story. And we listen to stories, because we want to make sense of our world. That's the reason why we even tell stories to ourselves. We tell stories to ourselves, all day, every day non stop whenever we encounter something we don't know whenever something changed, because that's what triggers a story change triggers a story. When something changes, we start telling a story to explain that change because change means disruption of what we currently experience and disruption to a living being is always a trigger to go, is this dangerous? Do I have to focus on this is this important, because we're bombarded with, with information, like literally people, you walk on the street, and there's so much information, and your brain tunes out 99% of it, it just can't focus on all of it. So you're focusing on what you're used to focusing on, like, say, when you're crossing the street, and then something happens, that's not normal to when you're crossing the street, and then you're going to focus on that, and then you immediately will want to explain what that is, in the sense of, do I have to look into, and so change triggers it. And a story always changes, Robert McKee calls it changing values, or I call it changing emotional states. So what we want as human beings, we want to live in something that McKee calls balance, we want our life to be a certain way, so we can relax and feel safe. And when change happens, then that gets disrupted. And it gets disrupted because one of those values, he calls them gets upset. So the character what they do is first something they need something they fall in love. So now what the character does is they struggle, tipping that balance from love, to hate, and love to hate back and forth, and back and forth, and back and forth, until it settles on one. Indeed.


Francisco Mahfuz 11:33

I'm not sure describing story or marriages. Just for the people who don't know, Robert McKee is probably the most well known person that has written about story in the mainstream. So he has a book, which is probably the Bible of most filmmakers, called story. And it's very difficult to get into story and find anyone who's any good at story. And that hasn't attended Mackey's course, or at least read the book.


Antonia Baedt 12:06

But but the thing is what he says if you go from one state to another, and it can be anything, it can be truth and lie, it can be love and hate or fear, and safety. It doesn't really matter where it is, but it has to be something opposing and to to restore that balance, that character struggles. So whenever you're telling something where that kind of unbalanced is missing, you're probably not telling a story, you're giving a narrative. And even if that narrative is in a certain structure, it doesn't necessarily mean it will have the effect that you want to have. That's the thing.


Francisco Mahfuz 12:48

I get what you're saying. And I find that sometimes that the trouble and I think that you're know, you're very familiar with this problem I'm about to discuss, which is the you know, what we call things but the names we use to call things by because you know, you get I've seen people with super, you know, adamant about this, this is not a story. This is an anecdote, or this is not a story. This is a narrative. And when I talk to people, I just I try simplifying things a bit insane, isn't there good stories and bad stories, you know, there's boring stories, and there's, and there's amazing stories, if you want to say, if there is no change then is not a stories disorder thing. I'm not sure that if you're talking to the public, you know, anyone who's not overly passionate about the things that overly interested and maybe academically interested, I'm not too sure that those distinctions, distinction other than good or bad, is actually terribly useful to to most people. I've typically found that the more you try to name thing, a very specific thing like this is the type of story in this story has these elements, it's very easy to just find that actually, that doesn't really work with this other scenario, I had that if I only have this maybe three types of stories. Now I've just screwed myself because, well, it doesn't fit with any of the three that I needed. So now I'm in a pickle because I have to go back on my word about what the three types of stories were. So I find that the more I develop my own approach to teaching people into into having them use this. Frameworks are very useful for teaching, but he can they can be very constraining as well. And I have a quote from your website that I quite like and and I think it's interesting because it supports the framework idea, but also, you know, I know I know some of your opinions on that so we can get into it. So it was filmmaking taught me that filmmaking taught me that storytelling is magic. That works like math. Yeah. Is that a your quote or someone else's? I


Antonia Baedt 14:59

came up with, that's usually what I found myself telling my workshop participants when they when they say, because I used to give workshops to business people that were based on screenplay writing, that was kind of the very first time people got in touch for storytelling. And I guess by that point, we didn't have frameworks, like, you know, the one from anecdote or story brand, or Benedetti bar, and all those wonderful people who broke it down for us, we only had the only framework, we knew how to teach with screenwriting. And so whenever I started talking about that process, everyone's like, whoa, that's like magic. In fact, no, it's actually not. It's, it's because and that's the thing with with screenplays is they are very, very rigid, you can plan you have to plan every single scene, you have to know why it's there, you have to know when it's there, and you have to know what happens before you even start writing. And that's, that's great to learn how all this stuff works, because you can look into it, you know, it's like ripping open an engine in a car and looking into it and taking it apart and looking, okay, why do we need all that frameworks are amazing, especially if you have never had anything to do with this idea. And storytelling, storytelling is like learning a foreign language. So when you're starting with it, it's a really great place to do that first, because you have the experience of using something that's quite simple, not, not always, but it's quite simple to learn, and then immediately put into action. So you immediately have that sense of, oh, what I'm doing is working. Or you can go in and tweak at certain points where you feel like you're off and you can train yourself and your brain and others to use those structures and ideas. And that's brilliant. What happens a lot with my clients is that they come to me actually, this happened last night, someone texted me in my direct messages on LinkedIn and said, Tony, I'm stuck. I've read all those books, and I've done the workshop. And now I kind of I get it, and I'm doing it, but I can't take it further. Like I don't know. And the reason I think the reason why that happens is because a framework is like learning how to make pizza. And, you know, you can make a very simple pizza, but you can make also a really, really amazing homemade pizza. So there's, you know, there's room for development, but they're not teaching you how to cook on purpose, because they want you to get into it, and then kind of learn the craft and then slowly, so once you kind of know, either you, you kind of looked at it and went, Okay, that's not all of it, or you're doing it and then realising okay, I'm hitting boundaries here. That's when all that other stuff comes into play. That's when the magic comes into play. That's you asking why isn't working the way it is


Francisco Mahfuz 18:02

what I've tended to find, and I mentioned this to you and I had a conversation the other day that I've just gone through a very interesting experience where I was teaching at an MBA, and they have a communications course, which is essentially a speaking course. And the students have to do something like they know, at 16 speeches, like three minutes speeches, or stories in the course of about two weeks. And then they get feedback from everybody. And this magical thing happen, which is the you know, the first one is more like a logos, like logical type of speech. And then the next one is a credibility, which involves a bit of a personal experience. And then the third model module is storytelling. And the fourth one is pastels, which are set up to be like stories, but not the super dramatic ones, and then get us something as like a more dramatic end, you scientists, people who, I mean, couldn't, they've just struggled to emote that you know, they're very flat there is all these things that they were really finding difficult to do with the first two types. And then as soon as they're telling a story, they come alive, and the structure issue they were having are fixed. And the emotion that they were trying to convey before just comes naturally to them. And then what I found was that the structure is something that I think if you just ask them, there will be something that happened to you, you know, something you've learned. So a mistake you're made. Everybody kind of gets that the structure is life was normal or life was one way something happened in now life is a bit different, but at least I'm a bit different. That's it. That's the only structure you need to know if you're not writing screenplays. So what I ended up finding that, that you know, the elements I tend to think that are essential for a good story. Some of them are very, you know, is it relatable and most of them were because they were telling personal stories. Is there emotion in it? Do people do the characters care about what's happening that sometimes happened sometimes didn't sometimes there were no real stakes in the story. So it was difficult to care a great deal. But the one I found that made a massive difference was, is it specific? Now? Are you giving me one or two details that make this feel grounded in reality, and more important than anything else? Is there a moment? Are you telling me what happened? How it happened? Who said what how they felt or you felt a minute? Or are you just describing like, are we as I had problems with my boss, and blah, blah, in? Anyone that could tell the moment told an amazing story, everyone that didn't tell the moment, it was like that, to me, seemed more of the focus going forward with all of those students is, I would just ask them, Is there a moment there? And there was no, there wasn't any moment there? And that was it. There was no moment. You can tell the story, but is not a very good one.


Antonia Baedt 21:01

Yeah, I love that. You say that. Because that moment does two things. First of all, you have to like you said you have to describe it, you have to be quite detailed. And the craziest thing with storytelling is, the more detailed you are, the more timeless and sort of independent in space and time your story becomes


Francisco Mahfuz 21:20

universal, universal, the more universal becomes, which is very contradictory.


Antonia Baedt 21:24

Exactly. But that's amazing. Because you will be able to tell a story in 10 years and 15 years, and they'll still work. Because it's not a narrative, it's a story. Because once you start with the moment, what you're introducing is change, you're describing the moment of change when something happened. So you're triggering this, okay? Now we have to restore that balance, you know, that, that that peace of mind, that peace of whatever it is, that we so crave, as human beings, so we'll listen. And if when it's, and that's the thing with personal stories, and that's why I mostly teach personal stories, telling his personal stories are incredibly universal, because the human condition doesn't change. You know, whatever we go through in our lives, it's very likely that people in 10 years or 100 years ago, or 100 years from well, they'll probably kind of experienced the same thing. Human emotions don't change. So that's why it works. And that's


Francisco Mahfuz 22:30

something that I was I was thinking about when I when I watch your film, there are certain things that he just kept jumping out at me that although Caesar is the guy who knows story, as the as the film progresses, it becomes sort of obvious to me that he knows story as stories understood by the movies. Because, you know, for example, he he has a problem with how Benjamin Franklin looks because he doesn't look heroic, or no, he has this great line, it says, you know, reality needs to be condensed, which again, something I do tell I tell my students or the people I work with is listen, I said to this one guy, like had a great story, and but had x Heyman, two friends. And he only really needed one friend, like the other friend didn't add a great deal to the story had like one less like, just say the line yourself. And then it's you and one friend, we have one Greek name to remember. And then you know, it just flows better. And as long as you're not changing what the lesson is, and you're not saying something that you'll be embarrassed for the people involved to listen and say, Listen, I just took out him, because he wasn't really part of the conversation. So I'm going to describe the scene with him in there. It just confuses people. But But the other thing about Caesar, the producer, in what I kept thinking is he he wants to make the story bigger, and he wants to make the story more fantastic. Because he needs some type of hook. And then you know, Harrison, a professor goes probably too far with a whole cake comes up with. But the incredible thing I find over and over and over again is that's for the cinema, maybe for books, but I don't think it is for books definitely is not for TV shows because there's plenty of TV shows that are a massive, slow burn about almost nothing in particular. A story that takes you into the moment is amazing by itself, even if the thing is describing is one of the simplest things in the world. I had this student where she, she described she's babysitting, and I think it's her friend's kid or her sister's kids. And he says in the end she just made some dumplings and the kid wants to eat the dumplings and it's too hot and she doesn't want the kid to get burned. Because I don't want to get a mouthful from his mom. And about how poor a babysitter she is. In this she describes like, but the kid needs to learn by him. himself and then the kid starts trying to get to the end, we were all sort of in thrall of this most basic simple story. In the cinema that probably wouldn't work a great deal. But in real life, we are fascinated by real life. So it doesn't need to be extraordinary. And that's I think, one of the biggest issues with the whole, you know, the hero's journey and talking about heroes is you ask someone to, you know, to tell you a story, and they start going, have never done anything. I've never climbed Everest, I've never, you know, faced certain feels like, that's not what you need to be talking about. Yeah,


Antonia Baedt 25:38

I totally agree. The thing is, I think that dumpling story would make a great movie. What Cesar is trying to do is he's trying to create something in filmmaking we call it high concept. It's a film that is crazy, loud, and crazy and interesting. And there's happening a lot, and it's easy to make is quite cheap to make, and it sells really well. That's what high concept is, you know, all those your independence day, and you're only on Marvel films. People watch them once, and then they walk away from it, forget about it. But what he does when he says, the reality needs to be condensed, so we have to focus on this character. Who is he because he also walks across the room, and he says he's a loner. And Harrison goes, Yeah, I guess you might be. And then so they're kind of trying to figure out who this Benjamin Franklin is. And what they're really actually doing is they're developing character. And in that dumpling story, I'm pretty sure your student developed an amazing character. Because at the end of the day, storytelling isn't really about what happens. Storytelling is about the characters who do think so things happen. Because we identify with a character, we get emotionally immersed in this thing, because we latch on to that character, and we want them to succeed. So one of the most important skills to have is to develop character. And that sounds complicated, but what it actually comes back to is giving detail, if your audience, one or two details that show me why I should care about that person, why should I care about you,


Francisco Mahfuz 27:22

there's this thing that people don't get necessarily, it's, it's how easy it is to, to make a character relatable, and how easy it is to make a character character understood. So all we and I've said this before, and describe what relatable means is the character or the situation is to be relatable. So so people don't get how, how easy it is to make a character relatable. And, you know, if you're watching a movie, like, you know, Apollo 13. Now, maybe you can't relate to being an astronaut. But you know, I can remember exactly what the character's conflicts were. But, you know, if you have a challenge, if you have a bad relationship with your father, I mean, that's relatable. If you're trying to accomplish something that's been your dream all along. That's relatable. And, and sometimes all you need is a couple of lines, I think in your, in your film, there is this little exchange between them, or they say also your, you know, my wife's cousin, or know the cousin of whoever and you can you get what the relationship between the characters is. And then he says, oh, no, you are a professor. And the guy says, oh, not for long if this works out, and then you immediately get okay, this is a guy who is perhaps a bit frustrated with his life, he wants something different. And the other guy's kind of just doing him a favour. And you don't need much. And I've said to people before, where all you need is, you know, just just tell us one or two things, that if we understand the universe you're trying to describe, we're going to go Yes, I know that. So if you're talking about, you know, storytelling, and you say, you know, when you're talking to a client, and they tell you why I haven't got any stories, every single person has ever tried to teach anyone storytelling has heard that. And then if I if I don't say that or something like that, you might go, I'm not too sure this guy has actually been teaching people because I haven't heard any of the things my students normally say coming from him. You know, we use the example of social media. If you like someone who posts on wherever anyone should post to do well, you post and then you check them out a few minutes later, nothing and then half an hour later, it's like, oh, maybe there's a problem here. No one has liked my stuff. And that makes it relatable. So it doesn't take a massive amount for people to kind of go Yeah, I get this character. I know what they're struggling with. But, but the other big thing that came out of this MBA experience is how easy people find to make their stories impersonal. So they will just describe situations from a distance and they will just never tell you exactly what happened. And they will use language that, as I told them, human beings don't use. So there's this, this girl who was describing this very interesting situation. And she said, I was performing a leadership role when I was in school. And then this, you know, this thing happened where I neglected my duties as a leader. And then I stopped, you know, being the leader of that project. And then in the feedback, we said, what does that mean? Like, what was the leadership role? Or your class president or something? And I think she said, No, I was running the dance team. Okay. And what happened? Well, how do you what did you neglect? And she was like, oh, you know, we didn't, we practised outside of school, we had a rehearsal outside of the school. And I was meant to do a headcount. And we didn't, and then one of the kids was left behind. I mean, we realised very soon, but you know, we've just kind of she was very upset. And I'm like, why should you tell us that?


Antonia Baedt 31:01

Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. And honestly, I don't really know why that is. I obviously encounter that a lot. Especially because I literally, my always my first thing that I tell people is I know most storytelling teachers tell you your story doesn't matter. You're here with me now. And the most important thing about what you're doing with me is your story. So we're going to talk about you a little bit freaked out. It's like, um, but my life has been so boring. And I


Francisco Mahfuz 31:33

use voice for they say that, that's good. I did, I'd say


Antonia Baedt 31:38

it's like, and then I'm, and it's really sometimes it takes me a few days to to to get them to the point where like, Oh, my God, I have more stuff to talk about than I can ever talk about. And, and we all do. We have amazing lives. We have so many things as human beings that happened to us that we can share that others will want to hear. No, we're just sharing. Again, we're sharing experience, we're sharing what we've been through. And obviously, the more detail that is, the more we as the listener can go, oh, I can imagine. And that's the thing, imagination, you want to trigger imagination. When you bring a character in who is relatable, then you can ask people to imagine pretty much anything. I mean, we're watching Star Trek, and wearable, we believe what they show us. That's because we're establishing characters that we can recognise and a few other elements of storytelling that are important in that context. And then people go to, they walk into it, and they take it at face value. Because at the end of the day, it's not really relevant, how you know how much we know the space the story happens in, or even the things that the characters are doing. Because we're interested in the character.


Francisco Mahfuz 33:01

There's a lot there's a lot in there to, to unpack or follow through. Let me tell you what I why I think that this sort of weird, impersonal, you know, supposedly corporate or professional language comes in, it's a misunderstanding what one is, years and years of bad communication. So you've been exposed to bad communication in professional environments where most people are terrible communicators. Every presentation you watch is impersonal with PowerPoint, it's boring, and then you just don't realise, like, I think if you have had a leader, or a colleague in your professional life, that was a storyteller, you very quickly realised that actually, that that works a lot better than all this boring stuff we're doing, but most people haven't. So there is this idea that it's unprofessional to talk about your personal experiences, and I was trying to share this with them, or they're just impressed on them that, um, you don't need to tell me about your personal life. I mean, you can still tell me about a project you were involved with. But I want you to be the, I think the expression I said is, you know, imagine this is a trip, right? I don't want you to be the brochure, I want you to be the guide. So tell me, this is where I was, this is what I experienced. This is what I saw, this is what I found. You don't sort of just tell me this impersonal thing that anyone could say, as the project you were there, then tell me what happened when you were there. And again, you might be sharing almost the exact same content, but it's just way more interesting. If you put yourself in it. And then what I told them is, you know, this is a conversation no one has ever had. Antonia, you should go to this restaurant. It's amazing. Has great reviews. The chef is well known for whatever. But have you been to it Francisco? Oh, yeah, I went last week was amazing. Why don't you tell me that to begin with? And there's a reason Amazon and TripAdvisor have reviews because we don't Just a description of how amazing things are, we want a real person telling us about that. So I think that there's a lot of people who consciously actually say, Why didn't think it was appropriate to talk about things in a more personal way at work. It's not even about person experience was just a personal way. And some people just, I think, absorb that from all they've seen in business. And it is hard to get people out of that mode. It is a big challenge.


Antonia Baedt 35:30

Yeah. And, and usually what happens is when you start talking, it doesn't even have to be you, yourself, but you're maybe describing a different character, who isn't you, but you're using them to tell your story. But you immediately usually have to do is give detail on emotion. How did it feel to be in that situation, especially if it's a situation situation alien to your audience, because you're giving them context by saying that that thing that I'm now looking at was scary, for example. So then I, I asked the audience go, Okay, so that's scary. And you're that person. So then we draw connections, and we're okay. Right, then, you know, character, you go your face this fear, and this danger, and I'll miss you, I'll live with it. You know, I looked through it with you. So we have to give detail on an emotion and unsee. That's something that we are beating out of children, even at school, we literally tell kids stay with the facts, do your report, write your paper Don't Don't, don't go into basically don't go into detail that we


Francisco Mahfuz 36:37

can't verify. Education is a is a field that could take us very far away from, we probably want to focus but but it is true as well, that there are a lot of different. There are different movements now in education that are I think, fighting that some extent, I was very happy that a few weeks ago, I managed to to get my kid in a school. I mean, she wasn't a Montessori school. So that's already a lot better than your average traditional education. But she has gotten into a school now where they don't have subjects that everything is project based. And they have what they call, forgot what they call it now. But what happens is a student studies does a project and the project lasts a month or two. And that project has several different threads that can be followed after. So I really like this sort of if there's a few making class, for example, projects, I really liked the technical side of it, okay, well, then this is the two classes you can take a project you can take after this one are really like the the, you know, studying the characters or whatever, okay, well, then we can push it, we can go this way. And then they're they're learning to follow their interest a lot more than just this is what you have to do. And this is the other thing you have to do. And you have no, no flexibility to go in any different direction. But back to storytelling. Again, messaging is a challenge. I think being very clear about your messages is something most people struggle with. But it's remarkable how, how powerful that is for storytelling, because if you realise that your messages about being scared, or about making the wrong decision, you have now just opened the door to a million stories you certainly have that will meet that same goal. And I don't know if this particular client of mine is actually going to end up doing this. But we are. He works in finance, right? So we're trying to find a way for him to overcome certain client objections about that what he's trying to impress on clients is how people sometimes think they're making the right decision, but they're not in then I was just really struggling to find something with him. We were trying and we were just nothing was coming out. And then I said, Tell me how you match your wife. And then he gave me some personal stories not gonna know, the actual day, what actually happened. It was this great story about like, he's at a nightclub, and he's the designated drivers of his board and this girl sit on the table his ad with his friends. And he says how I saw this girl when I just thought thought she was the right one for me. And then you know, I tried talking to her, and I got absolutely nowhere. And then I looked at her friend and thought maybe she is right for me. Three or four girls in the same group. And the last one he spoke to was the one he actually hit it off with and ended up becoming his girlfriend and becoming his wife. And I said, so you were lucky enough to make clearly the wrong decision three times. And then the fourth one was the one that that actually worked and turned out to be a woman you waste now for years and years and years. And he said and no and maybe we're just lucky and he's like, Oh, you have no idea how lucky because she was gonna give me the wrong number, the wrong phone number. But there is something that they use in South Africa called true colour that tells you if the number is wrong straightaway. And he told her, Oh, you know, he saw her, like, make a mistake on the number said, Oh, don't worry about it, I have true colour on my phone, it will pick up if you make a mistake, she deleted everything she was typing and actually type the different number, which turned out to be wrong. And I said, you know, it wasn't for all these things, you would have completely made the wrong decision. And then he said, Yes. And it's like, isn't that what your clients do all the time. So you just have to, you know, tell them how you met your wife, and tell them that there is no true colour for financial planning. And he's like, I can do that. It was like, Well, you know, you probably need to have a decent enough relationship with your client and are not going to think you're complete weirdo for sharing this type of story the first time you meet them. But you know, I would tell that story because it can work perfectly in that scenario. And in any people just struggled to make that connection. You want to talk about making the wrong decisions. Think of a time when you made the wrong decision. It's irrelevant if it's the exact same context. But I mean, messaging was probably the second hardest thing, people second biggest difficulty people had, when it came to finding stories that there were particularly they were trying to do something in particular.


Antonia Baedt 41:11

And I think the biggest issue with that is that, especially in business, you go about storytelling thinking, Okay, I have this and this in this situation, and I'm not getting anywhere with that situation. So now I'm going to learn how to tell a story to resolve my problem. And then they walk into that situation, sometimes even prepared to tell a certain story and kind of sometimes succeed. And sometimes it doesn't work because it's awkward. So why I always tell people, you cannot not tell story. So you better become good at it, and then tell them all the time. Because what you just described that story, I wouldn't use that, to sell something, I would use it to run that person. Because a lot of the times what we see, especially now on social media, when people start going into the subject and learning about storytelling is they're usually being told that okay, the what you need, you can use it to clarify your message and transport what you're saying a lot better, which is true. But it's only a tiny part of what storytelling can actually do. Because if you learn how to cook, instead of just making pizza, then you can go and, and build something, you're build up yourself as a three dimensional character, if you will, in the online world, with your brand, your personal brand, or when you're a business, it works to a bigger one that has kind of more receptors if you want that people can latch on to because you're giving them more than what we usually give when we communicate online. And so I would encourage that person to say, okay, break this story down, and then tell it even when you're just trying to generate leads, sprinkle it in there, like every now and then. So yeah, then get in touch with that person that wants to talk to you, I think kind of already have heard it before.


Francisco Mahfuz 43:08

Yeah, I think we we were trying to because I mean, in his particular case, I think it's a very, there's not a very specific as a salesperson, and just the product is is financial. But we were just trying to find some way to tell a story that highlighted that particular thing. And what I said to him is, Listen, you I mean, if you generally feel comfortable telling the story, you can tell it well, there's many different ways you can use it, you can save it for when you're getting objections, you can build that into your page. So you're you're describing that this is what you do. And this is the mistakes you help people avoid. Again, these things are their multi purpose. Some, I guess, some stories will be very specific to one very specific scenario. But if it's a story about you, or a story about the things you help people with, there's endless different ways you can you can use them, which is gets us to perhaps the confusion of is this a founder type story, like an origin type story? Is this a value or help type story? And that's when I think that having some type of category can get somewhat confusing, because, you know, you know, is this an objection handling store is that, you know, the can be any of those three, or, you know, if you want to have a category at all.


Antonia Baedt 44:26

And to be honest, I find these categories very weird. I most of the time, I wouldn't know how to use them. What we usually do in marketing, because that's what we've been doing for the past decades is we communicate, to be heard, and then to be listened to. So you know, first we have to go out there and be kind of loud enough and then we expect people to come and listen. But I think what we actually have to learn how to do is work to be heard. And then the goal doesn't have to be to get people to listen to but to connect to go that little bit further. And connection doesn't happen, just because people listen to you connection happens, because you're giving something and they give you something, and then you have a relationship and then you can have a conversation. So it's not about you know, categorising storytelling in different buckets. And then or, or using different frameworks, and everyone going, okay, my framework is the best, because at the end of the day, we're all just telling stories and stories don't change, because the framework changes or the bucket, you're throwing it in changes, I think what we have to tell people is you are already telling stories, your brain cannot not tell stories. So what you have to learn is, first of all, confidence, have confidence in yourself that you can do this just naturally. And the second thing is also kind of give people the courage to go out there and be creative, and show themselves because that's a lot, you know, when you're walking into a boardroom, and you're going to tell a personal story about yourself leading into a pitch or some sort of explanation, that is hard, especially if you've never done that before. So I think a lot of people already have kind of a sense of what works, they feel it sort of in their gut. And so I think our job as the people who kind of know how it works, is to give them a structure. And that could be a framework and say, okay, so to take your thoughts and put them on paper, this is how you do it. But the other half of it is also telling them, okay, just walk out there, and don't overthink it, use those details, go in there and describe what it's like to be a soccer mom at the edge of the field and looking at your kid, you know, losing that game, give us those details, because we will care. Even if we don't have kids ourselves, we will care,


Francisco Mahfuz 47:02

I find that the challenge with trying to do things without the without the frameworks or without the set structures without the specific types of stories is that what sometimes comes maybe easy to us, but not to, to a lot of people is what I consider to be a fairly simple idea, which is, you know, begin with the end in mind. What are you trying? What do you want your audience to, to think, to feel to know about you to be convinced of. So that's something you need to know if you're going to use stories in any type of like business context or professional context. And if you know that you want them to, you know, for example, if given if you want them to realise that we make bad choices, and we don't always have a chance to correct them, you need a story about someone making bad choices, and either not having the chance to correct them or by sheer luck having the chance to correct them. So you know, since you're talking about our lesson learned find the story about when the lesson was learned, or when it wasn't learned to me is, is not that complicated the thing, but a lot, a lot of people it is. So I think things like facing the founder story, particularly if you're an entrepreneur or someone like that's one that makes kind of sense to most people's Yeah, you want these people to know you're resilient, you are resourceful, you're really passionate about the stuff, well, then tell them something that shows that, you know, show them that, you know, don't tell them that show them that.


Antonia Baedt 48:41

And I mean, that's what I do for a living. I help people tell their own stories, and then turn that into a brand into a content strategy that doesn't only cover their phone destroys but a million other things. But that's what I start with. I start with their story because that's what makes people unique in a busy market. No one can take away you when you're branding yourself. And what I always pretty much always encounter is this resistance to go into that emotional realm. People, even if they take, you know basic story structure, the destruction of the normal and the struggle and the moment they learned something and where they turned around and did things differently, even then, they tend to fall into kind of a narrative like thing where they give one detail after another. And the second thing that usually happens is when I say you have to be more detailed, they'll give me more detail of what happened because I think we inherently things think that no one cares about us, but no one deems as important enough to be listened to and the opposite is true. Because we we need connection and we connect with emotion between Connect with PAC, especially if they're completely out of our own reality, and we can't even recognise them. But what we always recognise is someone's struggling with that reality. And it doesn't matter how how familiar it is to us is the struggle is familiar always.


Francisco Mahfuz 50:18

Yeah. And I think that's the crux of it. Because a lot of people in marketing love saying, no one cares about your story, which is true, but it's misleading. No one cares about your story. They care about your story, as it relates to them. So if your story if you as a character have nothing to do with me, like I cannot find anything that we have in common, then I generally don't care. But if I find like yourself, if I see things in you, that are relevant to me, then I will care about your story. And again, we it's, it's easy, but it makes complete sense to talk about how story evolved. And I've seen this great description, but I think it's an at Siemens story factor? Yes. And she says, you know, as you said, there's so much information, and the brain has to choose what to remember. So how did the brain do that? Okay, so you want something that will teach you something? So there's a sequence of events, if this happens, then that happens, you want something that is changed? Because change can be danger? Or can be disruption in how do you tell from all the things that have those characteristics, which ones are important, the ones that have an emotional stamp on it, you know, this happened that caused this change. And there is a strong emotion attached to it. When those conditions are met, this is a story in your brain will record it. And this is where people get it wrong. They're telling something that's perhaps relatable, they're giving you enough details, but they haven't made it clear what the emotion is. And if you haven't made it clear what the emotion is, why the character cares, and why then I don't know why I should care. And what I've found that helps that to some degree is, you know, just the most basic, just use, I feel, or I felt language, you know, when I felt so frustrated, that's it, you've now solved that problem to a great extent. And not like, it was a very frustrating thing. Just tell me, I felt frustrated again, you can make it work the other way. But then people don't actually say that they say other things I have been using, I've used the quote that I've got from you, with the MBA students that seemed I actually should have remembered and used it earlier. But when I started using it, I felt that it made some sense, because I had I had described to them that my super condensed version of the of the hero's journey is that the better stories are the most powerful stories are the path from pain to power. And if you have no pain, the story is not particularly interesting. You know, you just like Oh, someone who's normal now is better. No one cares. Right? So where is the pain? And then with some dimension align, I don't know if it's yours, but I saw it from you, which is that great stories and twice when the hero gets defeated. And when the villain gets defeated. And then I said, you know, have has your hero gotten defeated in the story, someone talking about running a marathon? And I was like, no, she was a bit concerned about getting defeated, but she didn't actually get it's like, well, then then you need to dig a bit deeper. You don't need to invent something. But your concern needs to be a lot bigger for me to feel that there's something to win or lose. Because if I don't, then it's not a particularly good story.


Antonia Baedt 53:34

Don't care. Because we again, we are looking to survive and thrive. I mean, Donald, all the time. And he's so right about that. When we when you walk into a story, and you're starting to tell it, the first question I always ask my clients is when they're trying to construct what is who is the core character? What is their superpower? And with that superpower, I mean, the thing that they're doing that I know as a storyteller is going to win the day. And the second question is, what is that flaw? What are they getting wrong? Because if the character doesn't have a flaw, you won't have a story, because that flaw is going to bring him to his need. At some point. In movies, if you want to check that it's usually the 75% mark. Okay, scroll until you get the one up like says it works with every single movie. And the reason why that is, is because when we're watching or listening to the story, we need to see that because that moment when they realise I'm defeated. I did this I got this wrong, I have to do it a different way. That's why we're actually consuming stories. We're looking for transformation. We're looking for lesson to learn. And that's where the character learns the lesson and because we are now we're so connected to that character. We are learning that lesson too.


Francisco Mahfuz 55:04

And if you don't have that moment, you don't get a training montage. You know, we need a training montage with the with the 1980s music where they where they become better by, you know, pulling sleds in the snow, or some nonsense like that, if without that the final battle that has no real has no real excitement. But yeah, and it's, that's one of those things where, although I find that the language of, you know, heroes and things of that nature can put people off and give people the wrong impression of other stories about that particular idea of the hero being defeated before they win the day. If you get internalised what that actually means is you need stakes. If you don't have stakes, then it's just not a very interesting story. And then it's unlikely to do what you're perhaps telling that story for that, you know, you we need to then you need a turning point otherwise there has been no change, there's been no transformation. Again, it's it's just a shame that it's fallen so much out of your our usual communication style, that people absolutely know that that happens in the movies, if they they're watching the half an eye open. But but no one can relate to that when they are sharing a story about a project they had that almost went completely off the rails, they don't make that connection. And and I think it's just because what used to be the way we communicated important things has become more of an entertainment to than almost anything else. It's definitely not the way people consciously communicate important things in their life, they will do it unconsciously. And when they're really excited, they'll tell stories, but you tell us the word story. And they go What? No, no, tell me. So I was just telling them what happened.


Antonia Baedt 56:51

I think what again, comes back to this vulnerability, because when we're on it, we're really honest, the best characters in fiction and nonfiction in business are people we do not want to be. Because let's be honest, if you have a movie that is 120 minutes for 75% on that movie, that character doesn't know what they're doing. They're always getting kicked, and they're getting their ass kicked. Yeah, because they got it wrong. And literally storytellers call it the lie and the truth, they're believing. And they literally have a wrong belief system that tells them Your problem is going to be fake, be fixed this way. And so they're struggling and struggling and struggling and struggling. And we as the audience, especially in movies have the time, we know that what they're doing won't work. Because we can see through it, we know there's a different way. But we have to see them struggle, we have to see them, go through it and really try and lose everything. And then we get to this point where they have this epiphany and go, Okay, I have to let go of that wrong belief. And I have to adopt that new college, cruise coffin idea, whatever it is, and the minute they do, things get better, and they win the day, they usually do. And in stories and movies where they don't, the story always ends badly. We have to go through that transformation. And if you're, if you look at your own life, that's how life works. It The trouble is just with life, life doesn't happen in 120 minutes. And we know Okay, in 45 minutes, it's going to be over because the truth is going to come to me. That's not how it works. Sometimes we have to struggle for years. But we usually come to a point where like, Okay, I'm going to have to let go and try a different way. And usually those moments, that's 50 years later, when you sit down with your grandkids, those are the stories that are again, memorable and meaningful. You're going to tell those stories, where you learn something where you're where you were you as the character in your own story where you changed. And that's why storytelling is powerful. And on


Francisco Mahfuz 59:07

that note, I think we've gone way past the time that we originally planned for this, which is absolutely no surprise given every single conversation we ever had. But when we got most of the things I wanted in there at the fair those my notes to go through, but I think we might we might just want to save them for another time. I didn't thank you very much for your time. This has been great fun.


Antonia Baedt 59:35

Thank you. Yeah, I loved it. Thank you.


Francisco Mahfuz 59:38

Alright everyone. Thanks for tuning in. Take care of yourselves. And until next time.


I hope you enjoy the show. And if you did, I'd love for you to subscribe and leave us a review or a rating on the Apple podcasts app. It's very easy. You open the app and find this show and scroll down a little and when you see the star I'd really appreciate it and it does help other people find this and if you'd like to get in touch or find out more about what I do reach out to me on LinkedIn or visit my website story powers.com



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