Search
  • Francisco Mahfuz

E58. This Is Going to Change Your Life with Matthew Dicks



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 first. My guest today is Matthew Dix, Matthew and I have a lot in common. We have both thoughts storytelling around the world, in return on the value of sharing our most embarrassing moments in front of an audience. We have lived in apartments that smell like curry, we learned important lessons from Brazilian teenagers, and we've been accused of crimes we didn't commit. But that's where the similarities end because Matthew is a teacher, a best selling author of multiple books. And having won the math stories, lamb 50 times and the Grand Slam six times is arguably one of the best storytellers in the world, which is all very impressive. But unlike Matthew, I can actually assemble Ikea furniture by myself. And I didn't have to wait until my 40th birthday to find out that breeches looks disgusting, but it's actually delicious. So I'd say we're pretty evening, ladies and gentlemen, Matthew Dicks


Mathew, welcome to the show!


Matthew Dicks 2:00

Thank you very much. You really know me. You've been listening to my stories.


Francisco Mahfuz 2:04

Yes, as as you know very well and have written on it. Strangers know you a lot when when you when you're a storyteller.


Matthew Dicks 2:11

It is so true. There is this odd one sided relationship where people start talking to me, like I'm their best friend. And they have not yet told me what their name is. And so it's a lovely thing. But it can be a little challenging at times, too.


Francisco Mahfuz 2:25

Yeah, yes. There's it's difficult to get over that strangeness of how do you know that even though so much of our private lives are our public? Now, if you're solitary, if you're on social media, there's always this disconnect between how you put post about this stuff all the time. Oh, yeah. Sorry. Yeah. Forgot about that.


Matthew Dicks 2:46

That's very true. And oftentimes, I wonder if I played golf with you when I told that story? Or did you see me on a stage? Did I have dinner with you once because that context matters. Do you know if I had dinner with you and 10 other people and you heard the story? I feel like I should remember you. Whereas if I was standing on the stage in front of 2000 people, I don't have to worry so much about not knowing you.


Francisco Mahfuz 3:07

And I guess that there's also the fact that the type of things you share, and I share to some extent, they are not your run of the mill, the holiday anecdote about something funny that happened, you know, you're sharing very vulnerable things. And I actually, I wanted to show you my book cover because I think you you know, also knowing superhero liking superheroes, I think you identify with this feeling. So this is the this is the cover of my book.


Matthew Dicks 3:34

That's great. It's very, it's very accurate. I mean, that is sort of what we do, you know, and that's why people remember those stories. If you tell a clever little anecdote that makes people laugh a little bit. It's a forgettable anecdote. Whereas if you share something deep and vulnerable and meaningful and authentic, yeah, that's why three years later, people say Oh, I know you because they remember those important stories.


Francisco Mahfuz 3:58

Yeah. And I realise I'm being I'm being impolite, the people that are just listening to this other than watching the cover of my book depicts a Clark Kent type of character opening, ripping his shirt open like Superman would, but instead of the Superman symbol, what you see is the is the scale at the ribs in in a pulsing red heart. So the book is called bear a guide to brutally honest public speaking. So one of the things that that because I just finished reading your book, and I really like it, it's amazing. I'm going to tell you how much I like it near the end, because I want to talk about what I think is the most important part of the book. But what I wanted to start talking about is, is this idea, this misconception that a lot of people have, that I used to have not that long ago because I mean, I wasn't originally a storyteller. I was in the public speaking so I did a lot of that. And I remember that we had competitions that came around every few months. And you know, I had already you know, I had won a competition telling about the stories my first one Marriage. And then I had a hit, there was another one, which was about my dog and a robbery. And then at some point, the competition came around. And I thought, I don't have any stories. Like I've already told the big ones. So I have I haven't got anything else. So I just, you know, I know you have very strong feelings about this. I wanted to talk about that for a moment.


Matthew Dicks 5:20

Yeah, I do. I mean, I had the same feeling. Initially, when I started storytelling and made a list, you know, and the list was 15, or 20 items long, which were those big stories I thought I would tell. But as I started going to storytelling shows and competitions, I quickly realised that a lot of the storytellers I was watching, they were sort of rolling out the same chest, not every night, you know, I started hearing them say the same stories over and over again, in different venues to different audiences. But I just thought I don't want to be like that, you know, I don't want to be a person who has 20 great stories, I want to have an infinite list of stories. And, you know, so I began some strategies and processes to find stories in my life. And as you know, now, the list that used to be 15 or 20 items long, I think right now, I checked it yesterday, it's 684 items long, which is an addition to the 140 different stories I've told on stages. There's now 684 stories waiting to be crafted and told, and I'm not special in any way whatsoever. I don't have a more interesting life than most people. I'm not


Francisco Mahfuz 6:23

well, that's, well, we can we can challenge that conception, you don't have you haven't been told famously that you had the worst life. I think you had a more colourful life than then than most but and now when I talk about your strategies, I'm going to save that to the end. Because I think that's, to me, that's the most important thing that I wanted to talk to you about. But there's a tonne of other stuff I want to cover as well. So one thing I wanted to have you you explain a bit better is this idea that you know why people are wrong about this. And I think in your book, use an example of someone talking about a trip to Tanzania, is I have a story about my trip to Tanzania. Why is that a terrible idea? And why is that not how you should think of a story?


Matthew Dicks 7:06

Sure. So when you tell stories, like those travel stories, or when you think of stories like that, what happens is, people sort of come under the impression that stories are a reporting of the events of our lives in a set period of time, which is really not a story at all, you know, if someone says to you, you know, how was your vacation, and you begin outlining the day by day accounting of your vacation, you've now ruined that relationship with that person, because nobody wants that. So stories aren't about the stuff that happens to us over time stories are simply about the changes that take place within us. You know, I always say they come in two forms, they're either realisation, which is to say, I used to think one thing, and now I think another or they come through transformation, which is I used to be a kind of person. And then some stuff happened. And now I'm a new kind of person. And that happens to us all the time. And those really are essentially what we need to be telling when we're looking to tell stories, as opposed to, here are some stuff that happened to me. Oftentimes, when we tell the here's the stuff that happened to me story. It's simply confined by the time period, you know, in the classic sense of an elementary school student, which is who I work with, their stories tend to start in the morning when they wake up. And they tend to end at the end of the day when they go to bed. And again, that's not a story that's just accounting of your boring day that we don't really want to hear. And so we have to focus more on the changes that take place in our hearts and our minds, and the way we feel about the world and the way we feel about ourselves and the people around us. Sometimes there are things happening at that same time. But what I love is that so often, the stories that I tell are reflective of what's happening in my brain. And if you were watching me, in one of these deep and profound moments, oftentimes you would never even know I was in the midst of an important story of my life, because I could be paying a cashier or sitting on a bench or just listening to someone say something to me. And meanwhile, inside, everything is stirring, and that becomes a story. So a lot of times it's not necessarily what we're doing. It's what we're thinking and what we're feeling. And we all think and feel, regardless of whether you're a hermit who lives in a house and never leaves, or you're a person who bungee jumps every Saturday, you're going to have stories.


Francisco Mahfuz 9:21

I have talked about this often. And I usually tell people that it's not about what happened is how you felt about what happened. And I think you describe it in a better way, particularly for the stories that most people think they should have, which is think of the line you used was they see the big when they should be looking for the small so the example everybody loves to use and you have used as well, but you actually know someone who did it is the whole Everest thing. And I think you said something like going to a climbing Everest is is an adventure story. But actually being changed by having climbed Everest would be a great story.


Matthew Dicks 9:59

I've actually worked To storytellers who have climbed Everest to people who stand on stages and describe that process. And both of them understood inherently I think, as they've been telling a story for a long time, that it's not a relatable story to other people. What no one's gonna climb Everest in your audience, or it's very unlikely. So to connect to people on a climbing Everest level is very challenging. Instead, what I teach them to do is what things happened along the journey, that are utterly relatable, that express vulnerability and authenticity, you can still get to the top of the mountain. But I suspect always that things happen along the way that are small and meaningful. And so you know, one of my favourite examples is one of the guys who climbed Everest, he ends up telling a story about being in a tent, in the middle of the night in a blizzard. And he's with a woman that he doesn't really know that well, another climber, and she is somewhat unreliable, she's starting to panic. And then he starts to panic, because you can't be on the side of Everest with someone who's panicking, because you end up your life is in danger in that case, and the way he tells the story causes people to suddenly think about their own jobs, and how, when you're assigned a task with someone who will fail, you've been assigned a task with the person in the office who no one wants to work with. That's sort of the same thing. He was assigned to a tent with someone who nobody wanted to tent with. And suddenly, the story becomes relatable to everybody. They're not on the side of Everest, their life is not in danger. But the project that they're doing is in danger. their workday is ruined because of it. So it just takes something very, very big and makes it small. And then people can connect to it. And that's what we love to do. And storytelling.


Francisco Mahfuz 11:36

Yeah. And talking about the small. This is something I heard from you on a podcast a while back. And it made sense to me. But then I ran, ran it by other people. This this concept of yours that the story is not about the big stuff is about the five second moment of transformation in I don't think I had understood it terribly well, because I got a lot of pushback on that because they thought it was very reductionist, but I hadn't quite understood what that meant. Not the story is this is just the story's just this and you don't need anything else. And you barely need the other stuff. That the five second moment is, what the story is about to everything else has to support that and has to bring that into sharper focus. So can you just talk about that for a second?


Matthew Dicks 12:23

Yeah. So when I talk about change those transformations or realisations, I do fundamentally believe they happen almost instantaneously, the actual moment of change is I used to think something and then suddenly, I think another now it doesn't happen in five seconds. There is a lot of stuff that leads up to that moment in the same way a movie operates. You know, similarly, the last five minutes of every movie is the moment when things are going to change. It's when it's when the man will fall into in love with the woman, it's when the husband will realise he's a terrible husband and becomes the good husband. You know, it's when the father realises he's a bad father becomes a better father, all of those moments happen in the, in the last, let's say, five to 10 minutes of a movie. I think those changes happen instantaneously. So we can tell a two minute, a 12 minute, a 20 minute story. Ultimately, it's going to culminate in one of those five second moments. But it doesn't mean the story is going to be five seconds. It's not going to reduce just to that singular moment. But once you know what the moment is, I think that's critical. Because once you know what you're trying to say, you know, I used to be this but now I'm that everything else in the story needs to support that ultimate final moment. And that's the best way to edit your story. It's the best way to determine what goes in the story and what comes out of the story. You know, it allows you to be ruthless in a way because storytellers kind of want to share everything. You know, they're they're sort of interested in themselves and interested in speaking about themselves to the world. But the best storytellers understand, I can't really speak about myself in that way, that the goal of storytelling is not to share your entire life with people, but to share a strategic targeted version of your life that says something fundamental and important about yourself. And so yeah, I'm always starting with the end of my story, as most filmmakers do as well. I'm always starting with what am I trying to say? I'm trying to say I used to be this but now I'm that now what do I have to include to make that moment as clear, as obvious as understandable to my audience as possible?


Francisco Mahfuz 14:26

So since we've been talking about films, should we should you ruin movies for everyone else? And talk about your because you're not really just for me, I just want to spread that and ruin it for everyone else. And talk about your idea of you know, once you have the end, then you also have you don't necessarily have the beginning but you have the makings of the beginning. And if the end is about I am now someone who realises how you know the time of my children is precious. or hopefully something slightly less trite than that. Then the beginning is you are someone who definitely doesn't appreciate that the time with your children is precious.


Matthew Dicks 15:12

Yeah, exactly. I mean, that's fundamentally how stories work is the end and the beginning of a story are going to be somewhat in opposition to each other. And so once I find the end, and I say, here's what I'm trying to say, I realised, you know, I realised that my son is a jerk, for example, right? The beginning of my story is going to have to be, I think my son is not a jerk, ideally, my son is a lovely kind human being. And somehow I'm misguided because he's my child. And I have to come to terms with the fact that he's not a nice person. This is not true, but I'm trying to find a less trite example. But because of that, when you're watching movies, you know, the way to ruin your movie, the way the reason why my wife doesn't allow me to speak during movies is that once you understand this concept, you can watch the first 15 minutes of most movies, and many television shows too. And essentially know how they're going to end. It doesn't mean that the story is not entertaining, you know, it doesn't mean that you're not going to enjoy it. But in the first 15 minutes of a movie, they're going to show you the problem with the character, and then you know what problem needs to be resolved by the end of the movie. And it works in almost all movies. Now. There's some indie movies, there's some Wes Anderson movies, there's some weird movies that necessarily that don't necessarily follow this pattern. But most do. We were just watching a Disney film a couple weeks ago, a movie called bolt. It's this animated movie from 2009. And it was just my kids and I, so I was allowed to talk. And nine seconds into the movie, I paused it. And I said, this is a movie about a dog who needs to find a home and he needs to find some friends along the way. And my kids looked at me and they're like, Dad, the movie started like nine seconds ago. How do you know that? And I said, Well, that's clearly bolt. It's the dog that stars in the movie, and he's in a window. And it's a window of a pet store, and all the other animals are being taken home, but he is not. And therefore that is what the story is about. And at the end of the movie, my daughter turned to me and she said, I don't know how you enjoy anything, because in the end, it was a story about a dog who needed to find a home and needed to find friends along the way. And that's essentially what happened. I told her, I said, I enjoyed the movie, I just knew where it was gonna land like there was no question where it was gonna land in the same way. My favourite example is the movie When Harry Met Sally, the beginning of that movie, Harry and Sally actually say, I hate you. They actually say those words, if you don't think they're not going to be kissing at the end of the movie, you're crazy. That doesn't mean I didn't love the movie, but I know where it's going to land. And that's how most movies are for me. Now in most books, you know, even the novels that I write, if you read the first two chapters of the novel that I'm writing, you should kind of know what's going to happen at the end to a certain degree, you're not going to know how I'm going to get there, you're not going to share exactly what the landing place is in terms of time, and space and tone and things like that. But that's how stories work. And if we know that as storytellers we can start telling better stories, we can tell stories that actually mean something to people, as opposed to what most people do, which is, I'm just going to recount some stuff that happened to me until the phone rings, until somebody interrupts us until the meal is over. Because that's how most stories and they usually get interrupted and never finished. Happily, because there really is no end to most stories. Most people aren't thinking in this framework that storytellers do. So it's a simple framework, but it will change everything about the way you tell stories,


Francisco Mahfuz 18:32

I find that what you just described is not I don't find it that enigmatic or not necessarily a superpower, that you know, a few spots, that the person is lonely at the end of the movie or the dog is lonely, we kind of expect that they hopefully won't be lonely by the end. And that's the clear problem in the movie. I think in stories you call that the elephant, the elephant the room. But I think most people get that. What? What blew me away when you in your book was when you use this example of the girl who loses her job and the boyfriend who works for an investment bank cheats on her. And I hadn't really thought about it as in, you know, whatever job she gets is going to be very different. The boyfriend is going to be a very different character, it's going to work in a different industry. I hadn't, I hadn't stretched it to that point that there was going to be a change here. And that change is going to apply to almost everything that they're giving us in the beginning. That's what I think really would ruin movies for most people if they pay enough attention to it.


Matthew Dicks 19:37

It's true. You know, I talked about like, if she's dating a ruthless banker, who who dumps her in the first 10 minutes of the film. She's not going to be dating the banker across the street at the you know, at the other bank. She's gonna start dating like a dog walker or a lumberjack, you know, or a cupcake Baker. You don't know what it's going to be but you can just save yourself. Well, it's not going to be a bank. Again, right, everything sort of is going to be in opposition at the end. Now that the more broad, the more mainstream the movie, the more that is going to be true. Whereas, you know, more indie films that have nuance, it's going to be a little less true. But it is kind of true that most of the things you see at the beginning of a movie are going to be in opposition to what is going to be at the end of the movie,


Francisco Mahfuz 20:23

I actually find that the understanding that might tell you, you know, exactly what the ending of the movie is, or should be or or a book or a story. But I find that if assuming that that might ruin the experience, I don't think it would necessarily, but it's less detrimental to your enjoyment than say someone who has absolutely internalised the hero's journey. Because so many Hollywood movies, Pixar included, follow the beats of the hero's journey almost perfectly. So you can always tell Okay, well, at this moment, you know, there's a call to adventure, they're gonna deny it, and our guides gonna come and they're gonna go, and this is the turning point. And this is where they're going to suffer a defeat before they can actually win at the end. And you can tell we know that third of the movie is coming, the second set of the movie is about to end. Now they're going to look like at the darkest hour. I think that's worse, because you see what's going to happen at every moment. And not just we're going to move from here to here.


Matthew Dicks 21:21

Yeah, it's true. My son's eight, his name is Charlie, and I sort of taught him how movies work. And so we'll be watching a movie, and he'll turn to me and go, Oh, and that's the moment when we know everything seems perfect. And the moment in the middle of a movie, when everything seems perfect. The next scene is always disastrous. He'll also turned to me at one point, and he'll say, Dad, we're in the pit of despair. moment when in a movie where there's no like visible way that our hero will survive this, you know, it's the the absolute bottom of the movie, he turns me and says, This is the pit of despair. And I go, yes, it is. We're probably 20 minutes away from the end, aren't we? And he says, yes. So, you know, he's sort of internalised this too, he's the only one in my household who has everyone else ignores me. And you're right, to a certain degree that it does sort of convert movies into formulas to a certain extent, you know, and so I wonder sometimes if I don't enjoy them quite as much, I enjoy them on the level of I'm watching them and pulling them apart. And that is really fun. But you know, my favourite example of sort of maybe not enjoying it as much as when I'm at Jurassic Park movie with my friend. And all the people in the audience are terrified at one moment about whether these two brothers are going to be eaten by a dinosaur. And in my heart, I'm just going well, they're not going to get eaten. Because this is a Jurassic Park film. And children don't get eaten in this movie, I already knew who's going to be eaten. Like, the owner of the company gets eaten, the person who carries a gun, the most gets eaten, the assistant to the company owner always gets eaten. But the boys aren't going to get eaten. So I get sort of I get stolen or the suspense gets stolen from me to a certain degree. I think, though, if I pause the movie, and I turned to the audience, and I said, do you all really think that this dinosaurs about to eat these two boys, I think fundamentally, you know, in a cognitive level, none of them really believe it. But I think the best stories cause us to forget who we are, where we are, why we are they immerse us into the story, which is why we cry at the end of movies, right? If you cry at the end of Titanic, because Jack is dead and roses alive. You've forgotten who you are. Because that's just Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet you know that they're not dead. In fact, in the whole movie of Titanic, most of the characters are actually representing real people who once lived. And so when those people die, it makes sense to cry, because that is reflective of something that actually took place in the North Atlantic. And yet we cry over the two fictional characters who we know cognitively never existed. And I think that's the magic of storytelling. That's why I cry at the end of Titanic, even though on a cognitive level, I know, well, he's just gonna be in another movie in six months. He's fine. So that's what I love about storytelling, that ability to cause you to forget everything about where you are at that moment.


Francisco Mahfuz 24:11

Yeah, I think that knowing that something bad is not necessarily going to happen to a character. It doesn't it only takes away from from your enjoyment of the scene. If the scene is not well done, because you watch James Bond movie, James Wan is not going to die. Enjoy the action scenes without thinking James Bond is genuinely in risk for his life. But it's this I don't know how he's gonna get out of this. Like, I have no idea. This is this generally painted him in a corner. There is no solution here. But you don't generally think he's gonna die.


Matthew Dicks 24:43

Part of that enjoyment and like a James Bond movie or those types of films, is waiting to see the bad guy get his comeuppance. You know, the joy in knowing that James Bond is being tortured right now by a sadistic, evil man. But by the end of the movie, James Bond I'm just gonna kill that guy, and I can't wait to see it happen. So there is that idea to that we sort of know what's going to happen at the end. And yet, we're looking forward to watching it happen at the end.


Francisco Mahfuz 25:09

Something else that that actually struck me as very different from from your book and the way you teach storytelling. I don't think I've come across this before. And I don't know if I've just misunderstood it, or if it's just so embedded in the way you teach it, that it that doesn't need to be obvious. But almost everybody that teaches storytelling, talks about structure, and then we're talking about the hero's journey, less commonly, they'll be talking about a three act structure, they'll be talking about a four act structure. Whereas your structure, if I understand it correctly, is everything in the story supposed to bring that five second moment at the end, clarity, which is another point of difference, because a lot of you will talk about the moment, but the moment is almost usually from the middle to the end of the story is not the last few beats of the story. So yours, as I understand is the moment is as close to the end as you possibly can, the beginning is as close to the moment as you possibly can. And the beginning should be the opposite of the end. Other than that, they did, I didn't quite get that you weren't actually trying to teach in any particular way, a structure other than just by constantly contrasting things, to make them more interesting and to generate tension. Have I missed something?


Matthew Dicks 26:23

Or is it a good job? I mean, there's a lot of other elements, you know, I think, like, surprise, and stakes are really important in there. But no, I agree. Sometimes I hear people say that the definition of a story is sort of something with a beginning, a middle and an end. And I hate that so much. Because everything has a beginning, middle and end, you know, when I eat a Snickers bar, there's a beginning to that Snickers bar, there's a middle to the candy bar, and then there's an end it doesn't make it a story. Just speaking, no matter what you're saying, you will begin at some part, which we can define as the beginning. And then there's going to be a middle part regardless of either, even if you're telling a story, and then there will be an end. So it's a terrible way to define what a story is. But what I'm really objecting to is the idea that when we try to teach people about structure in that way, you know, when we try to teach them, the hero's journey, or anything like that, I think storytelling gets very complicated and academic and difficult to understand. I try to teach storytelling to people in such a way that will find a meaningful moment in your life, something that touched you in some important way. And then you know, find the opposite of that, ideally, as close to that as possible, keep your story as short as possible and increase the amount of tension by not expanding your story longer than it needs to be. And then just tell it to us. Now I teach people to tell it in scenes, as you know, which I think is extremely important. But I don't want them thinking about all of that sort of higher level stuff, which frankly, I don't even think about when I'm writing novels. You know, I'm writing a novel I'm not thinking about, I'm in the third act now. Or I'm in the pit of despair. I don't think about any of those things. I'm just trying to tell a good story. So my goal is to teach people to tell a good story about their lives, while keeping all of that academic out of it. And I think a lot of it has to do with me being an elementary school teacher for 23 years, I really believe in taking large complex processes, and breaking them down into small, repeatable, practicable parts. And I think that's sort of the success I've had in storytelling is I make it easy for people by taking big things and making them small, obvious and easy to see


Francisco Mahfuz 28:25

the biggest difference I noticed it was really either what you consider the middle or the end, because the beginning I think it's fairly straightforward. The most people think that the beginning is the setup or the context, you do that, you know, you are genuinely telling us who you are, and where you are more and more importantly, where you are. And I think you almost always tell us when you're Yeah, so that I think that's fairly straightforward. Where I think is the big difference to me. And it's something I'm still getting my head around because I ploughed through your book in the last three days, when we knew this was evident today was that there's usually this idea that you have, you know, the tell us, give us some context. Now tell us what really happened? And what's the problem? How did you solve it or whatever. And then there was this idea of the consequence, or the outcome or the resolution, whereas in your stories, the moment you change, the story ends?


Matthew Dicks 29:17

Yeah, just about Yeah, you should, you should pretty much end your story as close to that as possible. I fundamentally believe that the moment you change is the most important thing you're going to say. And after you said the most important thing you're going to say everything after that is less meaningful, and people will begin to disengaged. So I'm just trying to land on a moment where people go, Oh, and that's it. Now I'm done. You know, movies. I think the best movies are the same way. I love to tell people like when Luke Skywalker blows up the Death Star in Star Wars, right? That movie is just about over we're going to have a brief throne room scene where Chewbacca doesn't get a metal. But there's still a lot of things at play in that movie. Like the Empire has not been destroyed, Darth Vader is still alive, there's still a whole bunch of stuff that can be dealt with. They could, they could have had scenes where they talk about what's our next steps, all of those things, nobody wants it. Once the death star blew up, everyone's mind was already thinking about the drive home. And you know, that is Luke Skywalker his moment that is the moment when he rejects technology for religion, he embraces the force, that is his moment of realisation and transformation. Han Solo has a moment at the same time where he goes from selfish to selfless, he returns to save his friend, rather than going to do the thing he needs to do in order to save himself. So once those moments happen, we really don't need anymore because that's what we were waiting for. That's what we want it when Harry and Sally kiss at the end of that film, the film ends 42 seconds later. And we don't have to hear like what their marriage was like, what their wedding was, like, we don't need any of that. We just need to know Harry and Sally kissed, they express love for each other. That is what we were waiting for. And now we can leave the theatre. That is how I treat my stories to once I say the most important thing I'm going to say, I know, people are basically done with me, and I want to be done at that moment. I think that's really important. I just think most stories don't end. Like I could keep talking. You know, I definitely could add on to every single story I've ever told, with additional, you know, resolution and more feelings and what happened next. But I just know that's not what people want. They want stories that end with a moment where it makes your heart flutter, where it makes you think about something in a new way, when it makes you suddenly feel connected to the storyteller. And then that's the end. I do love when people come up to me afterwards and say what happened next. Because if they say that now I have them. Now I know that the story is stuck. You know, it's not something where I've told the story, they can forget about it and walk away. I've told the story. And now it's sort of rattling around inside them. And they need to know more. And that's the best part wanting to know more means you've really connected with them, they the story is going to live inside them for a longer period of time.


Francisco Mahfuz 32:00

Yeah, and I think that ties into to a concept I believe you called the coat, like you want to put a coat on the audience that they will carry around. So what the story shouldn't do is resolve itself perfectly. Because if once resolved perfectly, that you know the audience okay is okay, fine that that's done. Whereas, you know, arguably Star Wars, you want to watch what comes next because you know, there's still more to come. Whereas we don't want that we don't the audience thinking I need to hear the second part of the story, but you want them carrying the story with them. And to you know, I started this Chew well resolved, won't allow them to do that. Right.


Matthew Dicks 32:38

Exactly. Yeah, I love that coat metaphor that I use. You know, I feel like when I'm telling a story to someone and putting a coat on them, and the harder it is to get that coat off, the better the story was, you know, Star Wars is a great example. Because the bad guys still alive, Darth Vader is still alive. There's also this weird love triangle, which when we watched the first movie, we don't know whether Luke is going to end up with Leia or Han is going to end up with Leia and they don't resolve that love triangle. Ultimately, we discover there's a brother or sister here. So the love triangle gets resolved. But there are a lot of questions at that. At the end of that movie, which lead to the next movie. I just want the same thing for my stories. I want there to be questions at the end, I want people to be wrestling with it. You know, I want them to hear me tell a story about a time I worked at McDonald's. And then the next time they're in a McDonald's, they're thinking about me, they're thinking, Oh, I remember that guy told the story about being in a McDonald's. And I think if there's great resolution at the end of the story, I think if everything's sort of all tied up in a bow, we forget those stories that the best example is, so many people in the world will pick up a book, read it. And then five years later pick up a book and there'll be 50 pages into it before they realise, wait a minute, I think I've read this before, you know, that book ended up with all the all the knots were tied at the end, because you were able to put the story away and completely forget about it. I want my stories to be unforgettable in the way that people are still wondering about a few things at the end of every at the end of every story.


Francisco Mahfuz 34:00

Okay, so I 100% of the standard, I buy it, I want my stories to do the same thing, except when those stories are being used in more of a business context. And this is where it's something I wanted to pick your brain on. Because there's a lot of techniques that you teach, that I think undoubtedly make for more powerful stories, but I'm not 100% Sure. How many of them actually translate to translate to using them in a in a business context, particularly if you're using them as an example you're trying to, to give a presentation and not just bore people to death with PowerPoint slides or whatever. So for example, one of the techniques you you've talked about that I'm slowly coming around to is telling stories in the present tense instead of in the past, which I think to a lot of people sound really odd if it's outside of a storytelling context. This stuff happened to me yesterday. I'm in the shop, it just sounds a bit strange than saying I was in the shop. So that's one of them. The other one is this idea of telling always either your story or your side of the story. And there was, there was one more that, that I had in my, in my list that I wanted to check. Oh, yeah, is the introduction, you because you railed against using a thesis statement, you know, saying that, you know, this is a story about whatever, or this is about change, and then telling the story. But those three things, I think, either way, you know, the present tense and telling other people's stories, you know, you probably wouldn't do it in the present tense in business, I think you tell plenty of other people's stories when it's in a business context. And you, I think, if you don't have a, and also want to call this a relevance statement, just a line to connect to the conversation we were having with the example I'm about to give. So how do you square that? Because I know you've worked with businesses. So do you think you know, am I am I am I wrong here? Or do you just have to switch some of those techniques around from you know, normal storytelling to say, business storytelling,


Matthew Dicks 36:12

I think some changes have to be made, but not as many as I think you suspect. The present tense, I would argue, only feels weird to you while you're using it, because you're not accustomed to using it. I use it all the time. I think you hear it all the time, actually. And you're just sort of not aware of it. I think it's very normal to say, so I'm in the bathroom, and you're not gonna You're not gonna believe what just happened. I'm in the bathroom. And this guy comes up to me and tells me this, that feels very normal to me. I think the weird the weirdness comes from the fact that we don't usually use it. A lot of times, I think the discomfort that storytellers have is because they're using strategies that are unfamiliar to them, they don't typically come out of their mouths. And yet, if they really pay attention to the way the world is operating around them, they'll discover that a lot of people are actually speaking in this way. In fact, the best storytellers, I think, are speaking this way, the problem is not many people are very good storytellers. So they revert to the past tense, for example, as opposed to pushing it into the present tense whenever possible. So I think that one I teach business people use all the time, the present tense when possible, it's not always possible, especially when you're telling other people's stories, although I'm a minister, who does weddings. And when I tell stories, at weddings, I tell the stories of other people in the present tense, and that really works well. So it's possible. I think that although we do have to tell other people's stories in business, and that is very much true. And I teach people to do that all the time, I'm sort of obsessed with the idea that you should still kind of be talking about yourself in some way. So one of my favourite examples that I'm working with this, the Silicon Valley Tech company that you interact with on a regular basis, probably. And the marketer I was working with came up with this brilliant strategy on how to market her company in this new pivot that they're making. And I asked her, how'd you come up with it, and she, she held up a napkin to the screen, and she goes, I was sitting at my table, drinking wine at nine o'clock, listening to music, not thinking about work, when suddenly this idea came to me, and I scribble it on the napkin, and I said, save the napkin, I said, you're going to present the strategy. But what's even more interesting, and what will be more memorable is if you present the process of coming up with a strategy. And she really was not sure about that. She was like, why don't I just present the strategy. And I said, that will not be the memorable, interesting thing. And the example I used was Newton's apple, you know, Newton discovers the theory of gravity. But what we all remember is an apple landed on his head, which is probably an apocryphal tale, it probably didn't actually happen. But we remember an apple lands on Newton's head, and therefore he comes up with a theory of gravity. If Newton simply came up with a theory of gravity, and there isn't an apple attached to it, we probably aren't really able to remember that Newton came up with the theory of gravity will be as lost to us as all the other theories and physics that people come up with that we don't know about. It's that moment of discovery, that personal moment of discovery that makes that moment so memorable. So what happened is she pitched her strategy a few times, without the napkin in the story, and it went fine. And then I finally convinced her in this big presentation, I said, just put it in just put in the napkin, the wine, the nine o'clock, the music, changed everything. She said, people keep talking to me about that moment of inspiration I had at the table. So it makes this strategy into a story. It's a personal story. Now, it's not like a beginning and end it doesn't have suspense. It doesn't have all those things that I try to teach people when you're trying to be entertaining, but it's putting yourself a little bit into everything that you're doing. So that it becomes personal becomes connective and it becomes memorable. So I think the strategies that I teach in business are totally applicable. They're going to be reduced. They're going to be a little sadder. It's going to be a little less entertaining. But I think they all sort of apply whether I'm looking at someone's slide deck and applying storytelling techniques to it, which I do all the time. Or whether I'm talking to someone about a presentation they're going to give to, to their CEO or to their shareholders or to some salespeople, the storytelling, which is to say, can I get the personal into the business, I think that changes everything. And that's what I teach business people to do all the time. And what they've discovered over time is it's absolutely true, that even the vulnerability that I teach, you know, I worked with a hospital, a very, very big hospital in this country. And I was working with the CEO, she had to give a speech to 3000 people 3000 of her own people. And I convinced her to tell the story about the time her husband had knee surgery in her hospital, and the knee surgery was botched. It was done very poorly. And he nearly lost his knee in the process. I said, tell that story to your people. And she said, Why would I tell the story about the time the hospital failed me? And I said, because that is vulnerable, that's authentic? And do you really think every surgery in your hospital goes well, like, you're going to just be honest about the mistakes and then how they made you feel better about the mistake. And it changed everything. She told that story on the stage. She called me the next day, she said, from my car, to the office, five people in a hallway stopped me to thank me for the story. And they told me something about my hospital that I didn't know. And it's because she opened a door with that vulnerability. And in business, I'm always trying to get people to open a door a little bit with their vulnerability and allow people to step a little closer. So I think all of those things, the present tense, yes, we have to tell other people's stories, but we should also be telling our own stories. And the thesis statement. Sometimes we need it. You know, in business, sometimes we have to say like, I'm going to tell you three things, you know, and three things about how to make this product more, whatever. And it is unfortunate that we have to do it. But whenever I can I flip it. Whenever it's possible. I say hold back, you know, a little bit hold back the, you know, hold back, the reason why you're saying things and make that the last thing you say whenever possible, Steve Jobs would do it. He'd always say one more thing is one more thing was always the best thing about his whole presentation, right? And he never said one more thing. I'm going to tell you something about music and the iPhone, he said one more thing. And then he just said the thing he didn't prep us for he didn't give us a thesis statement. So I think what you're saying is true. But I don't think it has to be like 100% True. I think there's nuance in there. And there's the ability to fight and, and to get storytelling into places that you don't normally see it.


Francisco Mahfuz 42:34

Yeah, my friend, my friend, Sean Callahan, who does a lot of corporate storytelling, he he says that he uses a very, very soft relevance statement, as he calls it. So you know, maybe the story is going to tell is about is about how you were looking at the wrong thing. You're just not paying attention the right thing. And then you just say something like, you know, sometimes we're not quite sure what we're not quite sure what we're looking at. And then he just tells the story. Yeah, and but he doesn't do is he doesn't have the point at the end. So he just tells what happened. And he doesn't have two lines after to sort of summarise his conclusions, because he you argue I've given the point already. I'm just now backing it up with evidence. And I know you prefer the evidence first. So guy, but I think what that does very well, is it bridges, sometimes the we're just having a normal conversation. And now I'm gonna launch into a story that might come across as a bit weird. You say something and I go, it's, you know, it's it's two years ago, and I'm standing in this bathroom and like, I can't What? So maybe just there's just a beat there that you kind of miss. It's like, oh, you know, does this thing you just said he made me made me remember something? It's five years. So it might be something as simple as that. I guess


Matthew Dicks 43:51

I like that better. I like the simplicity of you've said something that caused me to think about something and to say that in some way, that's not as clunky as that, I think is better than saying that thesis statement at the top, which I just yeah, I'm always opposed to I think part of it too. Is that idea that the same thing with the present tense? I think that people feel it's weird and uncomfortable only because it's coming out of their mouth for the first time. You know, when I teach people to do TEDx talks, I always teach them to start with a story. And they always say, you just want me to walk into the orange circle and say, it's 1993. And I'm walking down the street, I say, Yes, that's exactly what I want you to do. I want you to immerse them in a story, cause a movie to play in their mind for a little bit before you actually start sharing your idea. You know, the story always is going to connect to the idea. It's going to be an example or a model of the idea that you're about to present. And they say, shouldn't I say something like, good evening, good afternoon. Today I'm going to be talking about and I say no, I say the only reason you think it's weird is because you've never done it before. I promise. You know, when the audience is gone, no one in the audience is thinking, why is he doing this? They're like, Oh, he's telling us a story. They know they understand what is happening. It's not a mystery. but it is that weird thing where you're about to do something you've never done before, even though even though people around you do it, you're not cognitive of it, because it doesn't happen often enough. And because when it's happening to you, you're not thinking like, Oh, now he's telling me a story, you're just suddenly enjoying yourself, you know, you're not thinking about things. So I think part of it is you got to make the leap, you're like on that diving board, and you just have to dive off with the present tense, and you're gonna dive off with story and see how it works, you're gonna dive off with the way that marketer finally agreed to hold up her napkin and tell the story and everything changed. We just did a campaign, we're working on a campaign now with her. And the way that she discovered this next big idea she had was brilliant. And again, it was a story. It was, Oh, I was doing this. And then suddenly, I realised this. And now she knows that that has to be part of the story. She said, Oh, my discovery of the campaign. And the idea has to be part of the story now, because I understand that's what people are interested in what people will remember. They don't remember ideas and words, they remember story. And when you can connect the ideas to the story, then you have magic.


Francisco Mahfuz 46:04

Yeah, I had, I did a presentation just a couple of days ago to a group of, of very young intrapreneurs or want, you know, want to be intrapreneurs. And one thing I said to them is, if you're looking for a way to introduce your your idea, your product, just tell us about the moment where you figured out there was a problem, you probably felt that problem. And then you either found a solution or you decided you wanted to be the person that pretty much every origin story of every company. And in this presentation, I talked about Airbnb, and I talked about Spanx and I talked about a few other ones, they always start with, I was doing this, I was broke, I needed money. There was this big conference in San Francisco, and I realised, well, what if there's no hotels anymore? What if I rented out like an air mattress in my living room? Right? And then, you know, solved my problem solve their problem, all of a sudden, maybe there's a business here. Now. So yeah, and I've, I've gotten people over the, you know, just I don't want to just start to the story argument by giving them science. And I said to them, Listen, you know, I do the whole evolution thing and how history I give the example, like a silly example of like someone almost being eaten by a sabre toothed Tiger and telling the story and someone finding different mushrooms in the woods, trying them and having a very different seven hours have done that. And I say, a story is it was something that was either gonna save your life, or improve your life. So your brain has evolved to pay more attention to stories and the marker of a story is time in place. So the moment you say, it was two years ago, your brain goes, hold on, a story's coming. This could help save my life or improve my life. And now you've got people's attention. That's it, you can be more dramatic in that beginning, but the moment you say that the brain all of a sudden perks up, because it's primed to do so evolutionarily. So you know, again, that's


Matthew Dicks 47:59

I talk a lot about the chemicals that are released during storytelling as well, you know, and, you know, do you want those good feeling chemicals that get released in the beginning of your presentation? Or do you want them at the end, like you want people feeling things about you? Right at the beginning, you know, if you have to say something important, the first thing you should be doing is telling a story, the secret to my teaching career as an elementary school teacher, I'm not the best teacher, I don't have the best lessons, I don't have the best, the best pedagogy. I tell my students stories about myself all day long. And they're always the embarrassing ones, the humiliating ones, the shameful ones. I connect with my students so that when I want them to do something, like it's time to long learn long division, they're with me, because we're a team, they love me, I love them. There's real connection. My lesson is not going to be as good as my neighbour, but my kids know everything about me. And then they want to be on the journey with me. So I agree with you. I love that example, though of, you know, signalling to the audience, a story is coming. And there was a time when this would save your life. And maybe even today, this might save your life. I love that I will be stealing that and teaching people that idea. That's what


Francisco Mahfuz 49:01

by all means. Alright, so I want to talk about homework for life. And I'm now going to give a thesis statement and say that it I had heard about it before I knew what it was I kind of gave it a half assed attempt at it. It didn't didn't really sort of work didn't take. I read the book. I started doing it four days ago. And this might be a bit overblown, but it's changed my life. I love that. I know you fully believe in this stuff. And we don't have the time for you to go into the whole story of how you found homer for life. So allow me to summarise it, but then I want to talk about it. So homer for life is this very simple exercise where every day okay, I was gonna say something that was probably going to be insensitive, considering you or you I was gonna say if someone put a gun to your head and say no, it's fine. I was talking now.


Matthew Dicks 49:56

I flipped it to if someone kidnapped my family and would not give them back. That's the right leg is now.


Francisco Mahfuz 50:01

Okay, so you've undertaken route. Okay, good. Yeah. Okay, fine. So if your life depended on telling a story about today, something that happened today, what is the one moment of today that you think could make a story and then you write it down on a spreadsheet or a Notes app are never no to everyone, you do that every single day for the rest of your life. And then all of a sudden, you have a whole bunch of stories that you can develop and tell in all sorts of complex. So that's the that's the basic thing I had understood that what I hadn't understood was how life changing it was, I had understood as a storyteller why that was a very valuable resource, particularly because finding stories is one of the hardest parts in the beginning. For most people, they're like, I don't know what, and then we teach them, you know, what you call first, first, last best, worst, I had the 30 days first, last worst best. So you know the sound, you know, the five F's, which is first fears, frustrations, failures and fiascos or backups if you want to go in other stuff, all those things work, but but none of them have the life changing impact of homework for life. So why is that life changing?


Matthew Dicks 51:15

Well, I think the problem in this world is twofold. One is we get trained to think about everybody else, we worry about our kids, our spouses, our jobs, our bosses, our friends. And what happens is, we ultimately don't spend a lot of time thinking about ourselves, the best storytellers in the world are fairly self centred, and not in a bad way, it's in the way that we acknowledge that to be the most healthy, and the most, you know, relatable, understandable and complete people, we have to spend time thinking about who we are as a human being reflecting. And so homework for life forces you reflect on your day, every day. And you know, the one thing I'll add your description was excellent about how it works. The one thing that I think is really important is it has to be short, because I believe in, you know, repetition, and short, easy, actionable strategies. So I use a spreadsheet because I don't want people writing more than five or six sentences, I don't want them to write the whole story. So part of it is the willingness to be reflective about yourself and looking at your day. But the other tragedy of our lives is that things happen to us all the time, story worthy moments happen to us. People say things that change the way we think people say things that hurt us, or help us, we look at the world in a new way, or we change and we wreck sometimes when we're lucky, we might recognise the moment, we might go like, Oh, I just had a moment. And then invariably, what we do is we throw that moment moment away, like it's trash, we don't make any attempt to actually hold on to the things that mean something to us. So I just did this exercise with a company yesterday, I said, take your age, and then subtract 12, whatever that number is, think about that you're of your life. And I said to them, how much do you remember from that year of your life, and I just watched all their faces, they all sank, because that's what happens, we lose entire years of our lives. We can't actually speak about what happened in the 31st year of our life, you know, tell me stories from the 31st year of your life. They're like, um, and you'll get something eventually. And maybe if you had a kid that year, you changed a job, you might have a few more stories than other people. But we just throw our time away. Like it's nothing we throw our memories away, like they're meaningless, when really, they aren't probably the most precious things we have. So homework for life is the opportunity for you to never lose a day. I'm not actually asking you to capture the whole day, you know, we're gonna let moments go for sure. But every day is going to get marked by at least one moment, that might be slightly story worthy. And oftentimes, they're not story worthy. But it's on those days, when there's nothing that's really happening and you're forced to find something. That's when you build the lens. That's when you start to see stories better. That's the hills that you climb on the bike, the days when it's really hard. And then you'll discover you're only four days in but you'll discover other things like you'll crack open and the memories you have forgotten from your past they'll start to spill in.


Francisco Mahfuz 53:56

But that's the point. I have. So this has already happened for you. Yes, a tonne of stuff. Well, I've been doing the story stuff for a while, right? That's true. Yeah, not for as long as you will have been doing it for at least the last 15 months has been pretty much my sole focus apart from you know, the rest of my life and my children and my wife, but very so. So my experience with it has been that. So I'm sitting down with Olivia who is my one year old, and she is playing with this tiny, tiny little toys. And you know, sometimes playing with children can be a bit boring, you know, just like a you know, she's one and I think my phone is on the other side of the room charging, maybe I can grab it and at the very least I can like put a podcast on my ear and then then then this won't be so boring, but she's trying to eat the toys. She's putting them in her mouth all the time. And I think either put them away and this you know, ruin her game, which I don't want to do because her mom is gone for another two hours and I need to keep this child happy. Or I just stay here without my phone. And I just chose to stay there. And it was great. And now we're flew by. And we had great fun. And I don't think I would have done that if I had let myself get up and get my phone. And I get up and get my phone, literally not metaphorically, every day, as most of us do. And then these things that we think are boring are horrible. We just don't get to experience them. Or this, we don't experience them with any type of attention. So this was day two, I think, day three, I went to pick up my oldest from from the from the school bus. And as soon as you started doing something, I thought, hold on, maybe something's gonna happen here. And I started paying way more attention and being way more present than I probably would have been. And that to me is incredible. Because you started looking for the moment, sorry, no, I have to do my homework. Can I do it now? Or do I have to wait until the end of the day, and that that attention just gives so much more value to those experiences? Because you start turning them over and going? Well, I think this is special. Why is it special? Right? And I love that. That's been my experience with it. This was day three day for stuff started coming back.


Matthew Dicks 56:15

Yeah. Oh, it start coming back. That's great. Yeah, I love the way you said I started turning it over. You know, I think sometimes what happens too, is something happens to us. And we don't actually take a moment to think about it. You know, my son the other day, he's doing a Lego set that's 801 piece Lego set next to me. And he turns to me, and he says, Dad, whoever invented Lego is a hero. And like, as a parent, you just want to capture those things, which is great for homework for life, I immediately entered into my homework for life was hilarious. And then I turned it over, as you described. And eventually I got to the point where I was thinking about a story related to how I didn't have Legos as a kid because I was poor. And how cheese signalled wealth to me, because I didn't have cheese as a kid. So anytime someone had cheese, it seemed wonderful. And then it got me thinking about how I'm so happy that Charlie has these things that I didn't have, and how he doesn't see the value in them in the way I do. And it's built into a story that started with a little thing that a kid said to me that I knew it felt something in my heart, but I gave myself the chance to want to use it, turn it over, which is what I did. And so I think that's another important part of homework for life is the idea that once you've got it down, once you've caught a moment, sometimes we don't know what the moment means. But at least now you've preserved it. And maybe like where you're doing, you can, you can sort of consider it in the moment and see what it means to you. But even if you don't consider it in the moment, sometimes we're in the middle of our stories. Sometimes I record something that seems meaningless, like it won't be a story at least. And then three weeks later, I realised Oh, that was the beginning of a story that I didn't even know I was going to end up in, you know, but if we don't do this, if we don't take five minutes, at the end of every day, and record these moments, we lose everything, and we lose the narrative of our lives, what will happen to you, I hope over time, as I rarely have a day where there's one moment recorded now most of my days are three, or four or five. And maybe one of them is a memory, but most of them are just I had a thought, you know, that's one of the best homework for life moments, which people don't initially understand, is just the, oh, I just had a new idea. You know, nothing happened to me, no one even said anything to me, I was sitting in my car driving down the road. And suddenly, I thought, Oh, that's interesting. And that becomes a moment for homework for life. And sometimes that's a story, sometimes I do stand up. So it becomes a stand up bed, it becomes an essay, if it becomes none of those things, it just becomes a record of the day, I don't lose a day ever again, I can go back for the last 11 years, one of my favourite things is to get on a plane that doesn't have Wi Fi, I'll open up my laptop, and I'll say, I'm going to relive to 2016. And there's not a single entry in my 2016 homework for life, that doesn't bring me back to that moment, that doesn't cause me to see the place and the people and all of that. And to be able to do that to go back to a full year of your life and have it something from every day, the value is extraordinary. And then the number of stories that will begin to pile up, I quickly became a person who didn't have enough stories to tell. And now I don't have enough time to tell all the stories I want to tell. And that's a wonderful problem to have.


Francisco Mahfuz 59:12

Yeah, this idea of it coming or things coming back to you. So not only there is obviously we using our brain in a different way, we're shaking things loose, but it's also this idea of trying to make sense of things. So I was you know working on some sort of origin story for myself, which I think is the hardest thing to do I help other people do it for them. It's terrible to do it for yourself. And then I because there was a big transition I've done a lot of work for I worked for a long time in finance. It was a job that paid really well but now I've gone down this the storytelling speaking route, and and I was just trying to just make things make sense of things in my head. And then one of the things I said to someone when I said, you know my mum through great sacrifice, put me in a fancy private school. I mean, women didn't have much money we didn't we didn't learn Didn't like for anything, but but there wasn't much money. And it's great we went to I went to this great school. But the problem when you go to school that is more expensive than your parents would have been able to afford normally is that you have less money than everyone else. And then there's a whole bunch of things that you perhaps don't realise that much, then that makes you different, you know, you can buy the clothes that they wear, you can never go to the school trips, because you don't have the extra money. And, and then all of a sudden, all sorts of things started coming back around that. And all of a sudden, I understood why at age seven or eight, I started saving money. Yeah, like I never wanted to spend it. Like it never was the person that likes to spend money, but I saved money, I would save my Christmas presents My, my birthday presents, I just want to have it. If I need it, it's there. I don't want to use it for him. And all of a sudden I saw I told my wife this is just like, that actually explains a lot. Right? Like I understand a lot more about why you get so frustrated when there's some some sort of minor money problem that is not likely to change your lives. And it says, Yeah, because it's that feeling of like, I might not be able to get something that I want or need because of money. Right? And surely that like I never to my like I'm almost 40 Now, I had never thought about that that way. Like there's never


Matthew Dicks 1:01:17

raising. Yeah, it's my I wrote another storytelling book that'll be coming out. And one of the things I love to do is ask myself the question, why do you do the things that you do? And particularly applies when you're doing something that doesn't quite make sense to you know, so I was playing golf with my friend, Steve on a on a day when it was 100 degrees, and I had left my Gatorade in the car. And we were on like the sixth hole. And Steve saw that I was sweating. And he realised it and have a drink. And he said, Oh, I have an extra Gatorade, you want this one? And I said no, instantly, even though he had an extra one. And I did want it and I had one to give him back in the car. And it was I asked myself as I walked up this hill, I remember walking up the hill and going Why do you do the things that you do? Why do you say no to him? And I remembered instantly I understood Oh, because it was hungry when I was a child. When I was hungry as a child, people would offer me food. But as a child when you're hungry, you will we say your fault because being hungry is shameful. So you'd rather be hungry than let people think you're hungry. So I have trained myself over the years, even now as a grown ass man who can definitely afford a Gatorade. When someone offers me food, it occurred to me every single time someone offers me food, my instant instinct is to say no, because as a kid, you always say no, because you can never reciprocate. And you never want anyone to actually know you're hungry. And I'll never forget the moment walking up the hill, I can still see Steve now I can feel the heat of the day. It's not a story I've ever told yet. But it will be a story I tell someday. Because I know for every person in the world, like you, right, who didn't have enough, while everyone around you had something that leaves a deep and abiding scar in you and causes you to change the way that you behave. I can't say that I've changed my behaviour. But understanding yourself is so powerful. You know, prior to storytelling, the only way I kind of understood myself was my wife would tell me, she would say, Matt, this is why you do the thing you do. You know, I'll never forget the day I was sitting across from my wife. And I was talking about how frustrated I was with my mother, you know who's passed away and how she just wasn't an ideal parent. And my wife looked at me and she said, Matt, you know, your mother was depressed for her entire life. Right? And I went, No, I think you're right, though. I think she was depressed her whole life. And suddenly, all the not all but much of the anger I felt towards my mother was gone. Because I realised oh my god, she was struggling with mental illness her whole life and no one ever helped her. Of course she was she had a hard time parenting me. But until storytelling that was what happened was my wife would tell me occasionally things about me that I did not know or things about my life. Now with storytelling, it's flipped, and I go, honey, I just figured out why. And she's like, Yeah, I know that when are ready, congratulations on finally figuring it out for yourself. But it's great. My whole next book is the healing power of storytelling and the idea of when we tell stories about ourselves, when we take time to reflect upon ourselves, we start to find things about ourselves, we didn't discover and we sort of can bring closure to things that have hurt us over time or been difficult to us we have, we can turn our lives into chapters. So rather than something sort of festering throughout your life to close it off in a story. Yeah, that's a beautiful and powerful thing to do. So I'm thrilled that after four days, all of this has happened for you. I always tell people, it often takes longer and you have to have the faith, the belief that it's going to happen because if I went back to my first month of homework for life, I would not have been a success as you were I was still looking for things that were happening to me. I was looking for big, funny, outrageous things that I was doing and not finding any of them tragically. But now I understand the things that you understand, which is oh, just the way you think that will that's enough. The way that someone says something to you. That's enough the way you turn things over me use that phrase forever. Now, all of that is true. So I'm so happy to have all that success so far.


Francisco Mahfuz 1:05:02

I think it's also because it's not the first time I've done this no, because I've been speaking for a long time I've been looking for, you know, speech ideas and topics. I was I haven't I did a podcast a while back with a guy called Mark and sin. And Mark, he wrote a book called be a dick. Oh, there's how there's no small moments can change your life or something like that. And it's amazing. And I think you'll probably like it. Because it's about this guy, he meets called dick. And the guy's like, very thoughtful and kind and does all the small things. And that changes his life. In in that in this episode, we talked about what I called the eye, which is looking at your life in a way that is, you know, there's a story somewhere, and you're just paying attention, because this could be funny, this thing that has happened to me, that is horrible. Actually, if I tell this to someone else, it becomes funny, it's not. And you call this a story lens, or a storytelling lens. Yeah, and this is, this is what I don't think I can emphasise enough to anyone who's listening to this, who thinks I'm not a storyteller, I have no intention of ever being a storyteller, it doesn't matter, because the two things that you'll get out of this, that I don't think we've perhaps made absolutely clear yet is one, you will look at your life in a different way. And often things that are painful or horrible or just not that interesting, becomes significantly more interesting when you're doing all this work to extract meaning from them. In the in the other thing, which is something you've talked about, is that it this idea that life goes by very fast, that people used to explain the same Yes, of course, at your age, when you're 10, in a year's 10% of your life, when you are 40 A year is a very small part of your life. And that kind of makes sense. But then I heard a better explanation, which is when you are faced with new information, particularly information that is relevant for your survive, you know, surviving and thriving, like when you're about to get into a car accident, life slows down, and you open the senses and your brain lets you actually take in a lot of the stuff that would normally just be filtered out. So when you go into moments of change in your life, yeah, that's happening, which is why you know, I lived in London for two years, and to me feels like a decade, whereas I've been in Barcelona now for, you know, 12 years, any flown has flown by, because I was mostly doing the same things after the first few months, in what homework for life does or in a monastery, Homer for like life, but this idea of looking for stories in your life does is you are adding detail to all the stuff that would normally just be a, you know, an everyday experience, you know, an average day, which means that all of a sudden, it's not a day, like Oh, it's just a normal day. No, it now has five different things that happen. It is one important thing that happens. And by doing that, you are slowing down your perception of the passage of time,


Matthew Dicks 1:08:00

you're taking sort of like that 10 year old view of life, and you're continuing to apply it to every day, that idea that today is going to be special in some way. I'm going to learn something new, I'm going to see something new. I tell people all the time, time goes by slowly for me, and I am blessed by it. You know, you can ask people what did you last Thursday, and they lost last Thursday already. It's gone for them. And I can tell you what I did last Thursday, and many, many Thursdays. It's nice to have the physical record too. But I always tell people, once you start doing homework for life, you just remember more of your life too. Even if my spreadsheet was not available to me. I know that the previous 11 years of my life are much more present for me. You know, people say you always have a story to tell which is true. I always can answer every question with a story. But a lot of it is that I am now so present in my life. And so aware and thinking about the things that are happening to me that it's easy for me to come up with lots of little stories and bigger stories to tell. Whereas most people if they lose last Thursday, anything that happened on last Thursday is now lost to them that content that they could have brought to the to the moment is now gone forever. I like the idea that you said that, you know sort of when you're 10 I do know this that, you know when you're young, everything's new, so it's much more memorable. I have that same experience when I was 18 to 20 I lived with some buddies and a house we called the heavy metal Playhouse felt like it felt like 50 years in that wonderful home, you know, and it was because everything was new. It was my first time out of the house. And if we can keep those fresh eyes on our life right now, when things maybe aren't as new in a way that we traditionally think. But we acknowledge that everything is going to be new if we're willing to examine our lives and think about the things like playing with your child, you know, and having that moment. And you know, the thing you didn't say that I think is also just as important is the moment you had with your daughter with those toys. It will be gone forever if you don't do homework for life and what happens is she's Gonna be a team someday. And you're going to be surrounded by a bunch of parents who are going to say, where did the time go? I can't believe it. I can't even remember whole years of my kid's life. And you'll be sitting there smugly thinking, it didn't go. By that way. For me, I catalogued the moments there in my head, they're on a piece of paper, or they're in a database right now. And everything felt more real and more present. And I was more alive because of it. And I really believe that sometimes people like to apply the term mind mindfulness to homework for life, I always push back on that, because I think when we say a word like mindfulness, that's a big umbrella term that pushes a lot of people away, it sounds earthy, crunchy, it sounds woowoo. It sounds hard, you know. And what I like to do is take big concepts like mindfulness, you know, which sometimes requires a bell, and meditation and all of these things, I want all that to go away. And I want to just say, Listen, five minutes a day, at the end of your day. Now, I don't know if this is for you. It's not even at the end of my day anymore. Now, it's just when it happens, I'm usually around my laptop, and we're on round my phone, and I can record it. But if not, that, at the end of the day, reflect on your day for five minutes, you change your life. And it's it's a simple repeatable strategy that everyone should do. You know, the other thing is, don't ever miss a day, because people will go, Oh, nothing happened today, I'll skip this day. Once you skip a day you can skip to and once you skip to, you're done, you know, Jerry Seinfeld talks about writing every day. And the way he does it is he has a calendar. And every day, he writes, he puts an X on it. And he says, pretty soon you get a string of x's that you don't want to end, you don't want those excess to ever come to a conclusion, right. And that's what story that's what homework for life is. It's a collection of stories, it's an excellent every day, and pretty soon, you never want to miss a day. And so you can't skip the days when nothing happened. That is where the muscle gets built. That's where the lens gets refined. So I'm really excited that after four days, you're you're right. Because you've been immersed in storytelling, that helps a lot too. But I think it's great. I love hearing the success stories that people have. And honestly, there's not a day that goes by not one day, where I don't get an email from someone around the world saying, I've done homework for life for 100 days, and it changed my life. I've never got an email that says, I've been doing homework for life. And it makes me feel worse about my life. No one's ever sent me that email. There's never been the spiteful, you've wasted my time. So I always tell people that you're not special when people think like, oh, I don't have stories, this isn't gonna work for me. I always say, Why do you think you're so special? You're just like everybody else, you know, they so for some reason people walk around the world thinking like everyone else has a story, but I don't and I think how narcissistic have you to think you're that different than the rest of the world. You're not just sit your ass down and do your homework for life. And in six months, you'll discover that your life has changed as a result.


Francisco Mahfuz 1:12:38

Yeah, your your comment about gamification is something I took the heart. But perhaps I'm using the I have been doing that for meditation for a very long time. So I do meditate everyday and why I've meditated for the last 18 137 days. And now I have so I just put the number down. And the number has to go up by one every day. And now I have meditation and just above it. I have homework and homework, you know, the counter is now at 400%. You know the ones you've done it for it just it will piss me off to no end after I've done it for like 10 to have to start from scratch. Right? So So yeah, as far as is that the moment you're going to bed that it's there it is on my phone? So I was like, Ah, I have to do this? No. Yeah. And then and then I do it.


Matthew Dicks 1:13:26

It works. I've blogged every day since 2003. Without missing a day, I've posted a blog, which is great, because that was before homework for life. And if I go back into my blog now from 2003, a lot of those moments could just as easily be homework for life moments. So I was engaged in the process for a while, but that gamification, like I've never had coffee before. I've never tasted it even and you know, someone said bunches, give it a taste. And I said listen, I'm 50 If I haven't tasted coffee by the age of 50, why would I break that streak? You know, I don't need it. I don't want it. I get it. It would be nice to maybe try something new, but not coffee. 50 years without tasting coffee is a streak. I'm not going to end today. You do that with homework for life. And pretty soon you can't ever imagine skipping a day,


Francisco Mahfuz 1:14:07

I made a promise over a girl when I was 19 that if God who I don't really believe in was so kind to bring her back into my life I will never have a soft drink ever again. And I think I might have tricked into having them by you know with a cocktail or something and I immediately get angry like I was like there is Coca Cola is not allowed to have Coca Cola, because God is has come through God has come through churches that are married so you know don't don't put me in this position. I


Unknown Speaker 1:14:41

don't want to have it.


Matthew Dicks 1:14:44

Yeah, and when I hear that you've committed to God and you know, I don't I don't believe in God either. I sort of want to but can't find the way to do it. Yeah, it's funny that you've committed to God even though you don't believe in God. I think


Francisco Mahfuz 1:14:54

there's just desperation you know, yeah, just last last chance saloon. I thought you know, you know, I might as well throw out there who knows?


Matthew Dicks 1:15:01

Right? That's, that's Pascal's Pascal's Wager, you might as well believe in God, because what he does, you know, I always think he's gonna know that I did Pascal's theorem, like he wants to actual faith, not like conditional faith and


Francisco Mahfuz 1:15:14

I, but you know, I've made the commitment that I'm sticking to it. So I'm not, I think I'm sticking to it more, because I'm a stickler for not letting myself down. And being the sort of person that that not colour goes through things that necessarily a fear of the Divine, but that was the form he took when it happened. And just one thing on something you said, that I know is an objection some people might have in their minds about, you know, it's about mindfulness. And I would also argue that, you know, it's not the same as mindfulness, because mindfulness about being present is not about recording things. And it's not, it also is not the same as having a record because a lot of people say, Oh, but we took we take tonnes of pictures. And that's fine pictures could somehow be homework for life, if you sitting down with them and figuring out what they mean. Because if I were to have like, you could actually generally go to your phone and have the last five years there. But if you never actually sit down and extract meaning from it, you don't remember those features, you have to go back to the phone every time. So instead of having this memory that's now crystallised in your in your brain, and having changed the way you feel about the world, or yourself or your family or friends, is just there, and you probably never going to look at it again. The meaning part of it the extracting meaning from it is I think, is the essential part because it is not it's not just a recording of it.


Matthew Dicks 1:16:35

Right. Most some, I would say most of my homework for life moments, the best ones are not photographable. You know, it would be climbing the stairs and suddenly hearing my son say something, and that's it can't get a photograph of that. I do love photos, though, you know, I take lots of photos. And one of the things I do, which is homework for life like is once a month, I print out 30 photos from the previous month, and I put them on the refrigerator. And on this board behind my kids, this magnetic board, I change it in the morning, I get up at 430 in the morning, I change all the photos. So when they come down and my wife comes down, they see all the new photos. And for the next month, we talk about all the things that we did. And sometimes a breakfast, I'll just take a photo off, put it in front of the kids and say Do you remember this day, let's talk about it, which is the idea that we're going to return to these days, we're not going to lose them, we're going to think about them. Sometimes I even find new homework for life moments in the photos on I'll look at the fridge and go, you know that day, I didn't record it in homework for life. But now that I think about it really means something to me. So I'll add it in. So I don't think there's anything wrong with the idea of them capturing my life through photos too. But I do think that you're making a big mistake in thinking that, you know, all the moments that we have in our lives that are worth remembering are visually available to us when I think most of the time. It's the stuff that's going on in our brain. And we can't take pictures of that.


Francisco Mahfuz 1:17:49

And also that photographs or the way we take photographs, particularly in the last few years with social media has not become an inaccurate portrayal of life. So the pictures you might be, you know, might be looking at a whole bunch of happy family pictures. And that's not really the reality. So again, you might want to convince yourself that he was but then you you wasting all, all the all the things that really happen that genuinely have impacted your life. And you don't even realise and if all we look is a nice whole bunch of pictures of the smile, you know, good looking, smiling people, you're not gonna get the same value out of it as when you record your real life, warts and all.


Matthew Dicks 1:18:31

Yeah, it's very true. If I think of my refrigerator right now, you just had me thinking about it. Everyone on the refrigerator is happy. And although we had a lovely, you know, last 30 days that I put up there, not every day was happy, you know, like my wife got COVID. You know, we don't have any, Alicia got COVID photos, oddly, right? Because she was isolated for 10 days in her room, and she was not taking any selfies. So you don't capture all of the meaningful moments. You're right, you have a very curated version of your life, which is everyone's happy all the time. And they're looking pretty good. And we know that's not the truth.


Francisco Mahfuz 1:19:03

Yeah, Matthew, I have a feeling we could talk for for a lot longer. But I want to be I want to be mindful of your time. So you know, I'm going to link to I'm going to link to your TEDx talk on homework for life, which I think is, is one of the best ones I've seen in a very long time. And I generally think it has had already had an impact, and I think it will carry on having an impact. And I've started proselytising about this. And I'll try and I don't know how easy it's going to be to get in some of the work I do. But I'll find my way to spread the word on that because I think people love saying that things are life changing. I think that very exaggerated. But I do generally believe that this thing you struck upon is is generally life changing. And it's worth spreading to as many people as possible. So So yeah, thank you. I thank you for that. And I thank you for your time today. This has been fantastic.


Matthew Dicks 1:19:53

Thank you. It's been a pleasure. And you're right, I could talk to you forever. Storytelling is a great topic to speak about and I appreciate everything you've done and I look forward to reading your book. I have written down the title, and I'm going to be checking it out. So thank you.


Francisco Mahfuz 1:20:04

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


I hope you enjoyed 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 the show and scroll down a little and when you see the stars tap, I'd really appreciate it and it does help other people find us. 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



Recent Posts

See All

After 100 episodes, what storytelling lessons have I learned? Well, a few, so here are 23 for you, and they cover: why stories matter, what do you use stories for, where do you find them, how do you t