top of page
  • Writer's pictureFrancisco Mahfuz

E73. Storytelling Can Save Your Life with Jessa de la Morena

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 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 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, the 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 Jessica Morena. Jess has cancer journey has transformed her and led her to create an empowerment and wellbeing movement. She is the creator of you are the hero and community where people going through adversity can share their stories and discover their inner heroes. She is also a spokesperson and global director for Amadeus where she helps 12,000 individuals become transformational leaders and workers. Well, if I'm honest, none of what she's done surprises me, because I spent my first year in Spain living in Madrid for justice from and I can say without a doubt that if she can survive those infernal summers, year after year, there's no challenge she could have overcome. Ladies and gentlemen, Jessica Moran. Jessa Welcome to the show.

Jessa de la Morena 1:56

Thanks, Francisco. It's great to be here.

Francisco Mahfuz 1:59

So for anyone who has not come across you before, I just wanted to what I don't want anyone to do is necessarily go over what you've talked about in most of the shows and most of the interviews, but obviously we need that context. Otherwise, none of the rest of this stuff makes any sense. So if I understand correctly, and it's good that you just dropped me that line before we started, you've now beaten cancer twice? Correct. Okay, fantastic. As I had listened to you on another show three months ago that the second time hadn't happened yet. My very first question was, how are you doing, but it's really happy to, to hear that. So since you've done that, which is, which is fantastic. But, you know, people go through cancer in many different ways. I don't think many people say, You know what, I'm going through the most difficult period of my life, I have no idea what's going on, I'm going to start a storytelling community, for people to share their stories, and find help and inspiration. But that is exactly what you did. So how the idea for that came to be like, because that's, I've not seen anyone do that particular the type of approach before?

Jessa de la Morena 3:12

Well, so. So as you're saying, I beat cancer twice. Now, the second time just happened very recently. So I'm still in celebration mode. But let's just say that the first time I went through this, the first thing I discovered was that the positivity that I was looking for, didn't exist around me. So I would look online, find lots of negative info, everything was negative stats, I didn't read anything. Like I as soon as I started seeing what there was, I just, I didn't want to know, mortality rates I didn't want to hear, you know, in the patient groups, people were always focused on all the horrible side effects they were going through, and all the difficulty and of course, you're going through that as well. But I wanted to be surrounded by positivity, and by people that were, you know, taking, like, basically control of the things they can control, which is your well being No, so you can decide, you know, just because you're going through hell doesn't mean that you have to, you don't you can't be happy in these moments. Right? And, and if these are your last moments, which you don't know, you, you want to make the most of them. So I really searched and searched and didn't find that. So very slowly, I created my community of people, you know, who who did have those values and who helped uplift me and in many cases, they were people who didn't necessarily have similar situations like mine, so they weren't cancer patients or they had gone through different adversities. So, you know, I had a radical remission and after that first cancer, where I went through really heavy treatment, and I went through a lot of emotional and mental healing and just really did a big transfer. Personally, but that was still kind of in the back of my mind know that I would always try to help at the hospital, you know, when when there was new patients and just I wanted to be that positive support for others. So when I had the set when I, when I had the cancer reappear, and it metastasized into my lungs, and I started this new journey, which lasted 17 months, a lot longer than the first one. In the midst of this, I kept thinking, you know, I need to do something I need to make, I need to make a purpose out of what I'm moving. So, you know, I kept thinking, you know, why, why is this happening? And, and I just thought, you know, it has to happen for a reason, and, and I needed to make it a reason. So, I decided, you know, what, I missed this, this community for myself, it's, it's something that can help me heal also now. So I'm doing it for me and for everyone else, at the same time. So, at the time, though, I wasn't feeling very well, because I had, first I had two surgeries, then I went through another set of chemo, six cycles of really heavy chemo. And so I was, you know, I was not in a condition to be building anything, right. Um, but during the COVID confinement, you know, we started having these everyone did, I think, be these zoom calls with friends from all over the world. And so I, I was speaking to a group of my very close friends. And I said, you know, I told them, This is something I've really dreamed of, is creating this community. And they said, well, we'll help you do it. And I said, Well, you know, great, let's do it. So, you know, I kind of set the vision and said, Okay, this is what I want, but then, you know, they were there to really support me make it happen, because I was not feeling well, a lot of the time. Right. So, um, you know, it was, it has been such a huge source of inspiration for me, as you said, you know, it's, it's a community, the purpose of it is to inspire others to see that they have inner heroes inside themselves an inner strength that they can use and access for, for their own healing, and to understand that, that there's always always a possibility and a chance and an opportunity and a gift in everything that happens to us. So yeah, that's why I decided, you know, this, I said, this time around, I'm not, I'm not going to not do this. And I put out the, you know, the, my wish, by talking about it, and then you know, things started moving, and you take little steps and little steps, and then it turns into a big tsunami of empowerment, and well being that, that I know, is helping so many people because of the feedback I receive. And I'm just so, so happy that it just brings me such purpose. And I think it has contributed to my, to my recent, you know, remission from from my second cancer, which, you know, being a metastasis is also very

serious in the sense that, you know, the cancer I had was very aggressive. And so we still have to keep very, you know, tight watch on it. And I continue with immunotherapy. But, you know, the last surgery I had, which was a heavy surgery, which removed half of my left lung has removed everything. And in the last scans, you know, which I do every three months, everything remains clean. And I'm sure it's going to be the case for many, many, many years to come. So that's the long answer to your short question. But I think it gives a good understanding of why I did this at this time.

Francisco Mahfuz 8:39

It does. But there is still one one major question for me that is not answered, which is okay, I fully understand the reason you did it, I fully understand what you thought you could get out of it and give to other people and that it's happening. What I don't necessarily know yet, is where the story comes in. Because, you know, this is what I'm all about this show is all about. But this is not what a lot of people are all about. So it would be the most natural thing in the world for you to create, have created a community have the values of the community and everybody supporting each other. The fact that you decided to do it in the form of stories, is what is probably the reason why we're talking because you've already had was if all you had begun, and I've said this before, and I think I've pissed some people off and I said it was people approached me to be on the show, and they talked about the great story they have personally and I said listen. Strangely enough the story powers podcast is not a show about people's stories is about telling stories and using stories for a purpose. There's plenty of shows out there where people share their stories. This we don't need another I don't think I need to run another one. But you chose a very specific approach. That is not one unfortunately people don't communicate in stories as much as as I think We should. So where did that come from? I know you were a spoke, you are a spokesperson for Amadeus. I know that you've delivered a whole bunch of like Ted style talks. For them as a volunteer. Is that where the story idea or your your love for stories comes from? Nope.

Jessa de la Morena 10:17

So that's a great question. And where it comes from is that I discovered, through, you know, serendipity, as I'm, that's my key mantra. When I started using my story, so I came from a, you know, I was, I was an still I'm an executive in tech company, right. And I started using my story, my very personal story, in tech presentations. So in conferences, and in big, you know, big events. And I would start out because I feel I felt there was a strong connection between my story of disruption in my life and what it gave me the licence to do, it gave me the licence to make changes to question things to go back to my essence. And I found that there was a very strong link between that and between, what, in this moment, at the time we were doing in tech, right, so um, when I started using my story, I found that it just people just connected so much, right. And it just, it made them connect with my story. But at the same time, it really drove home the points that I was trying to make about the messages around the technology piece, right. It also connected me to the people, which was his beautiful experience, when you're, when you're delivering a story like that. And it makes for you the storyteller, it just makes what you're talking about so much more meaningful, because it's connected to your personal story. So I kind of started doing this, because I wanted to do something different one day and in a presentation, and so I did it. And then it just became my way of working, right. And I just found that it, it just opened up people so much more to my message. And it made people much more, not only open to the message, but empathetic to what I you know, I was going through and then also, it made them consider more what I was saying. And then what I then discovered was actually in the group coaching that I was delivering in this transformational leadership programme is that the more I shared my story, the more people were being really touched. And they were seeing that, that that my transformation was possible. And so it was literally sparking transformation in them. So it was like, I'm suddenly seeing that I'm sharing. Basically, I'm sharing my lessons with people. But until they hear my story and see my capability of transformation, it doesn't spark the possibility that they can also transform. So basically, that's that's the point of my website is that I want people that are starting to go through adversity, to be exposed to the transformation of others, to be exposed to that change of mindset, where they realise, and they find that inner hero and realise that they have that inner strength. Because the sooner that happens, the sooner that people change from a victim mentality to a mentality of empowerment. And so that's why, you know, I, I took the approach I did on the website. And in fact, you would have noticed on the website, I have a section on values, where I talk about the values, and then there's a downloadable PDF, where I kind of give a guide for people, it doesn't mean you have to follow it. But it basically has some questions that help people maybe look at their story from this positive angle of, you know, what were the things that most helped me? What were those things that I found in my journey that showed me where my inner hero was all along? Right? And so that's why all the stories, anybody that goes to the website, they will find only stories that are that are written in that way, because I very purposefully want that to be the main essence of the website.

Francisco Mahfuz 14:28

Alright, so there's, there's, there's about there's about a million things I need to pick up on that. So let's start at the beginning there. And I think that the example you given is perfect, because cancer is probably the second most cited example, right after climbing Everest as the worst possible subject for a story because people think that the fact you have done something impressive is makes for a good story. Well, it doesn't necessarily in all Because I haven't climbed Everest, I have no interest of climbing Everest, I haven't had cancer, hopefully I won't have cancer. So it's difficult for me to relate to that I've never had that type of disease, or that type of challenge or health challenge now. But what you've done is what every good storyteller or someone, before they become a good storyteller, they have to figure this out. It's, it's the theme of the story. It's what the story is really about. So you're making it about disruption. So in your case, disruption is cancer, in the company's case disruption could be a new technology could be a new competitor could be COVID. And that's, I think, is an absolutely essential point that a lot of people don't get, because if you just go up there, and talk about the challenges you've gone through as a cancer survivor, I think it will speak to people that are going through health related issues, particularly cancer, but they might not make the connection that their job challenges are something that have anything to do with your story. So the fact that you make that connection is fantastic. And I think that's exactly how people should be using stories. And if it's, you know, something powerful, like cancer match for the better, but it doesn't necessarily need to be and sometimes those are the ones who, who people find it slightly harder to relate to, then if you know, it's you have we were talking about children before we started it there, that's almost instantly relatable, but almost no way that people have children cannot relate to each other on small things you talk about, whereas I might struggle to relate to you with the cancer journey.

Jessa de la Morena 16:33

Yeah, yeah, that's true. I, I also would complement what you just said, saying that so many people have a family member or close friend that has gone through cancer. So in that context, I feel like it is a topic that is very relatable. But at the same time, I also very much agree with your comment in the sense that it doesn't matter what the adversity is, and that's why the website is it includes all adversities because an adversity that really touches you and and moves your foundations, like something to do with your child or something to do with, you know, a parent who has Alzheimer's or, you know, loss of a job or COVID, or whatever, anything that's gonna really, you know, shift your foundations and make you reconsider, you know, your values and, and really make you stop in your tracks, no, and any of those situations, whatever they are, are going to give you this licence that you somehow didn't have before, to question everything. And so it's, it's, it's a very, I think people going through adversity, go through a lot of solitude and confusion, because suddenly, what they understood to be what they wanted, what their life was about, what they're doing, why they're doing it, suddenly, it just all falls apart and breaks into shambles. And, and that moment of confusion of, of, you know, why is this happening? What am I doing whatever is, is actually this bright, huge white canvas of possibilities, where you get to actually think about what you what you want, who you are, what is really, who are you really, and like, you know, it's this moment of stopping and, and saying, you know, what, we don't have to continue doing what we were doing, as a company as a person as whatever, no, it's like, it's you, it allows you to stop and say, Wait a minute, you know, is this aligned with what I want? No, it allows me to think outside of the box, it allows me to think about any possibility that I could possibly think of, or you know, put things on the table that I had never considered before. And say, you know, is this aligned with you know, how does this make me feel? Does this bring me joy does this you know, does this go with my company's purpose? Anyway you look at it No, it just it's just this huge white canvas of possibilities and so you shift in the spectrum of fear and and and this you know, moment of complete just feeling destroyed to seeing that you there's a spectrum of all the way from excitement of pure excitement of all this that can be created to anxiety which is it's the same mood spectrum if you will, no. And so it just depends on how you look at it is the experience that you're going to have and and what you're going to make of it when you see all that tumbled down and break and you know, the rug is pulled out of out from under you and you and then suddenly you're just like, Okay, I'm lost, I have nothing. No, it's not you have nothing it's like you have been given the gift to choose whatever you want and to choose what most fits with you. And so that's where you start breaking down all these kind of beliefs and you know, things that you've been brought up with about culture and things that expectations that you had or maybe the your company had had to go in a certain way. And no, you know, it's like you start questioning, the question that kept going in my mind was, who says, No, I like I would have this thought of, I have to do this. And then yeah, but who says, and then I would, I would think about it and say, you know, I really don't know who says, because now that I think of it, that causes me anxiety, or that doesn't make me feel good, or that doesn't bring me joy. So what would bring me joy? Okay, and then I, you know, then I start putting it on my canvas and thinking, bring me more of what brings me joy, bring me more of what connects me to my essence. No. So it's a moment of just complete breakthrough of everything. And it gives you this licence that is just so empowering. And just so freeing, no, it's, it's just a freedom to choose

Francisco Mahfuz 20:49

one resistance that a lot of people have, when we talk about, about using stories, particularly personal stories, and very personal vulnerable stories, like what you've done, is the result as this nonsensical idea that this is somehow like, unprofessional, that you couldn't possibly talk about yourself at work. So did you get any type of pushback? I mean, did you tell them listen, I'm gonna, I'm gonna start talking about this stuff to everyone? Or did you just decide when they were I have this training to do? I'm just going to talk about it. But But was there any type of pushback or, or resistance from either your bosses or from the people that were taking part in this? I know that he worked, but I wanted to know how before you actually did it, and it worked, because it always works if you did well. But was there any, any pushback?

Jessa de la Morena 21:39

So let me tell you, where the pushback came from. The pushback came from me. So I, I went to this really amazing, a course in London, after I went through my first disruption, or, well, my first cancer disruption, because I've been through many other disruptions. And it was all about storytelling, I came back from that course. And then I was invited to do this really big, you know, present like this just massive opportunity for me, career wise, to present at this leadership conference. And the the theme was disruption, right. And I was chosen to speak about tech, which I was the only woman speaker in the event. And I was going to be speaking after, to other speakers that were, you know, very high in the organisation, and, you know, just gurus and just amazing, you know, leaders of their subjects. Right. And, and I think, you know, I was given this opportunity. I'm more from the business side. So I used the tech, but I, I liaised very much with the tech guys in the context of giving them my business requirements, right? And then, you know, translating it back to what is the tech mean for the business? Right? So I had been given this opportunity, and I started thinking, Okay, it's about disruption, I want to do something different. I want to do it, Ted, tile, Ted Talk style presentation. And then I felt okay, so what's my personal story about disruption? And then suddenly, it was like, so obvious to me that this this, is this the story, right? And then I thought, but how can I possibly get up there in front of, you know, hundreds of people that are my, you know, colleagues leaders in the company and share this very personal experience? Because, you know, they're gonna think I'm weak, and they're gonna think I'm, you know, I don't know, I just had all these thoughts, you know, and, and so I actually, at the time, spoke to my, my boss, and told her about how I was feeling. And we were on a business trip. And she said, you know, you know, your vulnerability brings you so much strength, knowing what you've been through and what you've learned. And, you know, she said, obviously, it's your decision, whether you, you do that or not, and it's true that it's not done normally here in our environment. And in tech, it's mostly a male dominated environment. So she said, I can understand your, you know, you're also going out of it on a limb in a sense that women, you know, we're, we're generally expected to fit into the this male environment, right? We're, we're, we don't show emotions and you know, showing emotions leads to maybe people thinking that you're, you know, unbalanced, or you're this emotional mess, and you know, what I mean? So, you're, you're, you're taught in a corporate environment in this kind of corporate environment, certain behaviours, and you're trying to fit into this mostly male environment. Right. And so that also influenced my thinking, Should I do this or should I not do this? No. And then I just thought, I just meditated about it and thought, You know what? It's like I think, not only will this be such a huge opportunity for me to heal, but also So for me to show that, you know, being vulnerable is not a bad thing. It's actually a very good thing, right? So I just decided that I was going to do it. And I was gonna go out on a limb. And you know, this is good. It goes back to then you think, Well, how did you overcome that fear? Have you overcome your own limitation, and I overcame my own limitation, because I wasn't scared anymore of anything. Because like I said, I don't I, you know, had been, I had felt that I could have died. And I was in a moment where I had a freedom and licence to change. And I just said, you know, what, this is my own limiting belief. Indeed, a lot of people around me might be, might not appreciate it. But I have a lot of people telling me, you know, this would be really game changing, no. So I decided to leave my fears aside, and just do it, and just and just do it. And so I was, you know, to be very honest, I was reticent about it. And I, I didn't know how I would be perceived, but I was very much encouraged by, you know, some mentors and people in the company. And so I just thought, you know, the hell with it, let me just, you know, I'm going to do it. And so I did it. And indeed, you don't know, Francesco the the feedback I had from that session, like it was very disruptive to the event, because no one did a session like that.

Francisco Mahfuz 26:29

But I know, I know, the feedback, because this is, this is the battle. And it doesn't matter that you know, Brene, Brown is a worldwide sensation, people still are very far in on average, from getting it, you know, that there's, you go up there and you share something personal vulnerable, that makes you a real human being, and then the people in the audience can connect with that. Whereas what most people do is they go up there, and they share a whole bunch of theory, or opinions or facts and, and as well as they can be articulated. The human brain does not work that way, the human brain makes a story out of everything. So if you don't give me an example, and I tend to often say that stories are real life examples that make a point, if you don't give me an example, I'm going to create one in my head. So when you do it on a talk, when you do it in training, people don't have to look for the examples anymore. You've just given them a very easy, relatable, memorable example. And then the, you know, is this something you said before the lessons I was trying to share? Or lending better, or, or there will be more effective? Yes, because you've already given them an example. That makes sense to them. Whereas most people don't. And every time I heard this, this is a few episodes back. One of my guests was sharing how he told someone from Google was also a woman, to just before she introduced this idea, she had to just talk about how she was working late and she was having a glass of wine and, and then the idea sort of came to her she jotted it down on a napkin. And then you know, it was super basic story completely different than the type of stuff you shared. But just by having that human element in there, people remembered it way better than if you had just dropped that part. And it's crazy. It's crazy that it works so well. But it's like, okay, I can see myself working late having a glass of wine. And then an idea comes to me write it down, all of a sudden, my mind is way more primed to listen to whatever else you're going to tell me. So yeah, I I'm not surprised, but I'm surprised that people still get surprised how, how it works. If you share a vulnerable story, you works.

Jessa de la Morena 28:43

Yeah, and just to complement what you said, I think the other missing the link that also just adds the kind of cherry on the cake is, is when you you, you share the story, but then you link it back. So like, in my, in my case, I had I had this just clear idea of how it was so closely linked and all the parallels, you know, so throughout the whole presentation, I was always referring back to so you know, I'm in the travel space. So it was about my journey. And so, you know, we're going through a journey and I, I linked through language throughout the whole story. My the words I used in my story about going back to my essence and you know, this licence to be free and to to think differently and all this I linked it very directly to the to the other story and I think that even makes it even more powerful because it just drives the point home so much and doesn't let you it just you know there's no doubt about about those those points no and, and just to say one thing that I have to say that I hadn't thought about recently, but you talking about this with you made me remember is you know I had that huge audience in front of me. And and I was looking at faces Have people I've, you know, I've been in this company for almost 18 years. And so I've grown grown up here, if you will. So I was looking at it the faces of a lot of mentors, and, you know, people that I admired greatly professionally and people I've worked with for years. And I was I could, you know, they say, you see this big audience, and you can't see faces, but you can see faces, and the faces are looking at you. And I was seeing tears in people's faces, you know, and it was, it was, it was, it was very hard for me. I mean, at the time, I mean, I'm going through this, telling this story, and I was really just trying to stay, you know, like, just centred and think, you know, what I'm trying to say here, but, you know, just seeing those faces was, so it's still ingrained in my mind. No, and I mean, I was able to kind of, you know, get through and just, like, connect with different people as I was speaking, and it was a beautiful experience, as well. But then afterwards, I mean, the, the amount of messages and WhatsApp messages and emails and messages from people, I didn't know that, you know, leaders in the company that I had never spoken to, before sending me messages through LinkedIn and through, you know, I mean, it was incredible. It was just so wonderful. So as you say, I mean, it's, it's something that is, is a key thing in storytelling. After that, I started using it all the time now, not only in presentations, and in big conferences, but I started using it as well, in small, small presentations, like with my team, you know, I have had a big team worldwide, I would try to start things, you know, a presentation that would normally have been very dull, you know, with something like that, or just with something that connects us personally. And so it just has become kind of a habit, knowing it. And I'm trying to do this, just in all instances, not just in a big presentation.

Francisco Mahfuz 31:52

Yeah, it's, it's one of the most basic techniques that I that I give to people, when I say, you know, you want to start using stories in your, in your life, professional, personal. There's a very simple hack, instead of doing what most people do, which is you give an explanation. And then often the person you're explaining to says, I'm not sure I get it, can you give me an example? just invert the order. Give an example, first, give a real life example first. And often you won't even need to give the explanation because you've already made your point. So if you just look okay, so what is what happened to me, or in the company or with a client or in my industry, that speaks to the same problem that shows the same type of solution talks about the theme I'm going to talk about open with that. And then you talk about whatever else you're going to talk about. So So that's, that's fine. Okay, so So something else I wanted to talk about. You alluded to this, but I wanted to ask you more specifically. So one of the things that I was a bit concerned is the is the word but I was reluctant to start reading some of the stories in your website, because because often when you when you're looking through this type of stuff, they're just sob stories, right. So it's a whole bunch of people sort of venting and talking about all the things that they're suffering with. And I think there is a value to that. But it's not necessarily the easiest thing in the world to be reading. And as far as stories go, I think it's arguable if the value to if there is value to other people, then the person writing because the person writing is, is dumping a whole lot of negative stuff. And that is important for their healing process. But if you're still right in the middle of it, and if you haven't learned anything from it, you haven't changed anything, or change being changed in any way, then, I'm not sure how much good that does to an audience of those stories. But I was very pleasantly surprised that as I started looking through how people actually submit a story, you had a whole bunch of stuff, as you mentioned about this is what your story should look like. And then like three of the points that you had there, I think is a downloadable PDF. Is is you know, you want to catch people's attention. And I thought this was I'm sure this, this You didn't come to by yourself of guessing, which is started the description of dialogue or something that will provide context and then catches our attention from the beginning, then the stories have some sort of changing point. And it needs to have lessons learned. So is this that stuff you learned from this course you did in London? Or did you pick this up from somewhere else?

Jessa de la Morena 34:35

You know, probably, um, yeah, I guess it I when I wrote that out, I didn't copy it from anywhere. Like it just came out. I was thinking okay, like, I what I don't want is because I received stories. I have received stories that have been all kinds of stories. And I have gone back and answered personally and kind of coached the people who've written with those questions in that document, so and so in that context, then I thought, Okay, well, what would the perfect story look like? Probably, I mean, I've probably picked that up from many places no, in the training I did, and lots of different things. Um, but the way I have that in that document is I say, Yes, like 20% is, is what happened to you and give that context and catch our attention, then the, like, 60% is, what were the things that most helped you? And how did they help you so that others can try doing the same thing. And then the last bit is giving some lessons learned, and just this encouragement and positivity and good feeling for people to walk away with. So that's how I structured it in that document, because I found that I was receiving stories that were not, they were just, as you say, you know, very much detailed into the part of the difficulties. And I'm not saying at all that those are not important parts of the story. But you know, when people are going through this kind of disruption of any kind, that's not what you want to have. So so, you know, I did go back and quite a lot and coach people to rewrite and they rewrote it. And, and I think that process was healing for them too, because it made them think about all those positive things that they got out of it, right. But then that's why I wrote that downloadable document, because I was finding that people, some people were having difficulty starting to write, so they need a bit of structure. And then others were having difficulty, you know, focusing on the positive pieces, which is the whole point of the website, I'm not going to publish a story that is going to bring you down the point is, and that's one of the values is uplifting, right?

Francisco Mahfuz 36:45

Yes, I think that you have struck upon something that is super important is a story is not a story is not a journalistic record of what happened, that that's very different than what a story should be. The story the way most people that work with story understand it is it needs to have a point it's a learning to you're sharing something, you're that that's how they evolved this, we were sharing stories, other people could learn from our experience without having to go through it themselves. And usually, those those stories will involve, you know, they will involve a change, they will involve avoiding danger, they will involve you improving yourself in some way. Because otherwise, you're just you telling us what happened. But the story is not about what happened. The story is about how you were different at the end of it. And different could just be learning you learn something if you don't learn that, I have said this before, and it sounds callous. But if you've gone through cancer, and you're the exact same person at the end of it, you know, after having recovered you the same person, as you were before, there was no story there. I don't think maybe there is a story from how you recover, if the things you did to recover, were uncommon. But if someone says I got cancer, I went to the doctor, they gave me treatment I treated myself was really hard. I'm back, I think I'm just the exact same person as I was before. I'm not convinced that that's a story worth sharing. Not nothing really to learn from it apart from maybe, you know, like in your case, he got flagged in a yearly checkup, which is maybe something that people don't do before. So maybe that is worth sharing, but nothing else of the journey would be worth sharing. So that's, that's a, it's great that you stroke up on that. And the other thing I want to tell you all for is you keep doing the inverted commas. Symbol, when you say you coach people, you coach people to stop using the symbol if you haven't, you have coached people. Because I don't believe that everything happens for a reason. But 100% believe that we can understand things as if they happen for a reason. And what you're doing is you help them reframe the narrative, you are coaching them. And I think that is a very important type of coaching.

Jessa de la Morena 39:08

And I am a coach. I'm a certified coach and I do group coaching and I know my work but I guess the reason why I was using the quotation marks in the air in this context is that, you know, usually a coachee comes asking to be coached. So I don't want I don't when when I write back to the person, I do it in the spirit of wanting to, you know, to help them write the story in a way that the website you know, admits the story and also to help them have another perspective. But I say it coaching in a light way because it's not like they're not necessarily asking me for that suggestion. So what I always write back and I say man, make a suggestion. I you know, the the story, it's beautiful, amazing story. And you know, I just so admire your generosity and sharing it with me. Would you mind if I made some suggestions that would make It fit the values of the website. And so that's what I meant by that. Because a basic thing of a coach is that, you know, the person has to be asking to be coached otherwise, I feel like there's a kind of some sort of intrusion, if you will, but I've always done so asking kind of, you know, asking for permission to do that. No. And if the person is open for it and saying, Listen, I see all these things that could be helped bring more impact, you know, would you mind me sharing that with

Francisco Mahfuz 40:27

you? Yes, there was a line I heard not that long ago, which is don't coach without permission. Yeah. But it is an interesting aspect. Because I've because one of the things I do with with my clients or students is, is helping them figure out their origin story. You know, I'm not a psych psychiatrist, or psychologist or anything like that. I'm definitely not qualified to be any of those things. But I am, I'm a storyteller. And when people start telling me these things, we have a very specific objective. We know what, in essence, we know what their superpower is, we're trying to figure out where that started. What's the pain and the purpose that led them to the mission they're on now. But as you start trying to connect the dots, you start looking for the narrative theme. You know, what, what's the connection between this thing you do now? And what happened in before and sometimes that's in your childhood? In some times? I'm like, not trying to psychoanalyse anybody. But I'm like, Could it be that the reason this is so important now is because of this thing you mentioned your parents did all the time. In sometimes people go? I think it is. I had never thought of it that way. I said, a massive can of worms, which can be very helpful at times, because all of a sudden, people have made sense of their lives in a way that I'm not saying is the perfect explanation. But I'm also not sure if there is a perfect explanation. This is one, if this one is positive, then run with it.

Jessa de la Morena 41:54

Absolutely, absolutely. And I mean, when you're in conversation or dialogue with somebody, and you notice something, no, it's, it's and then that's, I mean, I think the way you just described it No, of saying Could it be or, you know, I've just noticed something, you know, like, like, just from what you're saying. So, I, you know, you're you're just bringing a different perspective. And that's what coaches do, too, right? We're a mirror for the person. And it allows that that's why even coaches, we need coaches. So I have my own coach, who also does the same thing to me. And, you know, when he comes back, and he says something, and it's just like, that was right in front of my in my face, and I wasn't noticing it. And the reason you're not noticing it is because of your beliefs, your frame, you know, you everything you see is filtered by your nose, your, you know, all the things that you've been conditioned by. So that's why it's just so I think coaching is an amazing tool. And I always recommend it, you know very much to people, especially, you know, in that context, because it coaches really bring that you know, other perspective many times and allow you to see things that you know, in their questions back to you. They allow you to see things that you weren't seeing before. And that's the most powerful part, right? And once you've seen it, you can't unsee it, and then then that's what makes change, it changes your mindset, right?

Francisco Mahfuz 43:16

Yes. And one thing, one thing that explains the problem is this idea of you can't read the label from inside the bottle, it's very difficult for us to see ourselves without that filter. But at the same time, I think it's a great exercise, once you get more into into stories. Because you're forcing yourself to find those connections, you're forcing yourself to see yourself to make sense of things. And sometimes you just jog something free in your memory. And you make that connection yourself. I mean, this happened to me. This wasn't maybe I don't know, four or five months ago, I was I was writing my own origin story to some of the hardest things I've ever done. And I part of it was how I was doing a job that I didn't care for that was making me stressed that was making my life miserable in many ways. And a lot of it was always a concern of not having enough money. And I was trying to figure out like, why where does this come from? Why am I so worried because I've never had any real difficulty in my life in that sense. But then I remembered, I remember that although I didn't have difficulty and never went hungry or anything like that. But my mum through great financial sacrifice put me and my brother into a fancy private school. And we didn't have as much money as the rest of the people in that school. So there's a lot of stuff they could do that we couldn't like, we couldn't buy the same clothes, you're gonna go on the same trips. I didn't invite people back to my house because I was embarrassed in their mind or things like my mom had this crappy alcohol engine car in the 80s in the car wouldn't start most mornings because you have to warm it up. And I remember many times the car breaking down when we went on a trip, and I knew that the reason you had that crappy car was we can stick with it for the better car So, I'm not sure if this is 100% explanation, but it would make sense to me that the fact that all of these things I couldn't do because of money had an impact on me. And the idea that I won't be able to do the things I want to do in my life because of money means I'm more concerned about it, and perhaps I have any reason to be. Absolutely. It's an interesting process, because you start trying to make these connections, and you go, Ah, I hadn't I never really thought of it that way. And, and and yeah, but but, but my curiosity is as well, when you've coached people, or you help them craft their stories, right? You gave them suggestions, they accepted the suggestions, the stories, ended up being stories, you're happy to share, because they fit the values of our website. So they were more positive, they were lessons learned. What feedback are you getting from the people who wrote the stories after the story was done?

Jessa de la Morena 45:49

So I've had mixed feedback? I would say 90% of the feedback has been very positive in the sense like, oh, wow, you know, I hadn't thought of that that way, or you know, that those suggest those questions, were really helpful for me to write further. And then they would, they would, I would send the questions, and then they would come back with a new rewrite of the story, you know, and it was like, wow, like, how, where did that come from? It was amazing. Right? And so I would also encourage them a lot. No, um, I must say that there have been a few people who have just not answered, they've not answered, I've written back, like, more more from the perspective of I know, that sounds weird, but from the perspective of concern, because, you know, there are people who are sharing their story. And I know, it's takes a lot of vulnerability and generosity and doing that. And so they're going through processes. And so when you don't hear back, and and it's not more like, Oh, I'm still waiting for the story. It's more from the perspective of, you know, are you okay? Like, is there anything I can help you with? Like, I know, it's, it's a hard process to do when to write when we write, it's a healing process. And it brings up a lot of things. So, you know, if you're going through something, and you need help, you know, I'm here if you need it, and I've written back like that, but but there, there have been very few cases like that, where they've just kind of disappeared and not answered, or no one's come back saying, Well, you know, I don't appreciate what you said, you know, like, no one's no one's come back in that way. But there have been a few that have just not answered. But most cases, people have sat down, looked at the questions very much thought them through, because then they've come back with a rewrite where it's like, wow, like all this new information, that's, and then some of them have also said, you know, I knew that already. It's just It helped me, it helped me write it. So it gave me a structure and a framework. And others have come back saying, Wow, you've made me see my story in a different light. And so, you know, both both are, are nice to hear. No,

Francisco Mahfuz 47:57

there was a conversation I had last year with JJ Peterson from story brand. And at the very end of that conversation, he he talked about something because he he studied storytelling. He's got a PhD or an MBA, a Master's at least in in storytelling, and what works and what doesn't work and, and he said that one of the things he was taken to his life a lot outside of his work, is something I think will speak to, he was talking about how most stories have three major roles. And what is most hero stories have three major roles. You have the you have the hero, you have the before, the guide, the villain, and the victim. And then what he said is that, you know, most people, most people feel like they want to be the hero of their own story. I think most people would admit that they don't want to be the victim. But some people find themselves in that position and sometimes struggle to get out of that position. They don't want to reread the story they like is not the right word, but they sort of resigned themselves to being the victim of their own stories. But what he said was, once you, you were able to get to the position of the guide, that's when you start doing meaningful things with your life. You don't you don't care about being the hero anymore, you just care about helping other people become the heroes of their own stories. And that's, that's really, where you aspire to which we should all aspire to be as human beings, but as long as we're making heroes out of everyone else, then we're doing we're doing great things here. That just came back to me as we were talking I thought

Jessa de la Morena 49:40

and actually, you know, it made me think two things one is that um, I feel you know, some people have trouble coming out of the victim mentality because of stories they have from their past so just as you gave the example of your pet, you know, upbringing and the issues with money.

You know, some people I have, it's like, it's part of their personality, you know, it's like, that's who they are. So it's, it's hard for them to break free from that, no, in my kind of story of, you're the hero, the way I like to frame it, and I'm saying the same thing you are. But I like to frame it in the sense that we all have an inner hero, it's just that we've been taught by society and by our culture and environment and everything around us, that we've been taught to look for, for the heroes outside of us, right. So we're taught to look for answers outside of us, you know, women were taught to look for that, you know, man in shining armour, um, you know, it's just what we're taught that these, you know, even doctors, you know, I've come across, you know, amazing doctors who have, you know, they're trying to give me their best, you know, input at heart, but, but what they're telling me may not be the right thing for me. And so, the question is, then, you know, where, where, who is, who is that hero who's going to be able to discern what's right for you. And we all have that inner hero inside know, and so, even recently, in my last intervention, I had quite a lot of trouble for about two, three weeks with, with decision making related to what, what I needed to do. And I like to look for different opinions, because I think it's important for me to understand the whole picture. And so I came to a situation where I had three different, you know, teams telling me different things. And one of them was kind of more of a neutral observer. And I had two teams telling me very different things. And I felt very, I went through a moment, a couple days of extreme stress of, you know, I have to make a big, big life decision. Um, and I don't know how to make it. And it's like, I don't have the information. I'm not a doctor, I don't have the medical background. And you know, what I did, I just, I meditated, I would go to bed and just ask myself and say, like, you know, I know that inside, I know what the right thing for me is. And I just need to calm my mind. Don't think analytically anymore. I'm a very, I used to be a very analytical person, and just say, you know, what feels right to me. And I woke up the next day, and knew exactly what I was going to do. And, and just did it. And, you know, in the end, the result was long story, but the results, I mean, we ended up finding other things that have helped me later. And, and I know that that was the right decision. But it's like, as soon as I went to myself, and asked that question, even though I'm not a doctor, I don't have that background. And I mean, I gathered a lot of information. And then I just said, Okay, what feels right. And then, and I had my answer. And in as soon as I had my answer, and made the decision, I felt such calm and such, you know, just knowing that, that was it. And so this is the point No, it's, it's that we all have that inner hero inside, and, you know, external people and resources, they can give us information, which is extremely useful. And, and I think we should, we should use it and use those professionals that can help us, you know, navigate, you know, psychologist or bio decoding, or there's all sorts of complementary therapies that also can be very helpful in understanding ourselves. And you know, absolutely, like, you know, be curious, look around, look for answers, but then always go back, always go back to that quiet and to yourself, because, because the hero is inside you. And it's been there all along. And we all have it. And so the sooner you realise that, and I always think this, especially in the context of my children, you know, because I wonder, like, what would my life had been, like, had I known all these things I know now as a child, right. And I know that I'm here where I am right now because of my whole life experience. And, and I say many times that, you know, I'm grateful for, you know, the worst thing that happened to me in my life has been the best thing that has ever happened to me. And that's a Joe Dispenza quote that I that I love, but, but I also wonder, you know, had I known a lot of these things as a child, my life would have been very different. And I really try to share that with my children. And that's something that maybe after you are the hero, maybe in a future time I will do something with that. Because with that what I mean is with with working with children, um, because I think it would just change so many people's life experiences dramatically.

Francisco Mahfuz 54:56

Yes, I think the only the only concern I have this, I'm afraid that the Hillman software might be slightly defective in that the best lessons seem to have seemed we seem to be unable to absorb them and apply them until we have made some of the mistakes ourselves. But I will also say that I think the way we are taught any of these lessons, if we are at all, is not the most appropriate. I think if we, if people could share the stories, the way you've now been doing, in your community, the way you've been doing in your tech company, with children, I think whatever lessons we're trying to impart, we'll have a much better chance of sticking, then if it's just us, as parents telling them do this, don't do that, because that doesn't work. No, no,

Jessa de la Morena 55:50

no, but exactly, you're absolutely right. And that's why what I'm talking about is not sharing stories, I'm talking about programming them in a different way. So you and I have been programmed in a way, because of our society, our culture, you know, the way we've grown up. And so we've then spent the rest of our adulthood on programming that and so these traumatic experiences have allowed us to stop to unpeel the onion, as I say, and, and unprogrammed, all those things and reprogram new things. And so the way I see it with my children is that I don't want them to be programmed that way, I don't want them to have to unprogrammed and programme again, I want them to be programmed from the beginning, knowing that they have an inner hero, knowing you know, that they they they can go inside knowing that they have a choice, knowing that they should listen to their emotions, that they should stop and see how they feel about something, and realise that, you know, that emotion is an indicator of a thought, that is not aligned with your inner true essence, you know, and so those are the things that I want them to learn, so that they don't fall into the the mistakes are not mistakes, but into the behaviours that I did. And I know also, you know, we grow up with certain behaviours, because it's a survival mode, right? We learn behaviours, because, you know, as children, we go through things, and then we take on a behaviour that allows us to, to survive that situation. And then as an adult, we have that behaviour. And that's something different. And I'm not a psychologist, and I'm not meaning to get into that. No, but I think there's some basic ideas about just how things work in general, that I can that I try to share with my children, so that they they have that ingrained from the beginning of their little minds as they're building those ideas. No. And so that's what I'm when I say that that's the part I'm very curious about. And I wonder, you know, if there's something to be done there that we could help with, not only in the unprogrammed thing of like teenagers who go through a lot of really difficult situations, but just smaller children, you know, helping them start out with a healthy base where they, you know, are are caring for their for their well being, they have self love, you know, and they're and they're very much in tune with themselves.

Francisco Mahfuz 58:19

Well, it sounds like you have your next project.

Jessa de la Morena 58:24

Yes, probably probably.

Francisco Mahfuz 58:25

And on that note, and let's let's give people all the all the places they can go if they want to see the stuff you're doing to take part in it, because obviously, plenty of us have stories of adversity that they might feel compelled to share that might be helpful to other people. So the website is you are the interview is just a letter you not exactly. Okay, and then I'm gonna put all this stuff in the show notes, but we might as well say it cuz some people are too lazy to read the show notes. So where else can they find the you or the community?

Jessa de la Morena 58:57

Yeah, so the website is, as you said, You are the it's in Spanish, English and Portuguese. They also can go to social media. So we're especially active in Instagram, and the handle is at You are the hero with spaces in between each of the words but if you type in You are the hero, you'll find it. Um, and in the community, we share basically quotes and, you know, specific parts of stories that we've received. So what's on what's in social media is basically those snippets of, you know, quotes from the heroes that have written and then about once a week, I do not an interview but more of an informal chat with one of the heroes that has submitted a story. And what we focus on is, is more on the it's a 30 minute short kind of session, but we we talk about the things that help the most so really try to get practical and giving give more examples because the story are 500 words. So in these examples, they can, you know, share, you know, specifically how they used a specific technique and what helped the most. And we get, it allows us to deepen, you know, deepen the story further. And, and I do those in Spanish and in English, depending on the origin of the writer, just it's been such an amazing opportunity to also get to talk to these heroes, because I've just been so inspired. And so like I said, begin at the beginning, you know, not only do I want that nobody, not one single person, you know, going through adversity has to suffer more than they need to this project has been a massive inspiration for me. And, and yeah, I'm just so privileged to have been able to, to do it, and to continue to work in it and to talk about it. And I just, I hope that it really helps a lot of people.

Francisco Mahfuz 1:00:53

Well, I thank you for your time today. I think we should continue with your celebrations, and enjoy the first days of the rest of your life.

Jessa de la Morena 1:01:02

Thank you. Thanks a lot. All right, everyone.

Francisco Mahfuz 1:01:04

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 tab. 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

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page