E78. The Hero's Journey, James Bond and Jesus with Jeff Davenport
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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, a show about the power of stories that go to tell them and why you shouldn't be doing it too. I'm your host, keynote speaker and storytelling coach Francisco mahfuz. My guest today is Jeff Davenport. Jeff oversees Lighthouse points, a company that helps people communicate with clarity, confidence, and a light that points listeners and audiences to where they need to go. Jeff's mission is to turn them from timid, scattered and boring presenters into mighty communicators. He's also produced screenwriter and spent almost seven years as an executive speaker, coach and Senior Content Developer at warranty, working with some of the world's largest companies. To be fair, there's not much that Jeff can do. Well, apart from cutting his own hair is pretty terrible at that. But then again, who is ladies and gentlemen, Jeff Davenport. Jeff, welcome to the show.
Jeff Davenport 1:51
Well, thanks. How are you?
Francisco Mahfuz 1:54
I'm alright. And as I, as I told you, before we started you might not be in good hands, but you are in hands,
Jeff Davenport 2:00
you're in hands. As long as I'm in hands, everything's gonna be okay.
Francisco Mahfuz 2:05
So I want to start by clarifying this, this bone I might have to pick with you.
Jeff Davenport 2:12
Oh, good. Let's, let's start off, let's start off with something really juicy. Good.
Francisco Mahfuz 2:17
So the concern here, that might not be true, but that my concern is that you and you and the good people at Duarte, who you used to work with for a long time, you might have brought some storytelling evil into the world. So I just want to make sure I go through that first. And we get that bone out of the way. Right. So let me tell you what I'm talking about. A lot of people that I speak to one of their biggest pet peeves and other people in the storytelling world that I speak to one of their biggest pet peeves with with people trying to do or teach storytelling in business is the is the hero's journey, so that the hero's journey comes up over and over as this as this very complicated thing, according to them, that that a lot of people teach as one of the ways to do storytelling in business. And when asked you know who, who, who you know, who is teaching people that one of the big proponents of either the hero's journey or some version of the hero's journey is Nancy Duarte. He has a very famous TED Talk where she goes through her structure, or at least one of restructures. And so what I wanted to ask from you who's worked there for a long time is one, is that something you actually taught people? And if so, are all the naysayers wrong?
Jeff Davenport 3:35
Well, I have nothing but positive things to say about Duarte and Nancy Duarte. i She is as bright and insightful and a wonderful as a human being as you're ever going to find. She's great. When we talk about the hero's journey, I think Duarte and most companies talk about in very high minded terms, we rarely would look at a client and say, Okay, you're going to tell a story. So I want you to hit all 18 of these beats, and you're going to do this. Hardly any stories. Here's the dirty secret era for dirty secret Francisco. We all love trotting out old, old Campbell. And but the fact is, we rarely come across stories that hit all of those beats that just rarely happens. And I would even say that that rarely happens in movies. You know, we come to Campbell not because we're like well I really want to think about the Gilgamesh Epic. We come to Campbell because we go well, I think this worked in some movies. And I think the operative word there is some it worked in some movies. And most movies don't hit all of those beats and I and I like reading sometimes these these books that decide, okay, I'm going to I'm going to take this movie and put it on the bed of the hero's journey and you realise they're having to do these gymnastics too. tried to cram all of this in? I don't think that's normally the case. I think what I do I know what what Dorothy in general. And now me out on my own. What we draw from the hero's journey are very simple concepts. A story is about a person, team or an organisation that's wanting to get somewhere stuffs standing in the way, somehow they get past that stuff. And yay, they get what they wanted. And Nancy would say consistently, a real story is about transformation. And I like that I think that's very much in line with Campbell. But boy, again, you'd be hard pressed to see us at any point in my career sitting down with an executive who has to give a big keynote, and they go, Okay, we're gonna write a story. And I let me pull out the hero's journey circle, they lose their mind, because no story is gonna fall that way. Do you agree with that? Is that been your experience?
Francisco Mahfuz 5:59
Yes, I agree with that. And I think that the points you mentioned are the beats you mentioned to us a screenwriting term and I have plenty of screenwriting terms in my head. Now, because I'm making my way through McKees story. What it becomes almost ironic is that, if all you're getting out of the hero's journey are those very basic beats, then it's not the hero's journey, then it's Aristotle's poetics. You know, maybe you throw a guide in there, or, you know, throw a couple of other points in the hero's journey. But I don't know this is might just be a rumour or an urban legend. Or maybe there's some really crappy trainers out there that are genuinely trying to get this, you know, seven points, or 10 points, or 12 points, or whatever. 18 points from the hero's journey into people's heads. But I've seen people defend it. I've seen people defend, like, at least on social media, obviously, there's a use for everything. But But it's interesting to find that someone who's supposedly one of the biggest proponents of that type of thing that it actually not quite near as, as as convoluted as that in the way you would normally approach it. At least
Jeff Davenport 7:07
I think it's the general idea. And so it's almost like we all have glommed onto the title, hero's journey. Oh, great. I can tell a story about a hero who goes on a journey. When you start to get into the really specific nitty gritty bits. Things start to go out the window, I look at the hero's journey beats as a menu, and as many of those as we can grab great. I again, I'd be hard pressed to say that anyone's story that they're telling hits all of those beats. I had attended Film School at the University of Southern California and studied screenwriting, and I was there one, how many years is there three years. And to be honest, we never studied the hero's journey. That was not something when I was there, that was that was prominent for screenwriting, even, we thought about things from a number of different perspectives. But coming back to Campbell was not something that we did we thought about it in other structure forms, and the structures were a little bit more loose. So it's a bit of a canard to say that if you know the hero's journey, you're right, you're halfway there, you're ready to go, you're ready to tell a story. But you do want to tell a story about an individual, a team or organisation going on a journey and ultimately transforming in some way.
Francisco Mahfuz 8:23
So this is something I don't think there's a perfect answer to this. But but it's one of the questions that come up more often in this podcast, is the question of structure, right? Because the one thing I find hurts people, when they look at the hero's journey, as as some sort of guide to telling a story is that it is very difficult if you're not writing fiction, to look at a structure with all those all those steps you're trying to follow and go okay, I'm going to do this. Now I'm going to do that because a real life story, you then have to twist it, as you said, twisted out of shape. So we can maybe hit those hit those bits. So the question I'm trying to ask in a very convoluted way is, how much did you find in your in your corporate work that people actually benefited from from being given a structure that they then tried to use to develop their stories and how much the structure was more? Maybe a checklist of realising Okay, well, you this is what's missing from the story. If you look at the structure, this part here is missing, but not something they would use to start the development of a story with,
Jeff Davenport 9:36
I would say, yeah, the checklist might be a better way of looking at it. I rarely handed over a list of beats and said, Alright, let's I want you to fill this up. Usually what I would do is I would have them tell me the story like so we got we try to identify for me, what I'm always looking for when I'm working with a client is I want to identify what is the point you're trying to prove you're trying to prove a point Within this entire presentation, this entire speech, or in this specific moment, so what point are you trying to prove? And so then I'll interview them and get them to talk about something well, and I'm like, when have you seen this actually, this thing that you're proposing actually work, when have you seen someone not use it and things went awry. So we land on a story. And then once we've got that story, I start to look at it through the beats that I try to hit. And it might not hit all of those beats, but I find more often than not, it's going to hit most of them. And so that's when I'm taking the story and communicating back to the Speaker, I want you to hit it in this order. And it will, in general, help your audience feel the story. So you know that sometimes great stories are just miss told they're told out of order. They're told with too much. The proportions are wrong, they spend so much time on, well, let me talk about tell you about this person and what they wanted. And then the end of the story hurry is along, or they don't spend enough time going. Let me tell you about this team and what they were wanting. And then everything gets muddied, I would prefer, tell me your story. I'm going to pare it back to you. Via that beats that I think you should hit meeting the hero discovering the hero's goal, feeling those challenges that that hero faces, understanding their current strategy, revealing a right strategy, applying the right strategy, there's some sort of fight that they fight to, and then ultimately overcome those challenges. And if it's a happy story, achieve the goal. I think most businesses stories can hit those beats. Now, I don't look at my client and go, here's your beats, how does your story hit it? To be honest, most people can't think in those terms. They get all gummed up on this fine. Well, that's why I'm here. I'm here to help you walk through those and try to identify those
Francisco Mahfuz 11:50
I find interesting that you are at least when you did it just now you're still using language that is very similar from the Void is very similar. I came out of the hero's journey. Is that how you normally think of like the beats, as you say? Do you always think of them in those terms? Or is that language that you picked up specifically, by working in the corporate world or with Duarte?
Jeff Davenport 12:12
It's an amalgamation, right? I would say that where I have landed on story is what I've read in Campbell, Aristotle, what I've experienced with working with my corporate clients, what I experienced when I was writing screenplays, these were the the ways I thought about stories. Now, no, I think anybody's lying to you if they go well, I've got the story structure. Let me tell you, I've got it all figured out. I just don't think that's the case. I think what we're doing is we're trying as works with you know, every guest you have on right? Am I wrong on this, every guest you have on has some sort of story structure that they try to get people to follow. And we're all we're all just doing our best to get a general idea of how can we take this at a colleague at Duarte, she loved story like oh man like it was in her veins. And she would often talk about what what a mysterious she she personified it, what a mysterious being we're working with when we're working with story. And she's right. Like this is a mysterious thing we don't fully understand. I mean, we can talk about the oxytocin and the in the dopamine and all the brain science. But when it comes down to it, we're not altogether clear why us humans like stories. There's lots of great theories. The storytelling animal hits that book hits a bunch of those story or die lists. A Crohn's book hits a bunch of those. There's lots of good theories about that. I think all of us story folk, were just trying to figure out how can we find a structure that hits at least most stories, so that we can help people have some handles on it? I think most people find story, unwieldy. I was thinking about it. This morning, my father passed away suddenly, about a year ago. And I was at my, my parents house, and I was talking to my mom. And she said, your dad had just bought this circular saw. And it's in the box. Do you want to take it back to? I'm from Houston, and should you want to take it back to Denver with you? I'm like, Well, yeah, I guess I guess so. You know, I'm sure. And so I took this I don't have a soul. I mean, I got one of these kinds of songs, but I don't have like an electric song. I thought, well, this would be good. And it's been a year now and I was just out of my garage and that saw is still sitting in the box on my workbench. And I was looking at it and thinking about it thinking that's a little like, get ready, get ready. tenuous metaphor alert. I was looking at that thinking that's uh, well, I was thinking about it more this more investing. That's that's like story. We all know, boy, this is gonna be a good thing we really should use this is really important. And yet it's still in the box. Like we haven't pulled it out. And I think why haven't I used that saw? To be honest Francisco. I'm afraid I like all of these, and I don't want to lose any of the 10 fingers. I'm a little afraid I get that saw out. And suddenly daddy's, you know, looking like the shop teacher, and I don't want to lose a digit. And I think it's the same way with stories that sometimes we Okay, as a speaker, I know I need to tell a story. I just, I'm afraid I'm gonna botch it and mess it up. And I'll just stick with saying data things. And I'll just stick with telling people what to do. And I'll stick with those things. And you know, anybody who is I've got a good buddy, who is skilled in woodwork, and he could show me how to use that saw and go see, you're fine, you're gonna be fine. So I'm gonna cut your finger off. And if it does, you get dinos, you'll be fine. And I think in the same way, it's up to people like you and I, and your other guests to talk to people and go, story's important. It's useful, but don't be afraid of it, I'm going to try my best to give you some handles. So you don't cut off your proverbial finger. It's a couple
Francisco Mahfuz 15:55
of the storytellers that I've been enjoying more, both from their teaching content, but also from the stories they tell our Matthew Dix who keeps winning the math over and over and over when they have their, I think it was one of the most now 52 times including a tonne of grand slams in when I asked him about it, I said, you know, you wrote a whole book on storytelling, and you don't there's not a word on structure. And he said, Yeah, I don't think of it as structure the way he thinks of it. And I incorporated a lot of that is he says, Well, the story is five seconds, which is the transformation, you know, when you stop being one thing and became the other. So if you're going to be someone who now you've now learned the value of teamwork, then in the beginning of the story, at some point near the beginning, you need to be someone who doesn't know the value of teamwork. So we can see that that change, you know, start with location, and time and action and all those usual things, just so it's not a boring exposition, then tell us what happened, but also to date about it, and then drive it towards the end. And that's kind of it right? Which is, which is pretty simple. But it's more about what needs to be in there. And not necessarily, although there is clearly an order, but it's like, there's this thing in there. Is that enough for us to care about the character? Is that enough for us to really understand the stakes of the story? Yeah. And he assumes correctly or wrongly, that it's very, very difficult for people to mess up that order. But then again, I know I've also spoken to plenty of people, I think I was speaking to candle Haven. And he was saying how he has that his great storyteller that he knew Joe Callahan was one of the legendary storytellers. And he was in he would just give us workshops and tell people just listen to the rhythm of the story, the rhythm, just listen to the rhythm. And people had no idea what to do with that. So yeah, I find that interesting. And I find more and more that, that yeah, as I said, Before, I structure is more of a checklist than then something used to solve the story. But I know also a lot of corporate people that say, yeah, now you give them a framework, they love it, they kind of understand what goes where, because you don't give them that sometimes, although it sounds obvious to us. It doesn't seem to be. But there's one point you mentioned about how people are afraid of it, and don't want to use it like the like the saw you have in your garage. And one question, I always have to different people who do this job is when you teach because you don't teach storytelling, you teach presentation skills, and speaking and all of these things were stories, one part of So how big part of those of those skills you're teaching is story. Like we always trying to get people to tell a story sometimes. Not that often.
Jeff Davenport 18:46
Yes, always. I'm trying to figure out some opportunity to get in there and say, okay, you've got you've got all this data, cardiologists, is there a place for a story? I'm going to consistently come back to that. So when it's about their content? Yes, I want to find a place where we're going to tell a story. More often than not, I'm trying to push that story up to the front as much as possible, when it comes to delivery, how they're communicating what they're communicating. Usually, those delivery things end up becoming those delivery engagements, end up becoming some sort of talk about the content. It's really challenging as a delivery coach, to work with someone about how are you going to come across as clear and comfortable and charismatic if their content just blows. And so I'm trying to then also massage their content, and I'll go, Hey, I think you're going to really get some good punch here. Your audience is going to lean in a little bit more. If you've got a story here. How are you proving this? So you've got this point right here? You're proving it with data? Is there a way you can prove this with a story and I have to disabuse them right there of the notion that I'm trying to get them to go, you know, Gandalf was wandering around. No, no, I just all I want to know is when did a customer experience into this and it went well, and then you kind of watch the scales fall from their eyes and they go, You mean, it's just that? Yeah, it's just that I just need, I just need you to tell me something about a time when the thing that you're proposing this right strategy that you're proposing actually worked, or when someone didn't use that right strategy and things fell apart for them. And they go, Oh, well, that I will always tell this story or, yeah, actually, just this week, I was talking to somebody about this. Great. And then I, we put it in there, and you just feel their shoulders fall a little bit and go, Oh, this isn't as intimidating as I thought. So I try to bring it in as often as possible. I found
Francisco Mahfuz 20:38
I found a trick, Jeff. And the trick is, you know, you say them, okay. So this is this is your point. So, do you have any real life examples that prove that point? And they go, you mean like, like a star is a picture and I call it that? Example.
Jeff Davenport 20:56
We overthink this story thing. I mean, it it has, gosh, yeah. It's just it becomes this. We over talk about it. Right? Don't I feel like we and now God bless you know, this is your podcast, you talk about how to help, but I think people just it becomes this big giant thing that becomes intimidating. And I don't know, or we assume we're better at it than we actually are. And, okay, yeah, it's an example. Or it's just a case study, I there's oftentimes I start talking about story, and the client or the customer, you can tell that they're wising up, and they're leaning in, and they're going, you know, you're just talking about a case study. And I look back at them and go, I know, I know, that's all I'm talking about. You do this all the time anyway. I'm just trying to get you to do it strategically and intentionally. And when they get that, oh, okay, the barrier to entry goes down. And then we structure it, I tried to move some things around, I think one of the things you were talking about, as you were talking about when it goes well, and when it doesn't is, so often I'm working with people on the setup. Like how many times have we been at a dinner party or hanging out with a friend, and they tell a story, and they get to the end? And they go, oh, you know what I meant to tell you this? At the beginning. And because they didn't tell us this, we will, we will logically get where they were trying to go, but we don't feel it. And there's nothing more frustrating to me. When a client tells a story. And they've missed some key element in the setup. Like you're talking like, like, oh, they didn't value teamwork. And then the big transformation is they came to value teamwork. Oh, I meant to tell you that they didn't at the beginning. Okay, well, then I don't feel your story. So I'm often trying to go, what are the beats we need to hit at the beginning that are going to set things up? Why so we know the character better? Not sure. But it's all in service of the ending the punch line, we want that punch line of the story to land. And you can only identify that transformation. If you have identified well how things started. These are the films that I love, not all movies. I'll be honest, not all movies are about character transformation. And I would even say not all movies I like are about character transformation, you'd be hard pressed to find a James Bond movie, or James Bond really learns a valuable lesson by the end, you know, he's James Bond, he's going shooting people and do what he does. But the movies that that have a lasting impact on me. And I think for most of us, are those movies where there is a clear setup of the character at the beginning. And there's a clear setup of that characters, for lack of a better term, flaw or missing piece. And by the end, that flaw has been corrected. And that missing piece has been filled in Michael Arndt, who wrote Toy Story three, and he was he was a writer on some of the new Star Wars movies. He has a great bit on this, that he talks about, I think it's on the Toy Story three, like extras or something. But when he sat down to write that movie, he didn't know what to do. Like he seen Woody and Buzz and all of this and he started off with, he realised the great Pixar movies are the ones that start off with a character we love. There's something about him, that's fun, funny, whatever, we just like them. And yet Something's off. And we're going to correct that something off by the end. And in the same way. I think you know, it That sounds so highfalutin. To apply that thinking to a business story, but it's not, hey, our team was bad at teamwork. And we got good at teamwork because we tried this thing and did that. Hurray. It's as simple as that.
Francisco Mahfuz 24:44
I want to come back to James Bond, because then James Bond is an interesting case in how it connects to business storytelling. But there was something you said before that. I don't think I'm challenging you. I'm challenging what your client said, which was, oh, you're just talking about a case study. What I think Tell a story in a case study are drastically different. And the reason I one of the reasons I say this is just now, just a few days ago, I was doing work with some of the students on the MBA that I that I want to do the communications coaching. And so they have this, you know, they have to prepare speeches or stories, and they share them, and we give them feedback. So this was the storytelling session of the communications course. And the difference between someone telling a business story, and someone doing a case study was just glaring, because one person is saying, you know, so it's two years ago, and it's my first few weeks in this company, and this is what we're doing. And then we start, we were doing this, and we're doing this, and then we hit upon this obstacle, we're trying to solve it. In the other person who's saying, the company I worked at, they were trying to do this, this and that thing, and then this and that thing happen. And then they didn't know what it's just the fact that it was being narrated from a third person, even though you are part of it, to, to an art, you know, the first person just changes drastically. And I said to him, Listen, I did not give two shits for your company, right? I want to hear about you like, what are you doing? Why does this matter to you? Or at least why does it matter to the team? Why does it matter to the customers you're supposed to serve? Give me real people I can connect with, whereas a case study often doesn't have real people. It's just a company is the is the department. But it just is this embodied entities. And I don't think we're built or evolved to connect with this embodied entities. So So yeah, so I think that the case could be very different.
Jeff Davenport 26:38
Yes, I think the similarities are, both of them are using a situation to prove something is true. And I think that's where the that's where the penny dropped for those clients, when they said, Oh, you mean, it's just a case study? Well, what they meant was, in their brains, case, studies were designed to prove something was true. And I'm telling them tell any story to prove something is true. I thought a lot about what what you're talking about, because people do want to talk about a team, or a company or an organisation, sometimes even a whole nation. And yes, those stories can work. But you're, I tell clients this all the time, even when you're looking at an audience, you're not talking to an audience, you're talking to that person, and that person and that person, and that you're talking to a room of individuals, you're talking to humans, not an audience. And in the same way, if you can get that story to zero in on a human being, so if you're going to talk to them about well, the finance department needed to figure out this, okay, that's fine. But I want you to tell me about the CFO, or I want to tell, I want you to tell me about Jenny, the accountant who had to make a decision, because we as listeners, do not identify with teams, organisations and nations, we identify with individuals. You know, sports movies are a huge thing, I think in the world, but I know, especially in the United States, and you'll watch a sport movie about a team. And in your brain, you're like, this movie is about that team, but it's not. It's never about the team, we always walk away going, that one play, that was the one that really I connect to, oh, well, I actually connected with that one. So yes, we're kind of following this team's trajectory, from rags to riches, you know, whatever it is, but really, it's always gonna be about those individuals. So I'm with you, it now there's going to be times where case studies will have to seem to come from this third person perspective. But as often as possible, narrow it down to the individual decision maker. That case study is a study in an organisation or a team that transformed, but that didn't happen, because everybody did it all. It happened because one or two people made a key decision. That's your hero, if you can zero in on that individual human being, and that's going to help your audience go, I'm like that person, I could make that decision. And that could affect my team. And you know, good things come out of that. So I think you're I think you're right on about that. Now. How does that connect to James Bond?
Francisco Mahfuz 29:17
Well, I'll get to James Bond. Just one more thing, though, which is right, as you were talking, I was I was thinking about how happy I was when my wife got completely shafted by her previous employer. And the reason that that's a hook for you there is I had I had this big keynote to hr.com Right. And I was going to speak into it and it was maybe about 1000 people. And, and two weeks before, my wife found another job and as she was leaving the job, or employee employers just treated her really badly like they were they were nasty to her. They kind of basically said stuff like, you know, how dare you leave us I do think this company is going to be bad and we were so Nice to you, we didn't sack you, when you got pregnant, we let you work from home when everybody was in lockdown, that type of thing. And then she's like, Well, it isn't Oh, if you if that's how you feel about us, then there's no point in you serving or notice. And she's like, okay, fine, I'll go, I'll go then. And then they gave her some stuff to sign, she signed it, got home, looked at the papers, and realise that they had like, deducted half of her of a month's salary, because she supposedly had never given her notice. And because she did it over the phone, and she signed the papers, you had no recourse. So you know, she essentially lost half a month's salary. And this happened two weeks before I was giving this HR lecture about culture, right. And then I was talking about the power of story and how you need individuals to, to make anyone care about what you're saying. And I said to them, Listen, if I share, if I talk to you about the 1000s of people every night, every day, probably in America that leave a job and because they don't know any better, they get shafted out of money, or they, you know, they lose things that were the rights. You might care a tiny bit about it. But I'm pretty sure you wouldn't want to go on social media and make, you know, torch the company's reputation, because you heard that they might have done this over the years. But let's just try something different than that. I share the story about my wife and I said that. So how do you feel now? And most people are like, Oh, that is outrageous. No one should be able to do this. Like, yeah, and you don't even know my wife, like, trust me. She's a great nicer than I am. But you don't even know her now you care? was the fact of the same. Why do you care now, because it's one person. It's very diff, I made 10 people, you wouldn't care so much one person. So for make it about one person and one thing that happened to the person one moment in time, it's a lot easier for us to, to care. So yeah, I'm we're clearly in agreement there.
Jeff Davenport 31:46
I love that. Because don't our brains assume that person, your wife isn't just your wife, she represents many people. And we assume often when we tell about teams or organisations, that their brains will do the work and bring it down to the individual level. And that's asking a lot, that's asking a lot of an audience. And I'd rather go straight to the individual, and assume they're going to interpret that out to the larger group, then the other way around our brains were people. And we think about humans, we don't think about lots of humans necessarily,
Francisco Mahfuz 32:26
yeah, so that I find less mysterious than the fact that when you talk about very specific things that other people have not experienced the same way. They they relate more to your story than if you use the generic thing. So for example, if I'm talking about going to school, and I'm talking about going to school in Brazil, and I describe something that would be very specific to the classrooms in Brazil, that is not the classrooms you experienced in America, you are now thinking about how your classroom was in America. Whereas if I say, Oh, we know in a Jeanette is just a normal classroom, it's harder for you to remember your own classroom, then then if I picked one detail about a desk, or about a chair, so this is this weird thing where you pick specific details, and then everybody's co creating the story with their own details that I find more mysterious than why we connect to one person and not to too many. But James Bond. So James Bond, a very strange case when it comes to storytelling, because he might be the perfect example James Bond movie, the perfect example of what not to do when you're trying to influence anyone or connect with anyone because the James Bond story is is mostly about entertainment than anything else. But it's aspirational. You know, you want to be James Bond really, like you're not at all like James Bond, I think in general, you're not going yes, I'm just like him like no, you're not. Because you're pretty, pretty clueless about yourself. You're not like James Bond. And I think that a lot of a lot of people when they when they think about using stories in business, they might fall for that trap of, you know, I need to be James Bond in the story. I need to be super competent, I need to be a high achiever, I need to do all these things. And that that is probably the opposite of what not in the achievement because you achieved things, but you shouldn't achieve them in a suave and smooth way. Because that I think that would defeat the purpose of using or least one of the main purposes of using a story which is make it relatable and have people that have problems relate to the problems you've overcome. And not to you know, how cool you are and that they want to be like you
Jeff Davenport 34:40
again if James Bond if a James Bond movie started with him being this schlub, and by the end, he's James Bond, and he's got it great because what you've talked about is transformation. But there's not many James Bond movies and trying to think there's just not many that have any sort of, of transport Animation there, I think they are entertaining. And I've racked my brain trying to figure out to be this is this is what a nerd I am. I sit around thinking often, why do certain films or books bring us in when it seems to break the mould and by mould I mean, we are individuals who want to see ourselves as becoming better versions of ourselves. And so we're constantly looking for movies and entertainment, that affirm that change is possible. Okay, I'll go along with that. I can think about all the movies, my wife, and I watch and go that hits most of them. And then I hit something like a James Bond movie, or I hit something like I would say to a larger, I like an Indiana Jones movie, one of these movies that you're watching someone just be really good at what they're good at. Why do we like those? Is it because we're fascinated by watching someone who is skilled at something overcome every time even at the end of Act to when things are, are worse than they ever could have been? And yet they still pull out of it? Is that why we're interested in that? I don't know. You got thoughts on that? I'm curious.
Francisco Mahfuz 36:11
Well, I'm not sure I have thoughts on that. But But Matthew Deeks has thoughts on that. So in his book he talks about, he breaks down some movies, in how movies are often not about what the lay audience would think they are. So for example, he taught me he talks about James Bond, he says, So James Bond is a movie about faith. It's about believing something that you have no, this one of the things is about believing something you have no evidence for. Because in the end, James Bond in the Ark of the Covenant, he's this super cynical guy. He doesn't believe in anything. And they're trying to Jones, Indiana Jones. Yes. James Jones, so any, you know, the, the Raiders of the Lost Ark, right? So he's just trying to find the Ark of the Covenant. And he, you know, doesn't believe this thing is real. He doesn't believe there is any power to it. And and then at the very crucial scene of the movie, the, you know, the villains who are politically incorrect, or ethical ethically, you know, they're all over seven ethnicity, and they're all kind of cliched. But anyway, they find the ark. And because they they don't actually believe that the Ark has any power. And Indiana Jones looks at them about to open the ark. And he realises No, there's something here. Yeah, like this. I don't want to be close to this thing. So that moment, he believes, and they don't they open the arc, and they're dead. Right? There is an element of transformation. There's also Indiana Jones is a complicated fella who has daddy issues. Okay, so that's another thing, which is, you know, he's, he's edited to women, it's kind of weird as well. So he's a very fallible character. So quite this compared to James Bond, so there are things in there that you could go okay, I'm kind of like this guy. James Bond is a tougher case to make I think it's, it's just a cool adventure. And they make him human here and there, but the new ones make him human. But the old ones are just like, I was just cool to see this basically superhero. During the superhero things, you know, super Superman is popular, or it was popular for a very long time. But Batman is way more interesting than Superman. But that doesn't mean Superman wasn't popular. For you know, decades and decades. People just I think like this idea of this, you know, high achiever person doing this high achieving things.
Jeff Davenport 38:27
i It's funny, as I was mentioning Indiana Jones, something in me caught because I know for a fact there is transformation there. The first one he says, he says at the beginning, he says to his buddy, he says, You know, I don't believe in all this superstitious stuff. Cut to the end. Close your eyes, Marian, everything's gonna go sideways. The second one, he starts off by talking about Fortune and glory, once unfortunate glory. By the end, he's rescuing all these children's slaves. The third one, he Yeah, it's the daddy issues one and by the end that him and his father have a good relationship. So you're right, I think when it comes to James Bond, and not to over chew on this bone, but I think when it comes to James Bond, there's a real wish fulfilment, there is this, I think what's enticing to us is and I think this is sometimes true when we watch talks from big CEOs who we respect. Now, hopefully that CEO is talking about transformation journeys for customers. But I think there's a little something in us that likes to watch the strong, Suave, cool people. And I guess I put Steve Jobs in this camp to some degree. We want to watch that talk because we want to feel like Gosh, could I be like that? What would it be like if I seem to have all the right answers and all the right products and all the right things that I'm offering to my customers now? Just like a James Bond movie, a lot of those Steve Jobs talks they don't tell all the stuff behind the scenes. We had a long struggle to get to this product. We we missed the boat on this one thing and we should have done this It's the fallibility that we relate to. And yet I think we're always, maybe this maybe a good story hits both maybe a good story hits, fallible person achieve something great. And in that there's that wish fulfilment, that Oh, I would like I would like to experience that I would like to experience that transformation,
Francisco Mahfuz 40:20
it could just be as well that stories work at multiple levels. And you know, we watch a James Bond movie, or any of this, you know, a big CEO giving a talk. And it's, it is inspirational, it's aspirational. There's all these other things, sometimes just the, the actual thing they're describing is really interesting. It's a novelty. But it's unlikely to move us emotionally the way stories about more fallible relatable characters movers. So I think it's, you know, although when we teach story, we often talk about our say that a good story has a relatable character with a problem they care about installed through specific details and a moment in time or moments in time. That doesn't mean that you cannot have a great story that is super entertaining to watch or listen to, that doesn't necessarily meet all those goals. It just might just be this person or character who has an obstacle they're trying to overcome, I can't really relate to, but it's kind of cool. So I think not Every story needs to need to move as emotionally to that extent. And that's why I think a lot of people, you know, a lot of people do watch James Bond movies. But I would be surprised if a lot of people had one of those movies as their favourite movie.
Jeff Davenport 41:37
Yeah, I could see that. I could see that I think I think as a coach, that my job is to, I'm like an art class teacher, I'm not going to go paint this, do this, do this. I'm there to come alongside them at the canvas. And to talk to them about again, I don't want to sound real highfalutin. and think, oh, story's the end all be all, but I just want to help this thing come through. And yes, there's some science behind it, there's some beats you want to hit. But when it comes down to it, not all stories are the same. Not all stories accomplish the same thing. But there's a large swath of them. And we're trying to learn from the stories that have moved us so that I can help my clients tell stories that move their audiences, and ultimately, that they look at their audiences, as this is cliche to say, at this point, because it's been said so often, but they look at their audiences as little heroes who are on their own journeys of transformation. And they the communicator is acting as the sage, who is stepping in there with something offering that they're offering to that audience to each individual, to help them accomplish what they want to accomplish. Again, that's become so threadbare at this point, it's still worth repeating. Because a lot of people, you know, they still go well, as the speaker, I'm the hero. And that's not going to get anybody anywhere.
Francisco Mahfuz 42:59
One. One question that comes up a lot when when doing storytelling in business, is how key is it to use personal stories outside of a business context? So something that happened in your life, but not necessarily something to do with the work you're doing or work you've previously done? Where do you stand on that,
Jeff Davenport 43:22
it's helpful because it's going to build that bond. When I tell it, let's say I'm a leader, and I tell a story about me in college, or I tell a story about my family. And I will just buy, it's almost like there's these rings, and the middle ring is our business. And so it's all safe to talk about this, but I talk about here might be like a my hobby, and might here might be my family right here might be like my history, or suddenly getting into these unknown realms that you know, as a leader, you might may have heard about where I went to college there. But we're getting into these unknown realms. And as I, as a leader, step into further unknown realms, I'm opening myself up to you. And that vulnerability is allowing the audience to know me a little bit better, and that we have more of that personal connection. I think that's when that oxytocin kicks in. The only caveat to that is why, why are you going to this outer ring? Well, I just really want to, I want to, I've heard it's important to be vulnerable, and I really want to be vulnerable. Okay, I don't see that as the driving force, the driving force to me will always be, I want to tell a story to prove a point. Now, if I can tell a story that proves a point, but it's from one of these outer rings. Great. So if you're trying to communicate to your team, let's go back to example. Teamwork is the way to make the dream work. So I want I want all of us to do teamwork. Well, I could tell a story from the business and go, you know, I remember three years ago when we were functioning this way in silos and we did, okay, that's fine. But if I go All the way out to like when I was a kid, and suddenly I go, I remember I was on the baseball team when I was nine. And I was the worst player on the team. And I, you know, you tell a story about baseball. And eventually my coach pulled me aside and said, you know why you're terrible. And I thought, who tells a nine year old, they're terrible, you're terrible, because you're playing individually, you're not playing as a team. And suddenly, I'm making this up. And suddenly I started to play as a team hit the cut off, man and do all this stuff. And everything changed. I want that for us. Okay, so now I've brought in a personal story that's in one of these realms of vulnerability. But it also proves a point, if it's not proving a point, you're isn't this awkward? When, when when someone's telling a story, that doesn't prove a point, but is vulnerable? And I think the audience feels this weird tension of, ah, I feel connected. And I don't know why they told this. And your brain, because we're kind people, for the most part, our brain goes, Yeah, but it was, it was good that they shared what they what they had felt. But I think our logical sides going, Hey, pal, but that really didn't have any purpose, except to make you like them. I don't want that I'm going to consistently drive my clients to stories that that have to hit both. You've got to prove a point. Otherwise, I save your vulnerable stories for your autobiography.
Francisco Mahfuz 46:22
I agree. I agree. Right. Now, this is going to be a left field turn. But can we talk about God? Sure. So one of the very first things that this is the left turn? Well, but is it really because one of the very first things that anyone finds out when they start doing research on you is how big this is a part? This is a part of your life, right? Sure. So most to your boss, your blog, which starts every post with a story. Pretty much every single conversation you're having beyond the stories are conversations about God and religion and how that fits into your life and your audience's life. So, you know, I don't want to talk about that in isolation. But what I wanted to find out is, is this, so religion is to a lot of people very big part of their life. Right? And I think in the US, that's even more true than then in other parts of the world. I think in Europe, not me. If it is, it's, it's, it's not considered that really an okay thing to talk about, like, you would never talk about that in any sort of business context, but it never has, I think is that's less of an issue. So so the first question I have is, is, religion is a very, very rich, sovereign capitalism. It's a very, very rich source of stories. And in most of us are very familiar with those cultural references. So the first question I have on there is, did you ever either use those stories, or in either encouraged or not discouraged clients that wanted to use that type of story? In a business context?
Jeff Davenport 47:59
Yeah, so I'll unpack a little bit about my history real quick. I think what you tapped into is to be honest, there's kind of two Jeff Davenport's out there, there's the Jeff Davenport of hey, I'm a Mr. Speaker, Coach, and we're gonna talk about this and we're gonna get to big keynote. But my history is actually as a, what we call here in America preacher or a pastor, and I worked at a number of churches. And real quick side transformation story was, and I tell this to almost all my clients when I'm talking about delivery. When I was in high school and college, I was the shyest kid, I was a disaster socially, I couldn't stand up in front of a group of people. I was awful at that, and I ended up graduating college and then go into grad school. And over time, I ended up getting jobs as a as a teacher at churches and I would go stand up in front of a bunch of people. And I had to learn how to talk in front of a group of people. And I feel like that was all used to bring me to where I am today. I like to continue to a matter of fact, in a couple of weeks, I'm preaching at a church here in town and I like doing that because a I like to communicate to people help them see their lives more clearly. But be I was just telling the client this yesterday, I don't want to be the fat tennis coach. You know, I want to be I want to be the speaker. I want to be the speaker coach who's still speaking like I still know what it feels like to get nervous in front of a group of people or I got to put together my content I'm still doing this myself. So I want to make sure that they can relate to me and I can relate to them. I think that when it comes to communicating about your religion and what you believe I'm I'm I want people to be you got to be hesitant, you know, if you assume ever let me just assume everyone in here believes what I believe well, all right, you're lost. Like that's not gonna do anybody any good. But if it is something I remember I was working one executive, a high level executive who strong Catholic believer he would bring that in but a very sensitive way. And where he would bring it in was, this is what's driving me. And this is what's driving where I want to go, what's driving you? And so he's saying, Look, I'm telling from a personal standpoint, I'm not saying so go be Catholic. He's saying, I've got a North Star within me. And all I want for you is what's your North Star? Have you thought critically about what your North Star is? I don't, I'm not like, well just hide everything. You know, if you believe these things, just hide everything. It's not that it's about just being sensitive to your audience. For me, the biggest thing about religion, which I don't even like that word, but the biggest, I'll put it this way, the biggest thing for me about a belief in God, I firmly believe that you can't believe in a God who gives a rip about human beings, and not believe that humans can change. Like, that's part of the point that there is some I believe there's a God out there, and he looks at every individual human and says, I can grow you, I can grow you. And going back to what we've been talking about. I think that stories are about transformation. And so from my little perspective, someone was arguing this, okay. But from my little perspective, I can't believe that humans change if God's not doing something in there. And I think when we tell stories of transformation, we're actually telling some sort of story that rhymes with God's story.
Francisco Mahfuz 51:30
Okay, but you haven't answered my question. Oh, I'm sorry. There's some extent you have. But okay, so let me let me let me let me try the very specific and because I gave you kind of a broad canvas to paint on there with your so do when you tell stories in a business context, apart from the story of how you became a speaker? Do you ever tell any story that that people could consider to be a religious story? Like, do you ever share a Bible story? Do you ever share a Jesus story or anything? Not not your personal experience being, you know, breach or anything like that? But because those arguably, or just your personal professional experience, he just happens to be in a church? But would you ever use a Bible story, for example, in a speech, or in a training or anything like that?
Jeff Davenport 52:20
Probably not anymore. There was a time where you could bring in some story from I would say, scripture, and every and there was a time in America where everyone would at least most of the people would at least have some passing understanding of that, and be able to go Hmm, okay, I can go with that, as time goes on. And I would say, and I'm, and I'm coming from a Christian standpoint, as time goes on, our culture is is diverging away from that. And so to go, you know, it's like when Jesus said this, a lot of people in the audience are going a, I didn't know that Jesus said that, and be you're referencing him as some sort of higher authority that we all agree on. And I personally have not agreed to that. So right there, you're kind of shooting yourself in the foot. Now, if you're able to tell that story in a way that says, And that story has impacted all these different people in all these different lives, you might get somewhere with that. But I find you when you appeal to a higher authority now, I would say God is the ultimate higher authority, but like, let's, it's not that different than saying, Okay, let you know, Steve Jobs said this. Well, that's pretty safe. But what if you choose someone who half the room can't stand? What if you choose some CEO who had a chequered past or, you know, as part of the me to movement or you know, something bad? And you you quote that person? Well, some people might be going, Yeah, that does help me understand things because I respect that person, half the other group is going, I didn't like that guy don't like that person. Now you expect me to, to agree with you because of that. I would say that that's the same with religion, you're you're going to divide your audience. Now, if I have worked with organisations, which were primarily Christian, it was an actual company. And so to reference some sort of Scripture, everybody's going, Yeah, great. We all agree on that. But I just don't want how tone deaf would it be to assume if I bring that in, everyone will go along with it. I think that becomes very, very dangerous. What's the you know, know your audience, you have to know your audience. And I think that's one of the one of the ways if you mess that up, that's a surefire way to get people to go.
Francisco Mahfuz 54:40
It's a strange turn of events, that it's easier and more acceptable, acceptable to appeal to Steve Jobs as a higher authority, then God or Jesus. I'm not sure exactly what it says about the world. I don't think I'm equipped to make that judgement. But that is a pretty interesting development. I don't think Most people would have seen that one coming.
Jeff Davenport 55:02
That was an astute observation. There. Isn't that interesting. But I think what we're also discovering is, it's silly to say this, but we're discovering humans are fallible. And we're discovering that even the people, I mean, this is part of the world we live in right now. We're all a little more suspect of everyone. And I think the I think the bandwidth of, of humans who we have, we can all agree we respect just is getting narrower. And there were and, you know, there was a time we were, we were putting together a class at Duarte, and it was about public speaking about delivery. And so we were bringing in these different examples of this communicator in this communicator. And we kept coming back to these presidents. And okay, do we bring in this President? Do we bring in this president, and honestly, I think 20 years ago, we would have been pretty safe, because I think people would have gone. Well, I may not agree with that person completely politically, but I like the way they communicated. Or this, we ended up going, we can't bring anybody in. It could be somebody had been dead for 100 years, you know, not that we're gonna bring like McKinley in but we couldn't bring those people in. Because immediately it's, well, I don't agree with that person's policies on this. And so I can't learn from them how to use my hands. And as much as I would want to cram and go, no, no, don't worry about it, just focus on, it's too loaded. It's a third rail. And so we've gotten to a point where anytime you bring up any politician, it's electrified. And I think that's now not just applying to politicians, but it's applying to business leaders. And the people we all agree, no, no, they were good. And we can learn from them. I feel like is getting smaller and smaller.
Francisco Mahfuz 56:52
Yeah, it's a dangerous state of affairs where we are completely unable to set things apart, because even Steve Jobs, just Steve Jobs, by all accounts was not the best human being he was definitely not a great parent. And no one seems to care about that when you talk about how great he was as a business leader, or creator or whatever. So I you know, I think that JFK a pretty fallible human being, but we I think we can agree that he was a good speaker. Yes, I don't think that means that you cannot judge that. But on the on the on the Bible stories I find is interesting, because as a non religious person, I could see myself very easily using a Bible story if I wanted to go there. But the way I would do it is I would frame it as just a story. So for example, I'd say, you know, when I was growing up, some of my aunts were really religious, like, you know, the people that would like, they lick their finger into the sign of the cross on my forehead, every time as I can stop it. It's disgusting. I don't even believe in this stuff. I just like, fine. God doesn't care. This is true. By the way, I have the sense to this day. And in you know, maybe one of them was really big into the Bible, right? So she would see me doing something stupid. And she would tell me a Bible story, right? Remember Samson? Remember what Samsung did? And then she works? What did he do? And then he showed this, tell me the story. So it will be very easy thing to sneaking Bible stories which discipline others you can, there's very few things you cannot find the Bible story as a good example, or a good to four. But I think it would have to be in this context of I'm sharing this with you as if it's fiction. You know, I'm sharing as I would share a James Bond stories. Remember the movie and James Bond did this thing. I think in that context, people will listen to it. And I don't think the the defensive barriers would go up. No, mine no think would go up if it was in that type of context. But to be fair, I mean, there's there's no shortage of stories, it's probably easy enough to to stay away from some of the ones that could be divisive, even though what is not divisive these days.
Jeff Davenport 58:52
anymore. You know, it's interesting, because then what you're saying is, it's similar to if I were to say, so let's think about Aesop's fable of the tortoise and the hare. Well, nobody's gonna go that's not a true story. Yes, yeah. Okay, it's not, but we can learn something from that. And isn't it interesting that just like, if I told that story right now, in in, I tried to put some business context around it, I think people will go, yeah, that that's a helpful perspective on things. And right now, I'm sitting here thinking why, like, I'm trying to figure out what what about me telling about a rabbit and a turtle is going to help you go I really should be more conscientious in my work and get it would it would I that's what I find fascinating because a lot of times you know, someone will bring in I'm not against someone bringing in a fictional story. Like hey, we saw you know, whatever the movie does your is you know, you saw an end game the the Marvel movie, you saw the characters working together. Finally, in the end, somehow that would actually move someone to go you know what I need to do that in my work. And I find I
Francisco Mahfuz 1:00:01
think, I think I think I know why I have a theory as to why. And it will have to be the last thing I say, because because otherwise my my, my kid will come out will come back from school and will be will be on the street waiting for me. So what I think is just that the brain craves stories or examples, concrete one something you can kind of go keep characters doing something, I can see how that works. In most people talk in abstractions, they talking theories, they're talking opinions. So when you give someone something like a metaphor, or a story, that's clearly not real, but exemplifies the point with characters doing things for certain reasons. I think it just becomes easier to visualise. And if it's a cultural reference that we have, then it's Oh, yeah, I heard the story a million times. I just never really thought about that in this context. So you're not saying that proves that this thing you're saying is true. All you you're going through is? Oh, I understand it better. Now.
Jeff Davenport 1:01:02
Let me let me underline what you just said. Because I think if anybody's listening, I would say what you just said is it, which is we're all tended, we all have a tendency to speak in these platitudes, these high minded things, but only when you tell a story. Do you take that high minded thing that you have to say? And you help someone visualise it, you help them see it? I think that's it. I think that's really for my money. And then what I'll be walking away from with today is that that's, that's as good a reason to tell a story is any.
Francisco Mahfuz 1:01:34
And on that note, Jeff, if people want to find out more about you and what you're up to these days, where where do you want to point them to
Jeff Davenport 1:01:40
the lighthouse point.com, the lighthouse point.com Lighthouse Point communications is our workshop online course coaching. Got it all there. And I'm happy to help you or your team communicate more clearly, whether it's about storytelling, or about delivery or about your presentation content. But Francisco I, this has been an education and a joy to talk with you. You're nothing but fun. And I love that I love the left turns.
Francisco Mahfuz 1:02:12
So yeah, I told you, we didn't need the pre call.
Jeff Davenport 1:02:16
Pre call, right? Like no, we're done every call. I like that.
Francisco Mahfuz 1:02:22
Okay, thanks. Thanks for covering. Jeff has been absolutely fantastic. Thanks, Francisco. Appreciate you. 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