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  • Francisco Mahfuz

E87. Why Your Imperfect Story Changes Everything with Mark Leruste



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


Francisco Mahfuz 0:00

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


Welcome to the story powers podcast, the show about the power of stories that people who tell them and why you shouldn't be doing it too. I'm your host, keynote speaker and storytelling coach Francisco My first guest today is Mark roost as the founder and chief purpose officer of the Ministry of purpose mark is on a mission to eradicate career misery in the workplace and help build purpose driven organisations and positive work cultures. He previously served as Country Manager of the Movember Foundation, where he helped raise $2.8 million for men's health and inspire over 100,000 fundraisers. Since then, Mark has worked with organisations such as Google TEDx inside the Guardian and many more. Finally, his weekly podcast, the unconventional, was recently named best interview podcast at the podcasting for Business Awards, and has reached over 160,000 downloads across 100 countries. Now, there is a very impressive list of achievements. And it has to be because Mark has to balance off the negative karma from his younger years, when he worked dreadlocks, sold weed and raised money for a flower peeking charity that didn't exist. Ladies and gentlemen, Mark Lewis come to the show.


Mark Leruste 2:14

That is the world's first thank you


for putting me on the spot straight up just like me tee you up with all the words? Yeah,


you've done your research. That's awesome. Yeah, thanks for being just just, just to clarify, it was 2.8 million euros. Okay, because it's actually in dollars would have been like 3.4 or something. Now 185,000 downloads for the podcast, it's my fault. I haven't updated my website and all that stuff. So apologies for that.


Francisco Mahfuz 2:41

Sorry, I appreciate how your clarification is on on the money raised and on the downloads of the podcast. Because,


Mark Leruste 2:50

you know, your past is your past. And I think the quicker you own it. The you know, it's it's funny, you're saying that because I'm I don't know if you know this, or if you have been talking about this, but I'm in the middle of writing a book on this topic that you and I both love, right. And it's really interesting, because there's a section of the book where basically talks about the power of your stories, and how we have all these different types of stories within us. And that often the stories that we have the most guilt, shame, fear of being heard and seen or exposed, actually hold some of the emotional glue that our audience are waiting for, to connect with us and to not feel alone. And a previous guest of mine that came to my show called Boyd varty talked about how you know, heal trauma or heal guilt can become your medicine, so So I appreciate you throwing me in the deep end with my dreadlocks with selling flower picking. And it's so funny. You know, it's amazing that you said that story because I just wrote that story in the book. It's one of the introductions to the power of storytelling. And I use the story of that that flower picking instance.


Francisco Mahfuz 3:48

There is actually one of the this this storyteller, who i i probably mentioned in every other episode called mathematics. And he has an amazing story that you can find on YouTube. It's called the charity thief. And I think his is worse than yours. Because he is he is pretending to raise money for the Ronald McDonald Cancer Foundation. And he just so happens just so happens that the person he's trying because he used to work for McDonald's. So he had the uniform. Yeah. So the the one person that he scams turns out to be someone who's whose wife passed away from cancer. Yeah, it's a harrowing story. So yeah, charity Thief by Matthew they


Mark Leruste 4:34

got caught right and you know, call mine flowers for Africa. That's the name of the chapter right now. But I'll have to think of something more more poignant like that.


Francisco Mahfuz 4:45

Flowers for Africa is amazing. I think flows for Africa is is so one of the things I wanted to talk to you about. You know, you mentioned something about me having done my homework and one of the things you do is you're a podcast host if my if my numbers are more or less accurate. You've now interviewed between the podcast in your previous life something like 286 people. Well, that's the updated number I've got. And, and I wanted to talk to you a little bit about your approach to the podcast because your podcast is a just about the opposite of mine in a way. Because for someone who, who loves storytelling and talks about storytelling all the time, when it comes to the podcast, I don't really care about people's stories. I never ask about their stories, because very early on, I found that one, they've usually have shared those stories in other podcasts, which I have listened to research for my own interview. And also, I found it difficult to manage that because if I'm interviewing your speaker, often, I'm going to get, you know, a three to four minute very, you know, prepared story that that you know, generally explains who they are and where they come from, and that's fine. But if you ask someone who hasn't been given a tonne of podcast interviews, you might get into a 1015 minute answer. Yeah, they mean, there's and in most podcasts, at most, you tend to have like an hour of people, I don't want to have 25% of that it goes on. So when it comes to yours, how much of their story in the sense of their background? Do you want to get out in the shelf?


Mark Leruste 6:29

It's a good question. So I've got I've got to kind of caveat that with, you know, how I started the unconventionals podcast is back in 2015. There wasn't the you know, the podcast was around had been around for a while, but it wasn't as popular as it is today. Right? Like, we've got over 2 million podcasts. Now back then, I don't know how many like 500,000, maybe 200,000. I don't know. But it was it was very niche. And, and the reason why I launched it was because I kept on, you know, I could go on and on a long story. But the short version is that I was at this weird crossroad, where I spent a lot of time with people who you and I might, you know, admire or be inspired by or read books or whatever it is, because of the job I had at Movember, I had access to a lot of these really inspiring people. And at the same time, I was coaching these individuals, professionals, entrepreneurs who were trying to make a difference or make an impact. And the stories that they were telling themselves as to why they couldn't do it, for me was fascinating compared to what I was really hearing. So they made up that you're either born a certain way, or you're not you either have these gifts, or you're not, you're a great storyteller, or you're not. But there was nothing superhuman about everyone who I met. And they had stories that not a lot of people were hearing which is about self doubt about their failures, about shame, about guilt, trauma, all this kind of stuff. And I thought, well, if we can normalise the conversation, then we can normalise the human condition. And that was why I started the unconventional. And for that to happen, I needed to create pretty quickly a safe space for people to open up and share their stories, but probably in ways that they haven't done before. So, you know, out of all the guests I've had, I think the guests the episodes where I felt were like the less maybe compelling or impactful were those who I either research way too much. And so the episode became about me, proving to my guests how much I knew about them, as opposed to me being vested and interested in curious about what they had to say and give right. Or guests who are so well polished in media training, that they just regurgitate the same thing. And like, they'll say something as if you know, and I know it's not original when it's not new. So I, you know, especially because I'm right now I'm trying to teach people that your stories is your superpower. Like your story is your superpower. And so if I need to show that I need to demonstrate my podcast that when someone shares their story, you're going to be more emotionally invested in them and what they're up to in the world than if it was just surface level. That's my opinion, my belief. Some people, you know, don't believe that. And so a lot of it is I'll know some areas of their life. But I tap into my curiosity. And that's, that's what I lean on. You know, you're right. I've had close to 300 interviews now over the years, and it never fails to amaze me how everyone is fascinating and interesting if you give them an opportunity, and if you help them navigate that process, and I happen to be, you know, a story of shepherd of some sort. And I some guests come on my show have never shared the story before. It's the first time or they've never seen how their story has value or doesn't see how their story can be relevant anybody else. And I love to find those moments. I love to find those moments where tears come out. I love to hear those moments where we open up for the first time about something and I've had the you know, I've had a few of those. And those are the moments that make me keep on showing up on the mic.


Francisco Mahfuz 9:44

Something you said that I thought was pretty interesting about how you might have prepared too much because I sometimes I feel not that I don't feel like I've over prepared I feel like I spend too much time preparing which is but but that's usually because because As I haven't gotten what I was looking for, so what happens with the way I prepare is, say you, for example, one of the very first things I do is just look for podcasts that that the person has been a guest on. And then I'll listen to one or two or three, in any sometimes, I've made enough notes out of one, in the note is not Oh, this is a great story I want to hear Mark, tell it again, the notice, okay, I need to know more about this, I feel he just touched the surface of this, I'm not sure really understand why this makes made sense for him, then I have something down because I would say you I know that you've done this. But what I didn't get is why you? Why'd that happen? Or why? How did that move from? How did you move from this thing to this other thing. And in sometimes you I've found myself listening to three hours of a guest. And either they explained their story so well that I don't have follow ups. Or I'm like, if I asked this, they're gonna have to give me all of this background. And then this is the show. Right? So that's the so what have you found sort of gone? I was gonna


Mark Leruste 11:09

say, because just you know, for context bases, people listening, or watching? I think it everything depends on what your podcast is about, and what lens are you looking through. So you know, if my podcast is about sharing the story of the ups and downs, or lessons learned from both of people who did to be different and go against the, you know, status quo, then that's the lens that we look at my guess. But if you're looking at, I don't know, how do people use story in their business or their life to change transform people? You know, it's just, it's just the I think the lens of what your podcast is, determines the kind of questions you ask for sure,


Francisco Mahfuz 11:44

for sure. You just said something now that I think I'm gonna pull you up on you said, you know, if I, if I'm speaking to people, and I want understand how they've done things in a different way, or going against the grain, and obviously, your podcast is called the unconventional lists. But you said before, that if you can normalise the way people feel about their struggles and the way they communicate about the struggles, you're normalising the human condition. So isn't there a bit of a paradox there, in a sense, where you, it's this is coming across as being unconventional or against the grain? Whereas actually, we all go through the struggles? You know, it's almost the opposite. I


Mark Leruste 12:27

know what I think what you speak to is the, you know, the universal experience of being human, which is messy. And I think, you know, what happens is, I was listening to enjoy, and it made me think that, you know, we are a tribe of misfits, I think if I had to summarise what the unconventional stuff, but at the same time, what can feel like a very lonely experience, what can feel like, you know, I'm only the one seeing this or going through this. And it's what I teach my clients, what I'll be teaching through my book, which is your, your unique life experience, actually holds a universal experience. Because what you go through, I can see myself go through to write and it's no longer about the I moved from Brazil to Spain, or why I went from France to England, it's like, what was it like to have to, you know, set up shop in a new country, make new friends feel like, you can relate to that. And so what I try and do is speak to a specific type of people, I guess, who hopefully inspire others on their journey to not feel alone, you know, to feel seen, heard and supported on this journey. And so you're right, I think it's, you know, that quote, that says, I would never want to be part of a group that would have me as as a member. And I asked, you know, if you if you listen to my show, every every episode, I finish it with the same question, which is, what does being unconventional mean to you? Now, I'll tell you what, in you know, I think I've just released yesterday 150/9 episode in 160 episodes, maybe one or three, Max completely gave me a different kind of answer they expected. Otherwise, they are all the same answer just said differently, which effectively is like Mosh to your own drum, dare to be yourself, you know, stop comparing yourself to others, like it's always comes back to the same thing. So in being unconventional, it's actually the thing we all seek to be, which is the irony, yes.


Francisco Mahfuz 14:20

Yes, there is a big theme that runs through any conversation about about storytelling and vulnerability, which is always the you don't want to set yourself apart by showing how you're weak or whatever. Whereas the truth is the opposite is we are all broken to some extent. What is that? I think is the Anna Karenina quote, which I disagree with, which is All happy families are happy the same way but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. And I disagree with that. I think that human beings are when we are unhappy or when we no substitute forever negative, negative Get the feeling you want to put in there we are, we are unhappy in very, very similar ways, which is why making yourself vulnerable in stories and speeches in, in whatever way you're communicating tends to be so powerful. It's because of that relatability. And not because that, you know, because we're different.


Mark Leruste 15:18

Yeah, I think is that and I would also add an extra layer, which is when we see someone who does, we see a part of us that we wish we had more of. So I think when we come across someone who has the courage or whatever we would call it the willingness to share a bit about their life. So certainly example you know, the stories I shared about used to sell weed and have dreadlocks, all this kind of stuff. It's not about the story, someone else listening in the audience may have never had that kind of experience, but they're like, Oh, my God, you can say those kinds of stories and not get shut down or not get like arrested or, you know, the world's not gonna implode, oh, where else could that show up in my life, where else in my life, I might not giving myself permission, or where else are some stories owning me as opposed to me owning that. So I would agree to that. And I would add the layer of I think it's, it's it, man, it's like the, I think if you go back to the foundation of what we used to go to theatre, and I forgot who it was some, some person famously quoted for it. Carl Jung is it used to go to the place to see our shadows. Basically, the reason why we used to go and see plays was or even film today was to see our shadows being reflected back to us being able to see characters that who represented parts of us that we don't own or accept. And so by seeing them being played out, it enabled us to feel a little bit more whole.


Francisco Mahfuz 16:30

I don't can't remember who some person was, but that person was, was a wise person. There is something you said somewhere. And I also wanted to just clarify, in anything, if needed push back, which was, I can remember you were, I think, going through your own backstory. And I think you said something along the lines of You know, that it's romantic to tell an origin story. That makes sense. But you know, that's not how life is, you know, talk messier than that. Does that sound like something? Yeah,


Mark Leruste 17:11

yeah, definitely. I think it's like when when we come up with a very well packaged, put together background story that makes total sense to an audience, it's, it's easy to forget that while you were living that story, it didn't feel like a cohesive, valuable lesson that will one day be shared publicly, it feels, you know, I don't know what the swearing is on this podcast. But like, if


Francisco Mahfuz 17:32

it's acceptable. Swearing,


Mark Leruste 17:36

yeah, you feel like crap, right? It does. And I think I wish that, again, it's, I always try and bridge the gap between who we perceive or how we perceive ourselves with how we perceive the world, and particularly people who are doing things that we wish we were doing, or that we inspired by. And I just wish we had a smaller gap. And in fact, if I could have a magic wand, I would actually say just be kinder to yourself in the process, because it's, it's, again, the messiness of being human is a universal experience. But sometimes we can sit back, whether that's a coach with you working with you reading my book, or whatever, it's getting some help on how we make sense of it. How do we take all these bits of our stories and put them together in a cohesive and valuable way? And so that when you share it, it's the it's, it's the truth in the sense that you're saying the story. But you might, it might be easy to forget that, oh, when you overcame that challenge, and you came over the other side, so you can share the lesson down, it was hard, you know, you know, I'm going through that with my book, I wake up sometimes I'm going to show up with a, you know, on my page, I'm like, I don't want to do this, or who am I to do this? people way smarter than me, right? have written books about this, people were more capable of doing this. It's going to be you go through all these patterns, but I'm going to come up with his book. And one day, I'll tell the story about this book, and I'll forget maybe how viscerally it felt at this point in time. So it'll make it just like a rounder experience. I think. I think that's what you meant.


Francisco Mahfuz 18:57

Yeah, I think that it's, it can come across as, as very romantic or can come across as even artificial. If, if whatever, whatever parts of your life you've put together to make into an origin story are too neat. But if it is too neat and too polished, then there's a pretty good chance that you've left out some of the best parts. I you know, at the end of the day, there is no way you're going to tell any type of origin story that is going to it's going to be include everything, then you're going to be telling it until you're no longer around. So he has to be massively edited, and most people's opportunities to tell some type of origin story, you have five minutes you have 10 minutes at most. You know, whenever you're going to ask it's an hour long podcast, but even so, you are having to leave so much on the cutting room floor. That it has to be okay, why? Why are you doing this thing you're doing now? When did you realise Whether it was important, or what changed in your life that got you on the path to be doing what you're doing now, and you obviously going to have to pick the parts that are easier to tell that makes sense more that, you know, hopefully, you're not just picking the parts that make you look better. Because then I would argue, you're gonna end up not looking, you might look better, but you won't connect as much,


Mark Leruste 20:20

we can share a quick story on that. Cool. So this is going the book anyway. So I had a client who came to me and worked with this client around, you know how to unpack and you know, so on the stories that they could go out and share it in public places, because they're getting invited to share the story more and more. And so we go through their story. And on the outside, it looked like they had these pretty amazing achievements that we're talking hitting like top of the game in three different areas, a complete different from sports music to military, right. And it almost makes it sound superhuman. So as I'm going through this, and like these amazing achievements in the back of my head, and this is like going this, there's something missing, there's something that I'm not getting it because if we stuck to that level of just like hey, managed to smash it there and do this, and this, there's no relatability there's no humaneness is almost like a superhero like but without the dark side, if that makes sense. So as we dig deeper, and as I start asking more questions and going turns out, my client had been brought up in an environment with an abusive environment father, who suffered substance abuse, and in that moment, I was like, oh, there it is. That's the that's the reason why you spend the rest of your life trying to protect others. That's a reason why you you're showing up today to try and change the way that we can create environments for all this stuff. So then, when have you ever shared this story is like never, and never will? It's not possible. And I knew that that was the story that would tie everything together that that was the entry point for people to feel like they could connect to my client, right? Well, we did the work, we packed all this, you know, went off and started practising sharing the story. So about a year later, I think I got an email saying, you know, it's not ready until it's ready. And with a link to a podcast, where my clients share their story for the first time in the podcast, and like as a result, the DMS messages, comments and stuff like that. And even like the opportunity came as a result of it completely changed. And so I often use this example as as a way of saying, Look, we're not all ready to share the stories. But if you get up on stage and start saying how amazing you are and how you smash it life and how you never had any issues and there's nothing dark about you or shameful of Guilfoyle. It's never gonna work. I mean, like Scott Harrison is a perfect example. Again, a feature as well, the book, he is the founder of cherry water. And if you listen to his he's got like, talking about like a really neat background story origin story, he's just got it like to a tee. And you can look it up, you can Scott Harrison Charity Water story, you'll see those videos on YouTube, the one you know, anyway, but he talks about how he spent 10 years as a nightclub promoter, taking every drug in the world apart from heroin, and being you know, addicted to sex, drugs, alcohol, he says all this stuff, but then he uses it for the sake of why he ended up going and volunteering and charity. They've raised millions, millions, right for like, really worthy causes. And he's still people still giving money, even though he says on stage that he used to be a drug addict, alcoholic gambling, no, I mean, so I think a lot of people need to realise that, when you're going to share your story, if you're going to share it. And with the intention of engaging or connecting in some way, you're going to have to share some form of vulnerability whether that means to you right vulnerability in intensity is different, depending on people. But I wish I wish more people could see that and I've had clients, man, like so many times our clients, we get I call it like the golden nugget, it's like it makes it just makes everything click and it makes so much sense. But often it's so emotionally charged, and it's so vulnerable and scary, that they're not quite yet ready. But when they do, it changes everything.


Francisco Mahfuz 23:57

I had a guest a while back on the podcast called Conor Neill. And when we were chatting, he he said something along the lines of, you know, something happened in in your life, from between ages, typically five to 12. And whatever that thing was, it it conditions, a lot of how you see the world and interact. And what he says is, you know, he he, I think had moved from being a very popular kid in Ireland to being a nobody in the US and it has this typical American movie cafeteria, seen in his memory of being kind of a, you know, journey, no mates and and how he felt invisible and how a lot of his life had been about making himself visible. And how, you know, if you're someone who struggled with with money as a kid, then money is going to be a much more important driving force in your life. And I this is something I found about myself that I didn't necessarily know because when I was trying to write sort of my own origin story, which is really difficult to do, and I advise anybody to try and do it for themselves. And I, you know, I was just turning over a whole bunch of old stories. And I, I had this thing come back up to my mind about how, you know, although my family wasn't poor, and you think we went, I went to a fancy private school, so all the other kids had money, and they had big houses. And whenever there was a school trip, they could always go on the school trips. And I never could, you know, everybody was buying surfer clothes that this was the early 90s. And I just bought a knockoff surfer clothes. And then I started looking around for other things, and how doing the thing that was going to make me more financially safe, seemed to be a driving force that I had never really realised. And I'm like, Oh, it was that because when I was in school, money was a thing on the back of my mind all the time is a thing that made me different. And yeah, it's always going to be something that is uncomfortable, or at least was uncomfortable at a time. Because if not, you know, why do you care so much about it?


Mark Leruste 26:08

When I say the same thing? I really believe the same thing I should say, with clients and workshops are and like, yeah, I said about, yeah, five 512. I agree with that, about that range. That's usually as a story. What I love about it is that most people even see the connection between that event and why they do what they do, because that's kind of what I'm interested in, right? Like, how do you how do you talk about why you do what you're doing in a compelling, engaging way. And there are so many stories where people go, Oh, that's why I do what I do. Because of X that happened, you know, when I was a bit like you, that story that you shared, and it is hard, it is hard to do it on your own, it is hard to try and do on your own. That's what I'm that's why I'm trying to write this book to have like a guide, like the literally the book is so that I could be in that room with whoever's reading it by them, and walk them through every exercise and, and workshops and all the stuff that I've learned over the years, so that I've got a guide and a walking hand. Because every time


Francisco Mahfuz 27:03

I've seen you give this as advice before as one of the one of the ways to to uncover one of those moments in your story, and I thought was interesting. I hadn't come across this one before. And I think what you said was look for for three moments when you could go back in time, and give yourself some advice. Can you just elaborate on that for


Mark Leruste 27:25

a bit? Yeah. So look, you know, what I've learned over the years of working with hundreds of clients and spoken to 1000s of people this stuff is that everyone's got different access points. Basically, it's kind of like the short version. And so for some clients, you can say, hey, was there a defining moment in your life that really had an impact on you? And they can go? Oh, yeah, you know, for me, it's easy. It's when I'm six years old, you've heard the story before I'm in school and getting made bullied by my teachers, all this stuff, right? For others, it's harder for others, like, I don't think there's you know, so one of the access points that I use is okay, all the three events in your life that happened, that if you could go back in time to give you some advice, you would, what are those moments and why? And usually, that is where people can go, oh, yeah, when, you know, when, when, when my mom died, or when my dad left us, or when I walked into my brother trying to kill himself. Like, all those kinds of all, when I got dumped, or when I failed that exam, it doesn't, it doesn't matter what the event is, there's going to be a moment that left a mark. And it's not that you would want to change it. And I don't see if you could go back in time and change because most people will say, Oh, I don't want to change anything, because I wouldn't be who I am. If we went for this. And I agree with that. No, it's good. Give us a piece of advice, you know, and it would be don't be so hard. Like, it could be like, don't be so hard on yourself. You know, for example, me like when I do this exercise, if I go back to me in that classroom, I would be like, it's not your fault. Is this teachers having a tough time, they're projecting their shit on you, it's you, you're okay. And you're going to turn out okay? Don't worry, it's not because you can't spell it's not because you can't read out loud very well that you're going to end up, you know, dying alone, many of cafes, like, you're going to be alright, you're going to meet someone amazing, you're gonna get family, you're going to do the work that, you know, lights you up on fire on most days, not every day, but most days. And I find that tool to be an access point. There's some of those of others you can use. But I think that one is like the time machine time capsule is one of the


Francisco Mahfuz 29:18

you've said something else that I have come to my own efforts. And I think it's worth explaining to people because it's a distinction that that most people miss, which is that, you know, a lot of people have saying how, you know, you're, you're not the hero of your story, whoever you're addressing is or whatever, which I think can can be misconstrued and misinterpreted. So one thing I've said and I know you've said it, too, is something like the story is the story's about you, but it's not for you.


Mark Leruste 29:51

Yeah, I say that all the time. It's because again, my the saying I say all the time and workshops, talks and is it someone somewhere welcome This morning to hear your story to not feel alone, and to have hope about the future. And so if you understand that premise, then you get that it's selfish to keep your story to yourself, because the only reason why you're not sharing your story is because your attention is on yourself, right? Like, every single time I talk to people about this when they go, I say, so why not share your story, like the list of thing that comes up, it's from, you know, surface level stuff to I don't see that the return of, you know, my investment is to share my story, what's going to be the impact of my bottom line to I'm just scared of people gonna judge me criticise me, whatever, right? It doesn't matter. But ultimately, what I say is, where's your attention? And they'll say, Oh, it's so they'll, they'll say it's on you. Right? Like, yeah, but what if you put your attention on someone out there who needs to hear you, maybe it's the client, you're trying to serve him? It's a problem you're trying to, you know, solve or whatever it is, what happens then? And you know, my Dan, Daniel Priestley was the one who kind of put it in that sentence, because I used to say, make your audience more important than you looking good. That was kind of what I used to say. And then Delve is like, oh, it's not about being in the spotlight. It's about becoming the spotlight. What he meant by that was, it's kind of what I've been teaching is, if you know, right now, some lights right on me. And so as I'm seeing myself in this video with them, like, Oh, I've got some wrinkles coming out of bags, man, my daughter's been getting up at 5am in the middle of the night. Like I've got receding hairline and grey hair, like all this is me, right? I've thought about me, me, me. But then if I look at you, and I mentioned, I turn the spotlight on you, and I put the light on you. And then I'm like, oh, there's an awesome human here who's also passion about stories, making the time to be curious about my story and stuff. What can I say or do to be of service, then it changes it switches. So that's why it's not about being in the spotlight. It's about becoming the spotlight. And so the same thing with his story. It's about you, but it's not for you. And as we get


Francisco Mahfuz 31:39

to our slightly more advanced stage, I think the last the spotlight is on us the better.


Mark Leruste 31:46

100 said the other day,


Francisco Mahfuz 31:49

the other day I was I was in I was in the mirror and I thought oh, I think this hat I was wearing has has left a mark on my forehead and then I pay that interest like, oh, no, that's like the wrinkle. That's always bad. Because I'm you know, to me to express my faces to express.


Mark Leruste 32:09

You know, I had like, I had my first white hair in my moustache. And it freaked me out for like two days, like, honestly, I was just like, ah, oh, no, death is knocking on the door, my mortality is becoming more apar. And like I could, I can't run away and ignore it anymore. You know. So yeah, and that's why I think it's, you know, I go through the five blockers of storytelling in the book around what are the five most common story blockers and, and it never fails to amaze me to hear how many people think that their story hasn't got value? Doesn't matter isn't interesting to anyone or anyone? I've heard that from people. Dude, if you heard their story, you'd be like, Oh, my days, like some of the most extra ordinary stories of overcoming adversity challenges. I've been in tears with clients, and they still think that surely everyone everyone's going through, you know, and you go like, you can't You're so close to it, you can't see it. Right? Like you need to get some perspective on it.


Francisco Mahfuz 33:06

Yeah, align I heard or event I can't remember. But it was something like if you if you don't see, if you don't see the value in where you are, is because you can see how far you've come. Yeah, and I remember I remember saying this on a talk where what I was saying, it doesn't matter. Like just think where you are now we could be where you are health wise could be where you are financially, professionally, geographically, you know, I'm, I'm in it, this works better for me than for you perhaps, even though you've gone all around the place, but like I'm in Barcelona now. You know, I didn't, I wasn't born here. And there was there was a whole thing that happened or a whole bunch of things that happen to get me from where I was born to here. And a lot of people you share that, like, wow, you live here, you live there, you travel to all displaces, and you're like, you know, I was there for a while. And then I decided that I wanted more sun. So I left London and I came to Spain, and then I was this place. And then I got a promotion. And it was like to you is like, this doesn't feel overly exciting. But to some people was like, wow, you live in Barcelona.


Mark Leruste 34:12

I know. It's like, exactly, I think you but yeah, I get it. Like, you know, we're also not taught how to appreciate and celebrate, you know, really who we are what we bring what we've achieved what we've done, because there's also an element of I don't want to come across as arrogant, I don't come across as self centred, or, you know, whereas again, you know, not not to bore your audience. And it's like one of the introductory chapters of the book where I talk about where does really discover the power of story. The short version is I was invited to go and give that my first talk basically this this this software financial company reaches out to me and says, can you come and give a talk on the back of my first book that I wrote? And, and I said, you do know I just wrote a book about how to quit your job and find like work you love. I'm not sure on the person what to bring to your company and I know that we think you relate well to the millennials and younger generation or this anyway, so I prepared this talk was like the seven steps to finding meaning and purpose in your work. And I mapped out this process like I was really HBr articles and did all this research Belova I go and then I do this presentation, I'm feeling pretty confident about how I'm rocking it right, I'm just like going, this is going grey, and I've got it stats, these facts and slides and fonts, and even pictures. We get, we get to the end, and I'm just like, you know, q&a went really well. Great. And I look at my, you know, arrogant look at my contact, you know, kind of like, so how did you go enjoy that? And basically, he was like, yeah, it was alright. But what we really wanted was to hear more about you. And how, how you ended up doing what you're doing and what you faced and overcame. And I was like, what you want to hear about me? I spent my entire life thinking that the more I heard about me to better chance I had at life, and it dropped like, like, I was like, Wait, it just it was just confusing me it my whole brain my why was I wake up? Every time I've done some things I always say never say that to anybody you know, is if anybody finds out they'll never do business with you. Like that was kind of my mentality around this. And so when that was the best gift that one of my clients gave me because after that I started experimenting with at the start introducing a little bit more about me or telling a personal story. And that led to me being invited on my TEDx stage. And, and again, it's I still to this day, have to remind myself that people want or needs to hear a little bit about a background story to understand who I am, why I'm here, and why they should care. I have


Francisco Mahfuz 36:38

an uncle, who doesn't matter what's going on, he will always find a way to bring the focus back onto himself. So he's a he's an amazing cook. He's like a professional cook made himself into professional cooking his later years. And he was the one that usually cooked Christmas dinner in charge the family. But anyway we are all cooks was it again to get it done in family. And one year, I think the my mom suggested, you know, why don't Francisco and the kids you know, quote, unquote, the kids cook Christmas dinner because they all cook very well. And then we spread the effort around a little bit more. So I made the resort. So my brother made my brother made the result I made some items, some type of meat, and someone else made something and my uncle made like a salad. Like he made the most bare bones Caesar salad you've ever seen. It was essentially leaves croutons in I don't even think there was a sauce, right? And so we're unveiling all these amazing dishes and everybody's sitting down to eat and he just leans over and goes, have you ever tasted how amazing the salad this? Like, oh, let me tell you how I made this. I was like, No, it's It's leaves a croutons. I was like, no, no, there is a process. So there's stuff that doesn't endear you to other people in real life works amazingly, onstage, whenever you're communicating to larger groups of people make it not about you, but you have to make it about you. But yet, when you date, also not not a very good approach. But


Mark Leruste 38:22

it is I want to say Guy Kawasaki or someone like that. I forgot who it is, who starts and every presentation with a personal photo. I think I think I can get for them it was anyway. And no matter what the presentation, that's how they did it. And I get an I get it now, it's still hard for me. Okay, I've been doing this for years now I've done. I don't know how many talks, it's still hard for a part of my brain to think that if I go and speak to a group of you know, whether that's executives, CEOs, like many that they want to hear a weird story of me before I begin, instead of just going into an especial say this, you know, we've got colleagues in the industry who have done very, very well build these amazing businesses. And I love their model, and I love what they're doing. But I've significantly disagree with an element, which is they basically say nobody cares about you and what your background story is, I just want to hear about how you solve the problem. There's truth in that. I think if you just make it about you, then you alienate everyone. But I also think if you just make it about business, and then you miss that emotional element that would just connect you just a little bit more. And I really wish that everyone somehow shared their story in some shape way or form. You know, it's,


Francisco Mahfuz 39:33

I find that sometimes it's just a gateway to, to humanity or to human connection. So I did a talk on I did a talk on change recently and I wanted to share the story of destined sending on the backwards bike. I don't know if you've heard this one's pretty basic. So that's the second is this American Sign engineer and science communicator that has a channel on YouTube called Smarter Every Day and has like 10 minutes or so. Schreiber's, and one of his engineer friends challenged him to ride a backwards bike. So they change the cog in the in the steering wheel, and then the bike and you turn the bike right on the tires go left and the opposite. And he tried it. And it was really, really hard. Like his brain just couldn't accept that he wasn't working. And he committed to try it for five minutes every day, until he learned how to ride it. And it took him eight months to do it. So I wanted to use that story. But I thought it's a bit cold I don't want to open with with a story like a random story about someone that is not me. So I, I remembered while I was driving, but my kid who now just turned five. But when she got a bicycle not that long ago, she she started riding in a weird way where her feet went back and forth on the pedals instead of going round the pedals. And she just, and then later I said, fine. Well, she that's how to do it the way she wants to. And then I tried teaching her I think maybe a month or two later, the proper way of riding her brain couldn't accept it. Her brain just like no, no, but I'm doing it right. It's like, no, really no. And then, you know, I use the my kids story to begin with in daily transition to the other one. And then you speak to people afterwards. And I had an I had one more story later on about my kid. And those are the kids stories. And the parenting stories are the ones that people are, you know, I really like that story about your kid and whatever. Because they're just so relatable. Now, if you make the whole thing of kids, it's probably not the most suitable thing.


Mark Leruste 41:33

It's like, it's like what you said, I think it's a lot that it's like an entry point to humanity. It just is kind of Yeah, and it's a lot and I'm smiling. Because I you know, on my on my daughter's fourth birthday, we gave her a bike and took her out to learn. And I'm sure there was this kind of like, what do you just pedal? Keep going all the way around? And I'm sure there's like a bit of like, what like, or stop a or, anyway, yeah, and, and I love it. So for me, it's still a lesson, I still have to remind myself, I still have to go, you know, elements, because I my default is is a little bit like kind of the story that you shared. And my default is that my format is very much like these stories, like I come across a I don't know a memoir, or a story or documentary. And I'm like, Oh, that'd be a great link to the point I'm trying to make, you know, and so so I'll start with that. And I can do that for a whole hour, no problem. But at the end of it, it always comes down to that. And actually I'll just I'll just I'll just finish to finish with on this point with this note, a few years ago, I hired a camera woman to follow me on my toes to do like a, like a kind of a promo reel thing. So she'd seen me give a few talks. And back then, before I understood anything about public speaking as a business, I had like, five or six different talks. And you know, speaking of all the everyone was like, can you do about change management? 100% Gigamon do about procrastination? Oh, of course. Can you do about time management? You got it? You know, it's just like anything that would pay the bill that No. And so I remember I was doing so many different talks during the week because I knew I was booking it to film, I got to this venue. And when the back room and I'm trying to get my laptop out, and I'm going to say back room, it sounds really cool. It's actually just like the bathroom of the toilet property or something. And I'm getting my stuff ready. And I panic, because like, what torque Am I getting? And I know, I was just like, I don't remember that. I remember the talk. I don't remember my structure because and she says, Oh, don't worry, you come up. What did she say? Your your remote, your most compelling when you go off script, and it's still to this day stuck with me? Because there's like, what what do you mean? She's like, well, those moments in between your your structured, polished talks? That's when the audience you're most connected and impact in the audience. Yeah,


Francisco Mahfuz 43:36

I think I think that there's perhaps a dangerous lesson that some people can get out of that. Which is if you're not Scott Stratton, who is famous for having, you know, three and three stories in his coal keynote, and everything else is basically him improvising, and doing stand up on stage. By his own admission, he doesn't practice his talk. I think he just like I'm gonna share this story, the story, this story, everything else is just him going off the cuff. But the vast majority of people I find, at least most people I know, the super casual, have scraped bits on doing. They only really work because I'm so rock solid on everything else that if if someone says something on the chat, and I feel like riffing on that for a bit, I can do that. And I have no problem. I know where that where I have to come back to. But if if you put me in front of an audience, and I don't really have a structure that I that I know pretty well. I wouldn't think that what the end result you're going to get there is going to be anything people would necessarily want to pay before. Yeah,


Mark Leruste 44:42

no, I get that. There's I don't know. I don't know if that's the speaker you mentioned but when we're seeing a talk one day online, and you basically this guy gave gives talks with zero.


Francisco Mahfuz 44:51

He's the guy who does the the millennial rams. If you don't know like, you need to know this one because you know, this is where this is where you live locally. Look up the millennial rent, which has had many different versions so far. But Scott Stratton is a guy who has the has a member. And he always wears this sort of like black polo shirt. He's got some tattoos showing. And he's got a man bun and a big beard. So he's the least corporate looking guy, you see, but he's absolutely amazing.


Mark Leruste 45:20

Yeah, no, I get I get that. And I agree, I think I think preparation is key. Like, you know, I would agree with that. I think for most people, the problem for me is that I then use it as a crutch, or as a was a was a safety net, or as a was a defence mechanism. And that stems from my childhood stuff, wounds around like, I'm not smart, I'm not good enough. I'm not capable, and blah, blah, blah. Whereas I have the capacity and the ability to be way more in the moment improvise, I have that gift or skill, whatever you recall it. I know I do. Because it's, I've done it over and over again. But I, I'm terrified of it. I don't know about you, but the more people pay me, the more I feel like I need to be so solid. Right? Like, I remember, when I asked that my first five figure, you know, I was just like, No one's ever gonna say yes, you know, because the first talk I ever gave, I think it was 200 pounds, 250 pounds. And that was nuts. Like, I used to work at a charity, right? So I don't have any days of work that represent but I was like, That's so crazy, I'm gonna get paid 250 pounds for like, an hour, you know, now, obviously, like fees are way higher, but it's still still to this day, every single time I ask for a fee, and I get that fee, I then go into panic mode of I need to make sure that it's rock solid. Whereas I could probably do less of that preparation, trust a little bit more into, you know, the process and leaning into what's in their space. And but I think that's a different level. I think I think the more you speak, the more masterful you become at that.


Francisco Mahfuz 46:53

Yeah, yeah. And something else that is worth keeping in mind as a speaker, or as anyone who sells their services in you eventually have to charge in the 1000s is to just think not of because we I think we default to sort of thinking of what used to be either an hourly rate or a monthly pay. Whereas it's, it's not that it's always has to be the change that you might cause. Right? So because if you just I've had someone talk talking about the value selling value pricing, and they said, How much is when clients or one contract, or one employee that doesn't leave worth to this company? And I think you know, because that's, that's an area that both of us speak to, if you're talking about companies about purpose, about engagement, about things of that nature, their cost, that the turnover costs are so high, that if they keep one employee for a year longer, because that person was inspired by something you said in that talk, you've paid your talk has been paid, you know, two three times over. So


Mark Leruste 47:54

it's about what prot what, what is the cost of the problem you're solving? Yeah, I think that if I had to summarise is what I say to people, when people tell me like, how much should I charge? Or this is like, well, what is the cost of the problem solving? Because the bigger the problem, the bigger you charge. And like we were at a social gathering, right with like, you know, community with parents and kids and stuff. And one of our friends, I think was I don't work the thing she was interested, maybe bringing you in to speak. And I think she asked me like, oh, how much do you charge? Like I you know, I kick off at 10,000 pounds. And she's like, 10,000 pounds for two whites. She's like, are you charging me right now for like, every single conversation we're having. And you know, and I kind of laughed, and I told her the story of, you know, there's there's this urban myth, urban legend that this woman has a restaurant and she spots Picasso, Pablo Picasso sitting in a table, then you've heard the story, and she goes over and she asks him, Oh, would you do a Doodle for me? Or something that would you draw something? And you draw something, and I think he says, oh, there'll be 10,000 or 100,000 euros or whatever. And so that you just took you 10 seconds to do it. You know, that's ridiculous. He goes, Yeah, but it took me a lifetime to do in 10 seconds. You know, when when I when I when I go into companies charge, there's a couple reasons why I've increased my rates of the one of them is that so they pay attention. You know, I've actually go into companies and about you where there's no buy in from leadership, it's like a tick the box exercise, right? They're just like, oh, let's just bring this person who's gonna say some funny things or whatever, weird things and, you know, and tick, we've given them some motivation or whatever they want to put it down. So what I found is that the more companies pay, the more they pay attention, and the more leadership shows up, right, and again, I think for you, it's about the problem to solve. So I know people who charge 25,000 30,000 And it sounds and it is it's it's, it's it's a lot of money. But when you look at it from the perspective of what problem it solves for a company, it's a fraction of what it would cost them if they if they didn't have the problem solved. I think that's what if people listen to this, we're getting to the speaking business. If you take anything from what I'm saying is I started at 20 I was actually doing free talks then I was doing 250 pounds. Then I'm charging 500 pounds. That was mad I was like, Oh my god. Surely no one's ever going to pay any more than that. And then went to 701 to 1000. And someone challenged me saying like, you're, you're a five to 10,000 speakers like there's no way I could ever do that. And then incremental over the years. And when I taught them, I felt comfortable. And still to this day, when I say my fee, I feel a little bit Oh, but every time it gets a little bit easier, and eventually you dissociate, detach yourself from it, and like now, I'm no longer emotionally attached to the response. But really about you. That was a big, big game changer. For me. It's kind of like, it's this if you don't, that's okay. A little bit. Like if you went to a nice shop to buy a piece of clothing and you took it off the rail, you're like, Ah, this isn't how much does this say like, oh, five years, whatever you like, that's really expensive. Shopping like, okay, yeah, I


Francisco Mahfuz 50:40

see, I, perhaps I always had an inflated opinion of myself that I don't necessarily I might suffer from the opposite problem. I one thing that I do have sometimes is that, particularly, particularly if I've just had a couple of gigs before, and I know that it wouldn't take me 10 hours to prepare. Part of me just wants to do it for a lot less than I should charge just because I enjoyed so much. You know, if I'm doing a talk this weekend, someone wants me to do a talk three days like that. It's the same talk. I'm almost inclined to do it for almost nothing, just because sure it's one, you know, one more chance to speak. But it's a terrible commercial, right? Yeah. But occasionally I've had people say, Would you do it was like, I would do it because it's rehearsed. I like it. I'm just gonna have fun for an hour. But you know, that the business works?


Mark Leruste 51:36

Well, I think I think you know, what I cuz you know, when I used to teach around public speaking or this kind of what I would say this, you got to think about it as like this, why I'm oversimplifying it, right for people listening. But I would say there are two types of speakers, you've got publics, keynote speakers, and platform speakers, and and keynote speakers is that it's kind of like a transactional fee, we pay you to come and give a talk. And hopefully you change the way we think, act, or see, you know, the world differently, or whatever. And then you have a platform speaker, which effectively you don't really care about getting a fee, you just care about being exposed to more people so they can buy your then services, consultancy products, or maybe your other talk or whatever it is. And I think I know I balanced between both, like, there's certain events, they don't have a budget, or they're not gonna be able to form a fee. So I said, Look, instead of paying me whatever it is that you pay me, here's what I'm looking for, like, who are the key people in the room? What kind of exposure? Can you give me? Can you give me the mailing list? Can you get interview me on a podcast? Can you do this, just so I can be more exposed. But when I go there, and I talk, that I know that people in the room potentially will want to bring me into their companies, I've done that a bunch of times, where I've spoken at events, either for free or almost nothing. And that then led to clients who could actually, you know, afford and pay and one and one investor my fees.


Francisco Mahfuz 52:51

Now, I want to tell you, one of the biggest problems of not having a very tight structure and sticking to it is you go off on tangents, and you know, the the second instead, the second, the second half of most of the stuff that I wanted to ask you about which had to do with with culture and purpose and how stories interacted all of them, you know, we've blown completely out the water.


Mark Leruste 53:18

If you have me, I'll come back to my home and my book comes out next year in September 22. If you'll have me back, I'd love to be


Francisco Mahfuz 53:23

back in I'm sure I'm sure it can make the I can make the accommodation to have. I mean, if you if you don't come up with, you know, medical emergencies to change the recording date, over and over again. You know, I obviously was very worried about the fact that the rest of my, the rest of my activities but


Mark Leruste 53:43

100% That's my probably like next I will stick will stick to the day. But um, I mean, I can go I can go five minutes over.


Francisco Mahfuz 53:49

Okay, so so let's just let's just touch on that just so it's not just not teased people are not giving you anything. So you can pick one of the two, right? So when it comes to, to purpose, or culture, if you had to share with someone with a company, for example, if they say what but why does like why would storytelling have anything to do with our culture, or with our purpose?


Mark Leruste 54:11

Your culture is how we do it is because your culture is how you do things around here. Your purpose is why you do what you do. If you can't convey those messages in a vessel that people get and understand and get behind. It's game over. Storytelling is that bullet is the magic bullet that you're waiting for that will cut through the noise and enable people to really understand what is it you stand for? What is it that you're trying to achieve? And people overcomplicate this man, as simple as that? That's, I would say, just like if you want to make sure that people understand what it means to show up, you know, and be excited by the work that you do, even when it sucks because it's gonna suck. You know, there's no such thing as like a job where 100% of the 365 days you're going to be there are bliss in happening, right? That's how So


Francisco Mahfuz 55:00

I think that definition is true also for marriages and parenting.


Mark Leruste 55:03

Yeah. Yeah. I mean, look, everything is everything you know, you know, you've heard this overheard this, everyone's heard of his, but like, how we do anything is how we do everything, right. And so if you understand that, effectively, we're all hardwired to connect through stories, then anything you're trying to say, within your company that you want people to pay attention to, or care about. Even a damn show that involves a story of some form, not necessary, like some flourishing story, but like I walked in the shop the other day, you know, no, it can just be like, is what we're saying clear? Is what we're saying. Important? What are we missing? What the clunky bits. And because my dad's a musician, my dad, I think there's nothing ever talked about this in a podcast and this unless you can call me on it. But my dad's a musician, he's a jazz player, right. And what I recently realised as I'm writing this book, is that story, like music is about rhythm. And when you hear a piece of music, and there's a off key, because Oh, like you hear it, right, it's the same thing in a story, we can all learn to play story in such a way that it's harmonious, right like that. It just there's had these clunky bits. And so when you're in a company, and you're trying to onboard new talent, trying to retain talent, or trying to get people excited about the new direction, because a lot of companies that come to me for some weird reason, even if it's not explicitly told me in the in the first meetings usually are going through some kind of drastic change, culture change, whether that's an acquisition from from an IT from a competitor, or superfast growth stage of the company, they have an excessive amount of income capital that just come in, and they're recruiting a whole lot, a lot more people. And they usually come to me, right? Like, how do we not dilute the culture? How do we make sure we stay on track? And so we go through all these different processes, but one of them is, what's the story you're telling about where you're going and why it matters? Right? And everything, you know, we haven't got time to get into this geeky stuff. But when I go to company, I always say this as a joke. I say that the place I look forward to know more about your culture than anything else is, is your is your kitchen, your boardroom and your bathrooms that will tell me everything I need to know about how you treat each other? And how, how you value the place you work and why you do it.


Francisco Mahfuz 57:08

Yeah, there's the way I answer that question. And something I have usually mentioned in my keynotes, that is the Jeff Bezos quote that brand is what people say about you when you're not in the room, and your culture, or the stories that people share about you. When you're not in the room.


Mark Leruste 57:25

100. It's, you know, I just think that people overcomplicate things, and if we had another two hours to talk about it, but one of the things is someone listening to this, actually, I hope that this isn't they can get culture is some sort of abstract thing that you can't influence. I've heard stories of one person come in a company and radically transforming changing for the better for the worse a culture. So if you understand that, and you understand the culture is made of people, then if there's something that you see, that doesn't fit or feel right, then you have an opportunity to speak to it, or to at least try and do something about it. It's not always easy, I get it. But I often find a lot of people me included, I spent 10 years as a victim mindset in culture, thinking that why is nobody not seeing what I'm seeing? Why isn't anybody caring about my feelings? And, you know, the cornea, all this stuff? What I realise going on the other side, is that, first of all, people can't be necessarily mind readers. And most people I've met that trying that best, and it's hard, you know, it's hard to get it right. And it's an it's an it's a scary, like leading people is scary, right. And so we get it wrong as leaders advantages, we will get it wrong. But I just wish that people could spend a bit more time exactly what you're saying about the stories they're telling. But also the story they're telling about themselves, and how powerless they are. I wish that would be a story we can change. And on. On that note,


Francisco Mahfuz 58:45

if people want to find out more about you know, another book that hasn't come out yet. And yeah, but but now they know they're expected. But for everything else that is out is do you want to go into markers.com


Mark Leruste 58:57

moku. Stock calm. Yeah. markers.com is probably the easiest, because they can find everything there. They can find the unconventionals podcasts they can find how to get my first book and all this kind of stuff. So yeah, that's the best place. And then I have a newsletter that I send out. I want to say regularly, that'd be a lie it sporadically. So I just send an email usually about something that I've come up with a client or something I'm thinking about or something. I'm working on the book, and I share that and people say that it's you know, interesting. So then when you have a


Francisco Mahfuz 59:21

you have a surprising newsletter every time it arrives. Oh, I subscribed. That's exactly what this was again. I'm gonna steal that I have, right. Now when it comes, it's like, that's exactly right. It's totally intentional. Yeah, I think there must be some sort of business reason why that's a good idea. Because if you get it in, you don't like it so much. It's not often that you're going to unsubscribe straightaway. But if you get it it's true in the same week or two in a week's run, you go I really don't like the stuff I'm gonna if it's once like, I'm not sure we love this and it's three months later, the next one comes They might just catch you at a good time. So


Mark Leruste 1:00:02

that's exactly right. That predictive sending is what? It's like. It just determines how attention you are at that point.


Francisco Mahfuz 1:00:09

Yes. Yes. All right. Well, Mark, thank you very much for your time. This This was great. Awesome. Alright everyone. Thanks for tuning in. Take care of yourselves. And until next time


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



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