Business storytelling is growing in popularity because leaders know it works.
But it’s not working for everyone because most people don’t know the correct narrative frameworks to follow. They try the multi-step process of The Hero’s Journey or the Pixar Way, but that’s where they get lost.
That’s why Park Howell starts all of his executive mentees off with the ABT (And, But, Therefore) agile narrative framework where all influential and persuasive storytelling starts.
Then, he graduates his clients up to the Five Primal Elements of a Short Story for Big Impact followed by his 10-step Story Cycle System™. One client deemed Park “The World’s Most Industrious Storyteller” because of his proven system that has grown brands by as much as 600 percent.
Park is a 35+ year veteran of the brand marketing game, ran his own agency Park&Co, for 20 years, and began teaching leadership storytelling 15 years ago.
He hosts the popular Business of Story podcast, which Feedspot named the #1 business storytelling podcast for 2022. The seven-year-old show is ranked among the top 10% of downloaded podcasts in the world.
A story is only as good as the villain is evil. That’s why Park helps his clients overcome boring messages by entertaining-to-educate, and that’s how he helps leaders excel through the stories they tell.
What you will learn
- Why following your true calling in life matters
- Park shares why he pivoted from running a marketing agency to becoming a leader in storytelling
- Discover the true power of storytelling
- How Park’s ‘ABT Framework’ works and how to use it in business communication
- Why it’s critical to make complex messages simple for your audiences
- Take a deeper dive into what ABT is and it’s three forces
- Uncover the five primal elements of a short story and learn from examples
- Live coaching using the ABT Framework with me, Jeff Bullas
- Plus loads more!
00:00:04 - 00:01:44
Hi everyone. Welcome to The Jeff Bullas Show where we dive into stories of entrepreneurs and learn about how they started whether inspiration or desperation and also what they learn along the way and then what they can teach us and you and my listeners and viewers about how they can apply their insights and tips and tactics to your business or your side hustle. So today I have with me Park Howell. Now, Park is not Korean because that's normally quite a Korean name. And also we're going to ask him how he got that name and it's a fascinating story right there and we're going to be telling a lot more about storytelling today because Park is all about what he calls the ABT framework of storytelling.
A little bit more about Park. As a business leader, Park is a leader in storytelling and he shows you how you can communicate and care but probably bore because you lead with logic and reason, which I learned too about putting together my first presentation, which is about facts, figures and I bored people to tears. He's going to show the audience what they really wants and the emotional pull of a story. Park, with his three proven narrative frameworks, shows you how to turn your data into drama, your tech into tales, your facts and figures into fables that connect with the primal limbic brain, sometimes called the reptile brain, where all real decisions are made. So welcome to the show Park, it's an absolute pleasure.
00:01:45 - 00:01:46
Oh Jeff, thank you so much for having me.
00:01:47 - 00:02:02
So Park, where did your name come from? Because as you said to me, I don't look Korean and you don't. So anyway, can you tell us where the name Park came from?
00:02:03 - 00:03:41
Absolutely. My father, who passed away from Alzheimer's a few years ago leading up to his last day, still had this amazing mental acuity for history and I sat down with him and I asked him, I go dad, you know, tell me exactly where my name came from. I kinda knew what it was, but we never really talked about it. My father grew up in North Dakota, a product of the depression era, so he didn't have much growing up. He went on to college right after World War II, he graduated from the University of North Dakota with the civil engineering degree. His first job was with Fargo North Dakota. His first boss was the city engineer by the name of Park Tarbell. He was Norwegian gentleman and he went by Park Tarbell.
So when I was born, many, many years later, Mr. Tarbell passed away about the same time and my father gave me his name and with my mother's blessing of course, and I asked him, I go, what was it about him? You'd make me his namesake and he said, well he was my first boss out of college and he was just able to get things done happily and easily. And so my dad kind of followed that prescription. He was pretty happy Norwegian guy all the way through his long life and he was a civil engineer building big projects, dams and bridges and tunnels and that kind of thing. And I know where it wasn't always easy for him. He always was looking for what's the simplest, most obvious way to get through a major challenge. And so it was that combination of getting things done happily and easily that guided my father's life and therefore made me the namesake of Park Tarbell.
00:03:42 - 00:03:48
That's awesome because your name's got a story.
00:03:49 - 00:03:59
Yeah, it really does. I think all names have a story. I mean your name, Jeff came from somewhere, right? Where is the origin of your name?
00:03:60 - 00:05:03
I think the meaning of the name is and I've never asked my parents why they called me Jeff. I think because it was a shorter version of Jeffrey, but I think Jeff means peacemaker. So I've tended to, I suppose be very much like that through my entire life, but I have a nicer story behind being called Jeff. But now my mom and dad, I don't think there's much of a story. I think your dad sounds like he was a good storyteller as well.
So, Park, what was the call to dive into storytelling and narrative to be engaging rather boring? So where did that come from? Where was the inspiration? And how did that evolve? So let's tell us what was the initial call and as we say in Joseph Campbell, The Hero's Journey, there's the call from the ordinary to the extraordinary. So where did your call from ordinary to extraordinary start?
00:05:04 - 00:07:41
Well, I can tell you the exact moment I was waking up on September 5th, 2011 and I knew that I had to make a change because I had been running my ad agency in Phoenix, Arizona for about 10 years at that time, 15 years at that time actually, and the work we were doing was no longer as effective as it was before, because we were pretty much in the traditional advertising realm and of course internet, e-commerce, websites, social media had taken over. And where are brands and our clients used to own the influence of mass media. Well, Jeff, as you know, the masters had become the media and I didn't know what the hell to do about it. So many years before I started doing some studying on storytelling and whatever, and that's when I found The Hero's Journey of Joseph Campbell and so forth. I know you're very well aware of it and I started applying it in our business and it was really effective and I wasn't exactly sure why. So I did a real deep dive on storytelling, why it works, how it works with our olympic, reptilian brain, hack through the noise and hook into the hearts of your audiences.
And so I woke up and said I don't want to run an ad agency anymore. I want to go out and just consult each coach and speak on the power story. Because what had happened, an interesting thing was our clients who would hire us for, you know, the normal work ad agency to do, started asking me if I could come in and teach their C suite about story and what I was learning about it, teach their people about it. So I started doing that and found at my age at that time that I really liked the teaching and coaching much better than trying to keep an agency up and running in the digital marketing world. So I looked at my wife and I said, you know, I'm gonna shut down the agency, not sell it, not doing that crazy stuff and I'm gonna pivot use it as an off ramp into consulting, teaching, coaching and speaking on the power of story and God bless her. You know we've been married 35 years and she's always got my back, she says go for it. I know you haven't been happy the last few years, go for it. Now remember Jeff when I did this, I was 55 years old, people thought what the heck, why would you do that? Why would you sell your agency? Why don't you just retire? You know, run off into the greener pastures and it’s just not what I made up. So I rolled the dice, shut it down. A lot of my income went away and started building a new company around the business story and that's what I've been doing now for about the past six years and just been loving it.
00:07:42 - 00:07:44
So you had an existential crisis?
00:07:45 - 00:08:32
Kind of, I mean I went to a program called Landmark out here and I think they're around the world and Landmark is a four day, very, very intensive program with other people and and they really meant to get your shit together basically of being accountable to your decisions and if you're sad and lonely and depressed and whatever, guess what? That's your problem. No one else is what's going on between your ears. Are you willing to have the courage to go and do the things that you know the universe is calling you to do? And I have this calling, I said I'm not happy running this ad agency. I'm lonely at the top running this ad agency and do I really have the courage to go and follow this thing. And so I went for it and it's been hard, but it's also been a lot of fun and very rewarding along the way.
00:08:33 - 00:08:37
So where did you discover the power of story?
00:08:38 - 00:11:13
I discovered it when our middle child, our son Parker, was going to film school at Chapman University in Orange, California. Very, very good film school. In fact I just saw him, he was out, he lives in Austin now, he was out here in Phoenix working with Axon, which are the makers of TASER, you're familiar with the TASER product? Well Parker directs all of their virtual reality training and they do a bunch of training for the cops, you know, keep him from shooting people and tase them so you don't kill them and you know, we can apprehend him that way. Anyway, he was out and we were having a little bite to eat on Friday this past week and he told me that he just saw a stat that only 4% of people that apply to get into Chapman Film school get in, it's the highest ranked film school now in the world, I did not know that. So he got a really great education, this was back in 2006 to 2010 and it was there, Jeff, that I first learned about The Hero's Journey and Joseph Campbell said to Parker, go send me your books and your recorded lectures when you're done with them, since I'm paying for them because I would like to learn what are they teaching you to be a competitive storyteller in the most competitive storytelling market in the world, Hollywood, and that's when I came across The Hero's Journey, I saw anywhere from 12 to 17 steps of the process and it hit me big time, I'm like Jesus, this makes so much sense in business and understanding your audience and your prospect, where are they on their hero's journey and how can you be there as their mentor guide? Does the brand be their mentor guide to help them get what they want out of life? So that's when I boiled it down to the 10 steps story cycle system, that's in my book Brandy Bewitchery. And I started, you know, working in the developing brand story strategy for our customers using the story cycle system, the very first brand I ever did for Atlanta Healthcare out here in Arizona. They grew by 600%, Jeff, and to the CEO at the time that really guided that growth over the course of a decade told me she goes, if it wasn't for us getting our brand story straight and then following that sort of hero's journey of our customers and our doctors and everything else, we wouldn't be where we are today. That's when I really had my aha moment. Like, wow, this stuff really works. Why does it work? And that just then inspired me to do an even deeper dive into really understanding how story works in our brain and why it's so important in business to use it.
00:11:14 - 00:12:17
Yeah, so in our little chat before we left on and hit the big red record button because I need a big button because I'm short sighted. Well, I've got contact lenses and it's okay. So the reality is that you're going, you started teaching it and it was like 10, 12 steps and going and then you started to see people's eyes glaze over and start falling asleep at the desk. So that's when you decided to make it much shorter. So how did that all happen? Like, you know, and how do you get it down to three? Tell us a bit about that process, because I think it's important that people understand that you've really got to distill and simplify, don't you? To be able to get the essence of what you're explaining through. Make it 77 steps, you're gonna lose him in the first sentence. So how did that all happen? That distillation.
00:12:18 - 00:16:37
The way I think about that to you, Jeff, is think about Thomas Edison and the lightbulb. Everything he went through the complexity to create the light bulb. And then his job was to make it so simple that all you have to do is flick a switch on or off to make that complexity work for you, kind of what would do a story. And of course, like anything when you're learning it, you have to dive into the deep end and you have to understand the theory, the mechanics of it, how it works. And you end up really, you know, start the curse of the expert, you know so much this theory, it's exciting, you're happy to go out and share all the stuff with the world, but the reality is, and I'm sure you see it in your world, Jeff, is business people aren't screenwriters and actually most of them really don't care about the deep theory associated with storytelling. They just say, give me something that is foolproof, that I can understand right away and I can practice and work. So I learned that the hard way. I would go in and do these big workshops and keynotes about the hero's journey and how it led to the 10 steps story cycle system. And here, let me walk you through these 10 steps and then you can just apply it to your world. And I honestly started seeing audiences plays over with the exception of the 3% in the room who are complete, you know, joseph Campbell, you know, aficionado. So they got it, they're like, wow, this is great. But those other 97% were like, huh, what? So I kept in my process, I kept digging and I found the five primal elements of a short story which is really a very, very boiled down hero's journey and it's an expanded ABT, which I'll get to in just a minute. So the five primal elements that give you a timestamp, location stamp, a central character action or surprised something that they went through that makes your business point for you this aha moment.
So I was teaching that now as well and people could get that a lot better. But even then Jeff, they're like, you know, I'm not a storyteller, nobody wants to hear my stories, you know, I had to get them over that reluctance and show them the simple little framework of the five primal elements, but it all really led down then to my deep dive into the end. But therefore the ABT, which I call the agile narrative framework because we believe it's where all powerful, influential persuasive business storytelling begins, is building on this narrative intuition of the end. But therefore, and real quickly I learned it from Dr. Randy Olson who was a Harvard PhD Evolutionary Biologist. So he knows how our brains work to evolve our species. He also is a USC film school grad who wrote, directed and produced three documentaries on climate change and global warming. But now he's written about seven different books, teaching scientists and academics, how to communicate their big ideas, making the complex simple so their messages land right the first time using the And-But-Therefore. I learned about him from him in his second book called Connection back in 2013, from the business world, the branding world. I'm like oh my God, this is gold and then I said does it really work? So I started studying and researching where has this shown up in our lives while you see the ABT, the And-But-Therefore, everywhere from the very first recorded story of Gilgamesh onto iconic presidential addresses like Lincoln's Gettysburg address to pop culture. Carly Rae Jepsen's Call Me Maybe, you listen to that song, the chorus appears And-But-Therefore, and the biggest thing to me about that with that song is that song has over 1.3 billion views on YouTube. Is it because they use the ABT in the chorus? Maybe. Did they know they're using the ABT? No, they were just intuitive storytellers. They know the importance of set up problem resolution as quickly as possible. And what I now do is try to teach people to look at you as a homosapien storytelling monkey, our complete intuitive storytellers. I just want you to become intentional using these frameworks in your communications so that, as I mentioned earlier, you can hack through the noise and hook into the hearts of your prospects.
00:16:38 - 00:16:44
Cool. Now you mentioned some of the calls set up cook and what was the last part of what is the next one?
00:16:45 - 00:16:46
Set up problem resolution.
00:16:47 - 00:16:53
Setup problem resolution. Okay, so in essence that's another way of describing your ABT framework?
00:16:54 - 00:17:51
Yeah, the best way to think about it is we talk about the three forces of stories. So let's dive in a little bit deeper on that set of problem resolution. The ABT framework is set up on these three forces. Agreement, contradiction and consequence. This three parent, you know, development of the story has been around since the beginning of time. The idea is you don't lead with the problem as we are often taught, you know, taught in business communications, you lead with what is a shared vision that we both want to attain, you know, tomorrow, what does the brighter look tomorrow look like and why is that important to you, the audience? But you don't currently have it because of this problem. Therefore imagine what it's gonna be like when you do achieve it with us because we're gonna help you get over that problem. So this agreement, contradiction, consequence and that's what really hacks through into our limbic brain because it's a problem solution dynamic.
00:17:52 - 00:17:55
So tell us again agreement..?
00:17:56 - 00:19:10
Agreement, contradiction, consequence. I'll show it to you in action. I was doing a bunch of work with Home Depot and one of their guys one day on a virtual session said Park, what's the shortest ABT you know? And I got this. You communicate and care. That's my statement of agreement. They do not. Yeah that's why I'm here getting training. You communicate and care but bore therefore tell a story. You communicate and care? Yes I do. But you're kind of bored. Why? Then you can expand those why. Because you're leading with logic and reason when what your audience really wants is the emotional pull of a story. Therefore, connect on a deep primal level with your customers using the and-but-therefore, so that you can hack through the noise, work through the hearts of your customers. So that's where you can take a very small, very basic ABT. It's your singular narrative set up or surrounding the problem in this case being boring. And then write your ABT and share it where you set up, what do they care about? What do they want? But you're boring. Therefore, tell a story and here's how you do it.
Set up problem resolution, agreement, contradiction, consequence that your call to action is in that consequence phase.
00:19:11 - 00:19:53
Right. So maybe give us some examples of ABT, which is and-but-therefore and I started reading a book. I've actually had that nearly halfway through. I didn't finish it because I got the date wrong on our chat here. So I meant to read it fully. But so can you give us some examples of ABT and-but-therefore, can you give us some examples and use them to try and get to the essence of what we're talking about today in terms of the power of story?
00:20:29 - 00:21:57
All right. So can I play something for you and let me put it, can I share my screen and I'm gonna shoot you over the audio? You'll have it this way. And if it doesn't work, I can send you the audio clip that you can drop in as well because this is a great place to start. Alright, so let's see. There we go, optimize sound. So let me share with you this Jeff.
So this is my good friend Christopher Locket and he is a legendary Silicon Valley marketer, very well known for category design in brand development in a very crowded space of technology. One of my favorite books is Play Bigger if you have anybody or if you're interested and how you really own a category, get his book. It's beautiful for brand positioning. He had me on a show like this and I shared with him the and-but-therefore, he had never heard about it before. And then he started trying it and starting using it. Here's a quote he gave me and then I'm gonna share with you one of his posts. Very first post, the very first tweet using an and-but-therefore and what happened in the process. So check this out, here's what he had to say about the ABT.
Christopher Locket (Audio)
00:21:58 - 00:23:47
So you gave me a gift with the ABT, you know, in category design. We have this thing called a POV, point of view and it is simply structured very similarly to that of the ABT, which is essentially and this is such a profound insight. It sounds like it's nothing just like the ABT. It's so simple, you can't imagine how profound it is. In a point of view, it goes like this, nobody buys a solution until they have a problem. And so a point of view starts with articulating, framing, naming and claiming a problem. Well, we can relate to that problem that then sets up the solution and when people understand the problem slash opportunity, then they become interested in the solution. And then of course, the third piece from a POV perspective is how your product or service or your idea for that matter. You might not be actually marketing or selling anything that bridges the gap between the problem slash opportunity and therefore the solution. Okay, so with all that said, why do I love the ABT. The ABT takes the thinking that we did around points of view and does a fantastic legendary double click on it and says here is a simple, insanely powerful way to write an instant POV and that's why the and-but-therefore model is pure genius. It allows you to relate to people then it gives them the but which tees up the problem and then the therefore which points the way to the different future aka Solution. And so it's pure genius and it's easy to remember and if you start to play with it as I have since you taught it to me just like anything else, you develop some prowess with it, it starts working, you're like wow it's almost weird how this works.
00:23:46 - 00:24:49
So then Jeff after I shared that on his show the next day of Friday morning, he took a screenshot of this tweet and sent it to me, he goes, this ABT thing is crazy. Read along with me. Most entrepreneurs would love to design a new category and build a billion dollar business. There's his statement of agreement, it's positive. It's aspirational, you know, it's what they want but here's the problem, but there's so much startup bullshit on Twitter, it's hard to know who to listen to. The “therefore” is implied. Therefore me. David Sacks. He knows a few things and then the link takes you over to his podcast with an interview of David Sacks but check this out. And he said in under six hours, he had over 60,000 engagements on this one tweet. He is a big time social media communicator. And he goes, I have never seen anything like this before. So there's a good example. There's an ABT at play and something as simple as a tweet. And look at the impact it had. Pretty crazy, huh?
00:24:50 - 00:26:56
Yeah. It's the art of communication. There is so many ways to do it. There's a lot of truth amongst noise, trying to find that truth is sometimes very very hard to find. And recently I discovered, and I’m interested how you think this relates to the ABT framework for you. It's like Axios which was started only in 2018, 4 years later, it got sold for over half a billion dollars. These are the guys that started out of Politico, I don't know if you've heard of them, but what their approaches is there so much noise you've got to get to tell a story or communicate much. This is about writing. So it was like tell me something interesting and then Tony, what does that matter? And then offer some deeper dive if you really want to get into it. Maybe I don't know how it relates to ABT. But I just, for me it was like why does your story matter? In other words, it's a consequence I suppose and what's the solution. But you're setting it up and I think what I love too is about the contradiction thing that you've mentioned before was you've got to create some tension now you've mentioned too in your notes that I read is about the villain. So how does a villain, which is typically part of the Joseph Campbell story arc because in Joseph Campbell's story arc is revealed in Star Wars. And I have heard that the Joseph Campbell's story arc which you've distilled into ABT is fascinating because I think the top 10 movies of all time use Joseph Campbell's story arc. So that's something primal. He went to the essence of primal storytelling and myths. So tell us a little bit about the role of the villain in what you do and what you teach.
00:26:57 - 00:32:17
Well like you said, I do have to have tension in a story, otherwise the brain doesn't care. You know, let's do a quick little anatomy. I'm not anonymous but I play one on your show here. Our limbic brain has not basically appreciably changed since our ancestors navigated and survived the savannah. Basically the same apparatus, you know our frontal cortex, our executive functioning brain has created, you know involved a great deal. But this little reptilian brain where all of our decisions are really being made has not changed. So it's a survival mechanism thing if you are speaking in non narrative meaning and it turns off, it's like you're boring me, I gotta be scanning the environment just in case I gotta fight flight or there's an opportunity here.
So when you insert that word, but which you could argue is the villain of the story, it automatically fires up that limbic brain because it's saying, wow, I better pay attention because Jeff is telling me about something that happened to him that wasn't cool and how he overcame it so that I can learn what I would do in case it ever happens to me. Survival of the being. That's the basic functioning apparatus of the limbic brain. So without a villain, without story attention, you're boring. And if you're trying to sell somebody on anything now, you might be selling a product or service or you're trying to get them to buy into your vision, your mission, your initiative, you have to shake them out of status quo. Our bodies love the status quo. It's safe. I can sit here and watch pop, you know football and eat popcorn and drink beer all day long because this is safe when actually, you know, we know that's not healthy for us. Well in business, we love status quo because change is scary. What's it gonna cost us? Are we gonna lose productivity or is this the right direction to go or not? Maybe we should just hang out and do what we've been doing without that villain to really underscore our what they are up against. I like to think of it as find the hurt. The villain amplify the pain, demonstrate to them what is going to happen if they do something and if they don't do something and then heal the wound, here's the way forward. So without that villain, you've got no story. And then another way of thinking about that without conflict, without contradiction, all you have is a bullet list on brochures, you're boring and ending your audience to death until you hear that word. But it advances the narrative, it demonstrates a plot twist. Let me give you an example of it. Have you ever heard of Ernest Hemingway's famous shortest story ever told?
Legend has that he was sitting in a pub in Ireland somewhere drinking with his mates and said I bet I can make you cry in just six words, bet $10 and presumably won the bet here and it led to the shortest story ever told. Here it is: For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn.
Why do you think the baby shoes were never worn? What's the first thing that pops to mind? Why would something as horrific as the baby and final as the baby dying be what you naturally land on them? By the way, when you share this story in rooms full of people, they for the most time, most part will arrive at the same things. When I do it, sometimes people gasp, they like, oh my God, they're shocked and I asked them why and they said, well obviously the baby died, but it doesn't have to be that way. It could be the mom and dad didn't realize how healthy their baby boy was, went bought some shoes, brought them back, they didn't fit, they were too small, but they couldn't take it back, so they're going to sell them, there's any number of positive outcomes to this, but our brain goes to the most negative one, why? Because there's finality to it. What Hemingway did as he opened a story loop, it built tension, but he never closed that story loop. He then allowed the audience to close the story loop, knowing that the negativity bias in this would automatically say a negative, you arrive at the baby died because it's final. Our brain can go, oh baby is dead, I can move on to something else. If it's a positive outcome is too nebulous because there could be 1000 different positive outcomes of the brain goes, nope, nope, I need closure, baby's dead, I'm moving on. So it goes back to that idea of when you open a story loop and then you insert a villain in there. In this case, we're inserting our own villain, but you don't close that story loop, your audience is going to finish the story for you and it won't be the story you intended unless you intentionally open build tension and close that story loop form a sense in essence you are spoon feeding them your content in the way the limbic problem solving brain, that pattern seeking, cause effect, decision making brain loves to digest information.
00:32:18 - 00:32:42
So let that leads me to ask the next question, which I'm curious about, and you've mentioned it in passing as we've been chatting and that is the five primal, I suppose steps or elements. Let's just do a little dive into that and then let's sum it up, I love to hear that.
00:32:43 - 00:37:15
So it comes down to basically being an extended ABT, the five primal elements of a short story. And the idea here is when you're presenting to somebody, you want to go in and you want to own the room, their attention immediately and for like under 15 seconds. So you begin your presentation with an ABT because you're gonna set the stage, here's the problem we're solving for you, you know, landing at a singular narrative that you're going to be talking about and here's what, you know, success might look like. And then what happens Jeff is when someone does that and you go, oh that's the interesting part, do you have an example of it, whether they articulated or not, that's what the brain is saying, it's like, oh yeah, show it to me. So then you launch into a little short story using these five primal elements that makes your business point for you and this story can be told in under a minute is the idea. So within the first 90 seconds of that sales presentation, that meaning with your boss, whatever you've used to proven frameworks to hack into the limbic brain. So it starts with a timestamp.
When did this true story about a real person happen and when you do that, what you're doing is triggering the temporal mechanism within our limbic brain that says, oh something must have happened in this time because Park is starting with a timestamp the more specific the better, last Tuesday morning at 9am. My depression era father, people can immediately picture where that you know, is at that time and in place anywhere that you can start to trigger that limbic brain that says, oh I better pay attention to learn what I would do in case whatever happened apart happens to me and I can have the survival of the being. Then you follow up with a location stamp. Remember I said North Dakota for my father. So you know, you can picture North Dakota depression era, not a pretty picture, but all I'm trying to do now is light up the theater of the mind. So you can throw in one or two, you know the plains of North Dakota, the cold freezing winters of North Dakota, the little city of Fargo, North Dakota made famous in that movie, you know, I mean what all I'm doing now is to light up the theater of the mind so that I can get you picturing it and relating to it because then you're gonna relate that picture to something else in your own life and then you introduce a central character, one person, not two people, not a team, not a brand, not an organization, it's always about one individual because our brain only cares about one individual, it doesn't care about the masses. They can't process that. In this case, the story was about me, so I was the central character, but I did introduce you to my dad and Park Tarbell. They are, you know, cast members in this telling the story about how I got my name, you know, and then you have, so you've got me at the center of the story, people can relate to and I'm building trust. Hopefully people go, he's pretty cool, he's kind of like me, you know, I've got a story like that, then you get into the action and surprise well the action is, you know my dad's first job out of college goes to work for this Norwegian gentleman by the name of Park Tarbell and the surprise for me was upon my birth, he had passed away, so you've got this little sort of kinsmen of life going on. And when I asked my dad when my dad was close to death, why did you name me after him? Because he got things done easily and happily.
And that's the way my dad went through life and that's what I aspire to do. So that makes my business point for me, hard worker, get things done easily and happily as I help teach people about storytelling. So that's the short little, now I went on without an explanation a little bit longer than I need to, but I could set up a presentation if I am just trying to build some confidence in my people that I'm selling to or whatever and I might start with something about boy, what's in a name, right? We all have our names that we're trying to live in to be a loft and we don't even know what the origin is of it. And it's so true with our brand story too. In fact, let me tell you about my personal brand story. It actually began in the depression era and the cold wintry plains of North Dakota. It's where my father was born and raised. You can see where I'm going,
Then I can dial that in and within 90 seconds I've used an ABT on you. I've used five primal elements of a short story and I made my business point through a story. Nobody can argue with the true story well told.
00:37:16 - 00:37:44
So can you sum up with one word, what the five primal elements are? Like you mentioned timestamp, location, central character, is that the first three, then you go action & surprise. And then step five is basically that's where I am today. And that's why I'm doing this until that's where I am today. Because of these first four steps.
00:37:45 - 00:38:37
It's the aha moment, Jeff, that leads to your business point. So you set up the problem solution dynamic and-but-therefore where you're going to take them to sell your idea, your concept, your vision, your way of doing things and then you share that little story at the very end of that. You want to close those two story loops, the ABT and your five primal elements. The stories showing them how it all works together. So in this case and the world's most industrial storyteller, because I live into this, get things done happily and easily with my people. So that's you know how I would bring that full circle then and only then do you start to introduce numbers, charts, graphs, data, that kind of thing and here's why. Jeff, I will ask you what is the first syllable in the word number?
00:38:38 - 00:38:38
00:38:39 - 00:40:49
Everybody has to think about it. It's num. So our numbers, our data, our charts, graphs mean nothing unless they're placed in the context of a story. So when using ABT in the five probable elements, you are setting up that context using storytelling frameworks, you know, agreement, contradiction, consequence, then actually telling an anecdotal story, then the numbers make sense. And what you're doing is yourself going to the emotional limbic brain with the ABT and the five primal elements. And then you are leveling up that decision into the frontal cortex, the executive functioning brain. When you now start rolling out your numbers, your data to support the emotional hook that you have created with your people. And I learned this in the most surprising place as I was on my storytelling journey, my son Parker who was at film school, for Christmas, I got him a ticket to Robert Mckee, you know, the legendary screenwriting coach from Hollywood does this amazing three-day course called STORY. And so he went as a filmmaker. I went as a marketer. And we sat there in a room of 300 wannabe filmmakers. And so he was coaching, you know, screenwriters about this. And he said, which really landed in my marketing brain. He said make no mistake, our subconscious is let me start. He said, make no mistake. Our conscious mind is simply the PR department for our subconscious mind where all of the real decisions are being made. And he said that in relation to writing subtext, you know, when you're saying this and you have your actress's eyes doing that. What is the subtext you better really be paying attention to that subtext because your audience certainly is going to be and that's what had a huge impact in my life and storytelling. When you're thinking about selling anything, sell to the heart, the emotional limbic brain and then the logic driven reason brain will follow, it will justify the purchase that has already been made in that limbic brain.
00:40:50 - 00:41:26
So you're teaching this obviously, what are the key ways you get your story out and also train people, what are some of the resources that our listeners and viewers can tap into or contact you about in terms of you know, your ABT, the five primal elements, where can they learn that? I know you've done a couple of books, maybe tell people about that, so tell us where people could really dive deeper into what you're telling us today.
00:41:27 - 00:43:29
Well, Jeff, like you, I've got a podcast that comes out every Monday with a new story, artist from around the world and I explore stories from every possible angle and business sales, marketing and organizational communications, been doing it for over seven years now and they can find that at Business Story, it's on, you know, Libson feeds it out to Apple podcast anywhere, you can find the show, check it out Park Howell’s Business Story, you can come on over to my website businessesstory.com if you'd like.
Therefore, I've got really, oops, I've got really two books out. The first one I wrote is the Brand Bewitchery and this is all about the 10 steps story Cycle system inspired by Joseph Campbell and The Hero's Journey. And it will take you through and show you how you can use it for brand story, strategy, crafting or long form communications being a sales presentation or whatever. You can take people on this process.
If you want to learn more about the And-But-Therefore, definitely check out the narrative gym for business, which I co wrote with my good friend, Dr. Randy Olson. He teaches it in the science academic world, I translated into the business world and have phenomenal success with it. And I'd like to, since you were so kind to have me on your show, I'd like to make an offer for your viewers. I'm gonna have a landing page at businessesstory.com/jbs, you go there, you can get a free copy of this book, a digital download. It's only 75 pages so it can help walk you through it, help your viewers and listeners start working their and-but-therefore, and I've also got a quick online course, it's one hour long, three 20 minute modules by me called the ABT’s of Agile Communications. I'll give your viewers 30% off of that and they go to the landing page, type in the promo code I'll have there for them and they can get 30% discount on that course and start using the ABT immediately.
00:43:30 - 00:43:35
Thank you very much. Well, people get your book for free. I had to pay for it so it can do a lot better than me.
00:43:36 - 00:43:37
Can I send it to you?
00:43:38 - 00:43:39
It doesn't matter.
00:43:40 - 00:43:42
It wasn't too expensive, I don't think.
00:43:43 - 00:43:50
No, no, no, I'm not complaining. It's just that my viewers and readers will get a much, much better offer than I got. So that's good.
00:43:51 - 00:44:10
And here's the other thing I'll do for your viewers and listeners is when you do the course, then email me your ABT and Jeff, you do the same and I will coach you. I'll shoot you an email back with coaching on where I think it's solid and where you might be able to tweak it and use it so that they can apply it immediately in all their communication.
00:44:11 - 00:44:44
Okay. So I might lean into you on that on, we've launched a premium newsletter which is about how to help teach people to provide resources to help them launch their side hustle and that perfectly leads to, which basically is the reason I leaned into that and doing that today is because I launched JeffBullas.com was a side hustle and it turned into my main hustle and it's changed my life. So ABT on that would be really great to check because we want to change people's lives to give them freedom and design their own life. So that's what we want to do.
00:44:45 - 00:45:13
Well, Jeff, do you want to do a quick ABT right now? Live coaching. You got two minutes, but this will be good for your audience as well. Here's the thinking process through it. So let's do it relative to your newsletter. I want to start with, who is your number one audience? I know you're probably talking to a lot of people but I want to know that whole Pareto principle. You know what's the one audience that makes up 80% of your business?
00:45:14 - 00:45:17
I think they are successful but unhappy.
00:45:18 - 00:45:23
Let's go even deeper, successful but unhappy. Who and what are they?
00:45:24 - 00:45:31
They're in their 40’s, maybe in their 30s, 40s, they've started a career that 10, 15 years in there going wasn't supposed to be better than this.
00:45:32 - 00:45:38
Okay, so what is the main problem you're helping them overcome? The happiness factor?
00:45:39 - 00:45:51
Happiness, in other words, and also to feel fulfilled because a lot of people, it's not about the money. A lot of us have got more money than we need or got enough money but were not fulfilled.
00:45:52 - 00:46:20
Ah excellent. So let's use that word, can we use that word as a singular narrative of fulfillment. Nothing in the Jeff Bullas newsletter makes sense except in the light of fulfillment. How can I become more fulfilled? So you might start a statement of agreement out how, you know, I kind of already said, who's your number one audience? What do they want relative to your offering and why is that important to them? How would you write that statement of agreement?
00:46:22 - 00:46:26
I really don't know.
00:46:27 - 00:47:02
I always like to start with the word. You being you, the reader, not you Jeff. I wanted to be outside of your realm, the person you're talking to, placing your audience at the center of the story. So you are a successful leader. And we can use this if-then clause that we like to do to bring specificity to it. And if you could find fulfillment then you will have off the charts success personally and professionally. Fair enough?
00:47:03 - 00:47:03
00:47:04 - 00:47:27
But you're unhappy because why, why are they unfulfilled? So they want full fulfillment but they're obviously not there because they're unhappy. Give me something after that word because I like using the word because of the problem statement because it really specifies it. So you want fulfillment but you're unhappy because of what?
00:47:28 - 00:47:30
It's not doing what you love or good at.
00:47:31 - 00:47:34
Go even deeper than that? Why aren't they doing what they love and are good at?
00:47:35 - 00:47:40
Because they're afraid of failure. They're afraid of judgment. They are trying to be too perfect. There's a few elements.
00:47:41 - 00:48:19
So it was a little bit like now I'm gonna be a narcissist here. So it wasn't like me when I turned away from my ad agency after 20 years and people said why didn't you sell it? And I said I didn't want to be handcuffed for five years. Whoever bought it while I had to still keep building their business and I need to build mine. And they were looking at me like you're freaking nuts. Why would you do that? And so I had the courage to do it because I had a lot of good people around me helping me build up that courage. In that sense, that's what you're talking about here. But you're unhappy because you don't, you have not embraced the courage. You need to truly do what you want in life.
00:48:18 - 00:48:22
Or what your calling is. Yes.
00:48:23 - 00:48:34
Okay. Beautiful. But you're unhappy because you have not embraced the courage needed to actually answer the calling in your life. The true calling in your life.
00:48:35 - 00:48:50
That's right. And because you are afraid of judgment. You're afraid of not getting it right. You are afraid of people laughing at you because you fail. Your peers, your family, they will think you're crazy. Just like you were told by yours.
00:48:51 - 00:49:11
Okay. So I totally get that. But you're unhappy because you have not yet embraced your calling in life. You almost end up with two because it's in there. But I don't want you to do that. But I really like how you're, because you're afraid of what people are gonna think about you making a major major shift to actually answer the right calling in your life.
00:49:12 - 00:49:21
And also on top of that, they're also in their comfort zone. Starting this new adventure is going to put them way out of their comfort zone.
00:49:22 - 00:51:23
Yeah. So you have a lot of different narratives going on here, which is totally cool. That's always what happens when we build this. The first one we started on is fulfillment. You want to be fulfilled. But you're unhappy because you're not actually following your calling. Therefore, let's get you on the right track. By what? By reading the new Jeff Bullas newsletter that will hold you accountable to what you truly want in life and the courage it takes to get there.
So that's around fulfillment. So you got one ABT there. Something along the lines. It feels pretty good. It needs some refining. We've identified you are a leader and if you are fulfilled and you will have the impact in the life you truly seek. But you're currently unhappy because you're not following the proper calling in your life due to a lot of external circumstances. Therefore, find the courage to move ahead in the right direction with the new Jeff Bullas newsletter that will show you how to do that. Did you see two by the way that I want to keep parallel construction with you up top? You are a leader that wants fulfillment but you are currently unhappy because you're not following your true calling in life. Therefore, imagine the impact you will have when you do, follow it by reading the Jeff Bullas newsletter. You didn't come to the very end. Your offering didn't come into the absolute second half of that, therefore statement and what you've done and the reason why we do that is you're placing your audience at the center of the story. You are understanding who they are, appreciating what they want and why it's important to them, empathizing with them why they don't currently have it and the pain that is in their life. Therefore, helping them picture what it's going to feel and be like when they actually get it through what you have to offer. So often we put that offering right up top right, we start with that we haven't even set the stage. We have no reason for being.
00:51:24 - 00:51:25
Thank you very much. That's really cool.
00:51:26 - 00:53:03
Then I want you to write three different ABT’s. Start the fulfillment one and then do one around courage. Courage being your central character in this and then do one maybe around opportunity. You've created opportunities your whole life and have been handsomely rewarded for it because you're really good at what you do, but it's you know, it's what would be an opposite of opportunity but your own, you know, your own personal, I'd have to think about that a little bit. You're gonna play back to that thing about being not connected with what their true calling is in life.
So that's the way and it makes you really get focused on your audience, what they care about, what they want in relation to what you have to offer and then share with them, here's how you do it. And I get the last point I wanna make for all your viewers and listeners is you can literally use the ABT everywhere and I say practice it every day in your emails, you got to write the damn things. Anyways, habits stack on top of it shortened by 2/3 lead with an ABT. It's got a built in CTA and called action into therefore statement and watch what happens with your email response rate and people actually understanding what you're talking about. Use them in social media, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, wherever use them to set up your sales presentations, use them to create the new brand story around the new newsletter you're about ready to publish. You can use it everywhere.
00:53:04 - 00:54:08
Don't worry I'm gonna do a more deeper dive into your resources and I encourage all our listeners and viewers to do the same and thank you very much, Park. It's been an absolute pleasure. I learned a lot today, which I always do when I chat to some of the smartest tools in the shed and they're called entrepreneurs. I think that have stepped into the unknown without a safety net knowing that there's maybe an opportunity on the other side to be fulfilled. And that's what you've done. You stepped into the unknown and hats off to you for doing that at the age of 55, I stepped into blogging at the age of 51. I was the oldest social media blogger on the planet, I think at the time. And so you'll be surprised what happens when you create and share with the world and that's exactly what you've done. And I love the quote by Seth Godin, he said nothing counts until you share.
00:54:09 - 00:54:31
Yeah, absolutely. And you know what Joseph Campbell used to say, and I love this line, if you find yourself falling, dive. So if you find yourself that hole or with your newsletter, if you find that you're unhappy, you're falling already, dive into that, be accountable for it. And then you're gonna find your way out to that happiness.
00:54:32 - 00:54:51
Thank you very much. It's been an insight full of wisdom and I look forward to maybe seeing you near Sedona in the high plains of Phoenix, Arizona and maybe sharing a beverage or two, or just going for a walk in the red hills.
00:54:52 - 00:54:55
You just let me know when you're out here, Jeff. I would love that.
00:54:55 - 00:54:57
Thanks Park. It's been an absolute pleasure.
00:54:58 - 00:55:00
My honor. Thank you, Jeff.
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