Stories Are Sculptures, Not Rock Collections
The Value of Learning Addition by Subtraction
Editor’s Note: Special announcement at the end. Please read all the way through. What’s up y’all. As stated before, I’ve worked hard to curate a special community online. This newsletter/blog is my little corner of the internet. Maybe a better descriptor is that this is my little street corner that’s a busy intersection of all my interests. Faith, entrepreneurship, storytelling, business, communication, etc. Sometimes you may arrive and find things that don’t apply to you. If they don’t, please feel free to keep driving through the intersection and don’t feel pressure to be involved in everything that goes on here. Thanks for your time. Back to your regularly scheduled program.
“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the necessary so the necessary may speak” - Hans Hoffman
Most people treat their stories like rock collections instead of sculptures. Let me explain the difference.
My daughter walked into the room one Friday morning and asked if she could show me her rock collection. She’s five, cute, a daddy’s girl, and has known for at least five years that she has ten fingers and I’m wrapped around each one. So her request for a rock collection viewing wasn’t really a request—it was a demand. I obliged.
As I looked at her “collection”, I laughed. It was trash. There was nothing truly notable. Just a bunch of random rocks she (1) picked up from somewhere and (2) thought were interesting. The only thread that made her assortment a “collection” was her own personal interest. There was no rhyme or reason. Just a pile of rocks she imagined was interesting. And since that time, she’s kept adding to it.
And let me tell you, the value of that collection has remained unchanged.
That’s the thing about rock collections. The collector connects value to addition. You have to keep adding and adding and adding. The problem is, add as many rocks to it as you want and you still couldn’t pay people to give it a passing glance—much less gaze. The only people that look at rock collections do so under duress (parentally or otherwise). We have a name for that. We call those people hostages!
Sculptures are different. People pay to come and see those. They are not held hostage, yet they are arrested when they walk by. They can’t help but to look and gaze and stare. What’s most interesting is that this rock didn’t gain value by addition, but by subtraction.
Removing the unnecessary, so the necessary can speak.
The problem with most people’s storytelling (or vision casting, sales pitching, preaching, insert your needed communication here) is that we think the value is in addition when it’s really in subtraction. So we spend our time trying to add interesting achievements and accomplishments. We think the difference between our stories and the ones that inspire us are that people have something that we don’t. And that couldn’t be further from the truth.
The only difference between your story and the inspirational ones that arrest you is that theirs has been sculpted and yours hasn’t. Yet. Underneath the raw material of the unimpressive rocks in your collection is a compelling story waiting to be told. You’ve just got to be willing to sculpt it a bit. Addition by subtraction…remember.
When you can sculpt a story like that, you arrest people’s attention without having to use gimmicks (or ad dollars) to hold them hostage. They are free to leave at any point, but they choose to stay.
Your story doesn’t just need to be heard; it deserves to be remembered. Work on making it memorable today.
To Whom It May Concern: I’m Launching a Story Sculpting Cohort and You’re Invited
As promised, I know a few of y’all subscribed a while ago because you were interested in the storytelling & communication cohort. Well, this is the official announcement (coming to y’all first of course). I’m wanting to let you know about a new project I’m starting. I’m putting together a limited story-telling cohort to help leaders, entrepreneurs, non-profit fundraisers, business developers, communicators, etc. learn how to keep people’s attention, without holding them hostage.
I’ll be giving more information in the coming weeks about how you can join. But in the meantime, you can head over to johno.co/story to find out more and sign up for the waitlist to get early access to register when it opens. Space will be limited!