How I Built This Story

As it turns out, your middle school English teacher was right. Stories are pretty important. At work and in our professional lives, we see stories everywhere. Every business has a story. Every product has a story. Every service has a story. Every client has a series of stories for why things worked (and why they didn’t). It’s not too late to keep all of those English classes from going to waste.

In Guy Raz’s new book, How I Built This, he gets into some of his favorite stories from his podcast of the same name. As a journalist, trained and practiced in the art of storytelling, he’s extra sensitive to these points. He told the a16z podcast in an interview that a common thread between the companies he’s interviewed is their awareness of their own stories. Both on the inside, how they explain where the company came from, and on the outside, why customers use their products and services.

If we approach everything we do as a story, we look for the beginning, middle, and end. We look for where there’s tension. We look for where there’s resolution. We can get as simple or sophisticated from there as we want, but we are minding the narrative instead of letting it fumble or meander about.

It’s not a mistake that so many successful businesses either consciously or subconsciously understand this. Raz, because of his own profession, is really good at bringing these out. If interested in the underlying structures that stories hang on, and how we might apply similar forms to what we’re doing, do check his book out. I’m really excited to start it.

Bonus point: the better or more clearly we can tell our story, the easier it is for someone to tell it back to themselves and to others. It sounds so obvious but it’s so easy to overlook. Keep it simple. Keep it clear. If everything has to be a story, everything has to be easily communicable. Just think how much further that can carry the messages we want to convey.

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