The campfire

path at nightJust outside our town is the jungle. Because our dog has a thing for the cats in town I walk her in the jungle so she can be off the leash.

Sometimes I’ll walk her there at night if I didn’t get to walk her during the day.

Do you know what I noticed? There’s never anyone else out at night in the jungle.

It’s very dark. The only remotely threatening creature might be a jaguar, but they’re rare and our dog would scare it off long before we’d get near it. I take a flashlight but I don’t use it as long as I can make out the dog’s faint silhouette trotting ahead of me.

I started wondering about our ancestors and the night, and how much acquiring mastery over fire must’ve changed their lives. They probably didn’t leave camp at night unnecessarily even with fire, but I bet they stayed up later. And what would they have done? They probably sat around and told stories. Every night. For millions of nights.

Those stories passed on information to the other tribe members. Everyone hearing the stories would be entertained and learn something.  And maybe more importantly, the listeners might get inspired by stories about the successes and failures of hunts, foraging, storms, and childbirth. And there’d be new ideas too, using firelight to tell stories in a longer lasting form with cave paintings.

For a good story, there’re just three elements setting up an emotional connection with  listeners. There’s the set up, the conflict, and the conflict’s resolution. Adversities become the hero’s advantage.

Today, a lot of the financial elite, like Steve Jobs and Richard Branson, are good story tellers.

Consider this. Today you could say that we generally measure success by someone’s bank account. People looking into the world’s financial elite claim about a quarter of the world’s wealthiest entrepreneurs are college or high school dropouts. That’s more than those who have masters degrees, and only around 5% of the billionaires have doctorate degrees.

We’re so attuned to absorbing stories that having the facts on your side and knowing the science isn’t as important as your ability to tell a good story – if you want to inform and win over the world.

Here’s how I’ll begin my story the next time I tell one, “I was born in a remote village of farmers in Cambodia, the only son of a single mother …”