5 Simple Words But 1 Powerful Piece of Jeff Bezos Advice

Why storytelling can be a powerful personal tool.

A few years ago, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos spoke at a graduation ceremony for his alma mater, Princeton University. At the end of his almost 14 minute speech, Jeff advised the graduates to “build yourself a great story”.

Five simple words meant to inspire each one of us to a lifetime goal of creating an impact that we would be proud of when we are 80 years old. I get it and like the idea.

But there is something as important buried in this message.

Every one of us has a story.

But we frequently are shy about sharing stories about ourselves. Now, I am not referring to college beer stories or that time in high school you climbed up on a roof.

I am referring to the experiences – good and bad – that form the foundation of how we think in business.

Storytelling predates writing, the printing press, and social media as the primary vehicle for sharing experiences and we as humans learn from our experiences and the experiences of others. A great storyteller provides multiple opportunities to establish emotional connections to the key elements of the story so the listener can take away what they need.

I am a storyteller. I have experiences and anecdotes to share and never waiver from telling them with a crowd. Many of my stories are not even mine but stories I heard or witnessed from others. Over the years, I find that I have accumulated a story for just about every business situation imaginable.

This is my super power and it can be yours as well.

Here are my 5 basic rules for business storytelling:

  1. It has to be verifiably/mostly true
  2. You have to have a strong connection (like be in it) to the story
  3. It must be short (1-3 minutes)
  4. It has to be relevant to the discussion at hand
  5. You must tell it with enthusiasm.

So, if I can borrow from Jeff Bezos and put the Heivly spin on this phrase, I would like to challenge each one of you to “tell a great story”.

Speaker, investor, mentor, startup founder. One of 3 or 4 Co-Founders of MapQuest (sold to AOL for $1.2B). Managing Director of $25M Venture Fund in late 90's. CEO, COO or President of various companies ranging from $200k to $20M in size. One of two Managing Directors of The Startup Factory (35 investments across 7 cohorts), founder and MC of the Big Top Reverse Job Fair and national writer and speaker waxing poetic around startups and startup communities. Currently EIR @ Techstars with Brad Feld ~ Startup Communities, to help community leaders around the world grow their startup community.

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