3 Principles To Master Storytelling

3 Principles To Master Storytelling


The ability to tell a story well can literally transform your life. It can land you a job in a crowded applicant pool, make you stand out on a first date, or be the difference between your business succeeding and failing. Today, I have a very special breakdown on storytelling not just because storytelling is so important to charisma into life but because I am actually in the breakdown as the interviewer and the person that I’m interviewing is, without exaggeration,
one of the people that I most admire on this planet. His name is Scott Harrison and as the founder of Charity: Water, he’s helped raise over 100 million dollars by telling stories for a good cause. In his own words… We can’t imagine 660 million anything or quantity
of anything let alone people without clean water. There’s no connection so what we’ve been intentionally doing, over 11 years now, is telling stories of individual people — one of
the 663 million names, faces, hopes, dreams— So in this video, you are going to learn three of the most important principles that will help you to tell more engaging stories in any environment. And I need to warn you beforehand, these stories that are told in this
video are heavy and they contain really sad but important messages which is necessary when you’re talking about the truth of why Charity: Water exists. I’m also going to let the clips run a bit longer so that
you can hear a bigger part of the story uninterrupted and then I’ll comment later. Here we go. As things had it, I happened to be in a five-dollar-a-night hotel room in Ethiopia, I was with a few donors — a small group — I was sitting in the kitchen of this hotel and the hotel owner walks out recognizes me because
we’ve been doing work in this region for a while and just sits down and, unprompted, starts telling me a story about a woman who lived in his village in a remote area of about 3,000 people and he said all the women used to walk for water for eight hours a day and they would have these heavy
clay pots that they would carry on their back and he said, “One day, one of the women in my village named Letuc Eris,” he had her named, “walks back into the village and she slips and falls and she breaks
her clay pots and all the water spills out into the dust,” and he said, “she hung herself and she didn’t go back for more water.” He said, “We found her body swinging from this tree in our village.” And then I remember he kind of paused to watch the story’s effect on us and he said, “The work you’re doing is important. Keep it up,”
and he just disappeared back into the kitchen. So obviously, this story is heartbreaking but
there’s more going on here than just that. An important principle of storytelling is that when telling a story in the first person — meaning you’re talking about yourself — you want to take the
listener on the same emotional journey that you experienced. So Scott tells the story with this pause from the innkeeper at this moment because that is what you need to absorb what he just said just as he did in the moment when he heard it. As he continues, he also talks about his emotional response and mentioned that he doubted the
truth of this story just as the listener might. There’s a temptation though to jump ahead when you’re telling stories — to tell the listener what you learned by the end
of the story as you’re telling it; do not do that. If you slow down and you take people on the same winding journey
that you went on, stories connect much more. Just watch. And I remember sitting there with a group of five people like, “What?” You feel like you got hit with a ton of bricks and then you start doubting it, “Is that story really true? Just tell the international donors a sad story;
make us feel great about the work that we’re doing?” But I just couldn’t really shake the idea, like, that picture of
a woman who had slipped and fallen like all of us have done and was in such despair in her living conditions that she tied
a noose around her neck, climbed a tree, and then jumped. So I sent our partners out to the village and I said, “Can you go to this village and
tell me first of all if anyone named Letuc has actually lived there and if it’s true.” And, I don’t know, a couple weeks later, I got an email from one of our partners saying, “Yeah, we went to the village and sadly, it’s
a true story. We saw a grave. We met the family.” So then I asked my wife, “Well, I want to go and live there for a week and—” I want to pause here because there’s another big storytelling point going on which is that — every story needs a near-constant
element of mystery to keep the listener engaged. You need to constantly raise questions in the listeners mind and every time you answer one, a new one needs
to pop up if you’re going to keep their attention. Scott hits on a bit of mystery right before this by asking,
“Was this story of Letuc Eris even true?” And we just found out that it was solving that mystery but he immediately raises another question in the listeners’ mind, specifically — what
happens when Scott goes to Ethiopia himself? So let’s see how it unfolds. Long story short, I went to the village, I lived there for a week, I wound up meeting the priest that gave her funeral, I saw the pile
of rocks behind the church that was her grave, I met her mom, I met her friend that walked with her that day, I wound up writing
about it on Medium about the experience, and seeing the tree. It’s kind of this frail tree and I didn’t know before I went into the village that she was 13 so that was a huge shock for me. I was expecting an old lady and I was kind of imagining this hunched 60-year-old woman who had walked for water her entire life; it’s a 13-year-old girl — a teenager. And I remember — all these through translators — asking her
best friend why she thought she actually did it and hang herself and her best friend said, “She would have been overcome with
shame because she broken the clay pot and she spilled the water.” So that is the main action of the story but it doesn’t end here because the best stories have lessons at the end. Kind of like Aesop’s fables, there’s an overarching
point which is shared explicitly in the last portion so you need to know your purpose when sharing a story when you get to
this point — what is the audience supposed to take away from your story? Here’s what Scott thinks that we should learn from Letuc Eris’ story. It says that this is an emergency like, “Not not on my watch,” right? Something has to be done where 13-year-oldgirls are not hanging themselves on trees because they didn’t have water and because they broke the clay pot. The first time I heard Scott tell this story, the lessons stuck with me. It inspired me to donate to Charity: Water and it’s
how I got connected with Scott in the first place. Point being, at the end of your stories, don’t just leave people hanging; tell them why they just went on that journey with you and
if there is some action that they might want to take, tell them. Anyways, this last story is both emotionally moving and a fantastic model for how to tell the story of a product or a business idea; is the storyof how
Charity: Water came up with the idea of donating birthdays. Just listen. We just stumbled upon this idea of asking people to donate their birthdays and birthdays have become very commercial; a lot of companies profit when a guy like you turns 30. There’s probably a big dollar sign. And now it’s digital like iTunes and Amazon but before, it’s wallets, ties, socks… You still may just get a bunch of crap that you don’t want or don’t need, really. Scott begins by setting the frame of the problem and if you’re telling stories for your business or for your product, this is where you must start. Most people, when they’re pitching, want to rush right into what their product does; this is wrong because if there isn’t a problem, we don’t need a solution. So start with the problem that your product solves and how the listener
can relate to it; in this case, that people waste so much money on birthdays. With the problem established, Scott will now continue on to his idea for the solution. We said, “Look. Today, 660 million people don’t have clean
water. What if we could start a movement of birthdays and instead of asking for gifts — when you’re 30 or
accepting and you’re throwing a big party for yourself — you would turn your birthday into a giving moment and your
friends and your family would give your age in dollars?” Now we have the solution — instead of getting a
bunch of stuff you don’t need for your birthday, give. It sounds awesome but it is still missing something and that is the story of one person because our brains are not wired to process numbers or abstract ideas with the same emotional intensity that we process a single person’s story. This is where people are moved and I’m going to go at this next bit run on uninterrupted to give the full effect of the story. So I was in Seattle, another long crazy story, but there was a church who had thrown a keg party for us; a young hipster pastor who was like, “I want to show my town that we’re not religious…” so he threw
a big keg party one of which raising $500,000 from the town. I went out to thank the church and speak on a Sunday and at the end, I asked everybody, maybe a thousand people there, to donate their next birthday and just say, “Look, guys. Skip it. Donate your next birthday to Charity: Water.” An eight-year-old girl, Rachel Beckwith, was in the audience and she donates her ninth birthday which was just a few weeks later, skips the gifts, skips the party, and asks for $9 from everyone she knew. She only raises $220. Now, her goal was $300 so she was bummed. She told her mom that she was upset that she hadn’t
reached her goal and that she would try harder next year. I was in the Central African Republic at the time deep in the jungle. Basically, while I was there, she’s killed in a terrible car crash. There’s a 20-car pileup on the interstate and a
tractor-trailer had lost control; she was the only fatality. So she was in the back of a car, her mom was in the front, her sister was in the front as well and the tractor-trailer just came into the back of the car and crushed her so I remember landing in New York, turning on my phone, getting serviced again and getting a text from her pastor and her mom talking about this tragedy and the family wanted to reopen the campaign. And just give people a chance to honor Rachael’s last wish and donate nine dollars. So you can imagine a story like this begins to spread through the church community and people begin to give nine dollars then it starts spreading around the Seattle community, starts spreading across the country, across Europe, down into Africa, people in Africa started donating nine dollars hearing about a little girl in Seattle who wanted people in Africa to have clean water more than whatever birthday gifts that she should be expected. Long story short, about 60,000 complete strangers give $9 or more and Rachel, after passing, winds up going from $220 that she saw to 1.3 million dollars impacting over 35,000 people’s lives. My wife and I got to take Rachel’s family — her mom, her grandparents, and her pastor — on the one-year anniversary of her death. So exactly a year later to Ethiopia to go village to village to village to village to see all the people that had actually gotten in clean water so this went from just the intangible to the real and I’ll never forget that trip. Cool thing is now — this happened five years ago — so many of the people that donated nine dollars to Rachael’s campaign not only gave money but were inspired to donate their own birthday; they have now raised over two million dollars so Rachel went from a $200-campaign to now she’s raised over three million dollars impacting over a hundred thousand lives. So from eight people with clean water to a hundred thousand lives— And then of course, Scott ends with the lesson — how do
we make sense of this? What do we take from it? And I think that’s the power of just the story;
her story which, again, speaks to values. Values of it being the purity of heart of a nine-year-old girl to consider others more important to not succumb to the apathy that so many adults… It’s easy, right? We see the water crisis like, “What can we do about that?” People don’t have water. I mean, a nine-year-old girl— That’s not okay. Why are kids drinking from swamps if I can do something about it with my birthday? So remember those three points when you tell stories because like I mentioned, these stories told in this way had a huge impact on me personally and they’ve literally shaped where I’ve spent
a good portion of my time, energy, and money. Now, I happen to have a very special day coming up personally and I have one more message for you about that. …special day that is coming up for me is my birthday and it’s in just a few days on Thursday and I’m turning 30 which, yes, I know I’m extremely old and I’m dealing with that internally but I’m actually also very excited for this birthday because it’s a special one because I get to donate it to Charity: Water. It’s the first time I’ve ever done this, I’ve been excited about it for months and months, and I feel like it is the perfect one to do it because $30 happens to be the amount of money that gets one person clean water for years and years. So I’m trying to raise $30,000; that would get 1,000 people clean water which would be like the greatest birthday present for me ever but also just something really awesome to do so if you want to donate, there’s a link in the description below for my birthday. Ben’s birthday was in August; we both turned 30 and it’s all coming together but would really, really appreciate it and just be so quite frankly humbled and honored if you guys would join us in this fundraiser — any amount that you can give is super appreciated not just by us but by the people who are actually receiving the clean water who don’t have it. Also something that I should share with you which is awesome is that we have a link below if you want to donate your birthday. This is super cool because even if your birthday isn’t coming up in the next week or so, you can go to that link below, drop your name, drop your email and your birthday which might be, say, next June and they will send you an email them being Charity: Water so that you can do the same thing and the average person raises $1,000 from 15 of their closest friends and family which is incredible and the feeling that I have even before starting this campaign is better than any birthday that I’ve had so I hope that
you guys decide to join us in this fundraiser. Regardless, I’m so appreciative of the fact that I’m turning 30 and I have this platform and my life is sharing the things that I’m learning, the ways in which I am growing, and it’s just kind of evolving with you guys. It’s amazing and I’m at a loss for words which is not something
that is normal for me especially when I’m on camera so I just want to say thank you guys so much for watching the channel. I hope that you decide to join us in the fundraiser and of course I will see you in the next video and I’ll be 30.

100 thoughts on “3 Principles To Master Storytelling

  1. A Church wants to show People that they’re not Religious?… Then what the hell is the point of the Church?….

  2. Happy Birthday chris and ben! Sorry for being late. But still, have a good day whenever you see this! If you ever see this!

  3. First, That little girls death saved so many lives ( weird how this world works ) and the guy is really good at story telling ( I got the chills when he mentioned the death ) and last, people say I look young but after seeing you at amlost 30, I'd say I look my age lol. ( Great video by the way, keep it up ).

  4. "…At the end of your stories, don't just leave people hanging…"

    I know it was unintentional, but yikes… maybe not the best wording considering the story that preceded it :/ Still a very good video though, as always. For whatever reason that really jumped out at me.

  5. Giving to charity may make you feel good, but there is a huge problem with population growth in Africa, due to all the aid the West has sent down there the last 40+ years.
    Look at how Africa is. Do you think it`s lack of opportunity that keep the place in the dust and mud? To emulate an already established model is the easiest thing to do in the world, and Africa is one of the most abundant places on Earth for natural resources, yet here we are; still witnessing tribal warfare, slaughter, barbarism and completely retarded cultural practices (like unearthing and dancing with corpses, bring back the black plague).

    I`m sorry to say, but IQ is a real thing. And Africans don`t score very high on reasoning skills.
    Just look at South Africa, it`s horrible. Check out the documentary "Farmlands" for more info.

    It`s one thing to teach a man to fish, another altogether to throw money at the problem…it will only grow bigger.

    Anyway…I love your work. You have a positive outlook on life, and you put a lot of effort into what you do is "non disruptive" – that is, to not do stuff that makes you feel good and leave the bill to everybody else. To be responsible for oneself.
    You`re kind of like Jordan Peterson Junior… 😀

  6. Even if something interesting happens to me, I somehow fuck up the story. Do people practice their interesting stories before they tell them?

  7. "Extremely old" at 30? Jeez, this "Peter Pan" hype of "staying young" is ridiculous. I'm way far older than 30 and would not like to be younger!

  8. I am touched, moved & inspired by your video! I have never heard of Charity Water until now and I am thrilled to dedicate my Birthday to such a beautiful cause! Thank you for not only sharing the importance of story-telling, moreover, speaking about #CharityWater.

  9. Good speech but never turn your back at a dog who is frightened or angered w you! Yes you don't want to engage in a stare down but face the animal hold your ground n' look in its direction w/o straight eye contact but over the animal's head. Never turn your back or run away but face the animal n' look at it using only your periphery vision until the dog looks away or loses interest in you. Then you can wither away n' diffuse the situation. Also, the best weapon for an attacking dog is your belt. You can straddle the viscious creature from behind when given the chance n' choke it out.

  10. I wanted to watch this video to become a better story teller, and I definitely got that. But I also am now excited for my next birthday to raise money for charity water

  11. I got like 50 stories or more..and I do not know how to turn that into money. However, this video strikes a nerve within me, because at age 30 I campaigned to raise funds for two villages where I wanted to channel water. That was in Brazil, and I had to write 30 letters to NGOs, only 3 responded, and I had some anonymous donations from a Christian Order, in a nutshell, I managed to bring water to the villages of the Xavante Indians. People have been telling me for 30 years to write down my stories, of travelling for more than 30 years, living in different cultures, but I am afraid I don't have much time for that anymore. I am an artist telling stories through my art, and the written thing is more tedious to me. E-books maybe? But…I have admired your enthusiasm and what you achieved.

  12. I actually found this a little hard to follow, and honestly I did not like this guy talking. Something about him rubs me the wrong way

  13. I watched this video 2 times first time before i knew who Scott Harrison is and i really didnt like it , first you jumped into a story without context, i had no idea who he is or anything about him . Then you kept interupting intervew with him to get your points . It was choped up and hard to follow ( i understand that it is your concept but still …) Second time i watch it after reading his book and with totally different view … I really enjoy your videos and i think that what you do is really cool but unfortunatelly like in some other videos from you, you only skim the surface and never go deep into a topic or a person… Also not putting Scoot on a in headline makes me wander about your sincerity …

  14. This video is great. Thank you, Charlie. This video made me cry, hearing the story that the guy told about the girl. My next birthday – which is my 24th birthday on the 23rd of July, I'm donating to Charity Water! I've never heard about this company or anyone doing anything else like this before and I wish I did hear it before because I'm incredibly grateful for everything in my life and I don't need anything else, so I'm donating my birthday so people can give money to people that will appreciate more than I would!

  15. You know what. Not gonna watch this, because I'm about to go to bed and I don't want to listen to sad stories before going to bed. I'll come back later.

  16. We need more people who are able to tell a great story and wants to create a wonderful impact on the world at the same time. That'd be awesome!

  17. Is it ok to say "and" a lot while telling a story? I'm practicing for a video interview. As I'm talking about my experiences I notice I say "and" and "um" a lot. I came here searching for tips to improve my story telling, but in this particular video I notice the story teller is also saying those words. So now I'm wondering if what I'm doing is actually acceptable. Anyone have some insight?

  18. Some of the best stories I've ever heard were at a pub having a pint. You'd be surprised how many people go just to he heard, to be listened to and I believe that sometimes that is one important service you can give to others. Lend them your ears, share a beer and you'd be surprised what amazing stories you will hear.

  19. Why do these africans carry clay pots of water one at a time all day? It seems like the most inefficient way to do it. Get a cart and get one guy to pull 5x the amount of water home, or get a mule to pull a cart and bring 20x the amount. Giving Africa shit doesn't fix anything if the people are unable to innovate themselves.

  20. Telling stories can make a dead paragraph alive. For me I am lazy to read a lengthy paragraph with all tips that everyone else is doing, but with stories in it or in story form, reading till the end is not that hard.

  21. The story about Rachel made me almost ugly cry, then he says that a year later, he took Rachel and her family to Africa. 😑😬

  22. I love that you highlighted Scott Harrison. The story about the young woman and her broken water vessel was so impactful on its own. But he followed it up with action which must have been amazing to the people in that community. That fullness and action is really rare and why Scott and Charity Water are exceptional.

  23. I’m came here to learn story learning and ended up crying wtf!! XD Great video and very educational.

  24. Great cause. However I recently learning that there is a water table below us, and that wells can be established to get access to the waters below. I hope this is what the charity water is doing, building wells? There is a recent documentary called Mully, who started Mully Children’s Family in Africa, which is now a massive school orphanage which was without water for years after the creek dried up. They dug a well and their water crisis was solved. It’s how trees survive in the desert

  25. Dude 30 isn't even middle aged it's not old, once you turn 50 then you can call yourself extremely old. And I'm 18 so take it from a young person.

  26. When I talk to older people in their 70's /80's they tell me 30 is a young age, not quite 20, nowhere near 10, but young nonetheless. When I talk to people younger than 30…it's super old until they eventually hit 30 and say 30's isn't that old lol.

  27. I've stopped listening how to be a good story teller and started listening to the story. So, now I'm crying to a video on how to be a good story teller.

  28. If you want people to listen to you as you learn to tell stories, Join Toastmasters. Toastmasters is a group of interesting people who will regularly give you their undivided attention for 5-7 minutes or more! Then one of them will tell you how well you did, what they liked about what you said, and what you might do to say it even better. Where else on earth does that happen?

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