In this episode of the Hacker Valley Studio podcast, hosts Ron and Chris interview Neil Bearden, storytelling expert and founder of The Story School and Plot Wolf Ltd. Neil originally started his career by teaching statistics and behavioral economics but had an astonishing introduction to storytelling by a stranger in San Francisco.
The episode begins by Neil sharing that he began his career in academia by completing a PhD in psychology which led to him teaching statistics, behavioral economics and behavioral decision-making. At some point, Neil found that he had a passion for storytelling and started the first MBA course at our INSEAD university on storytelling called storytelling workshop. Teaching storytelling at university helped Neil discover that the storytelling market is the entire world! Which ultimately led to his recognition and founding companies that help individuals tell their greatest stories.
While completing his postdoctoral studies at Duke University in 2005, Neil attended a neuroscience conference in San Francisco where he decided to go for a walk and ran into a stranger that asked him, “Would you like to hear some poetry young man?”. After Neil agreed, the man said:
“They’re latent semantics embedded deep down inside these rambles; these aren't the ravings of a madman alone, the dark with candles.
These are my notes, the underground they were sent to me from the year 2012
Dusky as he said to a beat these lyrics, they were pinned in a prison cell
Caught up with a knife, sent to the compression of vacuum tubes that articulate expressions
Are readily answered with a question.
A rhythm that's progressing
It keeps the head nodding like you agreeing with the lesson
Your freedom, It's called the question - Free will. That's obsolescent.
It's a myth from long ago. It's no longer relevant to the present.
So you must obey then all your thoughts young man, you must replace them with this prism. You’re plugged into the system. You too are now in prison.
In the matrix of your mind known as walls, ancient wisdom in a system of symbols, encrypted and deeply hidden
In the depths of your unconscious as if it were forbidden from outside awareness, by the id who does its bidding”
The man introduced himself as Osiris, a poet. For several hours, Neil and Osiris shared life experiences together while Osiris recited poems at his own accord throughout the night. After departing, Neil never had the opportunity to meet Osiris again but did attempt to track him down years later with no luck.
After the introduction to Osiris, Neil made a commitment that he’d begin writing poetry and cultivate the courage to share his stories publicly. Neil learned that he could halt beer bottles from clinking, discussions happening, and have listeners lean in while telling a great story. This compelled Neil to pivot from teaching statistics at university to teaching storytelling. After teaching storytelling for many years, Neil realized that he wanted to make a bigger impact and become an entrepreneur and teach storytelling to anyone who needs it.
Today, Neil helps companies and individuals add spice to their stories by extracting the details of a story that helps listeners internalize and visualize the nutrient rich details of a story. Neil is often humbled by the fact that he was able to pivot to a psychology PhD to storyteller organically and is able to help so many through having conversations.
As the podcast progresses, Neil highlights the difference between a story and a “crappy little speech”. While telling a story, the presenter needs to invoke a visual experience for the audience and provide a mental movie. Providing description of looks, taste, and feel helps build a mental model for the audience when being told a story. Everyone has experiences and knowledge that is story worthy.
0:00 - Intro
2:52 - This episode features Neil Bearden, founder of The Story School and Plot Wolf Ltd
3:57 - Neil’s introduction to storytelling by Osiris, the poet.
12:20 - The search for Osiris after 2005
15:09 - How Neil helps companies and individuals with storytelling
18:03 - Difference between a story and a crappy little speech
23:51 - Shaking the dust off of a story and making it great
26:00 - Using previous experience from statistics to tell stories
36:36 - Advice for beginning to tell your story
41:00 - How to stay in touch with Neil Bearden
Connect with Neil Bearden on LinkedIn
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