Three Critical Steps to Become a Better Storyteller

By Bo Eason

The more personal your story is, the more personal my story is, the more universal it becomes, the more affect you have over here. So you’re saying, “Who’s going to care about what I’ve done?” Everybody. All your moneymaking ability lies right there in a little golden pot in your story. All your leadership qualities lie in one little spot—your own personal story.

I was in London recently giving a speech to the top 100 financial advisors in Europe. Another guy was with me who runs this company called Oxford Analytica, which has 200 think tanks throughout the world. Our president gets briefings on his desk every morning from them because they look at where potential threats are coming from. The advisors are interested in what he has to say because they want to know about threats to the financial markets. So this guy from Oxford Analytica is watching me talk and he’s like the opposite of me. He’s got glasses and he’s smart. He’s putting up cool numbers and charts. The information he was giving was striking. After he got finished, he approached me and said, “Bo, can I talk to you?” I said, “Yeah.” He goes, “Do you know all that stuff you were talking about, people’s personal story being the most important thing for everybody going forward?” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “Do you know that you are right?” I said, “Cool, because I was kind of hoping I was right.”

For me, it’s just an instinct. It’s instinctual to me to share myself so that other people can share themselves. He goes, “No, no, you’re absolutely right and I’m going to send you the analytics behind what you’re saying.” I said, “Cool. Send them on.” So the information he sends me is this study of leadership from Julius Caesar during the Roman Empire to the 2012 U.S. presidential election. People like Lady Gaga and Madonna were included too so it wasn’t just political leaders.

They came up with 3 things, or qualities, that these leaders had to have and they all had it. Guess what No. 1 was? The No. 1 quality from Julius Caesar to today is the ability to tell your own story. Otherwise, people don’t know how to latch onto you. It’s just connective tissue that you’re putting out for your audience.

Whether your audience is one or 10,000, you have to lay out yourself so they know what to follow. If there’s one thing we’re lacking in this world, it’s leadership, correct? I was doing a training in San Diego and somebody goes, “Bo, who do you look up to as a leader?” I was totally caught off guard. I didn’t know. I love leadership. I follow it. I want to be a leader and I want to be led. And I couldn’t think of one? Times are changing. That is our job. That’s all this is—this is leadership based on your personal story because you can’t lead from anywhere else. You can’t lead through what you learn in a book. You’ve got to lead from the miles you’ve already walked, what your eyes have already seen, that’s all you’ve got. It is the most powerful thing that you’ve got. It is the key to the kingdom—your story. Get used to it. Surrender to the fact that your story is the most powerful and the most valuable thing you’ve got, bar none.

No. 2: Physicality. You have to be physical in a world that has lost itself. We’ve spent two generations in an Information Age. We are fabby. We are fat. And we can’t communicate, especially with our bodies. When I’m speaking, you believe about 50 percent of what comes out of my mouth. That’s just what we do as humans. We pick and choose what to believe when people talk. But you believe this body 100 percent of the time because the body can’t lie. This is the most crucial thing that you have to do. To tell your personal story, you have to physicalize the sucker—ultra present, that’s who we are but we’ve gotten so far from our own nature that we’ve turned into these little communication beans trying not to take up too much space and using garbled voices.

Jean-Louis Rodrigue, my longtime movement coach, was fascinated by this tribe that lives among lions and tigers, yet no one ever gets eaten. He couldn’t get the tribe out of his mind. He wanted to see what they looked like, how they moved, what their physicality was like to understand why they don’t get eaten but others do. So he goes and lives with them and brings back pictures and videos to performers in Hollywood—actors, cellists, pianists, gymnasts—and shows them how the Nuba tribe moves. They move like I move—alive, awake, nothing gets by them. Dangerous. Al Pacino told me one thing: “I wish the stage were a tightrope so that only the brave would enter.” He’s right. There’s a lot of danger on stage.

I played in the NFL against the biggest, baddest dudes on this planet. Not scary, kind of cool, right? I’d hit them. BAM. Not a problem. But up here, it takes everything I got. Do you want to watch somebody up here who this is easy for? It’s not courageous. There are nervous speakers and there are liars. But nervous is a bad word. Nervous is love, is alive. It’s TNT. It’s energy. It’s power, if you put it in the right place. You’ve got to inform your body of how to express itself in a world that won’t do it. The one and only promise I make to the people I work with is, if you do what I say and what the Nuba tribe does, nobody will be able to look away from you. Imagine that power.

No. 3: Generosity. Maybe the most important, and I’m not talking about whether you’re a good tipper or give a lot of money to charity. I’m talking about the art of giving all of one’s self all of the time. Imagine a world that looks like that. That world ain’t happen and that’s up to us. There’s very few of us in here if you think about it relative to what’s outside those doors. Somebody’s got to take the torch and lead it and that person has got to do what? What’s the No. 1 thing that a leader has to do? Have the ability to tell their own story and physically express it. Then give with generosity, and I’ll give you an example of generosity and what I mean through story.

I played for the Houston Oilers for four years. I played against a guy named Jerry Rice. He played for the San Francisco 49ers. Jerry Rice is the greatest football player ever to play the game. He’s got so many more touchdowns than the guy in second place that no one can even get close to him. I used to play directly against him. Then I get traded to the San Francisco 49ers so now me and the greatest football player in the history of the game are on the same team. So it’s the frst day of training camp—remember that we’re talking about generosity. I had a deal with myself all my life, a little contract that I made since I was a little boy and it was that every time I practiced on a court or on a field or in a gymnasium, I was going to be the frst one on that surface and I was going to be the last one to leave that surface. I kept it up 20 straight years until I got traded to the San Francisco 49ers. So it’s the frst day of training camp, I come walking out of the locker room early, first guy out. I’m walking out to the field, I look over and who’s out there? Jerry Rice. It doesn’t make sense, does it? The greatest football ever is out there before me? An hour later, everybody else is out there. There are 100 guys out there all trying to make this team. Jerry Rice and I are veterans. We don’t need to work hard. We’re going to make the team. We’re going to do training camp at half speed. Don’t get hurt. Don’t do anything wrong. Stay safe. All these other rookies have to hustle to make the team. So we’re in warm-ups.

There’s a line of 16 receivers. Jerry Rice is one of them and Joe Montana, the quarterback, is throwing them the ball to warm up. So the first guy gets up, Joe snaps the ball, the guy takes off at half speed, catches the ball, stops, walks back to Joe, hands him the ball and gets back in line. Next guy up does the same thing: runs at half speed, catches the ball, stops, walks the ball back to Joe and gets back in line.

Now it’s Jerry Rice’s turn. Whoosh. He takes off at full speed. Bam. Catches the ball. Boom. He runs 100 yards. GONE. We’re all like, “Where’s he going?” I’d never seen anything like that. He ran all the way to the end zone, turns around once he gets to the end zone and runs all the way back, full speed, hands the ball to Joe and gets back in line. Next guy gets up. He runs at half speed, catches the ball, stops, hands the ball to Joe and gets back in line.

When it’s Jerry’s turn, he does the same thing over and over and over and over. He must have run 10 miles worth of sprints. I’d never seen anything like it. At the end of this 3-hour practice, I had to go talk to this guy. So at the end of practice I go over and say, “Hey, Jerry. What’s the deal with that, man? What’s the deal with all that running? Why do you do that?”

He goes, “Oh, Bo. It’s very simple. I do that because every time these hands touch a ball, this body ends up in an end zone.” There are no accidents. This guy has put his body in an end zone more than anyone in the history of the game. That’s what I call generosity. That is pure spirit, pure physical expression of his life. Now he could do that anywhere. If he were on a stage, he would do the same thing.

A couple of years ago, my wife came running into our bedroom saying, “Bo, guess what? Your ex-teammate Jerry Rice is going to be on Dancing with the Stars.” What do you think I said? He’ll win. And he did. He’s not even a good dancer. But he gives of himself what I’m going to ask of you. Your personal story holds the keys to your life. Everything lies right there. Your health, your money, your influence lies right there in the palm of your hands. All we’ve got to do is get that sucker out of you and into the world.

Three Critical Steps to Become a Better Storyteller By Bo Eason © 2015 The Bo Eason Experience. All rights reserved. • • 310.562.4808


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