"The moment I came to Dubai, I was like, 'Man, this is the place where I need to be," said Ammar Akhtar, Founder and CEO of Finalrentals.com. Ammar had grown up in a small town in Pakistan, the oldest of seven siblings, working 18-hour days to help the family make ends meet.
Dubai saw one consulting gig after another, but the aspiring startup entrepreneur hadn't moved to Dubai for gigs. He wanted to launch something big, and he went for it. And within a year, he was broke.
So Ammar went to visit his father, now living in a farmhouse in the northern Italian countryside. It was the breath of fresh air that he needed, literally.
Check out the impact his father had on him, how he turned Finalrentals.com around - from his inner soul to his business operation - and how he now helps young startups tell their stories.
"People will tell you to tell a story," Ammar says. "But what they don't tell you is... whose story to tell."
"You know, one thing is leaving for a better opportunity, and the other thing is leaving because you're trying to run away." Fortunately, Ana left war-torn Serbia with a gift, her practice in Bujinkan, an ancient martial art that entered her and focused her to look inward, outward and forward, in order to seek a purposeful life. "Martial arts was the first door where I somehow felt that there was a purpose in all the chaos that was existing around me." Her first book, Beginner With A Black Belt, was initially created through chaos. How it found structure is part of what makes it a fascinating read, through three powerful questions. From chaos to structure to the human condition, Ana's no longer running away. But you'll want to join her on where she's running to.
"There's no such thing as a rational decision," says Tim Ash, an authority on evolutionary psychology and digital marketing. As humans we believe we're special because of our ability to tame the wild horses of our emotions, and that reasoning is our highest attainment. "It's just not true," Tim says. "It's the big lie." Central to that, of course, is storytelling. It plays a central role in the primal brain. "We can't resist stories. They're like a back door, a trap door, into our head. They very quickly dismantle any notion of objectivity, because we get caught up in syncing up with the storyteller and experiencing that story."
Ousman Umar had a dream: to go to paradise. Be careful what you wish for. At 12-years old, Ousman left his remote village in Ghana and set out to get to Europe. Over the next five years, he was dumped in the middle of the Sahara Desert where many of his friends died. He was beaten and imprisoned in Benghazi, Libya, where many of his friends died. He was shipwrecked trying to get to the Canary Islands, where most all of his friends died. But he was never alone... until he got to paradise. "In Barcelona, nobody looked me in the eyes. Nobody answered my greetings. I slept in the streets, in winter, for two good months." Today, Ousman says, "I'm the President of my world." And with his presidential power, Ousman is changing the world, our world.
Gregg Robins On Living Messy Lives & Hard Times
"Everybody I talk to seems to have these bumps in the road," says Gregg Robins. "I think we all live messy lives, and I think we should rejoice in that, and not photoshop our lives." Gregg rejoices by telling stories. He's a storyteller with street cred. He dropped out of high school, then graduated Oxford and built a career in finance in Switzerland. But around the time of 9-11, his father was dying. He chose to leave Citibank and move with his three children back to America. "I went back to the States and found myself out of work, in America, having just had a family tragedy, having had a national tragedy, and had to pick up the pieces and rebuild my life." He shares his first foray into children's writing with his new book, "Silenzio, Sound The Alarm!" And he shares his latest song of hope, one that we can all use in this trying year, "Tomorrow Will Be Better Than Today." He also shares his way of approaching creativity and storytelling, perhaps something else that we can all use within our messy lives.
This is a story of fear and hope... packed with tools for powerful storytelling.
With recurring nightmares as a child, screenwriter and video games creator Jacob Carpenter decided to face his fears straight on. He studied horror films. His parents made a deal with him. He could watch any film he wanted... provided he read the book version first.
That's how Jacob discovered that 'the dark side' is where the human condition is at its most profound. It's where storytelling is at its most impacting. "The point of exploring the villain, for example, is not to point out how terrible he is," he says. "The point of the villain is to point out how human he is."
And here we are in 2020. "We're waiting for our 'Citizen Kane. We're waiting for the thing that establishes that paradigm shift, that opportunity to do something new and beautiful."
The struggle for redemption is upon us, Jacob says, "and I don't know that it will cause any change in storytelling. But I do think that storytelling will be part of the way that we get through it."
So fasten your seatbelt, strap on a helmet and dive with us deep into the depths of darkness... if you dare.
It all started in a bar in Costa Rica. That's where Marissa Fayer, a medical engineer, learned that women were dying of breast cancer at an alarming rate in the country's remote regions. "I knew I had to do something. I knew I was in a position to do something. I knew I was fortunate enough to have access to high-tech medical equipment." She just had to figure out how she could save these women's lives, not just in Costa Rica, but around the world.
As a native New Yorker living abroad, 9-11 brought unimaginable feelings of loneliness. To add salt to the wound, my high-profile sports marketing career had crashed. It was time for a reset. Two months after that horrible day, I flew home for Thanksgiving. Landing in JFK, I was a stranger in a strange land. I'd been an immigrant in other lands, but to feel that raw vulnerability in my homeland, had America changed? Or had I? Was there something I needed to discover in my own soul?
"I looked like I was facing an execution." That's how Bob McMahon's wife described Bob's TV appearances when he first made the jump from radio. "TV's a completely different animal," he says. As the beautiful game's popularity grew in North America, so did Bob's prominence as a soccer commentator on FOX Soccer Report. A native Irishman weaned on football, Bob also brought historical context that helped Canadian viewers enjoy the game and, paradoxically, feel the drama. "But," he adds, "there was a certain line I would not cross."
You stumble into a job at IBM and you climb the corporate ladder. All the while, something else is calling you from within: "I'm an artist." Says cool white dude, Jim Hallenbeck, on getting back into the craft of painting after three decades, "It took a lot of work." As Jim's works got juried, his former IBM colleague and cool black chick friend called him. Now a floral designer, Teri Freeland-Jones' appeal was simple: "Black lives really do matter." Check out the endeavors of two creative types who, after three decades, reignited their crafts and took a stand to reunite black, brown and white.
Mel Kelly is a glutton for punishment. The transplanted Irishman was killin' it with his standup comedy acts in Munich, Germany. So he took his show on the road. He got himself booked with six gigs in his hometown, Dublin. Spoiler alert: he bombed. "It was a car crash." His story will have you laughing and crying at the same time. He also shares some pearls of wisdom for telling stories to different audiences.
"Life is so simple when you're on your deathbed," says Patrick Ney. After surviving a traumatic blow to the head on the streets of Warsaw, the native Brit took to video to tell the stories of Poland’s World War II heroes. The host of "Heart of Poland" now finds heroes everywhere, every day. Some consider Patrick himself a hero of Polish life.
"I felt like I'd lost the true voice of what social media was supposed to be." The former marketing agency head knew he was at a crossroad. "The artist in me was always wanting to go out and shoot that photo, to find that story." So Geoff Livingston blew up his Twitter account, folded his agency, grabbed his camera and hit the street. Today his photos are making a difference for causes that matter.
One morning in 1965, John walked in to the recording studio at Abbey Road and made a confession to Paul. What happened after that marked the end of Beatles 1.0, as the Fab Four went on a four-year tear of defining the social narratives with timeless character-driven stories. Turn up the volume on this one.
Islamophobia in America drove Sarah Khan to a fear of white people. Post 9-11, the Muslim American was unable to leave her home. That's when she discovered the power of storytelling. Sarah had to take a chance. Now she wants you to.
"When the doctor came into the emergency room dressed like an astronaut, when I was trying to take breaths of air into my lungs and it wasn't getting there, that's when it became clear. I had COVID-19," Josep tells us from Barcelona. Through it all, and through the power of story, he found renewal.
If you want to be at your most creative, put all aspirations of success aside. Today Ajay Mathur lives without such expectations, and he's never been so creative. "The ideas don't come from me," says the singer-songwriter, "but from the muse." "You can't force it. You just have to be ready to accept the muse when she comes."
Sebastián Lora tells us about his prolific journey as an influencer on YouTube. "The journey is only worthwhile if you have a purpose," he says, and he tells us why. "Would you tell a better story if you were staring into the gun of a gangster?"
Titans of enterprise really don't know how to tell stories, says Chris Brogan. So he's created three types of stories that leaders should be using today. And as a creator, a storyteller, Chris tells us about his monster with 18 billion faces.
Though we don't always admit it, deep down inside we feel our flaws and conflicts. That's why stories without flawed and conflicted characters usually fall flat. Chris Corbett, author of Nirvana Blues, explains how to "show don't tell" this.
Tension is vital to keeping your audience engaged in, engrossed in, your content. Angelina J. Steffort, author of The Wings Trilogy, shows us how she goes deep into character arcs while also keeping her readers enthralled.
Theme is what takes storytelling from exciting... to exciting and touching. It's how we make our stories memorable, impacting and riveting. In this episode I share what I learned from one of the masters.