• Story Club
  • Posts
  • Money for nothing and chickens for free

Money for nothing and chickens for free

I wake up, and the first thing I notice is the smell of hot cocoa. 

The second is my mom pulling off my covers and shouting, 

“Get dressed, hurry, the school shuttle is almost here already!!”

I jump out of bed, throw my school uniform on, and down the hot cocoa in one. It doesn’t go down smooth. 

I run into the bathroom, look in the mirror and despair: 

My hair's a mess, there's no way I can fix it without a shower - and I really can’t go to school looking like this. 

Being 10 is hard enough as it is, my classmates don’t need more ammunition.

So I take a deep breath, turn on the tap, and stick my head under the water. 

I barely start drying my hair when I hear my mom, hanging half-out the window and shouting down to the van stopped in front of our house:

“He’s coming, he’s coming, don’t leave!!”

I drop the towel, grab my backpack, and half-run, half-stumble down the stairs.

I get in the shuttle and realise the driver is playing that damn Dire Straits album again. 

I’m out of breath, the back of my shirt is wet, my throat burns, and now I have to listen to these stupid lyrics that make no sense. 

What’s a sultan? 

What’s swing? 

How do you get money for nothing?

And even if I could, why would I want to get chicks for free?? What am I going to do with baby chickens?!?

As the motion of the van makes me sleepy again, all I can think of is that grown-up music is stupid. 

Going to school this early is stupid. 

And maybe I need to ask my mom for something that’s not hot cocoa for breakfast. 

The easiest way to ruin your story 

There are seven different areas of the brain that can be engaged when you process information. 

Two areas, responsible for language processing and acquisition, are always engaged. 

Using sensory descriptions in a story can work really well, because they allow you to engage up to five additional areas (the ones responsible for your senses). That is one of the reasons why we say stories are engaging - they are literally engaging more areas of the brain. 

That’s why it's good to talk about smelling hot cocoa, getting your head under the tap, having the back of your shirt wet, or about specific music that enough people might recognise. It makes the story better. 

But that can go wrong very quickly if you say things like “I could hear the bacon fat sizzling in the pan,” or “smell the fresh roasted coffee percolating as I walked in the kitchen.” 

The same goes for “I could see the moonlight glinting off her dress” or “the autumn leaves swaying like dancers.”

Is it evocative? Sure. 

Is it beautiful? Possibly.

But no one speaks like that

You’re not doing spoken word. You’re not writing literature. It’s not a poetry recital. 

If you wouldn’t use words like that in a normal conversation with your friends, don’t use them when you tell a story. 

Engaging the senses is great - but sounding like a real human being is better 🤘


PS. Want to learn how to use stories to build your world class keynote speech? You can check the details and join our next 2-day intensive workshop here.

Whenever you're ready, there are 3 ways I can help you:

  1. Getting clarity through your story to stand out from all the other coaches, speakers and entrepreneurs out there 

  2. If you dream of speaking on the Red Dot, take this Scorecard and instantly discover how likely your idea is to be accepted by a TED-style organizing committee

  3. If you (or your team) got any storytelling challenges, I’m sure there’s something we can do together ;-)

Thanks for reading! Reply any time.