April 30, 2011


If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten. — Rudyard Kipling

Stories get results in everyday life but how do you compose and tell one? Entertainment executive Peter Guber comes to our rescue with Tell To Win: Connect, Persuade, and Triumph with the Hidden Power of Story (Amazon unaffiliated link).

This book is packed with examples of situations where stories got results. Peter makes you more alert to the stories all around you. That's the biggest benefit.

The Hook

Watch Peter in this Harvard Business Ideacast. These few minutes were enough to convince me to get the book.

Peter Guber, chairman and CEO of the Mandalay Entertainment Group,

Stories work best when they're told to us. To my surprise, Peter doesn't read us his own book. The narrator who was selected is on the dull side.

Too Many Notes

Tell To Win is reasonably entertaining but I felt that Peter was paid by the word. A good chunk could go. The audio version is almost 11 hours long but feels more like 17.

There's plenty of self-promotion and some reinterpretation of history. For instance, Peter thinks The Deep is a great movie. He also claims that Sony was building an entertainment complex on top of Hitler's bunker in Berlin — a recipe for failure. Wikipedia says the Sony Center is nearby at Potsdamer Platz and a big success. There are some 70,000 visitors to the area daily. The book leaves these facts out.

You'll find lots of name-dropping too. If you're a celebrity-worshipper, you may like that. How did director Tim Burton get Jack Nicholson to be the Joker in Batman (1989)? What story kept audiences away from Seven Years In Tibet? What did Mohammad Ali do for 30 minutes to get his film greenlighted?

Plan A

If you're looking to change others, there's a better starting point: Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath (Amazon unaffiliated link). Switch is shorter and much more engaging. You learn practical useful tools. Is your problem with the elephant (emotion) or rider (logic)? Guess which is more powerful?

Highlights from Switch by Chip and Dan Heath

Your Stories

Will you tell much better stories after finishing Tell To Win? That's tough to say. Your stories certainly won't get worse. As a minimum, count on becoming aware of the many stories around you and their power to influence.

In the financial world, there are tales of treasure hunts, insider secrets, turning lead into gold and the fall from grace.

Stories are simplistic. They imply causality that can't be proven. Yet stories are plausible and we like them. Today's complex world may make us crave for stories more than ever ... even when we've heard them before.


Podcast 115 (3:52)

direct download | Internet Archive page | iTunes (new)

PS Do you recommend any books about telling stories?

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