Bo Eason on How to Turn Your Story into A Real-Life Superpower

Bo Eason 1

Ever heard of Bo Eason? This real-life superhero is a pro at re-inventing himself: after playing four seasons for the National Football League, he made headlines by writing and starring in a one-man play. Today, Bo is a well-known speaker who helps people tap into the power of their own stories. So we spoke with him about how you can turn your story into your own real-life superpower.

SuperheroYou: What is the personal story, and why is it so important?

Bo Eason: It’s the one thing that connects us to other human beings, and it’s the one thing that differentiates us from every other human being. So it is very counterintuitive to talk about because for one thing, it connects you to the world, to every other human being in it, and at at the same time, your personal story distinguishes you and sets you apart from every other human being on the planet.

SHY: What does your Personal Story Power event do? 

BE: Our event teaches people that signature story piece that helps you with whatever your business is, or whatever you do. It connects you to other people. Say, for example, you run a non-profit and your job is to raise money for that non-profit. Your personal story is the key to the kingdom for you raising money for that non-profit. It’s also the key to the kingdom or the golden goose if you’re a politician and you want to win an election. It’s also that golden goose if you’re a financial adviser and your job is to protect people’s finances for the rest of their lives. For you to get business from that person, you have to connect with them somehow. They have to know your story if they are truly to trust you and to know you. That’s why they sign away 40 years of their life savings to you – because of that personal intimacy that they feel knowing your story.

SHY: All of these examples you just gave are very business-oriented. Is the personal story of power relevant in our personal lives?

BE: Yes. It’s the same thing in dating. Everyone who’s listening to this or watching this or reading this has been on a date. What’s the thing that connects you to that date, that makes you want to go on a second date, or makes you want to get married to that person? It’s the personal story. It’s the story that their body tells – physically and verbally also. But the body is really the expresser of the story. It’s the best expresser. Because you believe the body 100% of the time because the body has a really difficult time lying. So we can talk about it in intimate relationships. It’s story that connects you to people. So we can take it right out of the business sector very easily and put it right into any sector that you want.

SHY: What would you say is the difference between a story and a personal brand?

BE: I don’t make a distinction in that. I think they’re one and the same. If a brand is done well, they’re the same. Most people go at a brand from their brain. From a manipulative point of view. What brand is going to sell? I have to make up a brand for myself. I have to invent one that sells and that people will be attracted to. I say, you know what people are attracted to? You. Your authentic self. Your authentic story. That’s your brand, not the one you’re trying to manipulate them with in trying to get them to like you. That’s why, if you look at the Academy Awards, when they win Best Picture, they all give the same speech, and that speech goes like this: nobody wanted to make this movie. I got turned down by every studio, and I just took this movie under my arm, and I ran full speed, and I used my mom and dad’s credit cards to fund it, and I somehow made this personal little story and now everyone loves it after the fact. That’s what wins every year. It’s a personal story that the populace doesn’t like until they see it and then they go wow, that’s it. That’s the same thing with a brand. Your personal brand is your personal story. And if you have the ability to be true to yourself and tell it, then people will follow. You can also manipulate people with your fake brand. You can do that all day long, because there’s a lot of people who will fall for that stuff. But not true people. Not the people you want to work with.

SHY: You mentioned how important personal stories are for politicians. And given that we’re in an election year, can you talk a little bit about politicians who have done a good and a bad job of telling their personal story?

BE: If you look at our world right now, you’ve got to think, what is the story of the world? So if you just look at ISIS, and this may sound controversial, but it’s a great example. What is the story ISIS is telling and then what is the story the Americans are telling? Stories can be used for good or bad. It doesn’t matter. Story is effective. If you look back through time, you can look at Hitler. Hitler was an evil guy, did a lot of damage, killed 7 million people; he did that through story. Osama Bin Laden had guys drive commercial airplanes into buildings because of story. You can get people to act very badly if you tell a good story. Americans, right now, are very bad at telling our story. ISIS is telling actually a better story than our politicians are right now. Our politicians tell stories like this: you’re just very scared out there. You’re frightened. You’re weak and we’re going to take care of you as a government. That’s a story that we keep hearing over and over again that we’re afraid and then we start believing that story. If you and me sit down and go, “Hey, are you afraid?” No. I’m not afraid. But they keep telling us that we’re afraid so we start to believe it. And then they say, ISIS is evil and they’re scary and they’re coming to get us, instead of telling us, “Hey, we can beat ISIS.” We’re stronger. We’re more committed. We just have to get present, wake up and fight. And stop pretending that we’re scared. We’re just telling a really lousy story at the moment.

The politicians that win typically tell the best personal story. So if you look back to the 2008 elections between McCain and Obama, Obama’s story was that he was going to change everything. He had a lot of hope. He was the first black President – that was the story. He was the first black President. We’d never seen anybody be President that looked like him. That was his whole story. Do you know why? Because he didn’t have a story. He didn’t have any background. He didn’t have a story to tell, and so his story became historic. His story was, I’m the first black President. I’m going to change everything. I’m going to change the way everything looks and the way everything has gone on in this country up until now. John McCain has a great story of survival in the death camps over in Vietnam in Prisoner-of-War camps. He survived that. He was a fighter pilot. That’s a great story he didn’t tell. He was being tortured for his prison mates. So he’s in there in this POW camp with other Americans. He took the punishment for the other Americans, but he didn’t tell that story. That story wasn’t told because he didn’t want to use it. That was a huge mistake for him.

I think McCain actually has a better story, but he didn’t tell it. Because Obama didn’t have a story other than the historic relevance of his Presidency. He didn’t have anything he could go back to and go, “I really fought hard and built this and then I built that and then I worked at Hewlett-Packard and built this, and then I did this.” He didn’t have any resumé. But he knew that and that was very smart of Obama to talk about the historic relevancy of his presidency which became his story. McCain didn’t have any historic relevancy, but he should have gone to his personal story, which is, “Look, if I can fly a jet and land it on a carrier, if I can survive a POW camp, then I can certainly be your President.”  If he would have told that story, he might have won. But he was trying to be humble and he was trying to say, “I don’t have that story,” and that was a huge mistake on his part.

SHY: How much of your personal story should you share? Clearly, McCain didn’t because he wasn’t comfortable using it and obviously most of us haven’t been in POW camps. But where does the line draw?

BE: There is no line in story. Story is irrefutable. It is undeniable. That’s why it’s so effective. There’s no line – you can’t draw a line in story. It erases every line that there is and it bonds us. That’s why for centuries, since time, story has been the one thing that has stood the test of time. Whether it was drawings on a cave about the hunt of the buffalo that they killed that day, or the stories being passed down over the campfire, which then turned into books and stories like Shakespeare and plays and then which turned into movies. And it never ends, because it’s effective, and it bonds us. So, you and I may have nothing, no relation at all to some lady who lives in Afghanistan. You and me live here in America in nice homes and stuff. And she lives in a hut in Afghanistan. Or this could be somebody in Africa who has to fight a lion every day. We have nothing in common with them until we start to share our story. And the minute we start to share our story of having to defend ourselves against a lion where you and me have never had to do that, we now have a bond with this young lady in Africa. And we feel like we are her; we’re one with her. Same thing with us. She wouldn’t know that you and me get in a car every day and we drive to work. She thinks, what? You get in some thing and it drives you to a place where you work? Are you foraging for food? Are you having to kill animals? No, no. We push papers around and we type. What? That’s work? She has no idea what that is. But the minute we share our experience, our personal story with her, now we are her. We’re one. She has bonded with us because of the human element of that story, the bonding and the connective tissue that storytelling gives us.

SHY:  You train big speakers and big companies. What is some advice that you can apply to telling your personal story in a more intimate, smaller, more conversational telling where maybe you’re not doing on a stage? 

BE: I don’t make any distinction between stage and not stage. Those intimate stories, I want them told on stage, I want them told on camera, I want them told if you and I are having a glass of wine and it was just us two, I want it told there. I want it told through social media, although when you’re in social media, it’s bits and pieces of that story. And then it’s a longer story as you go on through the weeks and the months and the years.

SHY: How do most people tell their stories, and how should they be telling it?

BE: People always do this: let me tell you a story. Never do that! Don’t tell people you’re going to tell them a story. Just tell the story. Also, people usually tell their story from a distance. If you look at the news, they tell stories from a distance. They’re a person sitting at a desk reading a teleprompter telling a story of what happened. There was some car accident. Well, you don’t get the emotion of the car accident because they’re so distant from the story. If you and me are telling a story, we tell the personal story of that accident. I saw the car come out. I saw the blur in my left eye. This car ran the red light and I screeched on the brake and sweat started to pour off me and as soon as we hit, my eye was filled with glass and then I couldn’t see. That’s how you should tell it: firsthand, personal. I had a great man named Larry Moss who directed my one-man show, Runt of the Litter. When we were writing that play and when we were developing it to go to New York, he kept reminding me of one sentence over and over again. He said the more personal your story, the more universal it becomes. Because us as storytellers, we always want to distance ourselves from our own story, as if we were kind of disemboweled from our own story. He taught me that your story is you. Your molecules are your story. And the more personal you make it to you, the more universality it has to the world – the more people it affects out in the world. A great example of this is if I talk about my dad’s hands. My dad had these really rough hands, but that’s very personal to me. His hands were scar tissue. So when he would pick us up when we were kids, it would scratch us. And we would scream. We would go, “Dad, put me down,” because his hands were so scarred. So that’s personal to me, but what it does when I tell a personal story of my dad’s hands, the audience doesn’t think of my dad’s hands. They think of their dad’s hands. Now, if I made that story very un-specific to me, then it doesn’t affect anybody. But I make the story specific and personal to me and my dad’s hands… what that felt like and what it looked like. That way, the audience is not thinking about me. They’re thinking about their own personal life, their own dad’s hands, and what their dad’s hands were like. That’s the key to great storytelling. The more personal, the more universal.

SHY: Where do you start finding your personal story? When you say personal story, is it one specific story? Can you have multiple?

BE: You can have multiples in your life. We all have a lot of defining moments in our lives, but there’s usually one that really defines who you are for the rest of your life. For a lot of us, it happens between the ages of 9 and 12, so I would look right in there somewhere. And it’s probably something that you were told you couldn’t do; for example, if you’re at the age of 9, and you’re singing with your sister in the back and you guys are just singing along to the radio, and your mom turns around and says you’re not a good singer like your sister so please don’t sing. That is the woman who becomes Mariah Carey or Celine Dion or Barbara Streisand – whoever is a great singer today. Those defining moments are great stories, because they define who you are going forward. Look at every great athlete, the best of all time, like Michael Jordan. He’s the best basketball player of all time, so you would think his story would be that when he was a little kid, he was just the greatest basketball player ever and he worked harder than anybody. That is never true. That’s never the greats’ story. The greats’ defining story goes like this: Michael Jordan got cut from his high school basketball team twice. He was told he was no good in high school, certainly not good enough to be on the team. But he ends up being the greatest player in the history of a sport. How could those two things be true? Those two things are always true, because of the defining moment story. The moment that his high school coach cut him, he decided, I’m going to right that wrong. And I’m going to outwork everybody, and I’m going to become the greatest of all time. Those are the defining moment stories that you have in your life that I want you to look for. Every great financial adviser that I’ve ever worked with, when they were a kid, they were faced with a story of the loss of money and the loss of safety and security. And the wealthier and the more successful they are, the stronger that story was between the ages of 9 and 12 where they had no money. Where their parents lost everything and they were desolate. And then they righted that wrong and became very successful in the world of money. Those are the defining moment stories that I’m looking for always. You might think you don’t have one. You do. Because there’s no way you got to where you are today without one.

SHY: Why do these happen between 9 and 12? Are these the only defining moments? Can they happen later?

BE: Oh yeah. I had one at 40, I had one at 33, I had one at 37, definitely. They keep going. I have a friend who had his defining moment, like his signature story, his best story when he was 40. So it’s not straight-up across the board. It’s just that in between the ages of 9 and 12 is a great place to look, because that one is probably the one that’s going to carry you forth. And the one that my friend had at 40, I bet you it found its solidity back younger when he was between 9 and 12. And then this was just a reoccurring theme for him. But he’s unable to find it. So definitely, it can happen at any age, and they’ll continue to happen. I like the ones between 9 and 12, because they seem to carry the most emotional weight.

SHY: Some people have these defining moments and go on to do great things. But most people, I would say, are not that impressive. 

BE: So we do one of two things when these stories happen. I was a pro athlete. So when I was 9 or 10, I tried out for the Little League team, and they cut me. They said, “No, you’re no good, you can’t play.” And the moment that I got that news, all of us do one of two things. We either fight, or we stop. We quit. And our heart is filled with Novocaine then for the rest of our lives. I’m not talking necessarily to those people who have stopped. Because if you stopped, that is a story. Say you went up to the most handsome guy at the 8th grade, and you wanted him to take you to the dance. And you say, Joe Handsome, you’re the guy I want to take me to the dance. And he says no. Then, either you’re never asking again, or you’re going to ask everybody. You’re going to go up to every handsome guy, and go, “You know what? I want to marry you. You know what, I want to do business with you.” You will either fight or you’ll quit.

If you quit, which a lot of us do, that’s a different kind of story. It’s not the defining moment story. I mean, it can be, but you’re going to have to be a great storyteller to tell it. One way or another, that moment that you either quit and your heart was filled with Novocaine for the rest of your days, or you fought, it is still your defining moment story. It’s just told in a little bit different way, but it’s still your story. And you see this all over the place. You see people who seemingly are mean or don’t have a heart. And the reason they have that is because something happened. And that is their story, if they have the ability to tell it. It works either way. You just have to have the ability to tell it and remember it. Which you can do, but you have to go back and you have to feel that pain again. Great stories come from pain. They never come from great things. The great things come from pain. And the defining moment story is pain.

So I have a little experiment for everybody who’s going to read this. Think right now for 5 seconds of your most proudest moment in your life. The one you’re most proud of. And everyone comes up with that one pretty damn quick. We all know what that moment is. And now, forget about that one because that’s not a good story. For the next 5 seconds, think of your lowest moment. That moment where you looked around and there were no answers. Now that’s a story. That’s the one I want to tell. And a great example of that if you and me were going to make up a story today, or write a book, or make a movie about the climbing of Mount Everest, and say we’re going to make a movie. What would be the first scene in that movie? What would the first thing we’d let the audience see? Would it be you and me standing on top of Mount Everest with a flag planted on top? Nobody cares. There’s no story. Nobody cares about you being on the top of Mount Everest. The story’s over. They don’t care. There’s no emotion. But if the first frame of the film we show the audience is you and me standing at the bottom of that mountain, looking up at the peak, and looking at each other and going, “There’s no way in hell we can do it, we’re going to die” – that’s a story.

Liked this? Check out Superhero Secrets: Bo Eason, Part 1!

Written by Sasha Graffagna

Ever heard of Bo Eason? This real-life superhero is a pro at re-inventing himself: after playing four seasons for the National Football League, he made headlines by writing and starring in a one-man play. Today, Bo is a well-known speaker who helps people tap into the power of their own stories. So we spoke with him about how you can turn your story into your own real-life superpower.

SuperheroYou: What is the personal story, and why is it so important?

Bo Eason: It’s the one thing that connects us to other human beings, and it’s the one thing that differentiates us from every other human being. So it is very counterintuitive to talk about because for one thing, it connects you to the world, to every other human being in it, and at at the same time, your personal story distinguishes you and sets you apart from every other human being on the planet.

SHY: What does your Personal Story Power event do? 

BE: Our event teaches people that signature story piece that helps you with whatever your business is, or whatever you do. It connects you to other people. Say, for example, you run a non-profit and your job is to raise money for that non-profit. Your personal story is the key to the kingdom for you raising money for that non-profit. It’s also the key to the kingdom or the golden goose if you’re a politician and you want to win an election. It’s also that golden goose if you’re a financial adviser and your job is to protect people’s finances for the rest of their lives. For you to get business from that person, you have to connect with them somehow. They have to know your story if they are truly to trust you and to know you. That’s why they sign away 40 years of their life savings to you – because of that personal intimacy that they feel knowing your story.

SHY: All of these examples you just gave are very business-oriented. Is the personal story of power relevant in our personal lives?

BE: Yes. It’s the same thing in dating. Everyone who’s listening to this or watching this or reading this has been on a date. What’s the thing that connects you to that date, that makes you want to go on a second date, or makes you want to get married to that person? It’s the personal story. It’s the story that their body tells – physically and verbally also. But the body is really the expresser of the story. It’s the best expresser. Because you believe the body 100% of the time because the body has a really difficult time lying. So we can talk about it in intimate relationships. It’s story that connects you to people. So we can take it right out of the business sector very easily and put it right into any sector that you want.

SHY: What would you say is the difference between a story and a personal brand?

BE: I don’t make a distinction in that. I think they’re one and the same. If a brand is done well, they’re the same. Most people go at a brand from their brain. From a manipulative point of view. What brand is going to sell? I have to make up a brand for myself. I have to invent one that sells and that people will be attracted to. I say, you know what people are attracted to? You. Your authentic self. Your authentic story. That’s your brand, not the one you’re trying to manipulate them with in trying to get them to like you. That’s why, if you look at the Academy Awards, when they win Best Picture, they all give the same speech, and that speech goes like this: nobody wanted to make this movie. I got turned down by every studio, and I just took this movie under my arm, and I ran full speed, and I used my mom and dad’s credit cards to fund it, and I somehow made this personal little story and now everyone loves it after the fact. That’s what wins every year. It’s a personal story that the populace doesn’t like until they see it and then they go wow, that’s it. That’s the same thing with a brand. Your personal brand is your personal story. And if you have the ability to be true to yourself and tell it, then people will follow. You can also manipulate people with your fake brand. You can do that all day long, because there’s a lot of people who will fall for that stuff. But not true people. Not the people you want to work with.

SHY: You mentioned how important personal stories are for politicians. And given that we’re in an election year, can you talk a little bit about politicians who have done a good and a bad job of telling their personal story?

BE: If you look at our world right now, you’ve got to think, what is the story of the world? So if you just look at ISIS, and this may sound controversial, but it’s a great example. What is the story ISIS is telling and then what is the story the Americans are telling? Stories can be used for good or bad. It doesn’t matter. Story is effective. If you look back through time, you can look at Hitler. Hitler was an evil guy, did a lot of damage, killed 7 million people; he did that through story. Osama Bin Laden had guys drive commercial airplanes into buildings because of story. You can get people to act very badly if you tell a good story. Americans, right now, are very bad at telling our story. ISIS is telling actually a better story than our politicians are right now. Our politicians tell stories like this: you’re just very scared out there. You’re frightened. You’re weak and we’re going to take care of you as a government. That’s a story that we keep hearing over and over again that we’re afraid and then we start believing that story. If you and me sit down and go, “Hey, are you afraid?” No. I’m not afraid. But they keep telling us that we’re afraid so we start to believe it. And then they say, ISIS is evil and they’re scary and they’re coming to get us, instead of telling us, “Hey, we can beat ISIS.” We’re stronger. We’re more committed. We just have to get present, wake up and fight. And stop pretending that we’re scared. We’re just telling a really lousy story at the moment.

The politicians that win typically tell the best personal story. So if you look back to the 2008 elections between McCain and Obama, Obama’s story was that he was going to change everything. He had a lot of hope. He was the first black President – that was the story. He was the first black President. We’d never seen anybody be President that looked like him. That was his whole story. Do you know why? Because he didn’t have a story. He didn’t have any background. He didn’t have a story to tell, and so his story became historic. His story was, I’m the first black President. I’m going to change everything. I’m going to change the way everything looks and the way everything has gone on in this country up until now. John McCain has a great story of survival in the death camps over in Vietnam in Prisoner-of-War camps. He survived that. He was a fighter pilot. That’s a great story he didn’t tell. He was being tortured for his prison mates. So he’s in there in this POW camp with other Americans. He took the punishment for the other Americans, but he didn’t tell that story. That story wasn’t told because he didn’t want to use it. That was a huge mistake for him.

I think McCain actually has a better story, but he didn’t tell it. Because Obama didn’t have a story other than the historic relevance of his Presidency. He didn’t have anything he could go back to and go, “I really fought hard and built this and then I built that and then I worked at Hewlett-Packard and built this, and then I did this.” He didn’t have any resumé. But he knew that and that was very smart of Obama to talk about the historic relevancy of his presidency which became his story. McCain didn’t have any historic relevancy, but he should have gone to his personal story, which is, “Look, if I can fly a jet and land it on a carrier, if I can survive a POW camp, then I can certainly be your President.”  If he would have told that story, he might have won. But he was trying to be humble and he was trying to say, “I don’t have that story,” and that was a huge mistake on his part.

SHY: How much of your personal story should you share? Clearly, McCain didn’t because he wasn’t comfortable using it and obviously most of us haven’t been in POW camps. But where does the line draw?

BE: There is no line in story. Story is irrefutable. It is undeniable. That’s why it’s so effective. There’s no line – you can’t draw a line in story. It erases every line that there is and it bonds us. That’s why for centuries, since time, story has been the one thing that has stood the test of time. Whether it was drawings on a cave about the hunt of the buffalo that they killed that day, or the stories being passed down over the campfire, which then turned into books and stories like Shakespeare and plays and then which turned into movies. And it never ends, because it’s effective, and it bonds us. So, you and I may have nothing, no relation at all to some lady who lives in Afghanistan. You and me live here in America in nice homes and stuff. And she lives in a hut in Afghanistan. Or this could be somebody in Africa who has to fight a lion every day. We have nothing in common with them until we start to share our story. And the minute we start to share our story of having to defend ourselves against a lion where you and me have never had to do that, we now have a bond with this young lady in Africa. And we feel like we are her; we’re one with her. Same thing with us. She wouldn’t know that you and me get in a car every day and we drive to work. She thinks, what? You get in some thing and it drives you to a place where you work? Are you foraging for food? Are you having to kill animals? No, no. We push papers around and we type. What? That’s work? She has no idea what that is. But the minute we share our experience, our personal story with her, now we are her. We’re one. She has bonded with us because of the human element of that story, the bonding and the connective tissue that storytelling gives us.

SHY:  You train big speakers and big companies. What is some advice that you can apply to telling your personal story in a more intimate, smaller, more conversational telling where maybe you’re not doing on a stage? 

BE: I don’t make any distinction between stage and not stage. Those intimate stories, I want them told on stage, I want them told on camera, I want them told if you and I are having a glass of wine and it was just us two, I want it told there. I want it told through social media, although when you’re in social media, it’s bits and pieces of that story. And then it’s a longer story as you go on through the weeks and the months and the years.

SHY: How do most people tell their stories, and how should they be telling it?

BE: People always do this: let me tell you a story. Never do that! Don’t tell people you’re going to tell them a story. Just tell the story. Also, people usually tell their story from a distance. If you look at the news, they tell stories from a distance. They’re a person sitting at a desk reading a teleprompter telling a story of what happened. There was some car accident. Well, you don’t get the emotion of the car accident because they’re so distant from the story. If you and me are telling a story, we tell the personal story of that accident. I saw the car come out. I saw the blur in my left eye. This car ran the red light and I screeched on the brake and sweat started to pour off me and as soon as we hit, my eye was filled with glass and then I couldn’t see. That’s how you should tell it: firsthand, personal. I had a great man named Larry Moss who directed my one-man show, Runt of the Litter. When we were writing that play and when we were developing it to go to New York, he kept reminding me of one sentence over and over again. He said the more personal your story, the more universal it becomes. Because us as storytellers, we always want to distance ourselves from our own story, as if we were kind of disemboweled from our own story. He taught me that your story is you. Your molecules are your story. And the more personal you make it to you, the more universality it has to the world – the more people it affects out in the world. A great example of this is if I talk about my dad’s hands. My dad had these really rough hands, but that’s very personal to me. His hands were scar tissue. So when he would pick us up when we were kids, it would scratch us. And we would scream. We would go, “Dad, put me down,” because his hands were so scarred. So that’s personal to me, but what it does when I tell a personal story of my dad’s hands, the audience doesn’t think of my dad’s hands. They think of their dad’s hands. Now, if I made that story very un-specific to me, then it doesn’t affect anybody. But I make the story specific and personal to me and my dad’s hands… what that felt like and what it looked like. That way, the audience is not thinking about me. They’re thinking about their own personal life, their own dad’s hands, and what their dad’s hands were like. That’s the key to great storytelling. The more personal, the more universal.

SHY: Where do you start finding your personal story? When you say personal story, is it one specific story? Can you have multiple?

BE: You can have multiples in your life. We all have a lot of defining moments in our lives, but there’s usually one that really defines who you are for the rest of your life. For a lot of us, it happens between the ages of 9 and 12, so I would look right in there somewhere. And it’s probably something that you were told you couldn’t do; for example, if you’re at the age of 9, and you’re singing with your sister in the back and you guys are just singing along to the radio, and your mom turns around and says you’re not a good singer like your sister so please don’t sing. That is the woman who becomes Mariah Carey or Celine Dion or Barbara Streisand – whoever is a great singer today. Those defining moments are great stories, because they define who you are going forward. Look at every great athlete, the best of all time, like Michael Jordan. He’s the best basketball player of all time, so you would think his story would be that when he was a little kid, he was just the greatest basketball player ever and he worked harder than anybody. That is never true. That’s never the greats’ story. The greats’ defining story goes like this: Michael Jordan got cut from his high school basketball team twice. He was told he was no good in high school, certainly not good enough to be on the team. But he ends up being the greatest player in the history of a sport. How could those two things be true? Those two things are always true, because of the defining moment story. The moment that his high school coach cut him, he decided, I’m going to right that wrong. And I’m going to outwork everybody, and I’m going to become the greatest of all time. Those are the defining moment stories that you have in your life that I want you to look for. Every great financial adviser that I’ve ever worked with, when they were a kid, they were faced with a story of the loss of money and the loss of safety and security. And the wealthier and the more successful they are, the stronger that story was between the ages of 9 and 12 where they had no money. Where their parents lost everything and they were desolate. And then they righted that wrong and became very successful in the world of money. Those are the defining moment stories that I’m looking for always. You might think you don’t have one. You do. Because there’s no way you got to where you are today without one.

SHY: Why do these happen between 9 and 12? Are these the only defining moments? Can they happen later?

BE: Oh yeah. I had one at 40, I had one at 33, I had one at 37, definitely. They keep going. I have a friend who had his defining moment, like his signature story, his best story when he was 40. So it’s not straight-up across the board. It’s just that in between the ages of 9 and 12 is a great place to look, because that one is probably the one that’s going to carry you forth. And the one that my friend had at 40, I bet you it found its solidity back younger when he was between 9 and 12. And then this was just a reoccurring theme for him. But he’s unable to find it. So definitely, it can happen at any age, and they’ll continue to happen. I like the ones between 9 and 12, because they seem to carry the most emotional weight.

SHY: Some people have these defining moments and go on to do great things. But most people, I would say, are not that impressive. 

BE: So we do one of two things when these stories happen. I was a pro athlete. So when I was 9 or 10, I tried out for the Little League team, and they cut me. They said, “No, you’re no good, you can’t play.” And the moment that I got that news, all of us do one of two things. We either fight, or we stop. We quit. And our heart is filled with Novocaine then for the rest of our lives. I’m not talking necessarily to those people who have stopped. Because if you stopped, that is a story. Say you went up to the most handsome guy at the 8th grade, and you wanted him to take you to the dance. And you say, Joe Handsome, you’re the guy I want to take me to the dance. And he says no. Then, either you’re never asking again, or you’re going to ask everybody. You’re going to go up to every handsome guy, and go, “You know what? I want to marry you. You know what, I want to do business with you.” You will either fight or you’ll quit.

If you quit, which a lot of us do, that’s a different kind of story. It’s not the defining moment story. I mean, it can be, but you’re going to have to be a great storyteller to tell it. One way or another, that moment that you either quit and your heart was filled with Novocaine for the rest of your days, or you fought, it is still your defining moment story. It’s just told in a little bit different way, but it’s still your story. And you see this all over the place. You see people who seemingly are mean or don’t have a heart. And the reason they have that is because something happened. And that is their story, if they have the ability to tell it. It works either way. You just have to have the ability to tell it and remember it. Which you can do, but you have to go back and you have to feel that pain again. Great stories come from pain. They never come from great things. The great things come from pain. And the defining moment story is pain.

So I have a little experiment for everybody who’s going to read this. Think right now for 5 seconds of your most proudest moment in your life. The one you’re most proud of. And everyone comes up with that one pretty damn quick. We all know what that moment is. And now, forget about that one because that’s not a good story. For the next 5 seconds, think of your lowest moment. That moment where you looked around and there were no answers. Now that’s a story. That’s the one I want to tell. And a great example of that if you and me were going to make up a story today, or write a book, or make a movie about the climbing of Mount Everest, and say we’re going to make a movie. What would be the first scene in that movie? What would the first thing we’d let the audience see? Would it be you and me standing on top of Mount Everest with a flag planted on top? Nobody cares. There’s no story. Nobody cares about you being on the top of Mount Everest. The story’s over. They don’t care. There’s no emotion. But if the first frame of the film we show the audience is you and me standing at the bottom of that mountain, looking up at the peak, and looking at each other and going, “There’s no way in hell we can do it, we’re going to die” – that’s a story.

Liked this? Check out Superhero Secrets: Bo Eason, Part 1!

Written by Sasha Graffagna

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