What is Storytelling?

Really, what does it mean? Telling a story with a picture, a video, a paragraph of text, a website?

The difference is feelings. Touching hearts. The recognition of humanness: I am part of this and this is part of me. I get it! Or: They get me! Energy. Imagination. Feeling connected and less alone. Braver, maybe. Part of something bigger.

Authenticity, imperfection. Genuine, unstaged and unscripted. Moments. Messy and real and human and honest. Soul. That’s the difference. Created from a place of truth and courage. And people can’t help but recognize it and be drawn to it.

There are two donut shops on my way to work. Both have a signpost. One reads: Berkeley’s best donuts. The other one: Donuts: The juiciest sin of your day.


It’s a pair of worn, aged, muddy work boots next to a pair of tiny pink ballerina flats standing by the entrance door. It’s a tray of cookies fresh from the oven, one missing, and a little hand sneaking in… The genuine emotion of a moment versus the empty smile in a posed portrait.

The Patagonia mission statement: “Committed to Uncommon Culture. We prefer the human scale to the corporate, vagabonding to tourism, the quirky and lively to the toned-down and flattened out.”


(Comparison. The Exxon Mobile mission statement reads: “Continuously achieve superior financial and operating results while adhering to the highest standards of busin…”) Did you fall asleep? Yeah. Me too.

The opposite of storytelling: Unsurprising, uninspired, unimaginative. Empty. Expected. Playing it safe. Business jargon. Perfection, sterility, façade, machine-made, conformism.

It’s why I’m so certain that we need stories: They help us remember that we are human. That we’re in this together. And that we’re so much more alike than we are different.

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