Effective Storytelling: All Great Story Ideas Start From Somewhere With John David Mann 

June 16, 2021
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LBL John | Effective Storytelling

 

When writing your own personal life story, you want to include everything. Every experience, every moment, every joke. But sometimes it's better to leave some on the cutting-room floor. It's better to focus on one thing rather than two at the same time. Because when it comes to storytelling, you can get so much more story by removing all the clutter. This is what New York Times Bestselling author, John David Mann believes in. John is the bestselling author of several books such as Steel Fear, The Go-Giver, Out of the Maze, and many more. John also writes blogs, novels, memoirs, and just about anything. Learn all about good storytelling and how to write it with your host, Ben Baker and his guest John David Mann. Find out John's secrets to writing and how all great story ideas start from somewhere.

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LBL Kevyn Rustici | Human Resources

Effective Storytelling: All Great Story Ideas Start From Somewhere With John David Mann

Welcome back my wonderful audience. You are amazing. You comment on my social media, send me emails, tell me what you like and what you don’t like. I love the fact that you come with me on this journey every single episode. In this episode, I’ve got the back half of the book ends. I had Bob Burg on the show from The Go-Giver. Now, I have his amazing partner on The Go-Giver series, John David Mann and we’re going to talk about how to be an effective storyteller. John, welcome to the show.

Thank you, Ben. It’s good to be here. It’s good to have the other shoe finally drop. Isn’t it?

It’s neat when you sit there and we were talking about something as prolific as The Go-Giver. You were telling me off here that you guys crossed the million-copy mark. We’re talking 30 different editions across the world, a million copies. It’s an incredible thing in the book publishing world. As for me, I've got two books. Maybe I've sold 3,000 copies between my two editions. To have one book that has been that prolific and well-received is an amazing thing. Kudos to you and Bob for everything that you guys have done.

Thank you so much. It wasn’t the first book I published, it was the second, but it was the book that launched my career as a writer. At the time, I wasn’t planning to be an author or to write books. That was not my life path. At least I thought not. I had a whole scheme in mind and it wasn’t this. I was going to be a screenwriter, go to Hollywood and write movies. That was my deal and my plan. I’d been out there in Hollywood. I was studying with a fantastic teacher and Bob Burg called me up and said, “I had this idea for a book. I don’t want you to edit it. I need you to write it with me because it’s not the kind of book I know how to write. I write how to do things books, how to network, how to sell, how to manage a group of people.”

He doesn’t like to figure out himself as a leader. Although clearly, he is one so, “How to lead?” This is the kind of things that Bob is comfortable writing, “How to be a person of influence, but a story that engages its readership, you do that.” I did it. Bob Burg ruined my career because the whole screenwriting thing had to go on hold. Here I am many books later. Little did I realize this appears to be the reason I was put on this planet, it’s to write books. I’ve been having a blast and The Go-Giver was the launching pad for my life as it is now. I’m grateful to the book and to every reader of that book of which there are now over a million.

LBL John | Effective Storytelling

Effective Storytelling: The most productive part of writing is pulling out all these things that don't fit. Removing all the distractions, all the things that are just hemming and hawing.

 

Who knows? You may go back to screenwriting with your book Steel Fear. That may become a screenplay or a billion-dollar franchise. You may end up going back into that screenwriting world. We never know where the world is going to take us. Before we talk about where we’re going, let’s talk about where you’ve been because you have a storied path. All the way from starting your own school and everything else that goes with it. Tell me a little bit about who is John David Mann and what brought you to where you are now?

I would have to start by saying my mom was a storyteller. I know that we’re here now to talk about storytelling. My father was a musician. He was a choral conductor, a musicologist, a professor and a prolific instrumentalist. He played everything from the recorder to the double bass. He was made of music. He grew up in Germany. He studied with the fourteenth successor of Bach in Bach’s church. The man lived and breathed Baroque music from his homeland. That was the world I was steeped in as a kid. I started out as a classical musician. My mom was a teacher. She taught Greek Mythology and she loved all things Greek. She was a musician too but it wasn’t her profession.

She was a professional teacher, playwright and storyteller. Some of my earliest memories were of her telling stories, whether they were stories that she’d read or made up. I started out as a classical musician. That was my career. It was my plan. I was talking to you earlier about how my plans don’t seem to work out that way. I’ve made a lot of plans for my career and my career has always gone on a mind of its own. The musician thing took a backseat. I get very involved in Global Philosophy, health and nutrition. I got into the nutrition world for a while and into the retail world as a purveyor of natural and whole foods. That led me eventually to the sales, marketing world and direct sales. I got very involved in publishing, some journals about direct sales. It was my entree to the publishing world.

Everywhere I went, all along the way, musician, educator, you mentioned starting the high school. My friends and I started our own high school when I was 17, at 18 I went to it as a student, at 19 I went back to it as part of the faculty. We graduated students from our fluky-flaky little alternative high school and sent them on to places like Yale, Harvard and Rutgers State school. It was a big deal. Everything I did seemed to turn into something large and I was always the guy responsible for editing the newsletter, the brochure, the speech or the article for the magazine. That’s how I backed into the world of being an author. I was editing other people’s stuff for decades before I started to write my own stuff or write books. It’s a weird thing.

I published 30 books depending on how you count because some of my books are ghostwritten. All but two of those books are partnerships. They’re co-authorship like The Go-Giver. In some cases, they’ve been books that I wrote 50/50 with somebody. The Go-Giver is you take a bunch of Bob Burg, take a bunch of John David Mann, you put it in a barrel and mix it all up. You call one gin and call the other one a tonic and The Go-Giver is the result. It’s the result of his decades of experience in sales and sales management, my decades of experience in direct sales and leadership and we put it all together. I was the one responsible for putting the sentences together on the page but it was a collaborative venture right from the start. It was a true marriage as well all the following books. The Go-Giver Leader is a little bit more my field because I’ve always been in leadership guy. The Go-Giver Influencer is a little bit more Bob’s field because he’s always been so taken it with influence, but they’re all both of us.

LBL John | Effective Storytelling

Effective Storytelling: If you want to be a writer in any form, you have to make it a practice, a craft that you hone and get better at. You've got to write every day just a little bit.

 

I’ve also written a bunch of books that were other people’s memoirs. They’re more like what you think of as a ghostwriter. For example, Brandon Webb, my Navy SEAL friend. I wrote his memoir, The Red Circle. I’ve written a number of memoirs of prominent business people, political figures, futurists, all kinds of other people’s stories. In every situation, my job has been to go into the heart of some massive content, whether it’s what someone thinks, someone’s life or a topic that somebody and I are collaborating on to dive into this massive content and pull out a story, pull out a thread that will draw a reader in page one and hopefully, even before that, the flap of the book. It's where you draw them in. Draw them on page one, hold them there and not let go of them until the last page. That's the goal of every book, whether it's a parable, fiction, nonfiction, memoir. I believe that every book has a story or should be.

That’s such a challenging thing for anybody who has never done it. Editing a book, content development or that whole process is as challenging if not more than writing the book itself. It is amazing to me how much of my book ended up on the cutting room floor. You sit there going, “Is this superfluous? Does this draw the story out? Does this continue the story? Will it bring people to the table? Does it provide insights?” Somebody who can do that effectively, sit there and create that thread that pulls people through the novel and keeps them turning page after page, whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, that’s a real challenge and a real talent.

Take what you said to the microcosm level because maybe a lot of your readers aren’t writing novels. Imagine you’re writing a blog post. For many years, I wrote on regular columns for business magazines or several different magazines in succession starting in 1990 or 1986. Once or twice a month or once every other month, depending on the schedule of publication, I had a page to fill and I only got one page. Depending on the layout of the magazine, it was either 400 or 800 words. That was it. Four hundred words isn’t a whole lot of words.

It was a lot like writing a succinct blog post. Later on, after I left the magazines, I started blogging. My blog has been an irregular thing. I’ve been blogging every two weeks since January. Before that, I had a three-year hiatus, before that I was blogging every week for a couple of years. I put a lot of content on that blog. It’s one of the most challenging but also the most productive and helpful formats that an aspiring writer can pick up and work with because you've got such a limitation. Forget the novel for a second and imagine you want to do what you just said, "Is this superfluous? Does this serve the story? Does it move the thread forward? Does it pull the reader in and hold them there in 400 words?" I call it an essay for lack of a better word.

I call it a thought. I have trouble spelling my name in 400 words. For me, 800 or 2,000 words is so much easier than 400.

A thought is like a child. It's yours, you're proud of it. Click To Tweet

There’s this famous quotation which has been attributed to a lot of different people, “I would have written you a shorter letter but I didn’t have the time.” Here’s what used to happen to me. I would have a topic for a column. Usually, I’d put it off until the last 2 or 3 days like every good college kid used to do. I started out writing 400 words. I didn’t quite know what I was running about. It was awkward getting going. I doodle, diddle and daddled. I get this idea for a paragraph and read some more. I’d scribble a bit and I knew it wasn’t great but it was the first rough draft and it was 1,500 or 1,200 words. I was like, “ How can I possibly cut this down to 400?” It took me a while to learn this, what I often found when I was frustrated with the oversize of this thing, I was trying to say more than one thing. I would find there were 2 or 3 topics in there. You said you call it a thought. This was 2 or 3 thoughts. In other words, I hadn’t yet clarified in my mind what the heck I was saying.

What was the theme that was going to go through the entire piece?

I was writing around it, which is a great way to get into it, but I hadn’t yet homed in on, “What am I talking about here? What’s the point?” Limericks are cool for that. What often happened to me was once I realized that I had two thoughts trying to occupy one space, I would take one out painfully because I didn’t want to let go of it because it’s mine. I thought of it as a child. It’s yours. You’re proud of it. I would pull out one thought, put it to the side and sometimes, this one draft became the seeds for two different articles. The other one I might write at some point like weeks or months from now or never, but sometimes I would.

I found that the most productive part of writing for me in terms of trying to find the story, the thread, the compelling part at the core of it is in pulling out all the stuff that doesn’t fit, that’s a distraction, that’s just hemming and hawing, maybe even beautiful prose or funny descriptions but is rambling off the point. That’s been the biggest challenge for me because I ramble a lot when I talk. I’ll give you a great example of this. Steel Fear, my novel. It weighs about 100,000 words. It's about the length of an average thriller. My first draft was 150,000 words. I thought it was done. To me, it was finished, polished and ready to go to press but it wasn’t.

Your editor got ahead on it.

LBL John | Effective Storytelling

Effective Storytelling: Most writers strangle a baby in the cradle. They kill their idea before it's had a chance to grow. You got to have the courage, the folly, and the carelessness to jump off the cliff and write this idea.

 

I didn’t even have an editor yet. I hadn’t sold the book. I hadn’t earned a dime on it. Nobody had paid us anything. We had this manuscript and my agent said, “This is a riveting story but it’s too long. You’ve got to cut out a third of it.” I said, “What is this Sophie’s Choice? Are you kidding me?”

“Are we going left or right? I want to go both ways.”

“Every third word has to come out? Every third letter, you’re going to make me pull?” The more I concentrated, deleted, sharpened, the better and clearer it got. The reason that I’m such an enthusiast about good writing is that what good writing really is, is good thinking. When you work on your writing and clarify your writing, what you're doing is clarifying your thinking. The beauty of clarifying your thinking is that when you clarify your thinking, you're clarifying your life, who you are, the impact you have on the world around you and the legacy you'll leave. Even though we don't always know it, we've all got plenty of content. Things have happened to us. We've all had experiences. I don't write a lot about the experiences of my life in my books or blog posts. I do it more in the post but I don't pour a lot of my own experience literally into the content of stories that I tell, but it’s always there hovering in the background.

I’ll be writing about something. I’ll be writing about a boy and an old man walking down the street and it’ll suddenly touch on a memory that I have of my own life. I won’t put that memory as it is into the story, but it’ll color what’s in this story. There’s a moment in The Go-Giver Leader where the hero, who I bet you’ll enjoy because his name is Ben. He is trying to affect this delicate operation. He's trying to persuade this little mom-and-pop company that his corporation, in taking them over, is not going to destroy them, that they’re a benefactor and not a villain. It’s a tough sell because they don’t want to do it. They see them as the big evil corporation. He’s at this critical point.

It is the climactic point in the book where he’s been learning all kinds of things about leadership and he’s at a crisis point. He’s about to step into the meeting that’s going to make or break this deal, his life, marriage, career and everything. He’s at a critical point and he’s off walking by himself down in the city. I was writing that scene and all of a sudden, I remembered being a kid and hearing the train whistle in my town. I used to live in suburban New Jersey and my dad used to take a train into Manhattan to go to work. He had a choral conduct foundation in New York City. Every day he would take a train down to New York City and home. At 5:00, 5:30, my mom and I would go pick them up. Depending on the season, it might be already getting dark by 5:30.

LBL John | Effective Storytelling

How To Write Good (Or At Least, Gooder) By John David Mann

I remember the sense of dusk falling, going to this big parking lot and hearing the train whistle off in the distance. The train whistle said to me that my dad’s coming. I would lie awake at night sometimes and hear other trains in the distance. Even to this day, when I lie awake at night and I hear a train whistle in the distance, it gives me this tremendous feeling of comfort. It’s like, “He’s coming.” I never knew what it was exactly but it was writing that scene with Ben in The Go-Giver Leader. All of a sudden, he stops and hears the sound of a chorus of English horns. It's a flock of Canada geese flying overhead doing the V formation where they shift out, change and go from leader to leader. There's a message in there about leadership but for him, it's this haunting sound of his English horn that cause the hunks of the geese and it has some kind of profound impact on him.

He doesn’t know what it is but he walks into that meeting and delivers a speech of his life that was completely unexpected to him. He doesn’t even know where it came from. That was me in the parking lot, waiting for my dad. We’ve all had these experiences in our lives. The color and stories we tell give it humanity and depth. We have to put down the words in the paper and then mess with them to try to find out what’s in there that we just wrote.

That’s the magic. I’m listening to you, not just the words but how you’re telling it. The thoughts that are going through your mind and the emotion that it’s bringing up, That’s the root of storytelling. The root of storytelling is creating those emotional hooks between you, your audience and getting your audience to feel, to care and to be on the same page as you are, that’s what language does. Whether it’s oratory, written word, a podcast or whatever it is. Our job as storytellers, whether you’re the leader of a company, an author or whoever you are, is to be able to sit there and say, “How do I get people to join me on this journey?” My question to you is when you’re becoming an effective storyteller, when you’re looking at that blank piece of paper for the first time and you’re going, “I need to tell this story,” what is the process for you that enables you to begin? That seems to be the hardest part for a lot of people, those first 50 words, first page, first chapter to be able to say, “I can do this,” and get beyond the fear of telling a story.

Do you know the old model of a penny doubled every day? People talk about this in terms of logarithmic growth. Take a penny and you double it every day. On day two, you’ve got two pennies. Day three, you’ve got four pennies. A week has gone by and you’ve only got a couple of bucks. If you double that every day for a 31-day month, you’ve got over $10 million. It’s the power of doubling. I wrote a book about that for Jeff Olson, The Slight Edge. That’s all about the power of logarithmic growth, the seemingly little insignificant actions building on each other. It’s like writing, practicing the cello, eating a salad or telling your wife you love her every day for ten years. We talk about penny doubled and often people say, “It’s amazing. You start from nothing and build a fortune.” I go, “No. You don’t start from nothing. It doesn’t work if you start from nothing. You have to have a penny. You always start with the penny.”

In that book, I talked about Rosa Parks and other examples of huge movements that began with a single action by a single person. There’s always a penny at the start of something big. That’s what it is for me. The answer to your question is for me, a story always starts with something. I’ve heard other writers talk about writing and it seems like this is a fairly common or maybe even universal experience. There’s some idea or image that sparks the story. Often the situation is let’s say you already know you’re going to write a blog post generally on X, Y, Z topic, about leadership in times of trial, the challenges of being an entrepreneur or the general topic. You’re going to write a book and you know that it’s a novel about this hero and that situation. You know what channel you’re going to swim in, but you don’t have a story. All you have is the bathtub you’re sitting in and there’s no water in it.

Good writing equals good thinking. Click To Tweet

What I do is I go blank. It’s like sitting on the bank of a pond at 5:00 in the morning with a fishing line and nothing is going on. I’m just sitting there waiting to see something on the surface, and I might have to sit there for an hour. I’ll do it. I’m sitting right by my easy chair in the corner here. I sit in this comfy chair with nothing but a blank pad of paper and I’ll sit at 5:00 in the morning for an hour. You can’t try to think of something. All you can do is lay the groundwork. You say, “Here’s my topic. I wonder what will show up?” I’ll give you an example. I have this book Steel Fear. It’s a novel about this Navy SEAL and there’s a serial killer involved. I won’t go into the details. I was tasked with writing a sequel because when we sold the book, they bought a two-book deal. The first book is on the way to publication. I’m going to start writing the second book.

I knew where we were going to set it, it was going to be in Iceland. I knew who the hero was and that’s all I knew. I knew his history from the first book and I didn’t know where to go. I had a couple of weeks. I was doing other stuff. I thought about Marcio and his experiences with water. One day I thought, “I wonder what it’s like to drown.” I want to portray the experience of drowning. Then I thought, “There’s a girl who drowns.” I don’t know where it came from. All I knew is there’s a girl who drowns. I don’t even know who she is. I don’t know why she’s drowning. I don’t know what happens next, but that’s the penny.

It’s that little drip in the water that creates the ripples.

It grabbed me. Something has to grab you. Back in the day that I’m in sales, we were studying public speaking because I was doing a lot of public speaking. I remember a phenomenal public speaking teacher saying, "You could get up and say to a group, 'I was tired of my dead-end job. I was tired of living in poverty. I needed something different from my life,' or you can say, 'I was tired of seeing my kids growing up on videotape. I needed a way to stay home, make money from home.'" That has some emotional resonance. "I was tired of my dead-end job," maybe it has some resonance but you're looking for something that has emotional resonance. That is the germ of your story. It doesn't have to make a lot of sense. You might have to get a couple of seeds and throw out the first few. You don't always hit the bullseye on the first try. For me, I have to find something that has a zap. It may end up being the first line of the story, the blog post or the article. It may come in later. I may not know how it's connected to the topic but it may be.

Sometimes it was my own experience. I had an experience. I remember one day sitting in English class in high school. We were all sitting around doing a syllabus and poetry and we were supposed to be writing at our desks. The guy next to me suddenly nudged me. It was snowing. I stared at the window. It was like gorgeous, big fat snowflakes. He looked out the window. I looked out of the window, the guy next to me started looking out the window. Before you knew it, the entire class is sitting there and awestruck, looking out the window. Suddenly the teacher whom we all detested looked up and realized we were all doing this, “What are you all doing? Stop staring at the snow and get back to your poetry.” I thought that was the greatest line I’d ever heard in my life.

LBL John | Effective Storytelling

Steel Fear By John David Mann

You’re looking at the poetry of the world.

That became the starting point for a whole blog post. I had no idea I was going to write about that day but I suddenly remembered that scene and that sparked a whole post. That to me is how the story starts.

What I’m hearing from you is that every idea doesn’t make it onto the finished printed page. We have lots of ideas, concepts, things that we put down. We keep typing and writing. Some of it is good, some of it isn’t. I write every single day. I write a blog post every day and I have for years. Most of it it’s good and some of it is not. My audience gets to decide whether it’s good or it’s not good. I like the fact that every single day, something stirs within me. I’ll never know until I get up in the morning, I do my reading, check my email, think and ruminate. All of a sudden, something comes to me or a post comes. Sometimes it’s 500 or 200 words. It’s a muscle that I built. It allows me to communicate more effectively.

You have to do it regularly. When I say you got to write every day, every day in practical terms for me means at least six days a week you got to be writing something if you want to be a writer. I don’t necessarily mean a professionally published author. That’s great but if you want to be a writer in any form, you want it to be a practice, a craft that you hone and get better at. You've got to write every day a little bit. I can't do a blog post effectively more than once every two weeks. That's the rhythm that I can come up with because beyond that, it starts to occupy my everyday. I got books to write. That's my life every day. Blogging is my moonlighting. If I don't blog at all like I didn't blog for three years, it was painful. I hated not blogging.

Here’s what I find. They say that for every minute in a finished movie, there are twenty minutes on the editing floor. You mentioned thoughts and concepts. In a piece of writing, whether it’s a social media post, a blog post, essay, article, review, book or magazine article, I find that going in, I ended up with about three times as many thoughts or concepts as comfortably fit into the piece. I got to take out 2 out of 3 because this one thought, the 1 out of 3 that I keep, if I clarify it and if I fully develop it to where it wants to be, it’ll fill the whole space. It’ll take up the whole piece. If I try to squeeze in a few other pieces because I like them or I want them to fit, it’ll be like two trees choking out the third tree in a space where there’s only room for one tree, or three branches choking out each other where you need only one branch.

There’s always a penny at the start of something big. Click To Tweet

You started out saying, Ben, that the whole thing of writing is not every idea makes it into the finished piece. Taking out words, taking out concepts sometimes, and then when you’re refining a piece you’ve got, taking out unnecessary adjectives, repetition and filler words, the deletions and clarifications. I wrote a book called How To Write Good (Or at Least, Gooder). It’s 130 pages and a full-sized book but I put it on my website and I offer it free. You can’t buy it anywhere. I devote most of the second half of that book to the craft of rewriting, refining and clarifying something you’ve already written. That’s where writing moves from being something that wishes it was writing to being something that other people would want to read.

When I write articles for magazines and I do that a couple of times a month, it takes me an hour to write their article. I put it aside and it probably takes me 4, 5 or 6 hours to edit it. It is 100 times better after six hours of editing than it was for an hour of writing.

Here’s something I want to say about that process because what you do is beautiful and is exactly what needs to happen. It’s the part that a lot of people miss. You described two steps in the process. The two steps are not only distinct and different but they’re in many ways, contradictory, oppositional. There’s the initial writing of the thing, which can be polished or can be a mess. No judgment there. It depends. Then there’s the finishing of the thing. What so many people do is when they start writing, they write 1 or 2 sentences, then they read it and say, “This is terrible.” They start to erase it, write it over again, then they delete or there wrote a paragraph. They sit there and looking at that paragraph, “How do I keep going with that? I could have said that differently. There’s a better way to say launch. What if I say take off?”

What people do is strangled the baby in the cradle. They kill the thing before it’s had a chance to grow. You can’t edit while you write. The more experienced you are as a writer, maybe a little bit, mostly not. I know I can’t. If I start to edit myself while I’m writing, then I’ll find fault with every word and it’ll all be thrown out. You got to have the courage, folly and carelessness to jump off the cliff and write this thing, idea, article, the thread, opening or the climax of a story, or the punchline of an article, whatever the thing that catches you. Get it down and don’t judge it. Don’t edit it. Don’t even look at it. Do what Ben said, put it away. Lock it up, throw away the key, step back and step away from the car. You need to give yourself the time and space before you can go back to it with a sober eye and a different perspective and say, “Let’s look at this.” For me, that is at least one day later. It’s often a week later or it can frequently be a handful of weeks later.

Then you go back and hack it brutally. I wrote my book in 45 days, 7 days a week, 2 hours in the morning, 3 hours in the evening. It took me 9.5 months to edit it. I didn’t even think about editing it as I wrote it. It was almost like this brain dump.

LBL John | Effective Storytelling

The Go-Giver: A Little Story About A Powerful Business Idea By John David Mann

 

How long was that initial writing?

45 days.

Here’s another thing that I see a lot of self-published authors do, they do that and then they publish the 45 days’ worth.

Which I knew I could. I know myself well enough to know that I write well. I write so much better when it's edited. I didn't do one of my level editings. I sent my book to a couple of friends of mine and said, "Hack it, slash it, do what you will with it." They go, "This doesn't make sense." When you're writing it, it's the stream of consciousness and you may miss stuff.

You may think that what you’re writing is great and maybe only 1/3 of it is great. We started out talking about The Go-Giver and how it launched my career. Not the last chapter but the next to last chapter of my book, How to Write Good. The entire chapter is about The Go-Giver’s first page. What I show you is the first page of the original draft, which is bad. It’s awful. Then I show you all the steps that we went through to get from that first page of the published book. It’s like before and after and all the steps in between how A got to Z.

LBL John | Effective Storytelling

The Slight Edge: Turning Simple Disciplines Into Massive Success And Happiness By John David Mann

What I want to let people know is the A draft, when Bob and I first finished it and we thought we did it and we gave it to like a handful of readers. We had about a dozen readers who thought it was fantastic, and it was rejected over twenty times by publishers in New York. If any of them had said yes and published it, you would never have heard of it because it was mediocre and nobody would have cared. We would have sold a couple of thousand copies instead of a million copies. Nobody would have heard of it then we wouldn’t be having this interview because it was drafted and begun but it wasn’t finished. It was like a one-year-old that hasn’t yet become an experienced well-dressed self-managing 26-year-old who’s ready to go out in the world and carve a career. It was a baby. It wasn’t ready. It couldn’t even dress itself.

You got 30 knots.

It’s moving along and turning 90,000 tons of water as it goes. The experience of writing Steel Fear was the most remarkable in my writing career after The Go-Giver. It was extraordinarily difficult. It was like a graduate course in writing for me because writing a thriller is just extraordinarily difficult to get it right. It’s a funny thing because my next blog post is called A Leadership Parable Disguised As A Thriller. Steel Fear itself is built on a chassis that is all about good leadership, terrible leadership and the impact of both. When you look at the novel through that lens, you realize that extraordinary things have happened as a result of great leadership. Extraordinarily horrible things are happening, indirect maybe, but as the result of terrible leadership. In any case, the book is already getting some very exciting reviews and I‘m excited about it.

This is a question I ask everybody as I let them out the door. As you leave a meeting and you get in your car and you drive away, what’s the one thing you want people to think about you when you’re not in the room?

My first thought is what I’d like people to think about themselves when I leave the room. When I’m in my twenties, I remember teachers and people talking about clarifying your values and writing down your purpose and mission statement, all very lofty things about your reason for being in the world. I came up with a mission statement. I love to take complex things and make them simple so that others can grasp them. I like to take things that are complicated and render them easy to understand so that millions of people can go, “I get that.” That’s what The Go-Giver tries to do.

Write the thing that catches you. Get it down and don't judge it. Don't edit it. Don't even look at it. Click To Tweet

It’s something that I love to do. What I would love to happen when I leave the room and I’m no longer there is to have people go, “I could do that. I don’t mean I could do what he does. I could do that thing that I’ve been thinking about for ten years but I haven’t done. I could be that person that I’ve been secretly thinking I’d like to be. Its part, “If he can do it, I can do it,” and part, “Because of something he said, something he was and some way he acted, that’s inspired me to think I could do more. I could be so much more.” My wife and I are about to come out with another Go-Giver book called The Go-Giver Marriage. The seed of that book is that for years, people around us say, “We want to have what you guys have. What’s your secret sauce?” When we leave the room together, we love to have people go, “I can’t wait to be as happy as that and I’m going to start right now.” That’s what I’d like people to think when I leave the room.

John, thank you for bringing out the best in people. You’re bringing out the best in me. Hopefully, you brought out the best in people with my audience. Thanks for being the storyteller that you are and thank you for everything you give to the world.

It is my pleasure. Thank you for the time.

LBL Kevyn Rustici | Human Resources

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About John David Mann

LBL John | Effective StorytellingJohn David Mann is an award-winning author whose books have sold more than 3 million copies in 3 dozen languages, including the bestselling classic THE GO-GIVER with Bob Burg, the New York Times bestselling memoir THE RED CIRCLE with former Navy SEAL Brandon Webb, and the New York Times bestselling parable THE LATTE FACTOR with personal finance legend David Bach.

As a teenager, John started his own high school and was an award-winning composer and cellist before turning to careers as an entrepreneur and author.

His book TAKE THE LEAD (with former White House staffer Betsy Myers) was named by Tom Peters and the Washington Post “Best Leadership Book of 2011.” His first novel, STEEL FEAR, will be released in August 2021; iconic author Lee Child has called it “sensationally good—an instant classic, maybe an instant legend.”

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