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Storytelling – Your Competitive Advantage

Welcome to episode 0 of the ReTell Podcast.

In this episode, we talk: 

  • Why storytelling is a competitive advantage;
  • How proof is personal;
  • The value of the campfire;
  • A genius way to start a business; and  
  • How Confidence isn’t a choice 

Connect with Doug:



TEDx Talk:

Doug’s Book:


What’s up fam? Welcome to episode zero of the riq tell podcast. My name is Doug Stewart, I’ll be your host, along with some of my friends, family, maybe enemies, colleagues, coaches, mentors, and alike. So a little bit about me, I am a member of the team over at resident home, which owns a family of brands that you may have heard of nectar, dream, cloud, or, and more. I also am a Dale Carnegie instructor, a TEDx speaker, TEDx coach, and a product of the Furniture and Mattress industry. Sometimes that feels like good news. But sometimes it feels like something else. But nonetheless, it is who I am. It’s where I’m from. And we’ll talk about that a little bit as we go along. Now. You might wonder why another podcast particular particularly why another podcast here on fam dot news. And the reason is, well, because dos Marcos told me to, in fact, I, I credit or maybe blame depending on how you look at it. I credit and blame them, for me continuing to be in this industry part of it because I love them. The other part is because I love the industry. But nonetheless, we have this podcast. And so the intention. The intention here is to inspire the furniture and bedding industry by telling and retelling stories of success, failure, insights, action that will help you get from where you are to ultimately where you want to be. So if you’re asking yourself, Who is this podcast really for? It’s for leaders, managers, salespeople, owners, buyers, anyone who aspires to be in a different place a year or two from now in a better place in a more in a place of, of greater confidence and a greater place of greater competence. And the way we’re going to do that is we’re going to do that by telling and retelling stories, giving examples providing insights. And in a lot of ways, folks, this is this is really what I’ve built my life, my career, my marriage, my parenting, my professional, my personal circles around. And as I thought about what this podcast was really going to be about. One thing that kept coming to mind for me is that I come from a long line of storytellers. And I believe in a lot of ways the ability to storytel is such a competitive advantage, especially today. And I think, and I think historically, it’s been an advantage but has been less than an advantage in the end. And the more we advance into technology, content, information overload, the more valuable it is to be able to tell a compelling or entertaining or persuasive story. It’s something something we don’t get a lot of anymore, you know, and storytelling seems to be a bit of a lost art. And it’s also the very variable for success for anyone in the furniture, bedding, or even just in general in the retail industry, whether we’re talking about being able to storyteller as a marketer, as a salesperson, as a buyer, as a as a vendor or manufacturer, as a CEO. Storytelling is the variable for success. And part of the reason for that, I think, is that facts. Don’t drive belief. No, it shouldn’t be like that, you know, we should be rational human beings that can weigh the facts and, and really understand, you know what, what’s really going on in the world or in a specific

situation or circumstance, but it’s not who we are, you know, I think most people understand that we’re not creatures of logic, we’re creatures of emotion. And so why, what is it about us? And, and oh, my gosh, I got fam, I am as guilty as anyone for thinking that my facts that I have are going to change people’s mind, or compel people to action, it just, oh, man, it’s so frustrating, isn’t it? It’s so frustrating to have the absolute facts. And to save them to someone, and they just look at you and seemingly say, I don’t care what the facts are, I’m going to believe what I want. And if you don’t believe that to be true, just like spend five minutes on social media, you know, like five minutes on social media will, will enlighten you to the fact the facts don’t matter. As much as how someone has already been persuaded, or what someone’s maybe political persuasions are, or maybe what someone’s factory settings are or background, or, or, or what their childhood is, or what makes helps them to be comfortable or, or what they’ve decided to believe. And so as storytellers as retailers as, as people, both personally and professionally, oh, and by the way, you know, I’m sure that you recognise that the person that sits in that conference table at work is also the person that goes home, and sits at the kitchen table at dinner. And so when we think about who we are as storytellers in our ability to tell and retell, it’s important to remember that this is stuff when we’re talking about this thing of storytelling, telling and retelling. This isn’t something we’re just talking about doing it work with our customers, or trying to influence our team members, or our sales team or our marketing team. This is something that that we are storytelling to our children and our significant others and our parents in our, in our in our family members and loved ones and neighbours. Storytelling is the way that we communicate with the world. In a context that is deeper than just facts. Because facts and statistics do not drive belief. Here’s an example. And I think I can prove this. So if I were to try to pick something that most of us most of us would agree with, like one statement and there seem like I mean, I don’t know about you, but my observation is that that there’s not very many statements that can be made that most people would agree with. So here’s here’s what I’m gonna give a shot. here’s the here’s the statement. Texting and driving is a bad life plan. Texting and driving is a bad life plan. Most people whether and listen whether you do it or not, you shouldn’t do it. Whether you do or not. Most people would agree with the statement that texting and driving is a bad life plan. So here’s a couple of statistics facts about texting and driving. One of those facts is that when you text and drive is the equivalent of driving above the legal limit, like point O eight blood alcohol level, it’s the same you are just as impaired, just as distracted as someone who had had more to drink then over the legal limit. Another another fact that that I found out is that is that if when you text and drive looking down at your phone to respond to an email or a text or to just check something on your phone, it’s the equivalent of closing your eyes and driving across an entire football field is the equivalent because you’re not looking at the road. You’re looking at your phone and you’re driving the length of a football field if you’re going somewhere around 60 miles an hour, even more so even further if it’s 80 miles an hour, right. So we can agree like that doesn’t make a lot of sense. Like basically you turn your vehicle into a missile into into something that can be damaging to you, to your friends, to your to your to your fellow citizens to other people that you do Don’t know. And it’s in general a bad life plan to do. Some of us still do it. And some of us don’t.

It’s something that I gave up on quite a while ago. I gotta be honest, the reason I gave it up, the absolute reason I gave it up had nothing to do with the facts that I just shared. In fact, I knew I absolutely knew those facts. And I still would text and drive. Now, I would always be able to justify my behaviour, I would say things like, you know, I grew up with a cell phone, you know, about the time I was getting my driver’s licence was about the time cell phone which back then in the olden days, back in the 1900s, we called them car phones. So car phones were just coming into popularity. So it wasn’t very long before I got my licence where bag phones where you would have if you remember, if you were also born in the 19 hundred’s, you remember that big magnet antenna, that you would reach out your window and it would Clank on the top of your car. And then you roll your window up. And so that thing is that is how your your phone in your car would get signal. And you would take the other cord from the bag and you would put it in the cigarette lighter, which now I think is called the AC something. But back then we called it the cigarette lighter and the car phone and then you had to hold the power button down for like eight seconds. And then it would come on and go my and make a loud noise. And it would flash and then you could dial with buttons with like tactical buttons on the back of the phone and then you telephone up. And it was all good until you went under an underpass or through a bridge or any dip in the road. And I think it cost like $18 or something like that. And I’m also on this rabbit trail, I need to find my way back to where we’re supposed to be. But I would make the excuse that like, I’ve I’ve been doing this for a long time. So I have practice is the equivalent of somebody going like no I can I can drink and drive because I’ve done it a lot. Practice. There’s nothing rational about that, that line of that there’s no logic to that line of thought at all whatsoever. But I’d still do it. Or I’d say things like you know, I’m in the neighbourhoods. So like, I’m not going very fast. I’m only going like 2025 miles an hour. So it’s cool. I just respond to this thing real quick. Or I’d say things like, you know, there’s not there’s no one around. I’m not in traffic. I’m just I’m in cruise control driving on the road is cool. And I knew the facts. I knew some of the statistics yet, fam, I would still text and drive. And then there was this one time that I remember that I was riding down the road, and I decided to respond to a text and I ran off the road.

Fortunately, I didn’t crash. But it was close. And it scared me. And I thought to myself what type of father puts his life at risk? To answer a text that doesn’t matter. And I was washed with this huge sense of guilt. Like,

what am I doing out here in the world that I am risking it all to respond to a text that doesn’t matter. To a person that wouldn’t care if I waited a day, much less 10 minutes to get to my destination. What am I doing? And then and then it wasn’t very long after that, that I had a couple other experiences like I’m driving down the road and I see someone texting and driving they kind of their car kind of comes over into my lane a little bit. I have to honk the horn to get them to like notice that they’re driving a huge car that can hurt people. And they go back over and you see people in front of you in like when I was a kid I can remember if someone was swerving and maybe again if you’re born in the 1800s you remember this, but if someone was in front of you swerving there was only two options. It was Are they falling asleep at the wheel? Or are they drunk? Those are the only two options back in the olden days, you know, but now, anytime we see that type of behaviour, we know exactly what it is. Texting and driving But I can tell you for me, the thing that really convinced me not to do it not the thing that made me believe that it was a bad idea. But the thing that actually changed my behaviour, the thing that convinced me not to do it was my personal experience was I experienced what it felt like to know that I could have overcorrected when I ran off the road, ended, perhaps my life, maybe the life of someone else. And changed the trajectory of my children. My wife’s life, my mom’s life, my sister’s life forever. that convinced me that caused me to take action. Because proof is personal. And I guarantee if you give enough thought to it, if you really give the appropriate amount of thought to this question, What convinced you to not text and drive you will come up with a specific thing that happened to you. Whether Maybe you lost someone, due to texting and driving, maybe you know, someone who got in an accident, maybe you saw something, maybe you got an accident, maybe, maybe you had a situation like me, and you had a near a near miss. But the thing is, facts and statistics do not drive belief, at least not the type of intellectual belief, sure, but not the type of belief that compels us to action. Only personal experience in relationship does that the only way we can get there is through having the experience ourselves, or through telling and retelling the stories that have shaped us. And so this kind of leads to this idea that storytelling is a lost art, you know, like, no matter who you are, where you’re from, where your ancestry is, from, at some point, in the in the history of your lineage, those a group of your ancestors, whether they were in a desert, on a plane, in the mountains, in a in a in a forest, in a jungle, your ancestors, at some point, sat around a campfire. And the way that they kept their heritage, their culture, their values, their beliefs alive,

was through an oral tradition. They were telling stories, they were talking about mythical stories, real stories, factual stories, stories about the generations before and what they did, what they believe how they strive for, for survival. And what happened as a result, they made up mythology, so that they so that they could, so that they could tell a story about who they were, how they were, what they were worth, where they were going. Every single one of us comes from a lineage of an oral tradition that was based in being able to tell a compelling story that was more rich, more valuable than just a fact, or a statistic. But as we have evolved as humans, as technology has been become more pervasive. And don’t get me wrong here. Technology is awesome. Technology is great. I love technology. Technology is very important for us. It has done great things for our businesses, it’s done incredible things for humanity, you know, there’s a gift and a curse to technology, for sure. My perspective would be technology has given us more good than bad. But one thing it’s done is it has commoditized information. Meaning as a society today, we have more information than any other people group of any other generation before us ever of all time since the beginning of mankind. And if you have a cell phone and you have internet access, you have more information at your disposal than anyone else who’s ever lived ever of all time. So what happens with that is we start to believe that content is king. And I would challenge that idea. You know, I would say like content is important. But the king isn’t content is context. So you know, there’s a saying that knowledge is power and that that was true before, you know, it wasn’t very long ago, folks in human history where most humans were illiterate. And so if you had the information, if you had the knowledge, knowledge is power, if you had the knowledge, then you had power, you had control, you had authority. Now, everyone has knowledge. And salespeople see this every day, you know, like salespeople see customers come into their store, with all of this information from Google, from reviews from all of this stuff they’ve gotten, and they have a, they have a perspective, that not only do they know things about the products are coming to shop for, but they possibly know things that the salesperson doesn’t even know. I can remember being on the sales floor as as a young person, our grandfather’s furniture store, and I can remember customers would come in for the simple reason that they wanted to ask questions of their of us as salespeople, because we had the information. They couldn’t tell the difference because the internet in general didn’t really exist. People weren’t selling online yet. So customers would come in and they would go like, hey, what’s the difference between laying a lane sofa in a Broyhill? Sofa? You know, what’s the difference between Lazy Boy and another, this other brand that you carry? Right, and we would have to tell them well, okay, so the Barcalounger does this lazy boy does that. And this mattress has this many coils, and here’s what it means. And that mattress has this cover, and this many coils. So that’s what that means. And they came for us for information, and we could give it to them. Today, they don’t need us in the same way. They just Google it, or they go to the review sites. And there’s a lot of salespeople who think that’s a bad thing. You know, there’s a lot of salespeople out there that think that, that customers are entitled, or know it alls. Or, you know, they don’t think they need a salesperson. They’re not respectful a salesperson, when the truth is, is it’s just that the playing field has changed. And it’s changed a lot, because they’re not coming in anymore asking for information. They’re not asking for content, because knowledge isn’t power anymore, because everyone has knowledge, knowledge has been commoditized.

There’s one additional word that we should add to that same knowledge is power. And it’s this applied knowledge is power. Because our customers, when they come in, they’re not looking anymore for content, because they have it at their disposal, on their phone, in their home, on their sofa, with their fuzzy slippers on in their pyjamas, they don’t need to get in their car and travel to our stores, or to call us or to talk to us or to text us. They don’t need any of that because it’s readily available on their device. They don’t need content, what they need is context. And the best way to communicate context is through a story. And so what’s happened to us and this is where in my view, we have a tremendous opportunity in our industry, is what’s happened to us is the computer in the phone screen, have taken the place of the campfire. And we have lost an entire generation of storytellers. And we have an opportunity to reignite if you would excuse the pun, our ability to storytelling away that adds context and colour to the content that our customer has at their disposal. If we’re willing to do it, you know, an example for me is is my grandfather was the absolute best storyteller that I’ve that I’ve ever known. He was exceptional in a lot of ways I aspire to be more like him. And the older I get, the more I really respect who he was and what he did. And there were a few stories that he told that he told me that I heard until other people that have really informed what I believe that I can accomplish as a business person as a member of my community and society in general. And one of those stories is A story that I heard 100,000 times at least like over and over and over to exhaustion. And I remember, there were times that I would just like, all man, here it comes and just roll my eyes and just like wait for it to be over. But as an adult man like it has shaped me. So the story goes like this, my grandfather was born. Right in the middle of the Great Depression in 1930. His parents were tenant farmers in the farmland in northern North Carolina. And what it meant to be tenant farmers was that you essentially worked the farm where you work the land, and your pay was a place to live. So there was not a lot of cash exchanged. In fact, that was that was created that way for a purpose. So that people really couldn’t get out of that system. So it’s almost like a caste system. Where you are in this, this is your lot in life, this is what you do, and you can’t get out. So this is how my grandfather grew up in this tobacco field with his parents living in a house that didn’t belong to them that were in that was entrusted to them in exchange for their like back breaking labour. And so as my grandfather grew up in this environment, working the land as his parents did, and in in a lot of ways in that day and age, you had to have, like, you had to have boys, like boys were the variable for survival. And so if you didn’t have boys, and you didn’t have that didn’t grow into men that could work the land, you were likely as a family unit to start. And so like, my great grandmother is my grandfather would tell the story when a girl so badly, but not until she had enough boys to make sure that it was safe to have girls. But it turns out for those of us, like myself that have had kids, God doesn’t really ask us. We just get what we get, you know, unfortunately, for my, for my great grandmother, she got two boys and my grandfather was the eldest. And he’s grew up in that environment.

He would say that, you know, I realised that the likelihood of me starving at some point was likely. And so he made a decision that if it was likely for him to starve, he might as well start somewhere where he had some different scenery, because he had seen that farm his entire life. So he left the farm after high school, and he went to Raleigh, North Carolina. A couple of years went by, he did the best he could. And his prediction was seemingly coming true, which was he was making ends meet, he was starving. And the thing that made it worse was that so was his wife, and two daughters, one of them being my mother. And so my grandfather decided to do what any of us would make an attempt to do when we don’t have enough money to make ends meet from one month to another. And he decided that he would go out, and he would sell some of his stuff. And the way that we used to do that before, you know, like Facebook marketplace and eBay and stuff like that, is we would have yard sales. And so he decided to have a yard sale, but he only had half of what he actually needed to have a yard. So he had a small yard. So he had a place to sell it. Problem was he didn’t have any stuff to sell because it was broke. And so we got this bright idea. He decided that he go to the grocery store. And he would ask the manager, if the manager had any extra copies of yesterday’s newspaper. And the reason he did that is because yesterday’s newspaper paper was free. And today’s newspaper was like five cents or whatever it was in the mid 60s 1965, or 64, something like that. So he gets yesterday’s newspaper, he takes it home. And for those of you not born in the 1900s, a newspaper is a thing that that people used to print every single day and to get thrown on your drive when you go out. And it’s effectively like reading social media. Just on paper, this delivered to you every day. And so he opens to the classified section. And in the classified section, there used to be a section for yard sales. And in that it would have people’s names, address telephone number and the time that they were going to be having a yard sale. Most people at that time. They would have yard sales normally on Saturday mornings. And so what my grandfather did is he opened open the newspaper Hey, go to the classified look at the yard sale section, he caught every single person in his area that was advertising a yard sale. He called him he tell them the same thing. He would tell him his name. And then he would say, I see in the newspaper that you’re having a yard sale this Saturday. And if you’d like, I would be more than happy to come by your home on Sunday, and pick up anything that you are not able to sell at your yard sale and dispose of it for you for free. And a lot of people said yes to that. And that is how he got the first stuff for his first yard sale. So essentially, what would happen would be, he would call these people on Friday, he would go to their house on Sunday, pick up the junk that they couldn’t sell. The next Friday, he would call them Saturday, he would have his own yard. So for the junk that he picked up the week before. And then Sunday, he would go around again and pick up people stuff that they couldn’t sell and bring it back. And he did that every single weekend for five years. At the end of five years. My grandfather had enough cash not credit, not alone cash to build a 14,000 square foot warehouse in southeast Raleigh, stock it full of new furniture and open his first furniture store. He went on over the over a number of years he had we had five stores my family had five stores, my mom and dad my hand uncle. It was like it was a real family business which we’ll talk about family business in another episode because that’s a full episode for sure. He went on to open five locations, he purchased a fair amount of commercial residential real estate, and not only changed his life, but changed the trajectory of my entire family forever.

That is the stories that I was told when I was a kid. And so when you’re told those type of stories and and successes is is humanised in that way, it does something to people. And we forget the power of our stories of the things that we were successful in that we overcame that we failed at. Those stories are incredibly, incredibly important. So you might say to yourself, like, gosh, I haven’t done anything like that, you know, like, what that that story like yeah, bro is cool, but like fam, I’m, I haven’t done that yet. Like I haven’t had that idea. Or if I did, I didn’t execute it or I didn’t. I didn’t try it. I wish I had I didn’t come from a family like that. I didn’t I didn’t have the awareness to do something like that I feel stuck. And so there’s this quote, it goes like this. The best time to plant a tree was 10 years ago. The next best time is today. So whether you planted the tree 10 years ago and you’re busy tending it now, or whether you wish you would planted the tree 10 years ago, and you haven’t now is the best time. So today as you’re listening to my voice today is the time to start because success in an industry like retail whether whether you’re an owner, a manager, a in the on the logistic side, the marketing side, the sell side whether you’re on the sales floor, the thing that makes retail special is that you don’t find success quickly. Not meaningful success anyway. Success takes time. And that’s counterintuitive particularly for people that are a bit younger that that are more in like the millennial and younger category. Because there’s so many things that we can speed up. Like if you want to get on the ride faster at Disney you just buy the Fastpass if you want your package to come early, you just pay for expedited shipping, like we can get things faster. But the thing that we can’t get faster, like the two things Things that we can’t speed up is confidence and competence. And those two things are the variables for our success, like the real success, tangible success, Legacy success in our businesses, both, I mean, professionally, for sure, and also personally. And so here’s the reason let’s talk about confidence and competence for a second. So here’s, here’s the, here’s the problem with confidence is that confidence is not something that can be chosen, you can just choose to be confident. And the reason you can’t choose to be confident, because when you just go, You know what, today, I’m gonna wake up, and I’m going to be confident when we do that, at its best, at his best choosing to be confident at its best as arrogance. And then it’s worse this delusion. And, and that can be really frustrating. Because we’re told to just be confident. And when we’re told that it here’s another, here’s another saying that kind of goes along the same lines, which is fake it till you make it. If that’s not the dumbest piece of advice that I’ve ever heard, fake it till you make it because it insinuates dishonesty. And we, we, we elevate this idea of authenticity, and then we tell people to fake it till you make it. We’re like, Hey, be honest. have integrity, be authentic? Oh, yeah. And completely fake. It is great. It’s the, it is absurd is absolutely absurd. So you might ask a question like, Okay, if I can’t choose confidence, and I shouldn’t fake it till I make it because it’s dishonest? What the heck do I do? Well, you earn confidence, you don’t choose it, you earn it, it’s not something that you can just decide to be is something that you have to demonstrate a competency for, and you have to earn the right to be confident. Because confidence, the real confidence earned confidence comes from demonstrated ability. And so you might wonder, okay, so how do I become more confident? Well, the path to confidence is courage. So instead of going, Oh, I’m just gonna decide to be confident and fake it till I make it and risk arrogance and delusion. What you might say, instead of fake it till I make it, you might say, I’m gonna have courage to like, earn it. I’m just gonna have courage, because it takes courage to step out and go a man. Like, I don’t know what I’m doing here. I don’t know what I’m doing. But what I do know is that I have the courage to try something new, to risk failure, to learn, to edit, to iterate, to do it again, to grow, to develop, to do it, again, to have a little more courage to do it again. And that, ladies and gentlemen, that fam is how you develop confidence is through the courage to do something, and risk failure, risk, loss, risk looking crazy or stupid. And then improving upon it over time, so that you can look back and go, I have earned the right because of this action that I’ve taken, to be confident, to be courageous, to be competent. That is how you earn confidence. So on this podcast, the intention is for us to have the courage to earn the right to get ourselves from where we are, to where we’re meant to be, for the simple fact that we can and that’s the only what other reasons should we have other than like, because we can. So there’s so so in with this today on this episode zero. So there’s this Buddhist parable of this, this old lady in this village that would carry fire in a torch and water in a bucket everywhere she went so she’d have fire in one hand, she’d have water in the other. It she was like the matriarch of the village, so people would see her doing this and they never asked because they were uncomfortable asking they didn’t want to ask a dumb question. They didn’t have the courage to ask the question. So finally, this one young man gets up the courage to walk out, approach the matriarch and he said to her why is it that you carry fire and a torch and water in a bucket everywhere you go. And she looked him right in the face. And she said this so that with the fire, I may incinerate heaven and with the water, I may quench hell. So that when I do good, I do good because it is good to do. So, as you think about and meditate on that parable, consider the reason for your growth, for your development for you telling and retelling the stories of your success, your failure, your your insights, that you do it, simply because it’s what you were meant to do. So fam that finishes episode number zero. Come back to episode number one, and we will get in to more telling and retelling of the stories and messages and inspire sights and inspirations that help us to go from where we are to where we want to be. Blessings to you and your family. Episode One is next. Peace out fam.

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