Audiobook review - The Storyteller's Secret

Audiobook review - The Storyteller's Secret


I picked up this audiobook as something to keep me listening over the Christmas 2023 downtime. Wow, I was not expecting to be this tickled mentally, inspired to action, and then wanting to apply more storytelling in everyday communication.

As it tagline goes: How TED Speakers and Inspirational Leaders Turn Their Passion into Performance - it is no secret that TED speakers are the most influential people of their field. So, why not learn from them?

Yeah, I've binged on quite a few TED talks before. But, what I did not know was the backstories and the many humble beginnings to each one. As I progressed throughout the book, I had this increasing sense of anticipation to hear the next incredible 'superhero origin story'.

This book is full of people bring new realities into the world around then with the power of stories. Not only were there household names like Steve Jobs, the author also branched out to other industries outside of tech - like healthcare, education and sports.

My favourite talk is by Sir Ken Robinson. More on that later.


Re-live stories from the greatest in our generation, including Steve Jobs, Chris Gardner, Bon Jovi, Sting, Mark Burnett, Oprah, Tony Robbins, and Sylvester Stalone.

Not only the big and famous are covered, also some less known heroes such as: self-made billionaire female entrepreneur Sarah Blakeley; cancer-survivor national Paralympian Keita Sato. I loved the humble origin story of Whole Foods, and the inspiring childhood of the first Canadian astronaut.

Hear about how: A non-profit lawyer generates over $55,000 per minute by telling stories.

My one takeaway

Embrace your history. It is stuff from which legends are made. Inspirational leaders often tell stories on adversity to connect with their audience.

Storytelling is not something we do, storytelling is who we are.

Sir Richard Brandson

  • He has noticed very early that there is a link between entrepreneurs who are good storytelling and successful entrepreneurs. In his own terms, he noticed "very early on".
  • There is something about reaching, relating to people, and making a difference

My personal thoughts

  • Sir Branson himself, is an excellent storyteller and multipreneur. He has an intuitive understanding of human behaviour and connection. This is purely anecdotal, I believe being neurodivergent is something that gives him this understanding. It is not just a mere understanding, but deep feeling, connection, and intuitive touch on the aspect of story.
  • His first business "Student Magazine" in 1986, was focused around alternative media, storytelling that evoked emotion and response
  • Richard uses blogging, pondering, and writing to crystalize his ideas into an effective story. (FTW!!! An extra motivational booster to keep me blogging ✌️)

Richard Branson blog posts on storytelling

Why entrepreneurs are storytellers | Virgin
The importance of storytelling and a shared love of tea | Virgin

Brian Stevenson

If you have never heard of this man, do me a favour and watch his speech below. I can almost guarantee you that it won't be a waste of your time. What a great person to find out about!

The TED talk. Three stories

A pleasant speech! Not the greatest start. But the way he tells the story about his grandmother really sucks you in.

It draw me in, piques the imagination and soon after I had forgotten that I was sitting in a Costa in London. I was in 'Mama's house' and listening into the conversation that 9 year-old Bryan was having with his grandmother.

He doesn't just tell a story for the sake of it. But, he deftly ties it into a larger purpose. His credentials as a lawyer and passion for those who have faced injustice just captures you. Somehow there is a tingly spur towards action.

This gives me an idea to do an NLP for speeches and pull out more stories. or quantify this better. Looking beyond the text, Brian delivers much more in his speech. His personality, and genuineness shines through. Just the way he breaks out a beaming smile when speaking about his grandmother is wonderful.

Interesting tidbits and personal notes

  • Audacity principle - differentiating factor. Putting out ideas even in the face of rejection, humiliation, etc. brings about world changing difference
  • Selling to two different types of people - engineers: technical details. Others, emotion, trust and story
  • Every one of the above suffered; and it is the backstory that made them push forward. they did not run away from it, but used it as a way to connect to their audience. also it forced them to search deep within to look for that calling. not just a echo-y thing but a true destiny and something so visceral that it helps pull people along for the journey.
    • Tony Robbins was once washing dishes in his own bathtub
    • Sylvester Stalone with $100 in his wallet, yet not selling out Rocky
    • Oprah and a background of abuse and extreme poverty
    • JK Rowling, a single mum struggling below the poverty line before hitting unparalleled success
    • They all embraced their personal story and pushed forwards
  • Building on the above, we can take a page out of nature's most valuable commodities in the forms of - pearls, wine, diamonds. These are all made out of intense processes or starting out from a tiny grain of sand.
  • There is possibly a biological basis of storytelling
    • The limbic system is right next to the hippocampus. Much of memory is formed by our feelings and emotions.
    • Anedoctally, memories are made of stories. I think they are just a more 'data-efficient' method of storage in our brain. To recall them by invoking memories is a really quick and intuitive system. (It does get fuzzy sometimes, and can easily be influenced. But hey, it has served mankind well so far.)
    • Could be even more pertinent in the current information era, where people are flooded with stimuli at all times. To make all this information palatable and not too overwhelming, intuitively we can fall back (subconsciously) on processing new information as story arcs.
    • Storytelling is as old as time, we see it in cave drawings.


Stories are just very much par the human experience; since the beginning of time.

I'm losing too much, should I ignore this channel of communication. I have always been a "level-headed" and unemotional person, prefering to look at the hard data and communicating hard data. Heck, maybe that was part of the medical training and thought process that was pummeled into me all these years.

I am striking out from this year to be intentional in my communication. To communicate not just facts. But, craft stories, weave emotion and arcs into my work to bring into the next level. See you on the other side. ✌️

David Tang