Telling Your Story with John Bates

Telling Your Story with John Bates

Aug 1, 2021 05:26 PM
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Dominic Zijlstra
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Never tell a story without a point, and never make a point without a story. All the logic in the world won't convince anybody if you can't make an emotional connection, and you can make that connection with a story. John Bates learnt from his own experience how to speak like a leader and tell a convincing story.
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Never tell a story without a point, and never make a point without a story.
All the logic in the world won't convince anybody if you can't make an emotional connection, and you can make that connection with a story.
John Bates learnt from his own experience how to speak like a leader and tell a convincing story.
Connect with John Bates at
Find out more about Superlearning at
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Dom: [00:00:00] Hello, and welcome to another episode of the super learning professionals podcast today I have with me, John Bates, John's a leadership communication experts. He worked with companies like Johnson and Johnson. he's trained NASA astronauts he's one of the foremost TED formats coaches.  I did ODCC on that course creator fellowship together with John. I've gotten to know him quite a bit, and he's a really nice, really high energy kind of fellow. So I'm very happy to have you here, John.
John Bates: [00:00:31] Thank you, Dom. I'm I'm really glad to be here. I think over that course, we have begun a friendship that I valued quite a bit.
Dom: [00:00:39] So it's been very, very great John. Yeah. So maybe you can tell me a bit more about the area you're working and yeah. What are, what are the kinds of like what was the important knowledge there and how do you manage that?
John Bates: [00:00:51] So, you know I, I work in an area that I, you know, I kind of backed into this, but it turns out to be something that I think is intensely important. You know, My why a la Simon Sinek is to bring out what's awesome inside every person. So it can live in the world and make a real difference. And the thing that I think people don't think about enough is there's all this work that they're doing, you know, all this really great hard work, then they get this moment of exposure in say an interview or in an all hands meeting, or when they present to the board or wherever they talk about their work and together, those two things form an impression of them.
Right. So I call it PI performance, all the work you do, the, the exposure you get, that's the of pie. And then all that leads to an impression. And if people don't communicate as well as there are, ideas are awesome, then these awesome ideas don't make it into the world. And so that's the area of focus for me.
Assisting people in making their communication and how they communicate about that awesome work. They do match that. Awesome.
Dom: [00:02:16] That's awesome because yeah, communication is I think very underestimated, especially by like technical people like me. It's like huge leverage, right? If you can communicate if you're technically maybe not superior you can reach many more people and add much more value than somebody who is maybe technically more experienced, but doesn't have that.
John Bates: [00:02:34] Yeah, it's absolutely true. Right. So I would love it. If the people who had the best ideas were also the best communicators that would lead to the best world, you know?
Dom: [00:02:43] Yeah, exactly. How did you, what was your personal learning journey to get to this to become this expert in communication.
John Bates: [00:02:51] Well, you know, I mean, this is not the route I always would recommend, but I think I made, I just learned pretty much everything the hard way and kind of ended up failing it just about everything else I did and realized at a certain point that all of that failure and everything it taught me. Would give me an enormous amount of empathy and understanding and an ability to teach people in a much shorter period of time.
What it took me a lifetime to find the hard way. You know, I was always worked at dotcom companies and I was always the chief event. For the company, I was always a founder or co-founder or a super early employee. And I always ended up with the title chief evangelist. So that's what I did for my whole life was essentially public speaking, evangelizing the company business development.
And I raised several hundred million dollars in Silicon valley and beyond, but I never had a successful exit. So, you know so then at a certain point, about 10 years ago, I had this epiphany. You know, if I stopped being jealous of people with the hard skills, and I actually shared my expertise with them in a way that could work for them, I could make a difference, you know?
So I based everything I did in human, evolutionary biology and human neurophysiology. So I could show people not just what to do when it comes to great communication and leadership and influence, but also why to do it. Based in science and that just changed everything for me
Dom: [00:04:37] that's an awesome journey.
Maybe to step back, even further. How did you originally choose evangelists as you said, that was what you wanted to do. And then what was the point where you said like, actually I have to go in this direction with, because that's where I can add more.
John Bates: [00:04:50] Yeah, so, well, you know, I think that I started out in, I did debate and public speaking in high school just totally randomly. And I ended up having a really fabulous world-class coach at my public high school in salt lake city, Utah, where I grew up and because he was so cool. I was totally coachable.
I did anything. He said, I, I, you know, whatever he asked me to do, I did it because he was cool. So it wasn't even that I did that on purpose, but that experience by accident made me a pretty good speaker. And then when I got into the world of business, that's just naturally where I gravitated to, but I never really got the value of it because I was always the soft skills guy hanging out with the hard skills guys and they would call what I did fluffy, even though I was raising millions of dollars.
So I kinda had a chip on my shoulder and I, and I, you know, Wanted to prove I was valuable, but I didn't really think I was valuable. And then in 2009, I went to Ted for the first time and really just had an epiphany when I watched those amazing Ted talks. And the first thing I realized Dom is that I'd been a public speaker my whole life, but I had never been doing that.
You know, that was a whole new level. So I came home, got really involved in Ted and TEDx wanted to. Figure that out and get really good at that kind of public speaking myself. And then. At the same time about the same time, everything else in my world dried up Dom. It was right after 2008. And right.
And so all of a sudden, even the jobs that didn't pay me enough money and gave me millions of dollars of useless stock, you know, I was $50,000 in debt for most of my life Dom. And at this point that all started to dry up. Right. So all of a sudden I was really in trouble and you know, people talk about burn the boats, you got to burn the boats, so there's no route home and you've got to go do what you say you're going to do.
Well, I didn't have courage to light the boats on fire myself, but they caught fire anyway, you know? And so I had to go do this. It was the only thing I could think of for a while. Dom. I thought I didn't even have anything to offer at all. And I remember crying so hard. That boogers were coming out, you know, just cause I was so scared and didn't know what to do.
And then it dawned on me, you know, well, I have been a public speaker. I love this Ted format stuff. I have been a leader my whole life. I'm going to go. I'm going to go. Do that, you know, and for the first year I just went further in debt, but by year two, I kind of broke even in year three, I made more than I ever made in my whole life.
And that just kept doubling and tripling. And so I, I finally found what I think I'm here to do, you know, but it was not like some easy straight journey.
Dom: [00:08:05] I think the most powerful outcomes are always from very rough journeys as do this. Yeah.
That's very powerful. And so how did, you start out this journey level?
Was that by coaching or did you create a course from the beginning? And was that also inspired by, by the coach, which recently inspired you in in college?
John Bates: [00:08:25] Well, you know, my, my coaching was certainly inspired by him. And at first I was doing my coaching sessions all the time live. And if somebody wanted to do one-on-one coaching with me, I would have to do what I call my speak like a leader bootcamp.
I would have to basically perform that for them. One-on-one and I did. On pretty regular basis. And, and it, and then it dawned on me that if I had this, you know, I think it's a typical issue that creators go through, right. And that people with great knowledge or something great to offer, go through. I could keep doing it like live, or I could take a big chunk of time and invest some time and money into creating one.
It's like writing a book. It's really hard to freaking write a book, you know, but the minute that I finally wrote a book, people could read that book while I was sleeping and I didn't have to be there. And so all of a sudden it was vastly more accessible and same thing with an online course. And so I created an online course and started using it in my one-on-one coaching.
Now embarrassing thing to me, it's only very recently that I've been making that available in general, out in the internet as a self-paced course, it's always only been part of my one-on-one coaching or my team coachings or things. So it hasn't been accessible. And in this course that I did with you and meeting people like you and being inspired by seeing what everybody was doing, I was like, okay, I knew this was dumb, but I didn't understand how dumb this was.
So, you know, I'm making that available now and doing a lot more with my online courses. And the good news is it gets the beautiful thing for me and anybody that has this kind of knowledge is me telling them what's in the speak, like a leader, boot camp, it's fun and everything. If I've already got the course and they can get that.
Now I can help them apply that. And that's really my zone of genius. Right. Once they get it and I, and it didn't take my time for them to get it. Now I can coach them and consult them. And that's much higher value use of my time for both myself and them.
Dom: [00:10:55] Yeah. Yeah. I love that. And especially love that, that you basically the high leverage part was actually applying that the knowledge that you have in, in real life and that you spend more time on that.
And yeah, maybe you can tell me a bit more about techniques and other things that you can have that you have come up with for people to be able to actually apply this
John Bates: [00:11:13] Okay. So so you know, the first thing that I want to say too, just to complete that thought Dom, cause it just it's something I think that your listeners would, would, would benefit from.
I believe that it takes a certain amount of generosity of spirit to just get over yourself and put the time into developing a course. It's hard to do that in the moment with all the other demands that are on our time. But if you're willing to step out of this stream of all that stuff, you've got to do to create a really great course and really do a good job of that, make sure that it's going to give this knowledge to people in a way that they can use it.
That's actually really generous of people, I think like, and you've done that Dom. I think it's a very, and it's. If people understand that it's a generous and not so easy thing to do. I think it makes it easier to do it, you know? And so, so you'd like me to talk about maybe some of the things I teach people and how to apply.
Dom: [00:12:20] Yeah, I guess that would be very interesting. Cause that's something that I I'm a bit less well-versed in, so I know a lot about effective learning techniques, so to understand and memorize things, but the next level is applying them to real life. And I think you have a lot of great insights there.
John Bates: [00:12:35] Well, so I'll give you one that I think you might recognize from what you've done and, and we'll just extend it out into the world. You know, one of the things that I say all the time, Dom, that I think is at the absolute fundamental basis of not just public speaking, but everything we do with human beings is that communicating with human beings is not logic.
You may have noticed, right. Communicating with human beings is not logical. It's biologic. Right. And when you understand the biology, you can bring logic to it again. But anybody who goes in thinking logic by itself should win. Well, Hey, maybe everybody on earth agrees with you. It should win. But when has, should meant anything, never, you know, To understand what that means.
I'll give you one quick example, which is probably the most fundamental, basic and important example. So, you know, here's some of my best stuff. If you look at a cross-section of the human brain, you'll see the brain stem and then wrapped around that is the midbrain. And together they form what's called the paleo mammalian brain.
It's also called the limbic system. It's also called the emotional brain three names, same thing, and then wrapped around the outside of that is our cerebral cortex. Our neocortex. Now the ancient brain, the paleo man Malian brain does not have access to language or logic or reason. That's all in the cerebral cortex, the neocortex, the new brain, but this ancient brain does have access to reality on a fundamentally deeper level than we will ever have access consciously.
That's weird. I'll say it again. It doesn't have access to language or logic or reason, but it does have access to reality. On a much deeper level. And what I mean by that is this is the part of our brain that smells from bones and it sees facial micro-expressions and it notices patterns in things that we'll never consciously notice and all kinds of stuff like that, what it hears and smells.
And, and so that part of the brain doesn't have access to language or logical reason, but it does see a notice these things. So how does it communicate. It gives us gut feelings. So if your mom didn't tell you, I'm telling you now trust your gut. That's where that comes from. It's your ancient brain perceiving that stuff.
And yet we all think that we live in our needs cortex, our cerebral cortex, John, you know, I'm logical, right? I mean, I, you know, I'm in a way that choices out, I'll check the boxes. I make logical decisions. My, you know, I'm an engineer and this is just how I think. Okay, well that might be true. You might do all that.
But if we put you any of you in and out AImachine and watch your brain in real time, as you make a decision, What we would see is boom, your ancient brain fires. Making the decision. And then right after that nanosecond Slater, your, your cerebral cortex, your logical brain fires, agreeing with, or disagreeing with the decision, but crucially not making the decision and the way that, that impacts us in real life, on all kinds of levels, right?
Generalize this to the broadest edges of your communication with human beings. But what that looks like in practice is something like this. Do you like that? Yeah, we liked the product. Do you think it's priced right? Oh yeah. Certainly. It's a good price. Well, would you like to sign the check and we'll see part delivery?
No, no, we're not quite ready yet. No. Yes. We like it. Yes. It's priced, right? Yes. It would make a difference. No, we're not ready yet. Okay. What just happened there? You know, That's very frustrating. People get very upset about that. They don't think it makes any sense, but in hindsight, I'll tell you what just happened and it's super obvious.
Here's what happened. Yes, yes, yes, no. That's logic, logic, logic, emotion, right? Logically. We liked it, right? Logically it was sound logically. It works for us logically. Yes. But then the logical brain has to go through the emotional brain. It's wrapped around the outside of the emotional brain. And when it goes into the emotional paleo mammalian brain, that part of our brain wasn't ready yet because we haven't made an emotional connection.
Right. If we don't have an emotional connection, if we don't have some way to feel like we're in the same tribe and we can trust each other, then the logical brain can be in, you know, a hundred percent. But when it comes to that fourth and most important, yes, we can get a no, because we didn't connect with the ancient paleo mammalian brain, put it at ease, make an emotional connection.
So. Is one of the most important things that I ever teach people and people always say, well, how do I do that? You know, I mean, it doesn't mean that we've got to hold hands and cry and sing kumbaya. It just means, you know, one quick way to that Dom so, you know, the one quick way to think about how you can make an emotional connection is small. Now smalltalk has actually been misnamed. Smalltalk has been misnamed and it's called small talk because we don't understand it because we could talk about anything. We think it doesn't matter, but it couldn't be further from the truth.
Yes, we can talk about. Anything in small talk it could be our dogs. It could be where we went to school could be where your daughter's going to school could be the weather. It doesn't matter what we talk about, but something does matter very much. And that thing that matters very much is that we talk about something that connects us in a way that connects.
So if you start looking for, how can I connect with people? How can I make this small talk into big talk? That's the most direct route to getting what I call the fourth and most important. Yes. So it goes, yes, yes, yes, yes. Versus yes. Yes. Yes.
Dom: [00:19:23] Yeah, I absolutely love that. And yeah, I think from your whole talk, it looks like you, you thought deeper about this than probably 99.9% of people in the world.
That enables you to give this very practical advice to people which I really love.
John Bates: [00:19:41] Yeah. And you know, this goes back directly Dom to, I learned this all the hard way. Right. I screwed up running into that wall of will logically the, this has makes total sense. Yeah. But you know what logic's necessary, but it's not sufficient.
And I failed and failed and failed. And then finally figured this out and started applying it and everything changed. And I was like, oh, okay. Got it, you know? So so now nobody else, nobody that's hearing this ever has to fail any longer than till right now. Like from now on you don't have to fail because of yes, yes, yes, no.
Right. You can always make that emotional connection and get yes. Yes, yes, yes.
Dom: [00:20:27] Do you see this in practice that yeah, with this, with this guidance that you'll give, basically people. Kind of take a shortcut and get this practical. Yes, yes, yes. Yes. Without failing.
John Bates: [00:20:39] Yes, Dom I have in my email, I just got an email from a guy who sent me an email first because he had won a $1 million prize with no strings attached in a pitch competition.
Then immediately in that same email, he went a few days later in one or $200,000, no strings attached Grant at a pitch competition. And most recently he just won another $2 million grant with no strings attached for his company that that, you know, with a pitch within a pitch competition. And he has written me every time in thanked me because he says, there's no way that I would be doing it.
Like I'm doing it if it weren't for you. And that's why I'm winning. So. It's so it's so fulfilling Dom. It's so exciting to get those kinds of emails, you know? Yeah. And it's based in science, the other fancy other thing, like as a, not so hard skills guy, it took me awhile to realize that, of course it's going to work all the time.
It's based in science, right? That's why we can put someone on the moon and why, you know, the internet works and all this cool stuff that, that is so amazing. It's based in science, science work.
Dom: [00:22:00] Definitely. Yeah, that's, that's very powerful. And John, I also know like you are a very high energy guy and you bring that energy to other people and you're very good at inspiring people.
And yeah, maybe do you have some tips about how we can inspire others, around us that we work with or our colleagues or subordinates to get the same level of energy at the same love of learning.
John Bates: [00:22:21] You know Dom I'm reading a book right now that I really love and it's called the untethered soul and it's a really beautiful, really spiritual book with some really great practical advice.
And I think there are a few ways I would answer that question and I'm super honored that you would say that. And it's something that I have consciously. Enabled in myself. And so there are few things that I would say, and I'll tell you how it comes back to the untethered soul in just a second. But the first thing I would say is that the best way to be inspiring is to be inspire trouble.
Okay. If you let yourself be inspired, you will be inspiring. And sometimes that's hard. Sometimes it's a little bit embarrassing or, you know, what, if everybody thinks I'm a dork for being inspired by this, or what if they think that I don't mean it or, but you know what, so what if you're authentically inspire a bowl, you will be authentically inspiring.
And what he says in this book about in the untethered. One of the things he's talking about is this tendency that we have to be loving and open until someone says or does something we don't like. And then we closed down and he says, you know, the only way that you get life energy is by staying open.
And it's just a choice. You make moment by moment by moment by moment. And there's nothing on earth that is worth letting yourself shut down and close yourself. And that is a really hard thing to do. And I'm not going to say that I'm perfect at it. What I will say is that for about 20 years now, I have been really consciously.
Making the decision moment by moment by moment to stay open, no matter how much it hurts in the moment and to be in touch with my emotions and show my emotions no matter how vulnerable that makes me feel, no matter how much I'm worried about being made fun of or whatever, to just really stay present and open.
To anything. And I'm not going to say I do it all the time. Okay. Don't think that I'm saying that, but I'm saying I'm always committed to it and I'm doing my absolute best all the time. And so I agree with this book, you know, the untethered soul, I think that that's where that life energy comes from is just keeping yourself up.
Dom: [00:25:27] I think that, I think that's very powerful. So one thing I always like to think is we don't need to agree with somebody or even think that somebody is doing something great. A good, but we can learn something from everybody. Basically. 100% of people in the world. We can learn something from them.
Absolutely. Yeah,
you also mentioned that learning is a very emotional experience. And, and I agree, I agree very much with that. And is that something like how do you use emotions to, to learn.
John Bates: [00:25:55] Okay. So here's a, here's a great saying that answer. It's going to sound like this is answering it tangentially, but it's actually answering it very directly to them.
It's a saying from a guy I really, really respect and who I'm a big fan of his, his name's Les brown and he's a public speaker and he's an, you know, an old dude now, but he, and he, but he's still going strong and he's just amazing. And I just, I'm so inspired by him. Told me a long time ago. I think, gosh, it's been maybe even 10 years now.
He said, never tell a story without a point. And that's great advice. Never tells a story without a point by the way. Tell us the point so that we for sure get the point you want us to get. Don't think the point so obvious that you don't even need to tell us if you're going to tell us a story, tell us the point of this story too.
Right? So, and he said, So never tell a story without a point and never make a point without a story. And Dom, this is one of the things that I, I saw in some of the course creators is, and it's the natural tendency for human beings, right. To just dump all these points on people and think that they're going to get them and they get some of them.
And listen, I get really drawn to do this too, because it makes sense. Logically, here are the points, you know, here's the point, here's the point? Here's the point? People don't remember those things and they can't even stay present for them very long when there's just a big, long bunch of points without a story.
But when you tell us a story that illustrates that point, we'll remember it.
Dom: [00:27:43] Yeah, definitely. Actually, that's funny that you mentioned that this Ryan at ID it's our learning conference webinar the other day yesterday. And one of the techniques that we come up for better remembering is also storytelling.
John Bates: [00:27:55] Storytelling is a very ancient human way of, of education of teaching children, but also adults. And it's so powerful. It's the only way anything of importance came to us Dom throughout the vast majority of our deep history is through storytelling because that's the only way we could remember it.
So our brains very naturally value stories more than anything else.
Dom: [00:28:24] How do you see now that we have obviously a lot of possibilities with the internet online courses, which should just create it yourself as well. How can that help learning in general and help tell better stories and how can we leverage our stories maybe?
John Bates: [00:28:37] Well, you know, I mean, one thing that I've been really, really amazed with cause, you know, I think, you know, I've got I've got my online course, this speak like a leader boot camp and I've got Cohort based version of that, that I run on a pretty regular basis. And then I've got a course called the live, like a leader program, which is a year long cohort based leadership, communication, personal growth, you know, mystical journey.
And I started all of this really in earnest when the pandemic. You know, because Hey, it, all of a sudden I was not traveling all the time. You know, before that I was on planes most of the time, and all of a sudden now I wasn't on planes at all. And, and so I jumped into this and I am just, I mean, look, I th my online course made a difference for me, even in my one-on-one and, you know, small group, large group, corporate training programs.
It was great to have it. My experience over the past year has just made me incredibly excited about the future of this and the difference it can make. And it's made me much, much more excited to make new courses and to think about how I can deepen the things that I have, and really bring about the, the, the difference in the change and the transformation that people want from these things.
And what I've noticed. Is one of the most exciting things to me is all of a sudden it's international. So imagine the, the depth and breadth of experience and stories and connections that's available. Once we take into account. All of the people that are available to us globally, versus just in this culture or just in this country or just in this language.
I mean, w w I'm lucky that it's English, but. English is a language that's now becoming really global. And so the fact that we can all get together and share our experiences and our different diverse points of view and be together live in real time in these learning environments. That is just beyond exciting to me.
Dom: [00:30:56] Definitely. Yeah, I think yeah, that's very powerful. And it just said we will have a lot more perspectives people not just in our society and all kinds of positions, but from all over the both from different kinds of societies where yeah. Yeah. Culture and thinking processes are just different and that's , such a rich yeah, it's going to enrich our experience so much.
John Bates: [00:31:16] It's so cool. I mean, look at, you know, you and me. You're a young guy in the Netherlands. I'm an old guy in the United States. Like I don't know how we would have ever met. I mean, I'm really glad I met you and I would have loved to meet you somehow. But I think this is about, this is one of the only ways that we would have ever gotten to know each other the way we have and those kinds of friendships and those kinds of international bonds and insights.
I think that's what it's going to take for us to make it as a species. You know, through the coming challenges that we are already facing.
Dom: [00:31:53] I love that. I think like we don't have to put our differences aside, but we have to leverage our differences and that's how we can learn from each other.
Yeah, absolutely this has been really, really great, John. So I would like to ask you who do you think I should interview next on app?
John Bates: [00:32:10] You know, there's a woman and I was just on her podcast this morning, kind of funny enough. And her name is Fiona Murden and she's the author of a book called mirror thinking.
And she Fiona Murden mirror thinking, and we just read her book in my live, like a leader program last month and discussed it and had her join us and talk about it with us. And she also does courses Dom and sh. Does a lot of working great. She's a brilliant you know she's got much more of an academic pedigree and understanding than I do.
That's more her direction and she's a fabulous writer and, and does courses in a lot of the things that she writes about. And I think she would be a fabulous guest for you. She's. Incredibly lovely as a person. And what she talks about is mirror neurons and the importance of understanding their impact on us and our behavior and everything.
And I think you'd love talking to her and, and I think that's who I would recommend.
Dom: [00:33:17] Yeah, definitely. I would love that. I mean, mirror neurons is a principle. I used myself basically in language learning a lot as well, but there are so many more applications that you know about.
John Bates: [00:33:29] Yeah. Yeah, she, she did a great TEDx talk at the London school of economics.
So people want to get a preview of her or if you do, it's a, you just do a search Fiona Murden, TEDx, London, school of economics, and you'll find that it's really good.
Dom: [00:33:45] Awesome. Okay. So yeah. Thank you, John. And if people want to find out more about you and the courses that are stuff that you what's the best way for them to.
John Bates: [00:33:55] They can go to I'll give you two URLs. One is executive speaking That's my website. You know, I do a free mini training that they can sign up for there that comes out every week. And it's just a great way to keep your head in the game of communication and great communication.
So that's it. Executive speaking, and if they want to go see the courses that I have they can go to E S S. Dot I do my courses in teachable. We have our community and circle and you know, would, would welcome them aboard if this sounds exciting and promise a lifelong transfer, just transformation, no matter what level they're at in terms of public speaking.
Cause there's just no top to this.
Dom: [00:34:48] That's that sounds awesome. I'm looking forward to, to getting your transformation as well in the future, so. Awesome. Yes. Thank you very much, John, for the interview. You're very, very welcome. Thanks for having me take care, right. Thank you.
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