It's the struggle that engages us

story Apr 16, 2022

 When it comes to storytelling, Willa Cather’s quote says it all: ‘Success is never so interesting as struggle’. 

We’d just finished delivering a storytelling workshop in Halifax for the Atlantic chapter of the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers.

As a thank-you gift the group gave us a beautiful card made by one of the members, and a book of 100 inspirational quotations. 

I opened the book at random – and there was the quote by Ms Cather (pictured), a prolific author and Pulitzer prize winner for her World War I novel One of Ours.

Much of the workshop had been spent discussing how storytelling is not so much about the destination as it is about the journey. 

What engages us about any story – and that includes a sales pitch, a call to action or a personal introduction – is not the end, but the struggle to achieve the end.

It’s not the victory, it’s the battle to get to the line first; it’s not the prize, it’s the overcoming of obstacles to secure the prize.

Don’t skimp on the struggle.

We need a hero – a character. That hero is on a quest… to sell a product, to raise money, to be of service, to get their life back on track. 

And there need to be challenges, obstacles. If it’s easy, it’s probably not interesting. 

What’s more compelling – you telling people your product is amazing… or showing them how hard you worked to make it better than anything else? 

Do you want to tell people how good you are (predictable) or tell a story about someone who overcame their skepticism, used your product and changed their life. 

You need to find the trouble along the way.

The low point is what we care about… because we root for people in trouble and want to see how they climb out of the hole circumstance has placed them in.