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Episode 66:

Transforming Communication: Strategic Storytelling

Jeff Bartsch


Join Jeremy Clopton on Episode 66 of The Upstream Leader as he talks to Jeff Bartsch, founder of Story Greenlight. They explore the power of storytelling in transforming communication strategies for accounting professionals, a skill Jeff refined first with over 20 years of experience writing stories in Hollywood, and then subsequently, coaching professionals on how best to communicate theirs. Discover how leveraging communication frameworks can lead to meaningful connections, advisory roles, and transformative outcomes in accounting firms. Jeff provides insights and practical tools to enhance your leadership and client relationships.

About the Guest

Jeff Bartsch is a communication strategist and coach serving the accounting advisory world. He arrived at this point via 20 years in Hollywood shaping content for ABC, NBC, Apple, Disney, Netflix, and many others. Part way into his career, he began building online businesses based around what I’d learned in Hollywood, plus the extra 20 years before that. Eventually his writing, content creation, and coaching connected with an elite, trailblazing accounting advisory firm who asked Jeff to help develop their client-facing virtual CFOs as public-facing thought leaders within their industry niches. Then they asked him to work with their podcast hosts to develop their communication and storytelling skills. Subsequently, Jeff moved his coaching specifically to focus on thought leadership development and communication, with a focus specifically on the accounting industry. Jeff is the Founder of Story Greenlight, which he established in 2017.

Highlights / Transcript

Welcome everyone to The Upstream Leader. We are talking about communication today, and communication is obviously a challenge whether you’re inside the firm, outside the firm, or probably anywhere in business right now. And for our conversation today, I have with me Jeff Bartsch. He is the founder of Story Greenlight, a coaching company that helps accounting executives and advisors to set themselves apart in their industry through the journey of communication and thought leadership. Jeff, great to have you on the podcast today.

It’s great to be here, Jeremy. Looking forward to this, man.

Yeah, it’s going to be a fun conversation. Before we get into solving all things communication, I’m going to start off how we do every podcast: How did you become the leader that you are today?

You know, it’s, it’s interesting. I was thinking about this—thankfully you gave me some heads up to think about it. And you never know what moments in your life end up leaving a mark. Maybe even for years. There was one specific moment in my life—I was a kid—and I thought at the time that I was being called out, but I was really being called up in terms of leadership. And I was about 10 or 11 years old. I was known as Jeff the Piano Guy. I was all that about playing piano, classically trained, played by ear, all this stuff.

I got most of my reps in on Sunday mornings at church. And there was one day. When I thought I was just killing it. Everyone said, Jeff, you’re this amazing piano player. One of the older church musicians comes up to me and she says, Jeff, it’s all good to play the notes on the page like you’re doing, but when you get older, you need to learn how to play from your soul. I was 10 or 11 at the time, elementary school. I thought that was the stupidest thing I’d heard in my life. And it was one of those things where I just ignored her because everyone said I was doing great.

But what happened was, I ended up learning how to actually go beyond just the notes on the page. I was doing the best that I could, but I discovered with my music that there was a whole other level of bringing the music to life. And when I went beyond the basics, when I went beyond the fundamentals, I found that people started responding differently. Instead of saying, Jeff, you’re an amazing piano player, they’d say, Jeff, that song you played was the exact song that I needed to hear today. Thank you for that song. And every once in a while, someone would say, Jeff, the way you played today actually brought me into an encounter with God. Thank you, thank you so much for what you do. And that was when I started realizing, okay, that lady might’ve been onto something and I need to get out of my own way, because this is way bigger than me.

That moment, I had no idea that that would be a pointer towards what I have spent literally the rest of my life, 40 years of my life at this point, doing—taking a regular message, elevating it to something extraordinary, and helping other people do that for themselves. So if you look me up online, you’ll see that I did that for 20 years in Hollywood. I made TV in Hollywood, at which point, most people say, okay, well, so how did you go from Hollywood and working with Apple and NBC and Disney and Netflix? How did you get into accounting? The basic answer is, I’ve always been a coach or a teacher in one form, and I started teaching what I’d learned in Hollywood to business consultants and experts and an accounting company reached out to say, hey, we would love you to help do that for some of our internal thought leaders. And that’s how it got into the accounting world.

Very interesting. So taking the message, amplifying it, making it more than just in this case, the words on the page, natural transition into communication strategy for accountants. So if we were going to talk about fixing communication strategy, where on earth do we start?

Well, the starting point is, anytime you’re talking about human beings, things can get messy really quickly. Things can get really undefined. Things can get squishy. It’s nothing like looking at a P&L, nothing like looking at a balance sheet. So you have to say, okay, well, where do you start? And I always talk about with my clients, the need to understand the concept of story, but not in the way that most people think about story, in terms of like telling a story over the water cooler. That’s what I refer to as the tactical version of storytelling. That’s telling a story. And we’ve all heard someone do an amazing job, and we’ve heard even more people do it really badly.


But what I want to help us take a look at is just to look at the bigger picture of the strategic view of what “story” is. The number one framework that I like to offer people, write this down and put it up on your wall. It will change the way you interact with anyone, I promise. When you think about story in the terms of this definition: a character who wants something, overcomes obstacles to get it, and experiences transformation as a result, that is as far as I can tell the best definition I found anywhere for what a story actually is. And when you think about that, it not only describes our day-to-day life, it also describes any story you’ve ever heard, any TV show you’ve ever seen, any movie you’ve ever watched. When you think about it, it literally can become a framework for any human interaction between any human ever, for any reason.


And if it seems like I’m exaggerating, I promise I’m not. It’s that wide-ranging. That’s the starting point: in any scenario, in any communication, anywhere, there are always characters with identities. Sometimes they know what those identities are, sometimes they don’t. They all have desires. And if you have any desire that’s big enough, there will be an obstacle getting in your way. You’re going to need help to getting around that. And then there’s always the concept of what change do we want to see? So, that definition of a character who wants something, overcomes obstacles to get it, and experiences transformation as a result, is a great starting point to say, what is communication and how do we start digging in?

Yeah. So I’m going to jump into a very specific application of this that I’d like you to walk us through, because I’m an accountant by background, so I like a good heart example that’s going to really illustrate this for me. So let’s say that I’m an accountant and I’m trying to be my client’s advisor. And I’m trying to figure out—I don’t really know how to talk to a client like an advisor, right? I hear this a lot of times from accountants like, I know how to be an accountant, Jeremy. I don’t know how to be an advisor. I would argue that most accountants actually do know how to be an advisor, but they’re not probably thinking through it this way.

I think your process, your framework helps them to see that. So walk us through how can an accountant utilize that framework that you just talked about to really show up as an advisor to their client? What does a conversation like that look like?

Yeah, well, the most important parts of that conversation happen before you open your mouth. And the initial parts are, okay, what do we have in this conversation? You know, say, okay, so you’re meeting on a monthly basis, maybe even, maybe even more often than that, and you have some numbers to present to the client. Now it’s really tempting to say, okay, well, these numbers speak for themselves. I promise you—they don’t. The numbers do not just speak for themselves, because numbers are just things on the surface, and anything that we see on the surface, we have attached meaning to it one way or another. I mean, you throw out a number, a million dollars, $50 million or whatever, or the number zero, you could attach all kinds of meaning to that, either,I mean, it’s like, this is great. We’ve had zero employee turnover. We’ve had zero profit. We have 50 million in debt. We have 50 million in revenue. It’s whatever you’ve attached to it.

So the question is, going into this conversation, you need to figure out, okay, so who is my audience? Who is the client? What is the story happening in their head? What do they want? What’s keeping them from getting it? Then, you start thinking about, okay, what do I have to offer to their story, with whatever I’m bringing to the table. How does that overlap with their storyline? That’s where the conversation starts. I could geek out about this for, I could geek about this for a while. So what are your thoughts?


So I mean, really what I’m hearing is every accountant, when you’re talking to a client, even if it’s compliance-based, talking about the tax return for last year, the audit report for last year, last year’s P&L, though it’s traditional historian-type work, as we talk about it, you now have the opportunity to attach meaning to that historian work and start helping the client understand how do they get what they want based on what you now know. Is that a fair application of this process, is, you’re now helping them understand either more of what they want or more about the barrier that they’re facing? Is that where the accountant comes into the equation?

100 percent, 100 percent. and it also for people who are wanting to say, Hey, well, let’s talk more about advisory looking into the future, not just the past? Oh, this is game changing. When you think about what does the client want? What’s getting in their way? How can we be the guide coming alongside them to help get that? You know, when you’re looking at historical reports, you can kind of do a post mortem, and you can transition into, okay, so this is what’s happened, what are your thoughts, client, on why you think that happened? What stands out to you? Is there any surprises? You know, fill in the blank. And then you can say, so what does that mean for us moving forward?

But the moment you start saying, here’s what is. What do you think about what you want? What do you think about what might be? What do you hope for? That kind of stuff that the instant you start going into that direction, you’re starting to talk about what your client wants. That is advisory all day long.

Yeah. And that’s story at a strategic level. Rather than telling a story, what you’re talking about is helping the client write their own story. Is that fair?

That is totally a way to put it. It’s one of those things where if you say the word story, so many people say, “Oh, you tell a story, and it can be done well or badly.” But, when you think about story from the strategic sense, it becomes a framework for communication. It becomes a tool for human connection that may or may not even involve a tactical story at all. You can have just a one-on-one conversation. You can write a headline. You can do a one sentence pitch to someone. And you can have a powerful communication and even a connection take place without telling a traditional story.

So it’s not so much about telling the story as much as it is understanding the components of a powerful story. Someone that wants something, that’s facing a hurdle, that experiences transformation. I think I got that close. I may not have got the exact words.


So that’s the application on the client’s side. One example of an application. I’m sure we could go on for hours or days on very, you know, specific applications. But let’s take it back to the human connection side. And when I say human connection, I don’t want to discount clients at all. But I’m thinking about the communication gap that exists within accounting firms today. Whether that’s within the partner room, or whether it’s between leaders and brand new hires, or younger professionals that are maybe struggling to, you know, to really just step up and they’re not getting that ownership, right? They’re not engaged. They’re not feeling that connection. How can a leader within an accounting firm use this concept of story to create meaningful connection with someone that’s early in their career, that’s at a completely different point, but how can they use this framework to create meaningful connection that leads to better employee engagement?

Sure. That is when you—you can literally start with the exact same framework, but instead of pointing it towards the client, you point it towards your junior accountant, towards your senior accountant, towards your comptroller, whoever, to your other partners. And you say, who are they, and what do they want? Well, if you have a partner who is this close to retiring and you’re proposing something that’s going to introduce a significant amount of change in the way things have always been done, and your partner, you find out, does not want that, you know, just let me ride out my years and let me get out of here. That’s the scenario where you start saying, well, who are they? What do they want? What’s getting in their way? How can we get them what they want? How can we help everyone get what they want?

If you’re talking to a junior member of your team and you’re aware that they don’t want to have their tombstone say “they did bankruptcy,” they want to do something that matters. And so when you start engaging with these people, when you start saying, you know, I’ve heard you and Heath talk about, you know, just having check-in conversations. And when you do that, and you ask genuine questions from a place of genuine curiosity and caring: How are things going? What are you looking for? What are you hoping for? How do you think things are going so far? When you start listening to their responses and you can say, oh, well, I want to know how what I do here connects to anything. I’m spending all my, my whole day doing this stuff. Why does this matter? Well, if you’re in a position to let them know how what they do matters, the fact that they’re putting together data, that means the advisor can actually have the right numbers at the right time, and can give trusted counsel to the client. And that client goes out and empowers their company to impact all these other people doing these—offering these products or services.


This is how we connect. This is how that younger member of your team says, oh, what I’m doing does matter. Okay. I get it.

Yeah. So you’ve got a young team member is the who, the character, they’re early in their career. They want meaning and purpose and to know that what they do matters. The barrier there is they see bank rec after bank rec, after bank rec, after trial balance, and they don’t understand how their tasks on a daily basis tie to a greater purpose or a meaning. So the transformation is then where you come in as the leader to say, let me connect your daily tasks to the greater purpose. That’s what leads them to the transformation. That’s the part of the communication—is that where, I guess that’s where the communication comes in?


So like, the first three steps of that framework are all about, understand the person, understand the goal, understand the barrier, and then strategically insert communication to lead to the transformation. Am I getting that correct?

That’s the goal. The idea is to bring communication in, in light of what we know about who we’re dealing with, and then say, okay, how can we help you? How can we help you get what you want? How can we show up as our own version of Yoda without the green skin or the ear hair, you know?  That’s how you come alongside people. And you know, no, one’s going to say that helping everyone get what they want is ever easy, right? Sometimes it’s not even possible. But if you can help them make progress, even just progress towards what they want. That’s a big deal.

Definitely. So let me go a slightly different direction with this. So I’m thinking of a situation for instance, where you’re a leader in a firm or a leader in a company, right? And you know, you understand this framework, and you’re leading a change initiative. And like you said, you’ve got those partners that you know who they are. Their goal is to get to retirement with as little disruption as possible. The barrier is, you’re trying to introduce disruption. Then you’ve got younger partners who are new. Their goal is to grow the firm as healthily and as quickly as they can. The barrier in their eyes are the older partners who have no desire to change, and they just want to ride it out. As a leader, you’re now navigating two completely different stories, right? You understand both of the stories. How do you leverage strategic communication to create transformation that acknowledges and works through both of those very conflicting stories?

That is where the challenge really gets real, because it’s what I talk about the idea of story alignment. Anytime you add another human being into any given situation, you have another storyline, and it starts stacking on top of each other. And in business, it gets even more complicated, because the business itself has its own identity—it has multiple levels of stakeholders, it has the partners, it has the team underneath, it has the clients, it has the vendors, insert stakeholders here, all kinds of stuff. And the more layers you get stacked on top of each other, the more challenging it can be to line them all up, so everyone gets what they want. So in that scenario, the leader is challenged with the question of, how can we start at a place where we can all agree on something that we want? How can we all start from a place of agreement?

There’s a tool that I talk about with my clients. It’s called the ABT. It’s a three letter acronym. It stands for “and, but, therefore.” And it’s a framework of communication where you can say, here’s where things are, and here’s what we want to see in the future. But here’s what’s keeping us from getting it. Therefore, here’s what we should do about it. “And, but, therefore.” That comes from the writings of a gentleman by the name of Randy Olson. Get this: Former marine biologist, Harvard trained marine biologist turned Hollywood screenwriter.

Natural transition.

Exactly. He wrote a book about this called The Narrative Gym. As in you work out at the gym. So The Narrative Gym by Randy Olson. And so the whole concept of this is to start in a place of agreement. And when you really start thinking about this “and, but, therefore” structure in any time of conflict, or where you have a need for persuasion, it really forces you to get really clear on what’s the actual problem. Because how many times do we go into a session where there’s conflict and person 1 says, well, this is the problem here, and the other person says, no. Person 1 says, this is the problem, so here’s what we should do. And person 2 says, well, no, that’s not the problem. This is the problem, therefore, this is what we should do. And they’re completely opposite. Whereas if you start from a place of, here’s what we all want to see, and here’s this amazing future that we could all see together, when we see, you know, what we want to all see happen—if you come from a place of agreement, all of a sudden that defensiveness drops, the hackles go down, all those chemicals in the bloodstream stop flowing quite as fast, less cortisol dumping into your bloodstream and all the things, and you say, okay, yeah, this is something that we can agree that we want, then we can say, okay, well what are the issues standing in our way?

I’m not going to sit here and say that this is a magic bullet and it’s super, super easy to always solve, but man, when you do start from a place of agreement, something that we can all be in on together, that makes it a lot easier to talk about the way forward.

Yeah. Well, and what I really like about that, Jeff, is as a leader, it isn’t up to you to reconcile all of the conflicting stories and create that mutual agreement. You aren’t fabricating, you aren’t coming up with, what is this thing that we should agree on? Instead, what you’re saying here is as the leader, it’s up to you to recognize, look, everybody’s stories are different. There is inherent conflict in the stories because some of what some people want are creating the barrier for the other people. So before you can get to transformation, you’ve got to bring everybody together to say, great, we’re not all working toward the same thing, so what is something that we can all agree that we can work toward? And finding that mutual agreement first, rather than trying to transform everybody in the same direction, when they’re all going 80 different directions, you’re saying, come up with something you can get agreement to where now your characters, which are now your team, have a similar thing that they’re looking for. Yes, there are barriers that everyone is experiencing and now you can get to that transformation. Is that, did I hear that correctly?

Yeah.  Yeah.

That’s powerful.

Here’s the other layer that can help explain why some of these conversations can be so tricky. Because, it goes back to something I mentioned earlier, when you’re looking at, if you’re looking at numbers, well, numbers are never meaningless. They are just things. They’re things on the surface. So if you think about the idea of an iceberg, where you see the tip of the iceberg, but the true bulk, the true mass is hidden below the surface of the water, that’s what happens with things that we see on the surface, which I refer to as “the thing.” If we attach huge, important psychological and emotional meaning to those things under the surface, those connections are what I call “the things under the thing.” And so, this is why when you hear psychologists talk about, the argument is never about the thing, it’s about the thing under the thing. That kind of a thing.

That is why people have difficulty sometimes, looking at a surface, just for a complete different example, if you’re looking at a design of stars and stripes, and with red, white and blue, it’s just a design, but anyone in the United States knows that that’s the design of the U.S. flag and everyone has attachments to what the U.S. flag means. Some of them, they’re completely diametrically opposed. So when you’re in a situation of conflict as a leader, and people are disagreeing on what might seem like a fundamental idea, or just something that seems to be just, it is what it is, a lot of the times, they’re not talking about the thing. They’re driven by the thing under the thing. That’s an element that can help explain why these situations can be so tricky. And the solution to start digging into that, there is no easy solution other than asking questions like, what does this mean to you? How does this affect you? What do you think might go well if this happens or what might go badly if this happens? That’s when you start having to play detective.

From what you’re saying, it’s important to get more information before you start trying to direct the communication. You need to understand more deeply what’s actually happening. From what you’ve shared, to me, it sounds natural to go back to those elements of story, is where you’ve got that conflict. And it seems like, well, there’s no difference here probably means you don’t understand what they truly want or what they truly see as the barrier—that you’re just keeping it on the surface rather than truly getting to that level of understanding. And an easy question—well, a simple question, not easy, but maybe simple question.

Simple, maybe not easy?

I don’t know if you can say that, but to figure out, okay, there’s more here. So what is it they truly want? Maybe I don’t actually understand. And do you see that as a challenge for leaders that, especially when they get into those situations that become so frustrating, is it because they’re assuming they know what the other character wants rather than actually taking the time to understand what is it that that other person wants, and they’re just kind of projecting, well, I assume they want this, therefore I should communicate in this way?

That could definitely be. The challenge is, we don’t always know what we want, or we might think, we might say, that we want something, but we might believe something different. If we’re in a conversation interacting with leadership, maybe the culture has grown to a place where we want something, but we don’t feel that we’re at liberty to say what we actually want, because if we said what we actually want, we’d get shot down, we’d get kicked out of the room. At the end, I’m not going to say it’s easy, but human beings are complex people.

Yeah. Yeah. So let’s, taking this the other direction—we’ve talked about this from the, as I’m communicating with you, I need to know who you are, what you want, what barriers you’re facing, and the transformation you’re looking to achieve, and then I can figure out how I take that guide role to help you. Whether you’re my client, you’re my colleague, you’re my partner, whatever it may be. As an individual that is being communicated with, is it also healthy? So say I’m an early career professional. Is it also healthy for me to occasionally just, or any level of experience to step back on occasion and say, who am I? What do I want? What are my barriers? What transformation do I need? Is that a healthy exercise, or does it only go the other way?

Dude, it is so broadly applicable. It’s kind of mind bending if you let it be. Because that is one of the most single, powerful applications that you can use is to use this idea on yourself because, you know, so often in business we talk about, okay, points of efficiency, points of bottleneck, points of leverage. You want points of leverage? Folks, check this out: If you take this definition of a character who wants something, overcomes obstacles to get it, and experiences transformation as a result, anything that you do at the beginning is a leverage point that changes everything downstream.

For instance, if I had gone through my life, the first 20 years of my life, Jeff Bartsch was known as Jeff the Piano Guy. I come from a very musical family. You know, that was just the environment that I grew up in. I figured I’d be doing that for the rest of my life. But when I got into high school, I discovered video production, back in the days before cell phones were invented and it was actually really hard to make video.

When it was true video production.

Yeah, exactly. And so when I said to myself, okay, I am going to step into this new identity as Jeff the Video Guy, ’cause I was the only one in my high school of 200 people in Northwest Iowa, in a town of 1,000 people in the whole town. I was the only person who cared about this stuff. So I had to do it all. So I had to become Jeff the Video Guy. That completely changed the whole direction of my life. That’s how I ended up spending 20 years in Hollywood, because I changed my personal identity.

So when we think about where we are at any given point in our life, we can say, okay, who am I? Am I a spreadsheet jockey? Am I a supporting role at an accounting firm, and I’m hiding behind spreadsheets, what if I was to start saying, I am a trusted advisor? Forget whether you’re actually interacting with clients or not, forget, you know, just say for the sake of conversation that that’s an identity that you’ll want to try on. Well, when you start thinking about that, you start plugging these things into this framework and say, well, if you’re a trusted advisor, what kind of things do they want? What kind of things do they do? What kind of obstacles get in their way? All of a sudden, you, when you take on that new identity, you start doing different things. You start encountering different obstacles. Which means you do different things to get around them. Everything downstream changes. It can be incredibly powerful to apply that to one’s own life.

I feel like a conversation that started around communication has become very meta here, Jeff.

Okay. So if I can do this here, I would be curious to know, have there been times in your life when you changed your personal identity completely, and how did that shift your life?

Yeah, no, definitely. I mean, I did not ever expect to be a leadership coach for accounting firms. That isn’t what I went to school to become. I went to school to become an accountant, and then it was specifically a forensic accountant. I wanted to do nothing but be a testifying expert until I fell in love with Excel and became a spreadsheet junkie. And then, it got into analytics and then it became anti-fraud, and then I became known for that. And then I decided, well, that’s, you know, that’s not my identity anymore. Now I’m an individual that works to develop leaders in the accounting profession. And you know, here I am leading Upstream and talking with you about how, you know, how firms can change their communication strategies.

If you’d have told me this 20 years ago, 25 years ago, I would have been like, no, I’m, that isn’t who I become. Like, I’m going to, you know, I’m going to be an investigator my whole life and, you know, white collar crime. That’s what I’ve always wanted to do is be an investigator.

So I’ve had two or three of those inflection points where it’s completely changed. And you’re right though, because there comes a point in that change where you’ve got to stop and you’ve got to say, okay, if this is who I am now, what is it that I want? What are the things that I should be doing? And that’s really healthy because otherwise, you run the risk of holding onto some of those things that were true to the old identity that don’t serve you well now, and they can hold you back, whether that’s career trajectory, or in communication, if you’re holding onto, you know, truths that are no longer truths, it becomes a challenge. So yeah, to your point, I’ve had those moments as well, and you’re right. It completely changes things.

I got to say for people who are wondering, okay, these are some really great ideas, but how do they actually play out in the advisory world? I got to tell you, there are some incredibly powerful results that you can get. I mean, I was working with a client, actually, I was talking with him about ABT, about the ABT tool that we talked about earlier, and this client’s name was Tom. And I asked, is there anything that comes to mind with a client that might plug into this scenario? And he said, oh, let me tell you. And without getting into all the details, he tells me about this client had been taking a research and development tax credit. The laws had changed, and so that meant the tax return had to change, but the client didn’t want to change it. And the client started withholding information and it just got really messy.

It got to the point that the accounting firm said, dude, if you don’t give us this information, we can’t sign your return. I mean, it went all the way up to the top of the flagpole and everything. So Tom was telling me about this, and so we ran this through the ABT framework that we just talked about, and all of a sudden it just, this light bulb went on in his face and he’s going dude, these are the elements that the client has said he’s cared about. Well, he definitely doesn’t want to raise any red flags with the IRS. Well, his line of reasoning was doing that. And so point being, he took the results of our conversation, one conversation with his CEO and client, kept that client from leaving, everything worked out with the tax return, and Tom estimated that because of the trajectory for that firm’s acquisition, which, you want to get acquired, he estimated that one conversation saved his company $200,000 in future revenue. One squishy little tool, one squishy communication tool put almost 200 grand in future revenue in the company’s bank account by providing excellent, customer-centered advisory service.

Yeah. And it wasn’t by telling a story, it was recognizing the customer’s story and helping to be a part of that.

Jeff, this has been a very, very enlightening conversation. It went a direction I didn’t necessarily expect it to with the application to the individual, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. Let me ask you this. You’re thinking about, say somebody is listening in and they are looking for a resource, obviously you’re going to be a resource, but if you’re thinking of a, are there any books, podcasts, Ted Talks, anything out there that you think of, you know, if somebody is wanting to learn more about story, what resource would you recommend for them to study this further? What do you think is most effective?


Maybe, is it watching movies?

Well, watching movies is a lot of fun, and you can learn about things, you can see different parts of the world, but it’s a little trickier to actually learn about the workings behind the machinery just by watching movies.

In terms of resources, I will say some of the writings of Donald Miller, if you’re familiar with building a story brand, Donald Miller used to write fiction. He transitioned into business author. He wrote a book called Hero on a Mission. And it’s the ideas he talks about, a lot of what we’ve talked about here, how to apply the idea of story structure to living a meaningful life. So if you’re interested in that direction, that’s a super, super thought provoking and inspiring book. I’d highly recommend that.

The other thing is a lot of people recognize the power of tactical stories, but they say, oh, well, I couldn’t do it, and it’s just for people who have special skills, you know, they’re special, talented, and I could never do that well. And I’m here to tell you that that’s not the case. This is all built around skills. And the single best book that I have come across that tells people how to actually craft a tactical story around one moment, in a way that people can actually latch onto and get emotionally connected to, the book is called Stories That Stick by Kindra Hall. She’s a keynote speaker and an author and a researcher. She takes deep dives into stories as well.

Okay, very good. Those, I will have to add Stories That Stick to my reading list. I’ve already read Donald Miller’s, all of his work I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. Where can folks find you if they want to reach out and they want to learn more about you and your work?

Absolutely. As a special gift for listeners of this podcast, if you go to, I know there have been a lot of ideas flying around. And if you’re saying, okay, well, I’m in a place where I want to figure out, I just want to get more info. Like, how does this all fit together? How do these ideas work? If you go to, there’s a link to a group of selected episodes of a podcast where I do exactly that. I start from the beginning, lay out all the ideas, they all stack on top of each other, so you can actually wrap your head around all this stuff and how it works.

And in the second place, I will say that it is possible that you can listen to these ideas and you can understand them, but you don’t really know them unless you experience them for yourself. And so if you’re in a position where you want to say, hey, I would love for these ideas to be personalized to me, I would like to offer listeners of this podcast a complimentary full coaching session, no strings attached, no need to become a paying client, just as my gift to you. And there is a way to get in touch with me there on that link. You can also email, just send an email to, mention this podcast and apply for that complimentary session.

Jeff, thank you so much. I know that will be a great benefit for our listeners and hope that many of you take advantage of that. Jeff Bartsch, thank you so much for joining me on The Upstream Leader. I have thoroughly enjoyed the conversation and, uh, look forward to maybe talking again in the future.

Right on, man. Thank you, Jeremy.



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