May I take you on a bit of journey? …
There is a website on the Internet that I believe is the best website in the world. Would you like to know which it is? I’ll reveal that website in a moment but first have, let me share with you several stories that recently impacted me.
The first comes from a book, written by Carmine Gallo.
“Meet Aimee Mullins, she has 12 pairs of legs. Like most people she was born with two, but unlike most people Mullins had to have both legs amputated below the knee due to a medical condition. Mullins has lived with no lower legs since her first birthday.
Mullins grew up in a middle class family in the middle-class town of Allentown, Pennsylvania, USA yet her achievements are far from ordinary. Mullins doctors suggested that an early amputation would give her the best chance to have a reasonable amount of mobility. As a child Mullins had no input into that decision, but as she grew up she refused to see herself as or to accept the label most people gave her—“disabled.” Instead, she decided that prosthetic limbs would give her superpowers that others could only dream of.
Mullins redefines what it means to be disabled. As she told comedian and talk show host Stephen Colbert, many actresses have more prosthetic material in their breasts than she does in her whole body, “and we don’t call half of Hollywood disabled.”
Mullins tapped her superpower—her prosthetic limbs—to run track for an NCAA Division One program at Georgetown University. She broke three world records in track and field at the 1996 Paralympics, became a fashion model and an actress, and landed a pot on People magazine’s annual list of the 50 Most Beautiful people.
When Mullins told her story to the world, “The opportunity of Adversity,” just as I have told you her story here, it was quickly viewed nearly 1.5 million times.
Let me tell you another story. This is story that I both witnessed and read about. In his book, Gallo introduced me to Cameron Russell.
In a presentation, Russell tells the audience, “Looks aren’t everything.” Cliché? Yes, if it had been delivered by anyone else. Russell, however, is a successful fashion model. Within thirty seconds of taking the stage Russell changed her outfit. She covered her revealing, tight-fitting black dress with a wraparound skirt, replaced her eight-inch heels with plain shoes, and pulled a turtleneck sweater over her heard.
“So why did I do that?” She asked the audience. “Image is powerful, but also image is superficial. I just totally transformed what you thought of me in six seconds.”
When Russell told her story, the full version, not just the intro has I have shared with you here, it was quickly viewed more than 6.5 million times.
Let me tell you another story. This one about Magic Johnson but more specifically, his business partner, Ken Lombard. Ken and Magic were scheduled to meet with Peter Gruber who, at the time, was the CEO of Sony pictures. Upon meeting Gruber in his office, the first thing Lombard said was, “Close your eyes. We’re going to tell you a story about a foreign country.” Gruber thought it a little “unorthodox,” but he shut his eyes and went along with it. Lombard continued, “This is a land with a strong customer base, great location, and qualified investors. You know how to build theatres in Europe, Asia, and South America. You know how to invest in foreign countries that have different languages, different cultures, different problems. What you do, Peter, is you find a partner in the country who speaks the language, knows the culture, and handles the local problems. Right?” Gruber nodded in agreement as his eyes remained shut. “Well, what if I told you a promised land exists that already speaks English, craves movies, has plenty of available real estate, and no competition? … This promised land is about six miles from here.”
Lombard and Johnson were pitching Gruber on building movie theatres in underserved urban communities, but knew Gruber wouldn’t be interested if he knew from the start that this was their idea.
Lombard knew, first, he’d have to create a desire for Gruber to own such a location. For this, he needed to tell the above story. He’d need to take Gruber on a journey, so he could see, and imagine, before he judged and ruled out.
Through the power of storytelling, Lombard and Johnson cast themselves as the heroes of the narrative who would help Gruber navigate the waters to reach the promised land. It worked! In the first four weeks of opening, the first Magic Johnson Theatre was one of the top five highest-grossing theatres in the Sony chain.
Now, before I wrap this up and reveal to you what I believe is the world’s greatest website, let me tell you one last story.
Meet Rob Walker and Joshua Glenn. They founded the site SignificantObjects.com, a website dedicated to the power of story. Significant Objects was a social and anthropological experience devised by Rob and Glenn. The two researchers started with a hypothesis: a writer can invent a story about an object, investing in the object with subjective significance that would raise its objective value. In other words, they could buy crap, tell a compelling story about that crap, and because of the romanticism of the story, create a desire for the object to sell it for far more than they purchased it for. They curated objects from thrift stores and garage sales. The objects would cost no more than a buck or two. The second phase of the experiment saw a writer create a short, fictional story about the object. In the third step, the object was auctioned off on eBay.
The researchers purchased $128.74 worth of objects. The thrift-store “junk” sold for a total of $3,612.51. The men had discovered that a powerful story had raised the average products’ prices by 2,700 percent. For example, a fake banana cost 25 cents and sold on eBay for $76 after the story was added. An old motel key cost $2 and sold for $45.01, after a story was told about the object to make it “significant”—hence the name of the site, Significant Objects.
Through the experiment the researchers concluded, “Stories are such a powerful driver of emotional value that their effect on any given object’s subjective value can actually be measured objectively. Or simply put, “When someone likes a story about an object—or your home, if its on the market and you’re selling it—that emotional connection is expressed by the buyer in his willingness to pay a higher sales price. This of course, earns the seller of the object a greater profit for what object whatever that object is being sold.
“So why tell you these stories?” Because each one of these stories reveals a secret that we use when working with real estate clients to realise higher bottom-line profits. If you want to turn adversity into opportunity, for example, you craft a story. Every home has its flaws; there is no perfect home. But through the power of story, as Aimee Mullins demonstrated, how those flaws are seen and viewed to the outside world can be changed. The thesaurus definition for the word disabled is: broken-down, confined, decrepit, handicapped, helpless, hurt, incapable, laid-up, lame, maimed, out-of-action, paralysed, powerless, weakened, worn-out, wounded, wrecked. But as Aimee Mullins exemplifies, even with no lower legs, none of these “definitions” are true. She believes her prosthetic limbs are her superpowers and give her options. Longer prosthetic to make her taller for balls and black tie events, spring-loaded prosthetic legs for running at incredible speeds, shorter prosthetic for every day… she has options we do not. And while I can’t ever imagine wanting to trade my lower legs for no lower legs, through the power of hearing Aimee’s story, I wouldn’t now fear it. With every adversity there is opportunity. The Power of Story helps real estate clients to see that same truth, when looking at or selling a “flawed” home. We can turn it into a positive…
If you want transform the look of your home, as Cameron Russell revealed, image is only surface deep. In the same way Russell completely transformed her image within 30 seconds of taking the stage, we, through a process called “Scientific staging”, can transform the image of a clients’ home. In her full presentation Russell talks about, in preparation for a photo shoot, of having a team of hair and make-up stylists, photographers, fashion coordinators, people to help her pose, etc., all working to tell a story through her newly created image. And, in real estate maximum profit works in exactly the same manner. Through the creation of a new imagine, we’re able to tell a home’s story. And, from Rob and Joshua’s research at Significant Objects, on the power of story, we know this is a path to higher profit.
The reality is, we all love stories.
They have the power to entertain us, suck us into a message, and help us envision the impossible, even change our minds about deeply held beliefs—as Lombard proved to Gruber about building theatres in urban areas. This is why I spend so much time on TED.com, listening to and studying stories. Sure, I enjoy them, but also, for my clients, my job is to tell them effectively. Their profit, and the speed of their home sale, depends on it.
If you love great stories and stories that really make you think, I believe the site TED.com is the best website in the world. If you search Mullins and Russell, you will find their full presentations along with others.
I guess my point is—never forget—the story you tell about your home, in more ways than you can imagine, has impact on your bottom-line
profit. So don’t shortcut this step and be certain that no agent you may hire to help you, shortcuts this step either.