Graham Brown – How the Science of Stand-up Helps Jumpstart Your Story | Conversations with Coaches | Boxer Media

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Graham Brown | Conversations with Coaches | Boxer Media

Graham is the founder of Pikkal & Co – an award-winning, AI-powered, data-driven B2B podcast agency in Singapore. He is a published author on the subject of The Digital Transformation of Communication, with works including “The Human Communication Playbook” and “The Mobile Youth: Voices of the Connected Generation”

(Host’s note – I discovered just before we hit record that it’s pronounced “pickle”, and that delighted me for reasons I can’t entirely explain.)

In this episode, Graham talks about how he’s always been a storyteller, and how that passion has led him to help so many others find their own storyteller within. We also discuss the critical importance of vulnerability in today’s world, and why it’s less important to “know your why” than it is to simply begin.

(Host’s note 2 – Don’t worry, we also explain what the heck stand-up comedy has to do with science, and what that has to do with being “great on podcasts” and becoming a better and more effective coach.)

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Kevin Stafford 0:02
Hello, everyone, and welcome to another episode of the conversations with coaches podcast. I’m your host, Kevin and today I have the pleasure of interviewing Graham Brown. Graham is the founder of pickle and Company, which I wanted desperately to pronounce the call, but then I thought thought better of it. And it’s just pickle, which is one of my favorite words and favorite foods is an award winning AI powered data driven b2b podcast agency based out of Singapore. He’s a published author on the subject of the digital transformation of communication with works, including the human communication playbook, and the mobile youth voices of the connected generation. Graham, it is a pleasure to talk to you. I’m excited to have a conversation. And I’m already sad that we’ll have to cut it at our usual 15 to 20 minutes here at an excellent conversation. Listen, so I’m excited to talk to you today.

Graham Brown 0:49
Yeah, likewise, looking forward to this, Kevin, I’m really enjoying your podcast so far. So hopefully I can add to it.

Kevin Stafford 0:55
It’s it’s you know what, it’s pretty fun talking to interesting people about what they’re passionate about. Go figure who thought?

Graham Brown 1:03
How about that as a job?

Kevin Stafford 1:04
All right. All right. So let’s, let’s go back to your Well, I like to sometimes call it the superhero origin story, how you got your start? How did you decide to move into what is functionally I mean, you’re almost like a podcasting guru really like the the How to top to bottom? Like, how did you move into? How did you discover that you wanted to do what you’re doing right now and move into the business that you have today?

Graham Brown 1:26
Okay, well, I guess you got to go back, if you want to do the superhero origin, I

Kevin Stafford 1:31
was born, I was born.

Graham Brown 1:34
However, we got 15 minutes, or 50 years off, I was a storyteller. I am a storyteller Kevin. And I think like many people, especially in the coaching space, or you know, anybody is involved in really helping other people in the corporate space, will probably remember that storytelling was always something seen in the pejorative, as a kid I was told off, you know, don’t tell stories, you know, you’d get scolded by a mom. And I only really later learned in life and in business, how powerful storytelling was, you know, if you look at all great business leaders, the one thing that they share was this ability to tell stories, whether it was gather around, you know, remember, when we’re at school gather around kids, they’re telling a story, you know, you think about the power of gathering around now, you know, remote world, or the power to lead the power to take people to the Promised Land, whatever it may be, it’s something that we really need in business. And I think, you know, what I feel my role is with podcasting. And I can see you doing it with podcasts as well, is to really help people tell their story, you know, give them a platform and, you know, overcome that impostor syndrome that gets everybody. And, you know, there are tactical aspects of it. You know, there’s the How to aspect of storytelling, but mostly, I think, you know, like you and I have realized that on this journey, that once you get started, actually, you know, what were we worrying about, folks? Why don’t we get started started? So I’m a storyteller. I help people tell stories through podcasts, and I get paid for it. So, you know, full circle, I’m happy that I got scolded by my mom for that.

Kevin Stafford 3:11
Isn’t that the isn’t that the greatest like, Hero, hero story hero origin story, where it’s like, you know, what, I figured out how to take what I was already passionate about what I loved from what you realize was maybe your youngest of ages, and turn that into profit, while maintaining the passion, you know, it’s like you don’t, a lot of people will think you have to pick one or the other. And in fact, that’s a lot of what’s one of those false dichotomies that we tend to fall into quite a bit like I’m either like a storyteller or not, you know, I can I can pursue my passions, or I can, you know, make money or something like that have these false dichotomies that’s part of I think, what a good like storytelling coach or like, what you are, is great at is sort of breaking those, those really false dichotomies, those expired notions being like, No, you can you can tell your story, you can live your story, and you can have the life that you want to have. Let’s just get started. You’d maybe just don’t know the first couple of steps. Let’s do those together.

Graham Brown 4:00
Oh, that Kevin, that is so insightful. That, you know, we don’t live in this binary world where there are storytellers and non storytellers. You know, we live in a very gray world. And I feel that a lot of people are disempowered to start that journey, because they’re too obsessed with either, you know, I need to find my why I need to have this big, you know, like, overarching reason why I exist. But most people aren’t like that. Most people, you know, they only really find that in hindsight, you know, they start the journey, many coaches start that journey. And then he later on through many, many conversations, they have the hindsight through joining the dots to say, Okay, there’s a bit of context here. Maybe this is why all this happened in my life. And maybe the Y emerges as a sort of post rationalization of that. So, you know, what we need to realize is that it’s okay not to you know, you don’t need a finished book to have a story worth telling. I think that’s disempowering for people. You know, rather than finding your why find your Start, like you say just get started. And that is the reality that most people maybe haven’t realized yet is that actually, you know, you can have a story you can be worthy of listening to, without being an Elon Musk, or an TED speaker. Most of us do have very interesting backstories and have done interesting things in our lives. It’s just getting that out, which I think is the challenge now.

Kevin Stafford 5:25
Yeah, I think a lot of us will get caught up in not only our own inner voice telling us what isn’t is not possible. But we’re also like, we’ll read the biographies. You know, we’ll read the memoirs. And these are people who have, they’re, they’re looking backwards and telling their journeys like Save, save the why, for your memoirs, save the figuring out the why, for when you’re at that stage of the process, because that’s where it’s going to be clear, that’s where you’re gonna be able to see the hindsight being 2020. Don’t get hung up on that, though, because what you’re seeing is the end of a journey, and someone reflecting back on what came before. And using that to kind of explain maybe where they’re going next. You know, obviously, you don’t have to wait until the very last day of your life to write that biography. And you can always write another one because, you know, life, life goes on. But you’re getting hung up on that, why? It really does, it kind of traps you or potentially traps you in listening to that, that voice that tells you that it’s not this, you can’t do that. This isn’t ready, I have to do this. First, I need to know this first, all these different things that basically give you an excuse to not start, which is why I’m always like for my internal voice and what I share with others, whenever I have a chance, just tell people hey, just just begin, just start. There’s not a wrongs done wrong foot you can put out there not at the beginning, like that stage of the dance is way farther on down the road. And you’ll know what you need to know then that will take care of itself. If you’re doing the right if you’re just starting now. I think a great coach I got to talk to a few months ago. And this is something that I’ve I remember hearing years ago, but then kind of came back to me from this coach and I was just like it’s been in my mind for it might be my quote of the year something that I’ve been really trying to live with is How’s it go? Momentum is the antidote to procrastination. It’s one of those words it’s like, and obviously, there’s some other concepts you can put in there because procrastination has has has many children that go by many different names and excuses to not do something. And sometimes just begin just like get some forward movement and some forward momentum going. Take the first couple of steps, be bad on a few podcasts, you know, like stutter, say, um, 17,000 times. Just go ahead, go ahead and do it. Listen to yourself, look at yourself, let yourself be listened to and looked at, take some feedback, take those first few steps. And I don’t want to say it’s easy, because I don’t know if that’s the right word. But it will it starts to click really fast, faster than you could ever think possible. In my opinion, once you just take those first steps. I’m I think I’m talking more than you now. I get so excited about these. These first steps people can take in how exciting they are and how energizing they are.

Graham Brown 7:55
Oh, yeah, absolutely. Let’s, you know, let’s sort of not sort of underestimate the, the times that the people that we see who are appearing effortless on stage, they were once beginners to write Kevin. You know, even I think like podcasting is like, stand up comedy for a lot of people. And if you look at stand up comics, you know, you take famous stand up comics from yesteryear people like Jerry Seinfeld, you know, he wasn’t born funny. You know, he like every comedian. None of them were born funny. They got on stage, they started somewhere they went in front of like you say the stutters they went in front and they told jokes that bombed, they went to the dive bars, whether five drunks were heckling them. That’s what you got to do in podcasting, you got to start somewhere. And you know, their process is very scientific, you know, a comic will go up on stage and practice material, like you would on a podcast and get feedback in a very agile, I call it agile storytelling, which is basically you know, taking them agile approach to your story, which is never a done deal is it’s always test, and then iterate and test and iterate. And you know, like you say, is like you don’t really know the context of it until later on. And an author would do that, as well, as you know, the best books, they always write the introduction at the end, you ever realized that when you sort of actually see the mechanics of how an author writes a book, you just think, oh, day one, once upon a time, it doesn’t work like that. It’s like you only know the context of it when you have that sort of top level view of things. But that comes from time.

Kevin Stafford 9:32
It does. It doesn’t it’s I feel, I feel like that’s so empowering. I love that. Just relating like stand up comedy and the process and how scientific it is. I don’t think people enough people realize how how much logic and like scientific rigor there is in the work and it’s very much you have an hypothesis, this will work. This might not work, you test it, you get immediate feedback, like you get results that you can then fold into your next hypothesis that you can then test again And the real the hard part really comes into how you process that feedback. Because that’s where a lot of people will get. And I’m sorry, I shouldn’t say this a lot people, I should use my I statements where I would get a little afraid I would get into my head and that would begin to fear whatever I was able to conjure that I could call rejection, as opposed to turning into as opposed to thinking of it as extremely useful feedback that I need in order to take the next step to make the next move. And that’s, I love the stand up comedy analogy, or I just I love relating that because it’s so you hear stand up comics talk about it, I love hearing a stand up comic talk about the process, because they talked about the thing they talked about the most is working on new material, walking up on a stage with a stool and a notebook, and bombing. And you like it was something you rarely see this unless you go to comedy clubs a lot, but watching a really great comic, work on new material and bomb and just watching how they roll and how they move. And you could see their mind working. And they’re gauging the audience and they’re like, and then you see him again, maybe like three or four months down the road. That word said different hear sentences moved around, it’s like it still feels very natural, because they’re they’re honing and refining their craft. And it’s just it’s really empowering. To realize how scientific it is. You don’t often think of performance like that as that straightforward, but it really can be

Graham Brown 11:20
Oh, absolutely. We only see the tip of the iceberg though, right, Kevin? We don’t see the graft. You know, I’ve done like, I mean, probably today I’ve done over 2000 podcasts. So I’ve got on stage many, many times. And some of them have like five listeners, right? But I take every single one as an opportunity. Like you say, I love watching stand up comics talk about their art and science as well. And I remember there’s a documentary on Netflix and why I brought up Jerry Seinfeld is that he was talking to the other comics about exactly that. You know, what, are you doing new material tonight? Did you do any new material? That’s all they were talking about? You know, you would have thought comics would have been sitting around talking about their jokes. But they’re not they’re talking about how much new material did you do. And so I took that into podcasting as well, I use the 8020 rule. And when I work with corporates or coaches, I talk about the 8020 rule, which is when you go to a podcast, it’s hypothesis you’re testing, you know, you’ve got 80% of your material, which is your sort of regular set, if you like you’re done and dusted set, you’ve tested these, you refine these, but 20%, is you take those existing sketches, those jokes effectively, you know, even that sketch that I told about a stand up comic, that’s not the first time that I’ve told it, I’ve sort of thought about that and refined it and tested it until it kind of worked, you know, maybe the first time I did it, the joke bombed, maybe they didn’t get that, and then get the feedback and try it again. And then you know, I bounce the idea with Kevin and Kevin comes back with some more sort of insight into that. So I say that 20% is you try your existing content, your stories, your delivery, the wording, the punch line in a different way. And you throw that out, see how the host reacts? When does it go over their head? Do they kind of like not get it? Or do they really double down on it. And what you get by doing that is they give you their insight into it, they give their sort of interpretation of it. And they will use different wording, you know, maybe throw in different analogies and context to it. And that just makes that set more and more robust. So that’s the 20% pass, you always got to be testing, it always got to be like looking for feedback. And that’s how you get better in an agile way and storytelling.

Kevin Stafford 13:34
I love this conversation so much. This was like meat potatoes. For me. I love I love thinking about this. I love talking about it. I love just thinking about things from like a like a 1% angle shifted perspective, and I’m seeing things in a new light. Talk a little bit I know we have a relatively limited time talk a little bit about who you work with and how you work with them today for podcasting. Like how you how you guide them, how you how you talk to people about being good on podcasts, which is something that I feel like I put that almost in air quotes because I feel like everybody feels like they need to be good on podcasts for themselves start their own etcetera, etcetera. So yeah, how, who do you work with primarily and how do you work with them?

Graham Brown 14:12
Okay, so there’s two parts to what I do. One is I work with corporates, so, you know, large corporations who want to create a human voice for their brand. And in that sense, they create a podcast because it’s a great way to showcase what they’re doing. It’s not advertising. It’s more like these are our people. These are views. This is what we think about climate change, diversity, whatever people you know, audiences really care about that now. So that’s one part of what we do and the growing part of what we do is podcast guesting, so where I work mainly with coaches and consultants in helping them get on other people’s podcasts because these are stages with audiences, which have been nurtured by the host you know, the host has created a community it may be 50 people it may be 50,000 But the point is, you know, that host has planted a flag and said, This is what we want to talk about, this is what we as a community care about. And they have nurtured that community talk to that community. So I help Coaches and Consultants get in front of those audiences. And a key part of that, obviously, is, you know, finding the right audiences, but also for them to find their voice. Because, you know, I find Kevin, and I don’t know, if this is your experiences, the more experienced that coaches are, often the harder it is for them to get on a stage. Because, you know, if you’re a beginner, you’ve got nothing to lose. You know, it’s like, I don’t have a reputation, I don’t have a set way, think of, you know, how things should be done. But, you know, if I have 20 years experience, you know, if I’ve been used to doing things in this way, you know, a PowerPoint presentation to this team, or coaching in this way, then to be vulnerable, and get on stage is quite hard. So, it’s not impossible, though, it just requires a little bit of a tweak. So that’s mainly who I work with. And, you know, as you can see that the work is not just, this is how to do it, it’s more, you know, focusing on them, their talking points, and maybe overcoming somewhat, you know, having a coach for a coach, if you like, storytelling coach in your team? And that’s what I do.

Kevin Stafford 16:17
Absolutely, yes, I feel like well, a couple of things. First of all, every coach, I know, every good coach, I know, has a coach, in some aspect, whether it’s just sort of a broad spectrum, like they have a coach for their business, or they have a coach for their podcasting or their public speaking. I know, I know, coaches who have, who have keynote speaking coaches of their own, that they kind of just met through the coaching fraternity, the coaching family, I should probably more accurately say. So yeah, every good coach I know has a coach because they all know firsthand what it takes, and what’s important about getting better, and just continuing to grow. And understanding that, especially when it comes to something like a podcast how, and this is, I, I’m just gonna go ahead and say this, put this out there, and we’ll we’ll talk about and refine it together. Vulnerability really is a skill set. It’s not just it’s not something that necessarily any maybe some it comes more naturally than to others. But really being vulnerable in a way that’s actually accessible, that allows people to connect with you is there really is a skill set to it. And it’s something that you can you definitely have to commit to in order to do it. You can’t just you can’t turtle shell yourself and expect people to connect with you and, and share with you what they need to share in order for you to help them and for them to help you grow and change and proceed. But there really is a set of skills to it. And I love and I don’t use that word lightly. I love that more people are seeing that and respecting that fact. And we’re hearing these conversations happen in corporate environments, we’re hearing these conversations happen on podcasts, we’re seeing them happen in social media feeds in a way that’s actually impactful. And I love seeing that. And I love that that’s a very key element of what you represent, what you do is just to really, really help people who maybe seem like they have it all together, there’s the well put together person who’s just got this polish, they’ve been doing their thing for a while. But there’s just an aspect, that’s just it’s really, I hesitate to use the word requirement, but it’s just highly prized, that ability to be vulnerable. And I’m close to using the R word because it feels like a requirement. If you really want to be an excellent like, say, coach, if you really want to be the best coach you can be there, there really has to be an element of vulnerability to you, because people will respond to that, like they’ll respond to really almost nothing else.

Graham Brown 18:30
Oh, yeah. Well, look at every single hero myth. We’ve been telling for 1000s of years, you know, if Superman didn’t have kryptonite, he would just be this sort of wooden hero, and we don’t you know, even what going way back to, you know, Achilles and his heel, or, you know, every single hero has a vulnerability and it’s a part of the plan. The reason why Every hero has a weakness is because we can identify with them. If these here, if these heroes in whatever form they may be, were somehow invincible, then they wouldn’t be us. We wouldn’t look at them and say they have vulnerabilities and faults and crack lines like us, you know, they wouldn’t have, for example, our frailties or our flaws, right. And therefore, not engaging in identifying with them, their stories would then become irrelevant to us. But the fact that these heroes do have this human frailty means that we can see ourselves in them. So if you put that in the context of coaching, the fact or you put that in the context of the people that people coach, the clients of the coaches, is that the reason why we need vulnerability to express it is because that is the channel through which people engage with us, right? Because if you come across as very, very good at what you do, that can be extremely off putting, and there’s a lot of psychological experiments done about that. You know, one famous one is, I can’t remember the name of the psychologist but it was conducted on students, as they often are done is where they had the actors read a script through the radio to a bunch of students. And they read out the script, and they asked the students to rate the competence of the actor. And so you know, group A listen to this really good actor read out the script, and then they rated that person. And then they repeated the experiment, but with the twist, and the twist this time was during the read the table read, the actor, deliberately accidentally knocked over a cup of coffee, you know, fumbled his way through and then got back into the script. And then they asked him, you know, how did that actor come across? And then they compared the results. And in all cases, the students rated the actor who spilt the cup of coffee higher than the one who didn’t. And now when we think about that, is that that is why that is the business benefit, if you like, of why we need to dare to be vulnerable.

Kevin Stafford 20:59
Like that, like that. If if you if you don’t think about it, it’s it is it is a benefit. It is a quantifiable value add to be vulnerable in that way. And I just, I again, I can’t I can’t say it enough. I just I love how that’s become elevated in the conversation to something that is not just optional, but terribly worthwhile. And quite frankly, I’ll go ahead and use the R word required. Oh, yeah, absolutely. We have already been chatting for nearly a half an hour. I can. I feel like I say this, like a like a broken record. Because I mean, I talk to people like you. And it’s just it’s a delight. But I keep I keep wishing that it would turn from 30 minutes to three hours. But this is this is not the Tim Ferriss show, this is not one of those. So before I let you go, and probably sneakily invite you back for a part two sometime in 2023, a little a little post New Years. Where can people I kind of like to, to part this a little but where can people find out more about you and what you do find out more about pickle? And also where can people best connect with you if they wanted to actually start a conversation? Yeah,

Graham Brown 22:09
go to my personal website. This is a good starting point that will go to all my podcast work as well as the podcast agency and podcast guesting. So that’s Graham, D. So you know, the D is essential here, because there is a Graham, which is a wallpaper company. Very different experience in time entirely. So Graham, D, brown, D for David It’s all there. Reach out to me on LinkedIn, that’s the best place you know, that’s where I post my content. And I’m always there. So I’m happy to chat. If you got any questions, or any comments, observations, I would love to hear from you.

Kevin Stafford 22:46
Do yourself a favor audience that you’re listening, you’re listening. Just you’ve heard this conversation. You’re probably as hungry for more as I am. So yeah, there’s a favor and just and just reach out connect with Graham on LinkedIn, go to his website. Grand this has just been delightful. I know. I feel like I bone too much smoke up your butt maybe but like, this was this was exactly the conversation I was hoping to have. So thank you for I mean, I already have my expectations pretty high. I I’ve learned not to lower them especially for this podcast, because I think they belong up here. You have you have met and exceeded them. So thank you. And I’m totally going to greedily ask for more in the not too distant future.

Graham Brown 23:23
I’m sold. I’m on a wonderful, you’re a great host, Kevin is bringing the energy and the enthusiasm.

Kevin Stafford 23:29
It’s it thank you. I gotta learn to accept those those kinds of compliments. And you guys make it easy. You make it so easy. Thank you for allowing me to channel that energy and enthusiasm and sometimes even be a little bit silly in service of something that I’m pretty passionate about. So thank you, Graham. Thank you audience for listening. And hey, you know, we’ll talk to you again soon.

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