Storytelling Lessons from Bill Cosby

Presentation Zen has a very good post on storytelling lessons from Bill Cosby, leveraging Cosby’s Carnegie Mellon commencement speech in 2007. The blogger extracts two significant key points:

“Don’t talk yourself into not being you.”
Cosby’s main story began about five minutes in and is one anyone can relate to. All of us have talked ourselves into thinking we don’t belong or battle with self-confidence, etc. His point—which his true story brought out—is that we must not talk ourselves out of being who we really are. Cosby touched on the idea that being nervous (“but I was nervous”) or other such excuses that we often use get in the way of us bringing our true self to the job (or school, etc.). People do not care about your excuses, they care only about seeing your authentic self. As Cosby said “people came to see you” not some version of what you think they want or need. “I don’t care what you do,” said Cosby, “when you are good, then you bring you out.” “It’s not for you to stand around and measure yourself according to diplomas and degrees. You are you—and you are not to put yourself beneath anybody!”

Tell stories from your own life
People crave authenticity just about more than anything else, and one way to be your authentic self and connect with an audience is by using examples and stories from your own life that illuminate your message in an engaging, memorable way. Below are three more examples of Bill Cosby telling stories during stand-up or while being interviewed. Watch and learn (and try not to laugh…if you can).

I love these lessons because I think they’re so true. Personal stories are so powerful, and their effectiveness is grounded in the person you are. Stand up, and tell your stories! Because they matter.

You can watch Bill Cosby’s full speech here (does anyone else feel compelled to always say his first and last name?):

And be sure to check out Presentation Zen’s full post for more great insights and some sample stories from Bill Cosby, the master of charm himself.

This photo brought me back: Does anyone else remember Pink Pearl erasers?

Pink Pearl erasers were the original! Every year, I would have to buy one new pink eraser for school (the school listed Pink Pearl erasers specifically). And sometimes in the classroom, the teacher would cut the little bars in half to make the erasers last longer. For days after acquiring a new eraser, I would try to use only the edges and as sparingly as possible — an attempt to save its pristine state. But after the necessary had happened and the eraser was grey and bruised, I would anxiously try to use as much of the eraser as possible, using every opportunity as work toward the chance to buy a new one.

Magic Rubs were, of course, the upgrade. While the white rubber bars lacked the same satisfying pink color as Pink Pearls, Magic Rubs would erase beautifully. Where Pink Pearls would have worn away the paper from feverish erasing, Magic Rubs would sweep away any graphite accidents with satisfying grace.

Ah, the days when all was pencils, erasers, and pencil boxes.