Warner Brothers Studios, Burbank, CA
For over a century, storytellers have come to Hollywood looking for a "greenlight" – permission from a studio or network executive saying, "Yes, we give you permission to tell your story, and we will empower you with our resources and distribution channels."
But now, just like the stoplight in the Story Greenlight logo, the world has been turned upside down. Sharing your message with the world no longer requires enormous sound stages or an army of support staff, and you don't need permission from some 3rd-party executive operating on their priorities, not yours.
Today, if you have a smartphone with an internet connection, you now have the equipment, the platform, and the permission to say whatever you want to say.
Which leaves millions of people faced with the questions that have always been the trickiest to answer:
Now that everyone is talking, what do I say? Who do I talk to? How and where do I talk to them?
That's where Story Greenlight comes in.
Steve Jobs once said, "You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards."
Looking back at my own life, I've come to see that I've spent the last 40 years elevating ordinary messages to become extraordinary – and helping others do the same for themselves.
I've helped shape content for some of the largest media companies in the world including ABC, NBC, Universal, Disney, Apple, and many others.
My commentary has been featured in USA Today, TIME Magazine, the Associated Press, and multiple textbooks.
My online businesses have supported clients and students in over 50 countries across 6 continents.
But like all good stories, it didn't happen the way you might expect.
It actually started at the age of 4 when I started picking out melodies on our family piano. When I started turning the happy-go-lucky world of "Old MacDonald Had A Farm" into a spooky place by playing it slowly in C minor instead of C major, my mom decided it was time for me to get some lessons.
I grew up playing by both ear and classical training. It took years to realize that very few people do both.
Meanwhile, the more I learned about music, the more frustrated I became on Sunday mornings sitting in church. Every Sunday we'd all sing hymns with 6 verses played the SAME DAMN WAY, EVERY SINGLE VERSE.
I was bored out of my musical skull.
Over time, I learned how to play the piano in a way that brought those "boring" words and melodies to life – so that people could experience a mental and emotional state that left them open to what they needed to receive that day.
I had no idea that I would apply that same idea over and over for years to come.
In junior high, I discovered MIDI sequencing and started composing, arranging, and recording my own music.
A desktop PC, Cakewalk 5.0 for DOS, a synthesizer module, a keyboard, and a cassette deck with Dolby C kept me happily experimenting down in the basement for hours on end.
I was beginning to learn how instruments, ideas, and ultimately people work together to create something greater than any one person could make on their own.
My learning continued in high school, where I was trying to fit in with classmates who were obsessed with sports, in a zero-stoplight town that worshiped basketball.
Not a good thing when you're terrible at pretty much anything athletic.
Thankfully, my high school art teacher introduced me to video production – in the days before digital video, and making videos was REALLY complicated and hard to do.
But I was down for the task, because I discovered that if I stood on the sidelines with a camera on my shoulder, I could make videos that told stories of my classmates and their sports journeys.
They got to look good, and I got to survive.
Before long, I was Jeff the Video Guy, shooting and editing video projects, arranging and recording my own music, presenting them on huge screens at high school graduation in front of the entire town.
Who knew that just trying to get by in high school could turn into something that brought entertainment and joy to thousands of people?
Faced with the idea of college, the school where I wanted to go had no video or film program. They did have a radio program, though.
I always used to make fun of radio announcers who talked in their super exaggerated "cheesy radio" voices.
Then one day I listened to a recording of me talking on the air in my "normal voice" and was horrified to hear that I sounded like I was either sleepwalking or was about to slip into a coma.
I started paying more attention to my presentation skills after that.
I ended up in film school in Los Angeles. Even though I was working 3 part-time jobs to pay my way, I ran out of money, and I had to drop out of college.
I started scrambling to do anything in the entertainment industry that could keep my rent paid.
Thankfully, a film school connection turned into my first internship working at a TV show as an assistant editor – starting at 11pm on Friday and Sunday nights, for five months, for free.
I found out later that everyone was just kind of blown away that I kept showing up.
Turns out, showing up over and over is half the battle for most things.
As I continued showing up, I began learning the skills that provided the foundation for a 20+ year career editing TV for some of the largest TV networks and cable channels on the face of the planet.
I built up a credit list of clients that include ABC, NBC, Universal, Disney, Apple, all sorts of folks.
I became a professional storyteller in Hollywood, the storytelling capital of the world.
I thought that working on shows seen by millions of people was the point. It wasn't.
Small group coaching for young TV editors
Along the way, I began learning how to teach others what I’d learned in Hollywood, which threw me into the world of course creation, sales, and online marketing.
It was the very beginning of internet marketing, and it was nuts. Marketing gurus taught all sorts of hyped-up, even outright deceptive marketing tactics and persuasion tricks, and I hated it.
I didn’t know why, other than it just made me want to take a shower.
For a long time, I got really turned off to business and marketing in general.
But slowly, over years of learning, teaching, and growth, I started to realize: all this music, media, storytelling, and even the business stuff was far more connected than I thought.
And even better, profitable sales and marketing doesn’t have to be hyped-up or slimy.
Turns out, all these things come together around one Thing Under the Thing:
It's the single biggest result of strategic, powerful storytelling.
Storytelling connects people to ideas, products, services, goals, and mission.
Story connects people who would otherwise be separated.
Now that’s something I can get behind, and if you’re seeing this, I bet you can too.
Today my mission is to empower others with life-changing communication and guidance for themselves and the people they serve.
Let’s face it… there’s a whole world of forces trying to divide and tear people apart. People like us are here to rebuild what’s been torn apart, to bring people together to create good in the world.
I believe in a day when that battle will ultimately be won.
For now, the mission never ends. But it’s a fight worth fighting.
Family game night!
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