Time to get a little cerebral – for the times when The Thing you’re talking about isn’t The Thing. And in order to really make things work, you have to talk about The Thing Behind the Thing.
First: I just came on board this week editing on a monster hit show on NBC called American Ninja Warrior. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s based on a Japanese show called Sasuke, an athletic competition show that takes place on a mind-bogglingly difficult obstacle course that – in spite of thousands of attempts over 30 seasons of competition – has only been conquered three times.
The show attracts muscle-bound male competitors who otherwise spend their weekends in the wilderness, cavalierly dangling by one hand from rock formations 100 feet above the canyon floor, 6 hours from the nearest hospital.
But as of this writing, one of the most astounding competitors ever to appear on the show is not a 220-pound block of testosterone-fueled muscle: she’s a 5-foot gymnast weighing in at 100 pounds, and her name is Kacy Catanzaro.
Whether you’re familiar with the show or not, I’m telling you: you need to watch this video right now, and I defy you to not drop your jaw on the floor.
Watch it? Good. Now here’s the thing: a lot of people watch this and say, “That’s so stupid. What bearing does that kind of stuff have on real life?” Others say, “Oh, crap. I could never do that. I really need to get to the gym,” or “Oh crap. I could never do that. I suck as a human being.”
Others watch that video and say, “Whoa… for every woman who has felt inferior for not being a man in a man’s world, we all win a little bit through what she just accomplished.”
Or: “Oh. My. God. Look what she’s doing. Think of all the things I might be able to do too.”
And that, my friend, is The Thing Behind the Thing. This video is not about a woman running an obstacle course. It’s about a human being facing overwhelming obstacles and fearlessly tackling them head-on. It’s an idea that is deeply connected to everything we aspire to be in the face of everything that stands in our way.
When you tell stories, either in person, in print, or in your video editing… always ask yourself: what is The Thing Behind the Thing? What is the underlying, deeper motivation for what is happening in this story, and how can I tap into that?
Anyone can show a Thing, say “Hey, here’s the Thing.” And that would be it. But it takes an artist to say, “Here’s the Thing… but here are clues to what lies behind the Thing, and why you care so strongly about it.”
Those are the kind of stories that cause your audience to react, to feel, to stand up and cheer.
And you don’t have to be a major television network or Hollywood studio to accomplish that. It takes the application of core ideas that guide what you say as a storyteller, and how you say it.