You May Not Be Rambo But You Have Important Life Stories

Matt KramerPublic Speaking, Storytelling4 Comments

Do you have stories worth telling?

Short answer...YES. If you’re alive, you’ve got stories. If you're dead, I'm sorry for your loss.

Just because you know your stories and have replayed them in your mind hundreds of times, and now YOU'RE bored of them, doesn’t mean that others will think so, too.

Humans like drama, and you’ve got some. We all do. An no, your stories don't have to be on par with the crap RAMBO pulled off to be worth telling. 

Today we’re going to talk about how you can find those stories...

In May of this year at the Toastmasters District Conference, where I Toastmaster’d the hell out of the International Speech Contest, we had a keynote speaker by the name of Mark Brown.

toastmasters matt kramer tactical talks public speaking

Toastmaster action for District contest!

Mark won the World Championship of Public Speaking back in 1995, so he knows a little bit about stories.

A portion of his keynote was dedicated to showing us that it’s possible to find compelling stories from our own lives, and his point was that stories don’t have to be about how we saved the world from an army of Transformers in order to be effective.

We think our stories are boring if they don’t live up to Hollywood hype. But we’re wrong.

As an example, Mark told a story about when he was preparing to fly out of the country to go see his girlfriend.

On top of that, though, Mark also wanted to see his dad before he left, so his dad came to meet him at the airport. They spoke for a few minutes until the loudspeaker announced that Mark’s flight was now boarding.

They hugged, said goodbye, and Mark began walking toward his terminal. After a few steps, it hit him.

His dad drove 90 MILES to spend 7 MINUTES with him.

He swung back to look at his dad only to see him walking merrily out of the airport.

Mark talked about how he could only hope to be the man that his father was.


Such a simple story, but it was like wringing out the audience's wet towel with the amount of water that dripped from their eyes.

There wasn’t anything extraordinary with the story, right? Arnold Schwarzenegger didn’t run around with Gatling gun; Rambo was nowhere to be seen.

It was a simple story taken directly from his life. Pretty cool, huh?

Banks suck!

Still unsure? Okay.

I’ll give you an example of a story I used to craft a speech. Heck, it even won some contests.

First, let me ask you some questions:

Do you have a bank account?
And have you ever got slapped with an overdraft fee by your bank?

Me freakin’ too.

That’s the story I used. How underwhelming can it get? I mean, who hasn’t got slapped with an overdraft fee by the bank? It’s so pedestrian...but it worked!

Here’s what happened:

I was broke as a joke when my checking account got charged an 8 dollar service fee. Well, I only had 5 dollars. You good with math? I was in the negative.

Can you say OVERDRAFT FEE? Thanks bank!

So, I call up the bank and do what any sane person would do under the circumstances. Scream.

“You charged this service charge to my account, it overdrew my account, and then you charged an overdraft fee on top of that! You need to get my money put back into my account and you need to do it RIGHT NOW!”

The bank rep didn't budge. She ended up questioning my amazing financial IQ. She said “Well maybe you should be more financially responsible!” She was right, but not helping...

I hung up and regrouped. I started thinking about the situation and after calming down, I decided to call the bank again for round 2.

This time I tried a different approach. Instead of going rabid-wolf, I decided I'd be more civilized. I dialed up the bank and this time I got a totally different rep (thank Jebus).

My voice had a different tone this time. Imagine the most cheerful person in the world saying this:

“Hi there! I’m just calling about my account. I got charged a service fee but I didn’t have the money in there at the time, and so I also got charged an overdraft fee. Yeah, I really don’t have the money for that. If there is anything you could do to help me out, anything at all, I would be extremely grateful.”

It worked!!!

They put my money back into my account and even refunded the original service charge fee which started this entire domino effect.

What’s the lesson that I learned?

I learned that if you want to get shit done and work well with people, BE NICE!

At least at first...

Again, what’s so special about that story? Not much. It's ordinary. 

On the surface our many mundane stories may seem like a waste of time; however, think about the underlying lesson that your story could teach. There's something to be learned from every story—even the not-so-glamorous ones. 

So, how can you take a "boring" story from your life and weave a lesson into it?

Got a story you think is "boring"? Tell me about it in the comment section below and I'll tell you how it could work! 

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About this guy...

Matt Kramer - Tactical Talks - Public Speaking

Howdy! My name is Matt Kramer and I used to suffer excruciating death when speaking in front of a group, now I LOVE it. Overcoming this fear has changed my life. In less than a year since, I’ve started this website, Tactical Talks, competed and won 3 separate public speaking contests, wrote a book, and spoke at one of the top universities in southern California (SDSU).

And look, I’m not telling you this to “show off.” My purpose is to show you that it’s possible to start doing the things that YOU want to do. And that’s my goal. My focus is to help you overcome the fear of public speaking so you can build the confidence to go after what you want in life.

  • Bill Burns says:

    Love it! So often it’s not so much the topic as the telling. We really connect with the lesson learned and the application. Thanks for sharing!
    And now I’ll take you up on your offer; here’s my boring story:
    I needed to make an appointment to see a medical specialist. I’d seen one guy years before, and he was probably the most impersonal person (not just doctor) I’d ever met, so I decided I’d go to anyone but him. But ever other specialist was unavailable, so I ended up going back to him after all, and got the same treatment. I’m a chatty guy, so it was miserable once again.
    It still bugs me. What can you make of it?
    Thanks a lot!

    • Matt says:


      Alrighty! We’ve got a taker 🙂 Thanks for sharing your story Bill.

      Here are some ideas for what message you can package into the story:

      – In order to get things done, you must suffer through things you don’t like.
      – Sometimes you just can’t get away from a problem. No matter how hard you try, you can’t run from it. So you must confront it.
      – Maybe the point of the story could be that certain personality types don’t mix, so perhaps you can add tips for how to get through a difficult encounter. You did make it out alive, right? 🙂
      – I can see this as the beginning of an inspirational story for someone who became a doctor as a result of this miserable encounter. They wanted to rid the world of boring doctors! Have you enrolled in med school yet?

  • Bill Burns says:

    Great thoughts, Matt! So there’s another lesson for us: when our emotional response shuts down our own creative thinking, it’s time to run things past someone else. Thanks for being a great sounding board! And if I ever do enroll in med school (not likely) and actually become a doctor (less likely), your first surgery is on the house.

  • […] didn't have a championship caliber speech. Not only does each speaker have their own unique story and message, but they also bring a unique style of presenting (most of the time, […]