Max, my writing partner, and I have been asked by the Japanese publisher of our book to add an introduction. I am posting it and look forward to hearing your comments.
There are five basic elements in every story - the passion or vitality with which it is told, the hero that allows us to enter the story and make it our own, the obstacle the hero must confront, the awareness that allows the hero to prevail and create something new. The fifth element of transformation occurs when the other elements have found their expression within the story. These five story elements are the same in every culture. As this book will show, these elements are literally hardwired into the human neuroanatomy and contribute to making each of us a human being. However, the way each culture expresses these elements is its own. This unique cultural expression is what gives our global marketplace its diversity and excitement. Cross-fertilization between cultures not only opens up new markets, it releases vital and potentially highly profitable ideas. What is the key to letting this happen? The universal need to tell a good story.
As an American teenager growing up in the car culture of California, Robert had an unusual ambition – he wanted to become a Buddhist monk and study Zen. So at 20, after a long trip from San Diego to Mishima city, he found himself on ancient stone steps leading up to Ryutaki-Ji Monastery. There under the guidance of the monastery’s Abbot, Soen Nakagawa Roshi, he began a life devoted to understanding the nature of Mind, and realized for the first time that story – in this case in the highly refined story form of Zen koans; was the key to unlocking the minds mysteries.
As a typical starving writer on the cold streets of New York City, Richard was a movie fan who had to make every dollar count. The Bijou Theater was just off Times Square. There he could see three different Samurai films for the price of a single admission. It soon became a warm second home. So it made sense that his first feature film, The Challenge, staring the great actor Toshiro Mifune told the story of an American boxer who finds his true calling in a traditional samurai clan. The film was shot in Kyoto, and it was over dinner with Mifune that Richard came to fully appreciate the generous sense of equality that resides in the heart of all great story heroes. That recognition has remained central to Richard’s work, both in Hollywood and as a corporate consultant.
Though the examples used in this book are drawn from American Culture the story telling tradition in Japan is so rich and profound that we are sure our Japanese readers will supply their own examples drawn from their life experience. This will become easier as they become familiar with the five story elements. For example:
· The Passion that drives a story is nowhere more apparent than in the Bushido, which is so elegantly embodied in the writing, art and life of Miyamoto Musashi, or in Mifune’s performances in the Samurai Trilogy. We specifically deal with this is Chapter 2.· Understanding the role of the Hero in a corporate story is a key to developing brand identity. It is no accident that many of the worlds most exciting brands are Japanese, or that the theories of American consultant W. Edward Demming were embraced first in Japan as Kaizen or striving for perfection by Toyota, Honda, Sony and many other Japanese companies years before Demming’s ideas were adopted by American corporations. Demmings idea of encouraging every voice - from the factory floor to the executive suite – released enourmous creative power which made each worker a hero. This is a powerful way to build brand loyality- from the inside out.
· As an export driven economy, Japanese executives constantly meet new challenges as they struggle to overcome cultural barriers and penetrate new markets. The ability to see Obstacles as opportunities is crucial for Japan’s continued success. Now Japan is facing the ultimate obstacle – its own recent economic past. In chapters 6 and 7 we deal with the neurological links between memory and emotion. We suggest that conflict, which is often seen as a negative, can be used creatively to reinforce core values and increase capability.
· The most often misunderstood story element is Awareness. Awareness is nowhere more richly explored than in the Japanese concept of Shibui or the ability to reduce art, ideas and products to their essence. The intricate balance between form and spontaneity of Shibui lies at the heart of the tea ceremony, flower arranging, the Zen garden and the thousands of everyday and ceremonial acts that form Japanese culture. Shibui is a core reason why Japanese aesthetics and design are so universally appreciated and copied. Ultimately story is about creating a unique and welcoming space and here too Japanese culture is a fertile ground worth exploring.
· In a successful story the hero and by extension the audience must change otherwise there is no point to the story. The trivals of time and obstacles, excert a pressure on the hero to grow into something new and unimagined at the begining of the story. Good stories provide a vechile for transformation.
Following is an example of how an ancient tale helped transform Robert’s life: “I was very fortunate to study with Soen Roshi. He loved stories from every culture, but especially those from the most ancient theater-Noh. On very special occasions I would accompany him to see these great plays. Roshi would whisper into my ear just enough of the plot to help me follow along.
The first Noh play I saw with him was The Bird-Catcher in Hell. As the lights darkened and the actors began gliding across the stage and the ancient Gagaku music began, I soon forgot I was an American; I forgot
that I was in Japan; I forgot that I was watching a play; I forgot I was alive. In that ancient chamber in the middle of Tokyo I was transported to a place of wailing spirits and angry ghosts seeking justice. I became a ghost floating in the hidden world of Yama. Like the play’s hero, I longed to be released from the karma of inflicting suffering on others. I wanted to be transformed and I was. That was Roshi's gift to me. That is the gift of all great stories. They strip away everything extraneous and make us remember that we all share a common sacred space.
We sincerely hope this book will be helpful to our Japanese readers. And we hope that you, dear reader, will help us in our continued study of story. If you find this book helpful and its theory interesting please communicate your examples and insights to us by contacting our website www.theelementsofpersuasion.com We look forward to sharing your thoughts on story and culture.
We would like to express our deep appreciation for the painstaking work of our Japanese translators Yokoyama, Shigeru and Prof. Yamaguchi in making our work both understandable and entertaining. Thank you.