Using the Art of the Tell To Win

The last two games of the 2006 NBA Finals would take place in Dallas. Pat Riley, coach of the Miami Heat, felt certain his team could beat the Dallas Mavericks there as long as they were convinced that they could. The Mavericks had a huge statistical advantage in Dallas as the team with the home-court advantage wins more than three out of every four series in the playoffs. This made the Heat’s handicap, if they went to a seventh game, unbearably intense.


Pat Riley, NBA Championship coach and president, Miami Heat

I was perplexed when I requested tickets for the 7th game that Riley said, “Only tickets for the sixth.” And, they won the championship in the sixth. I thought how did he know? Riley later told me, “We didn’t want to go down there and have to play that seventh game.” So his goal was to stoke his players’ desire to win the championship there in the sixth. Instinctively, Riley knew he needed to put his players inside the positive experience of a win in game six that was hard, fast, and definitive. He needed to make that goal feel real and achievable, to synchronize their mindset with his purpose.

Pat took a gamble and told his team the whole story of their victory in a single line. “I told everybody to pack for just one day, one shirt, one tie– not two days, three days, or four days — just one day of dress and change.” That elegant short story telegraphed Riley’s intention for them that there would be no seventh game. The Heat wouldn’t need a second change of clothes, his implicit tale told them, because they were coming home the night of the sixth game as NBA World Champions. He told it. They felt it. And they did it.



blog-telltowin-linkTo validate the power of telling purposeful stories, Guber includes in this book a remarkably diverse number of ‘voices’ – master tellers with whom he’s shared experiences. They include YouTube founder Chad Hurley, NBA champion Pat Riley, clothing designer Norma Kamali, “Mission to Mars” scientist Gentry Lee, Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank, former South African president Nelson Mandela, magician David Copperfield, film director Steven Spielberg, novelist Nora Roberts, rock legend Gene Simmons, and physician and author Deepak Chopra.
After listening to this extraordinary mix of voices, you’ll know how to craft, deliver – and own – a story that is truly compelling, one capable of turning others into viral advocates for your goal.


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