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Coming soon: Crucible Leadership is becoming Beyond the Crucible. Stay tuned for updates!

SECOND-ACT SIGNIFICANCE IV: Melissa Reaves #113

Warwick Fairfax

April 26, 2022

Melissa Reaves wasn’t sure how her life was ever going to be OK again after she was fired from a job in an advertising career that had served her bank balance well even if it had stopped bringing her heart alive. But the assurance of her inner voice that all would yet be well gave her the courage and inspiration to embark on a new career that has become a calling – helping professionals use the power of story to write happy endings for their businesses. She coaches clients in how to make what she calls mind movies that add depth and meaning to their communications.
To learn more about Melissa Reaves, visit www.storyfruition.com

Highlights

  • Her dad’s observation when she was 7 that set her on the path to her first act (3:07)
  • Her hack to please her dad and herself (6:36)
  • Listening to her inner voice (9:42)
  • The crucible that set her second act in motion (11:12)
  • Her daughter’s illness that further altered the course of her life (14:53)
  • How COVID quarantine opened up her pursuit of true satisfaction (18:01)
  • Starting Story Fruition (20:11)
  • A storytelling business success story (24:38)
  • The key elements of a good story (33:12)
  • The launching power of pain (43:10)
  • How Melanin Stories Matter came to be (47:34)

Transcript

Warwick F:

Welcome to Beyond the Crucible. I’m Warwick Fairfax, the founder of Crucible Leadership.

Melissa R:

My light was dim. I was not honoring the joy in myself, but I didn’t know what that joy was. I couldn’t get an answer other than I needed complete change. So it’s January 2nd, 2019, and I’m on the phone and I am angry.

Melissa R:

In fact, I am hanging up and I am crying because I have just been fired from that job. And I don’t like that job, but I need that job. That job pays the bills. I had money to pay for my divorce, and this isn’t good.

Melissa R:

At that moment in my panic and what am I going to do, that voice said, “Don’t worry about it. We couldn’t watch you anymore. You were miserable. So we got you a pink slip. Yay.” I’m like, “No, yay.” It’s like, “No, you do. You trust us, it’s going to be okay.”

Gary S:

It’s going to be okay. The words we all want to hear, need to hear after a crucible, what we long to hear when we’re moving on to a new chapter in our lives. Hi, I’m Gary Schneeberger, co-host of the show.

Gary S:

Melissa Reaves, our guest on this week’s episode of our series, Second Act Significance, wasn’t sure how it was going to be okay after she was fired from a job in an advertising career that had served her bank balance well even if it had stopped bringing her heart alive.

Gary S:

But the assurance of her inner voice that all would yet be well gave her the courage and inspiration to embark on a new career that has become a calling, helping professionals use the power of story to write happy endings for their business.

Gary S:

She coaches clients in how to make what she calls mind movies that add depth and meaning to their communications. Melissa Reeves has found second act significance and you can too.

Warwick F:

Well, Melissa firstly, just thank you so much for being here and really looking forward to getting into Story Fruition and Melanin Live, Melanin Stories Matter. So yeah. Thank you so much for being here.

Melissa R:

Well, thank you gentlemen. I’m thrilled to be here.

Warwick F:

So, before we get into Story Fruition and what you do, you tell stories. And so I’m always curious bit like a movie sort of the origin story behind Melissa Reaves. You had a very successful career before you pivoted, but what are some of the strands in your life growing up that you feel are sort of woven into who you are now?

Warwick F:

And there tends to be an origin story of who we are and what makes us, us, if you will.

Melissa R:

Yeah, I actually call it … So, I call the origin story, your Story Fruition.

Warwick F:

Okay.

Melissa R:

That’s where and how you got to who you are. And that’s why I named my company that, yeah. Well I was about seven years old and my father was in sales and marketing his whole career. He was a Harvard MBA, just like you.

Warwick F:

Okay.

Melissa R:

And one day I was asking him for something and he said, “Honey, you need to go into sales.” I said, “Why?” He said, “Because you just don’t hear no.” And then when I went into middle school, remember how a lot of kids will go around and they’ll sell wrapping paper or candy, well, I had to sell magazine subscriptions.

Melissa R:

And I knocked on this door. It’s about five o’clock in the neighborhood. This guy answers. He’s tired. You can tell he’s just gotten home from work. And I am telling him, “I’m here to sell you magazine subscriptions.” I am the last thing he wants to see. He just wants to sit down and relax.

Melissa R:

So he says, “No, no, no, that’s okay.” And he shuts the door on me. And as I’m walking down the hill, I’m like, “That did not go well, that did not go well.” And then I started thinking about, he seems a little tired. He needs to relax.

Melissa R:

So, I go back up to the door, I knock. He’s like, “You’re back?” I’m like, “You know what, sir? I know you’ve had a really long day and you just want to put your feet up and probably watch some TV tonight. Right?” He’s like, “That is exactly what I want to do.” I go, “Then you need a subscription to TV Guide.” And I point it to him and he buys because he was like, “That’s tenacity.”

Melissa R:

So yeah. So, my father was right and I ended up heading towards sales and marketing in my career. However, there was this other element that we had to deal with. I was an actor. I started acting at nine years old. I was the lead in every show all the way through high school, and I ended up having to get to Michigan because my parents were like, “Just get there.”

Melissa R:

And I was like, “But I don’t really have the grades. Did you see my ACT scores?” They’re like, “Yeah, we’re going to ignore that. Just get into Michigan.”

Warwick F:

At University of Michigan, obviously.

Melissa R:

University of Michigan.

Warwick F:

Yeah.

Melissa R:

And literally I had no ACT scores. That was like walking into a nightmare. I had not taken chemistry or any of the math courses that the ACT score would have. So, I take this test, it doesn’t go well, but the universe started working with me, I think.

Melissa R:

And the University of Michigan started to launch their musical theater department. I was a musical theater girl. So, I went in and I auditioned for musical theater and I got in and I was able to show my parents, “Okay, I’m going to Michigan.” But my dad’s like, “But that’s a hobby. That’s a hobby. That’s not a real degree. You’re going to have to get in and go to business school.” And I’m thinking, “Great. All right.”

Melissa R:

So, I get into Michigan and I actually realized I’m not that good in musical theater. I had about eight great notes. And once you went past those, I was a little messed up, but I was always a good actor. I ended up leaving that program and floating my way through. And my degree ended up being whatever my instinct was telling me to take.

Melissa R:

I really have been someone who floats through life, trusting that it’s going to work out if I listen. So, I ended up doing psychology and marketing and journalism and acting. I kept the theater, and all of those things are true today in what I do every day with my clients.

Warwick F:

So, they’re all these things, there’s acting, there’s business psychology, and so you went down the sales and marketing route. Do you think if your dad hadn’t have said, “Oh, acting is not a real job,” would you have pursued acting or not necessarily?

Melissa R:

Absolutely. So, what I did was I did a hack. I was like, “All right, I’ll get your sales and marketing in.” And I realized I liked eating. So, actually that wasn’t a bad thing. And so I’m in Southern California, and what I was doing was I was selling advertising space for multiple publications, newspapers, four-color magazines, slick ones.

Melissa R:

I did that during the day, but at night I was in the theater all the time. And then finally, I meet my future husband and we’re … He was … He played my brother in a play and that was great. And we decided we’re going to go to LA and we’re going to go for it.

Melissa R:

And we get to LA and it is not anything like I thought it was going to be. I was suddenly this little fish in a big ocean of actors, and I didn’t care for it to be honest. I wanted to be in sitcoms. I didn’t really care about movies. And it just wasn’t for me. It wasn’t for me.

Melissa R:

But my career in sales was taking off. I was a superstar at LA Weekly. And then they called me in one day and they said, “We’re going to start Orange County’s newspaper. It’s going to be OC Weekly. And we think that you should be the advertising director.”

Melissa R:

Now I’m almost 30 years old and I’m thinking, “Oh, that’s amazing.” And she says, “But you’re going to have to move to Orange County.” And I said, “Oh really? You mean leave earthquakes, floods, fires, riots, and slow speed chases from OJ Simpson and give up my crappy auditions? I’m in.”

Gary S:

And you’re closer to Disneyland up there as well.

Melissa R:

I actually lived almost behind it. So, when they would have a home run at the baseball field, they’d shoot off all the fireworks. That was my backyard.

Gary S:

Awesome.

Melissa R:

Yeah. So, yeah. So, I went to Orange County and I started the Advertising Director position for OC Weekly, which ran, it just closed. A lot of publications went down after COVID and digital and whatnot. But yeah, so my dad was right. He’s like, “I knew you’d be good at that.”

Melissa R:

But I started to miss my acting. I kind of put it all on hold. I couldn’t even go to the theater. Couldn’t even go because it just hurt because I should be on that stage. Right? I should be on that stage, but oh, I’m making so much more money not being on that stage.

Gary S:

Right.

Melissa R:

So, I gave into it, had a family, became the breadwinner of the family, had a marriage for quite a long time. And then things started to change.

Warwick F:

I love the way you talk about the universe and I’m a person of faith, whether it’s however you view it, the universe, some divine creator, it seems like whoever it is up there, if there is anyone up there, they we’re using all these strands in your story for later.

Warwick F:

At the time it probably felt like, “Why isn’t this working? I guess it’s not, “Oh, well I got to eat.” I do kind of enjoy ad sales. So, does that kind of make sense? It probably was frustrating at the time. You didn’t realize where your story was going to head later on.

Melissa R:

Right. Right. No, I definitely.

Warwick F:

But at the time it probably pretty frustrating. Right?

Melissa R:

Well at first … Well, I’ve learned early that there is divine guidance that I’ve had and you can call it whatever you want. I don’t think it’s outside of me. I know for a fact it’s inside of me and I believe it’s inside everybody. And it’s constantly giving me signs and it’s sometimes I hear it.

Melissa R:

It’s constantly talking, just sometimes I’ve heard it. During COVID though, I became a lot more self-reflective and I really got into building my storytelling repertoire. And my inner voice oftentimes comes up in my stories if you watch any of them and you can see them on my website.

Melissa R:

I’ve personified that character. It comes in and it will whisper to me. And it provides a variety, it provides a colorful element, I think in my stories because people are like, “You know what? I think I have those same kind of conversations with myself.”

Melissa R:

And so I’m trying to capture that so that people can also realize we’re all figuring it out. We’re all swimming in this ocean, and you just got to surrender to it. Not being passive. I’m not saying being passive, but actually being active, being really vibrantly alive is when you really are connected to yourself, I think.

Warwick F:

So, life was going along. You’re in ad sales and you’re doing well, but then you ran into a bit of a challenge, as what you say crucible. So, talk a bit about that challenge, almost that wall that you hit in which life maybe it was … I don’t know if it was Disneyland, but it wasn’t that bad, but then it turned out to be challenging. So, what happened?

Melissa R:

Yeah. So, my life was going well. I was floating around, I was successful in ad sales and then that turned into advertising technology. So, I went into the internet sales and digital technology because I was fascinated by it.

Melissa R:

I was like, “You mean I can click this thing and go to a website and I can buy something or not? And if I don’t buy it, you guys know that, and then you follow me around with an ad? That is so cool.” And I was in early, early stages of advertising technology.

Gary S:

It’s not cool when it happens to you though, and you’re not the one doing it because I’m getting chased by shoe ads all the time now because I bought some new shoes last week.

Melissa R:

Yes, but if you don’t buy them, they may send you a coupon to inspire you because they know you’ve converted or not. Now once you’ve converted, they should stop talking to you and put you in a different bucket.

Gary S:

That’s perfect.

Melissa R:

Anyways, that’s data sales. So, I learned how to do that. I learned how to do that. And I did that in the early 2000s all the way through about 20, well, I’m going to tell you when I got there and it was exciting. But after a while, and I rose all the way to the level of Oracle, I had climbed to the top of ad technology.

Melissa R:

But it started getting more crowded. It started getting less fun. It was no longer the shiny penny. It was a penny that everyone was fighting for the scraps based on who clicked on that ad and who converted and you were up against the Googles, the Yahoos, there was a whole bunch going on.

Melissa R:

It became, I don’t know, boring for me after a while because I had done it. I had done it for 15 years. And then when you start to lose your joy, you start to dim in your light. Right? Getting up now was becoming not joyous. I wasn’t springing out of bed. I was getting out of bed. I didn’t want to do something. I had to do something.

Melissa R:

And I started to just dim. And I think a lot of people go through that. Now I’m also starting to approach 50 and you start to look at your life. Like what have I done? What have I accomplished, and what haven’t I accomplished?

Melissa R:

And I’d accomplished two beautiful children. I’d had a career. I’d built a home. I had been the financial breadwinner. I’m woman, hear me roar, I can bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan. I’m the Angeli girl.

Melissa R:

And my marriage started to kind of wane and things started to unravel there. I ended up divorcing after almost 24 years together and it wasn’t a friendly divorce. It was a fiery, crashing divorce.

Melissa R:

And then I went into my apartment and then I managed to get a job that was a little bit different. It wasn’t ad tech, it was marketing technology, but it was the job that kind of … If someone tripped over their technology cord and it unplugged they’d call us. I’m like, “Oh, okay.”

Gary S:

Okay.

Melissa R:

And it was different. And it was very left brain, which is good for me to do, but I just didn’t really like it. And it wasn’t a fit because my light was dim. I was not honoring the joy in myself, but I didn’t know what that joy was. I couldn’t get an answer other than I needed complete change.

Melissa R:

So, it’s January 2nd, 2019. And I’m on the phone and I am angry. In fact, I am hanging up and I am crying because I have just been fired from that job. And I don’t like that job, but I need that job. That job pays the bills. I have money to pay for my divorce and this isn’t good.

Melissa R:

And at that moment in my panic and what am I going to do, that voice said, “Don’t worry about it. We couldn’t watch you anymore. You were miserable. So we got you a pink slip. Yay.” I’m like, “No, yay.” It’s like, “No, you did. You trust us, it’s going to be okay.”

Melissa R:

Well, meanwhile, my youngest child, my baby is bedridden. She can’t get out of bed because she’s so stressed out and has OCD, which my DNA had passed to her. I actually have told stories about OCD, which is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. And it’s not something that people should joke about.

Melissa R:

So she’s down, she can’t get out of bed and I have to get a new job. And I am having a really hard time because not only is my light dimmed, it’s portrayed in the job interviews, and everyone that I’m interviewing with is a 32 year old guy named Ryan Brian or Eric. It didn’t matter, same guy, different body.

Melissa R:

And he’d just look at me and be like, “I do not see her at the bar speaking sports with me at the end of the day.” And I’m like, “Yeah, you’re right, man. I’m old enough to be your mom.” And I don’t care about who clicked that ad. And I can’t get a job that I do like because it’s going to require a lot of travel. And my girl needs me.

Melissa R:

We’ve got to be at this program four days a week, three hours a day, and then two hours of homework for exposure therapy to get her through this crushing OCD. I was terrified and I had $50,000 in credit card debt. Terrified. What am I going to do? The plane has crashed and I have got to walk out of the smoldering fire.

Gary S:

This is the pivot point of your story in the series called Second Act Significance. Right? That’s kind of you talked about your first act, very successful. Now we’re kind of at intermission, you’ve had a crisis, the curtain comes down, we got a little bit of an intermission and you’re going to move into your second act.

Gary S:

And your second act, as you’ve hinted at talked about deals with storytelling. And I just want to make an observation about your storytelling before you and Warwick talk about it more. And that is we have a form that we ask guests to fill out for every show.

Gary S:

And the idea behind that form is so that we can ask informed questions of you so that we’re not just kind of flying blind. We don’t ask what 10 things do you want us to ask you? We don’t want it to be too programmatic. We want this to be a conversation, but we want to know your story.

Gary S:

And I have to tell you, Melissa, I’ve been co-host of this show for 110 episodes, which is more than 80 guests. And your prep sheet is by far the best we’ve ever received. Your prep sheet is academy award winning worthy in terms of prep sheet writing, because what’s on display here is exactly the thing that you have talked about, that you’re going to talk about your passion, your fire, your joy.

Gary S:

You don’t answer questions in this sheet, you tell stories, and that’s a fantastic thing. So I’m going to shut up now, let Warwick ask you questions, and let you tell some more stories.

Warwick F:

Well, that is so well said, Gary.

Melissa R:

Thanks Gary.

Warwick F:

How come you didn’t take that path of just anger and bitterness about what life had dolled out to you. You took a different path. What led you to take a path that ultimately led to Story Fruition? Where did you find that hope from, because not every … It’s fascinating that you chose hope rather than to dwell on anger and bitterness.

Melissa R:

Great question. And I wish I could say, “Oh, I didn’t do that at all.” I did get angry. I did. I retreated to my room because mother nature put us all in our room called quarantine. “Think about what you did, Missy.” And I did.

Melissa R:

And I licked my … My friend loves it when I do the … I just licked my wounds and I was sad and I was angry and I was frustrated, but I also know that life is a journey. And so I started to read a lot. I read, Think and Grow Rich.

Melissa R:

I was like, “Let’s read that.” And that actually is a great book that then led me to reading things on Law of Attraction. And I started to learn that the power you were saying, it’s like the two voices, it’s like little you, y-o-u and then big you, Y-O-U, that’s how I see it now.

Melissa R:

And so it’s with me all the time. I just have to tune into it and I can do that by the way I feel. So, I started to learn how to feel my way towards what I desired. I now knew what I didn’t want. I didn’t want any of this. I didn’t want to have financial crash. I didn’t want to feel bad. I didn’t want to have a child that didn’t have a remedy. I didn’t want to have a job I hated. I didn’t want that.

Melissa R:

So, what do I want? Immediately, the opposite. So, I started to concentrate now on that. Where can I get her help? Okay. We’ve got that started slipping in pretty fast. Thank you universe. But the job thing was important. So, during this time I’m thinking, “Well, what am I good at? What am I good at?”

Melissa R:

And I started to make a list, I’m good at sales, I’m good at marketing, I usually always … I know enterprise sales. That’s cool. I know how to manage people. That’s great. I know how to tell stories. I’m a really good actor. Okay. What am I going to do with that? That’s been haunting me my whole life. That’s my dad saying, “I don’t know what you’re going to do with that.” I’m going to figure it out.

Melissa R:

I’m standing in the hall of Seattle University’s Business Plan Competition, and I’m there to watch these students fight it out for $10,000 prize money. It’s a very prestigious competition here in Seattle. It’s been going on for a very long time. The biggest swankiest angel investors are all there. They want to see the next big idea that they might be able to get in on.

Melissa R:

And as I’m watching, I’m seeing these students one after another, get up on stage with a two minute pitch, and all they are doing is problem, and then saying a bunch of stats, solution and a pie chart.

Melissa R:

And I’m just watching, and I’m just thinking, it was almost as if a light from the universe came flooding down on me as I watched these students and I grabbed the arm of the executive director who was just a budding new friend and he went, “Amelia, I can help them. I know what to do. This is sales and marketing. Is it not?”

Melissa R:

She’s like, “Oh, totally.” I’m like, “And it needs acting. They’re not acting. They need, they need story. They need to tell the story. The problem could be a character having the problem, and then they’re the hero. I can do this.” And I started just rambling. She ends up calling me during this downtime and says, “Do you want to really try this? Do you want to volunteer this year, and be one of the pitch coaches?”

Melissa R:

I’m like, “Yes, yes, yes, yes.” I walk in to this room and there’s three teams and I ask them, “So, what do you do?” And they start to tell me the exact same thing, the stats come out, the graphs come out, nothing’s coming out. And then the last guy, Daniel, he’s like, “Well, I want to unite artisan wood makers to people who appreciate art in their furniture.”

Melissa R:

I’m like, “Well, that’s cool. And what is an artisan? Are you an artisan wood maker?” He goes like, “I am. I am.” I’m like, “Great.” So, I started talking to him. I go, “So, who’s going to be your target audience?” And he said, “Women 25 to 54 making 75K.” I’m like, “No. No.”

Melissa R:

And then all of a sudden this epiphany was, “Oh my God. Remember when you, Missy were in your late 20s and you started making money and you looked around your own apartment and said, I do not want to have a milk crate hold my television up. Things are going to change.””

Melissa R:

And I walked into this beautiful, I’m soul traveling as this guy’s talking to me, I walk into this furniture store on Melrose when I was working for LA Weekly, and it’s this artisan furniture maker. He couldn’t speak hardly any English, but it was the most beautiful pine furniture back in the day when Pottery Barn was flashing it all.

Melissa R:

I bought an armoire, I bought tables, chairs, desk, bed. I transformed my apartment. I turned it into my castle. And then all of a sudden, as I’m talking to Daniel at the Seattle Business Plan Competition, I said, “That’s your character. That’s your target market. Make her come alive in your story.”

Melissa R:

And all of a sudden, everything started to change. And the competition, all of the pitches now were coming in with a story that tells the problem. And then the solution would be the entrepreneur’s solution. And I started to realize, “Huh, I wonder if people …” Clearly there’s a need for this. Would people pay me to do this? And the universe said, “Yep. And we got a great name for your company. Try this, Story Fruition.”

Melissa R:

I’m like, “Ooh, I like that.” I register. I find it. GoDaddy’s like, “Yeah, that’s a good one.” And I started my company and next thing you know, because when you start to follow and you start to feel good, the universe wants more of that feel good, and all of a sudden clients started just popping in. They just started popping in.

Melissa R:

And I got a CEO who said, and he knew I was an actor and he’d seen my acting and he goes, “You’re going to what?” I go, “I am going to pitch coach. I’m going to coach storytelling into executives so that they’re more compelling.” He goes, “I need that.”

Melissa R:

Really? You’re a millionaire. He’s like, I know but I know I could be better. I’m like, “Okay.” And he hires me and he says, “Okay, we’re going in for a pitch. He’s already sold a company before. This guy he’s open and closed many companies now.”

Melissa R:

He says, “I have all the numbers, you know that. But I need heart. There’s no heart in this presentation. We’re going into Andreessen Horowitz. What can we do?” And I said, “Well, come on Tom, you have all those amazing case studies. I now call them case stories. Let’s bring those forward and weave them into your presentation to show them that your technology and your team are going to deliver on the goods.”

Melissa R:

He’s like, “That’s awesome.” He does that. He walks out with a verbal that day for $35 million series A and he granted, it’s not just because Melissa gave him some stories. I know it was a collaboration, but he said we needed that, and that’s when I started to realize, yeah, left brain data needs right brain stories.

Melissa R:

It needs it. It has to balance it, because as I said earlier, they’re going to remember the story that you tell about the problem that you’re solving far longer than any pie chart that you put in front of them. They will not remember that.

Melissa R:

And so now I have executives from all over the world that I’m coaching and I’m teaching how to be a storyteller for your keynote, how to infuse stories into your pitch, how to make sure your graphs or that your slides are also backing up your story and not usurping you because you put the whole kitchen sink on the slide.

Melissa R:

You’re actually being cognizant to what you’re doing to the listener. And that’s where my book is called the Storyteller’s Mind Movie. So it keeps … So, the momentum of what I’m doing is continuing to roll forward, and I know that with joy in my heart, I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. So, this is absolutely chapter two.

Warwick F:

I think it’s fascinating as you’re telling your story, Melissa, our lives are often more easily understood as we look backwards. Our stories make sense as we look back. They don’t always make sense at the time. But as you look back, you have to say to yourself, I would imagine, I get now I have these strands in my DNA and my personality of storytelling, but also sales. And you enjoy both.

Warwick F:

And here you’ve got a perfect marriage of the two. Your storytelling is helping salespeople, executives, venture capitalists, what have you, understand how to sell better through stories? And obviously as you would realize, people talk a lot in our culture about ancient wisdom, the way culture is passed on through pretty much every culture that’s ever existed on the planet is through stories. You know?

Warwick F:

My dad was big into Greek stories and mythology and what have you. And so I sort of grew up and partly on the stories of the Iliad, which is the story of the Greeks trying to besiege Troy. And then the Odyssey with Odysseus taking 10 years for a variety of reasons. The gods apparently were against him and took him 10 years to get back to his home.

Warwick F:

But originally when those stories were told, there was no written word at the time. So, these stories were told by the elders or the community to younger folks, over hundreds and hundreds of years. And that’s part of the Greek culture, part of their story of what it means to be part of the Greek culture mythology. And that’s true of probably every culture on the planet.

Warwick F:

So, this whole storytelling, it’s how we tell the story of who we are, who our culture is, what makes us, us. So, what you’re doing is channeling something that’s existed ever since there were human beings many thousands of years ago, does that kind of makes sense? This is it’s like we’ve forgotten we’re a collection of stories. That’s what makes us who we are, if that makes sense.

Melissa R:

We’re machines for it. We live them. We want to hear them. We want to tell them. And then when I realized that we all have these stories and there’s no reason why our personal stories, our personal moments cannot be infused into our workday, but people kind of move into, “I’m in work mode. We don’t tell stories.”

Melissa R:

And those are the ones that I think you’re falling short, where you’re not giving credit to the stories and your wisdom that you have been picking up decade after decade, right? You have family stories, marriage stories, first birth stories, college stories, failure stories.

Melissa R:

There are so many stories that reflect your resilience, your out of the box thinking, your I’m down and out story and now I’m a hero, so many of those stories. So, when I’m working with people, here’s the trick is that first I notice that people aren’t valuing their stories. They don’t think especially a lot of women. “No one wants to hear my story.” Yes they do. More than you realize.

Melissa R:

But the trick is that we’re not taught in school, believe it or not. We’re taught how to write a story and read a story, but how to tell a story, like what you’re seeing me do. I’m creating characters. I’m using voices. I’ve got pausing. I’m using senses. There’s things that I’m doing deliberately to be an entertaining storyteller.

Melissa R:

But I am … All my stories that I’ve told today have to do with my work world. But they’re very personal.

Warwick F:

It seems like in the business world, we’ve gone so analytical we have forgotten our heritage, which is told in stories. We just sort of abandon that. If that makes sense.

Melissa R:

Yeah. I had … I’ll give a success story. I’m the pitch coach for Founders Live, which is a global pitch competition every month, different markets, about 60 markets and five presenters come up and they give a 99 second pitch. And I coached them in Seattle and in 99 seconds we have a story. We have a solution. We have traction. We have accolades, and we have team and an ask. It all happens in 99 seconds.

Melissa R:

And there was one gentleman who his name is Juan. And I just loved Juan. And he has this app called Lalo and Lalo was the name of his father. And essentially it’s an app that would be to memorialize someone. So, let’s say Aunt Frieda’s on her final days, you might want to make sure that you have some of Aunt Frieda’s stories and you can put them in this app and share them intimately with your family.

Melissa R:

It’s not something that’s going to get exposed out onto the net or anything like that. It’s an intimate family experience and you can have photos and chats and all this. And I asked them, I’m like, “This is a really good idea. How did you come up with it?” I wanted his Story Fruition. And he said, “Well, I lost my dad when I was 24, about 18 years ago.”

Melissa R:

And I said, “Oh my God, I’m so sorry.” He’s like, “Yeah, I was standing at his graveside and my wife asked me, she’s like, “Hey Juan, tell me a story about Lalo.” I had nothing. I had nothing. And I just sat there and thought this is terrible. I can’t tell stories. Because when my dad passed, I lost his empanada recipes. I had a bunch of pictures in a box, but that’s not going to serve anyone.

Melissa R:

And now he’s got grandkids he’s never going to meet, but I want them to know who he is. And that’s when the light of his universe said, “Start Lalo.” So I said, “Why is that story not in your presentation, because everything you’ve shown me today has been all left brain?” Seriously, it was all left brains and charts and the algorithm and how it’s going to work and the flow charts.

Melissa R:

And it was just like, “Oh.” And I said, “Juan, your story is beautiful. It needs to be in there.” He’s like, “No one would wants to hear that.” I said, “Yeah, I think they would.” So, for his pitch, we started with him saying, “I’m standing at the graveside of my father when my wife asks me, “Tell me a story about Lalo.”” And he does that.

Melissa R:

And right away that image in the mind movie of anyone standing at a graveside does what? You can see it, but you can feel it, right? No one’s standing at a graveside going, “Woohoo, how you doing buddy?” It’s poignant, right? And he had him with the first sentence.

Melissa R:

This guy was going from $0 being raised and lots of “thanks, it’s just a little too early stage for us.” He took his founder’s live video that we did, and he had all the other stuff. He had the traction he had. We had the science of the business in there. It was all there, made it a video.

Melissa R:

We put a little music underneath it. He plays guitar. And he put it out on Twitter. In less than 10 days, he had $210,000 in funding. And it was people saying, “It was your story. How can I help you? I just lost my dad. I want to be a part of this.”

Warwick F:

Wow. So, as I think about it, there’s been some good stories that have been told for many thousand of years and I’m sure there’s a lot into it, but just at a high level, what are some of the key elements that make for a good story both in composition and in telling.

Warwick F:

What are some of the key things? Again, you don’t need to get into every detail. That would be part of what you do, but just a high level.

Melissa R:

There’s a lot there.

Gary S:

That would be that three-hour podcast I threatened. If she’s too interesting it’ll be three hours.

Melissa R:

I do, do workshops that take that long. Yes.

Warwick F:

Just to give people a taste of what’s these elements of the secret sauce enough that I might want to learn more?

Melissa R:

Yeah.

Warwick F:

What are some of those key components, but the composing a good story and then telling it?

Melissa R:

Yeah, well first it’s the composing it, making … So first, we all have an aha moment. All stories are centered around that, right? It’s like the moment that something hit you and you have to change or you did just change something happens. Right?

Melissa R:

So for me, my aha was I don’t like my life right now. I want something different. I know I don’t want this and now I want that. And then all of a sudden the aha started going on and I started my journey.

Melissa R:

I formulaically completely buy into the Hero’s Journey story arc from Joseph Campbell, if it’s good enough for Pixar and Disney, it’s good enough for me. And so when I’m working with my clients, we are always going to be looking for transformation. So the character, the main characters in your story need to be relatable. We need to be able to see them, hear them.

Melissa R:

We need to know if you, as the storyteller like them or not. So, your relationship to those characters are important and what are the stakes? And then we are going to just plot it out like this mind movie, scene by scene, moving towards the triumph and the transformation. And I plug that in.

Melissa R:

And so formulaically, when we start to master that, which is where I think where a storyteller goes from being a storyteller to being a masterful mind movie maker. And those are the people I’m seeking, who wants to be a mind movie maker, because if you do, then let’s talk, right?

Melissa R:

Do you want people leaning in? Then let’s talk, and that takes practice. So, stories, a really well written story is something that advances enough, expands enough and it entertains and it educates and it inspires. That’s the whole essence of what we’re going for. And then we break it down scene by scene, character by character.

Gary S:

This is a good time for me to ask you this question. I’m entertaining myself with the thought that I’m going to throw a question at you that’s going to knock you off balance. I know it’s not going to happen, because I’m going to ask you to do something and you’ll do it like that, because you’re very good at what you do.

Gary S:

But our series that we’re talking about, that this episode of this podcast is part of is called Second Act Significance. The idea being that there was a first act of your life for all the guests that we’ve had on the show. And it didn’t work out either because something, some setback happened, some dissatisfaction happened, whatever that was, that first act then led to a crucible of some making.

Gary S:

And then here comes the second act and it’s called Second Act Significance. So, I’m going to ask you to tell our listeners a story about why and how your second act is more significant and more satisfying than your first act was.

Melissa R:

I deep down always thought I would be an entrepreneur. When I was 25 years old I thought, “I have taken Toastmasters. I am an excellent speaker. I am going to teach people Toastmasters.” And that’s what I’m going to do. And I started my little company and I had cards that said speakeasy. That’s what I was going to call. I didn’t really realize that it would probably have a sexual connotation and that wasn’t the best brand.

Melissa R:

But I was only 25 and I was going to do this. And I then went, “I am too young and dumb to do this. No, I’m not ready for it.” But she, that entrepreneurial Melissa was born inside me. So, when I was stepping out of the smoldering flames and I started to listen to my higher self, all of a sudden, my second half now is on my terms. It’s my life.

Melissa R:

And if I need to be a little bit selfish to find my joy, then that’s what I’m going to do, because I want to be the best mom I can be. I don’t want to deal with Ryans, Brians, and Erics again, that are going to make me feel like I’m not smart, because I am smart and I am going to attract the clients that I want and I’m going to be bringing them something that they didn’t even know that they needed, but now that they do, they are so excited about the work we’re doing.

Melissa R:

And I’d walk through most of the day with goosebumps. When I tap a story in one of my clients and we go, “Oh, there it is.” It is so much joy. And even though with being an entrepreneur, you’re kind of on a boat ride or a roller coaster.

Melissa R:

It’s going to go up, it’s going to down. It’s going to swirl. You’re going to have good months. You’re going to have thin months, but it doesn’t matter because if you’re still believing in what you’re doing …

Melissa R:

Or I’ll just talk for myself. When I started believing in what I was doing with joy and with value, how could this not be the best time in my life? I’m 56 years old. I am just starting. I am just launching. I got a book that’s coming out. I’m doing storytelling on lots of podcasts and having a wonderful time teaching something that not everyone’s talking about. And I like that.

Warwick F:

You know, I feel like there are some really, really important lessons, Melissa, for folks, irrespective of their journey and where they’re from that I think it’s important for them to listen to. When you connect to your inner passion, your inner truth, your inner voice and you connect that to folks.

Warwick F:

Well, I want to say they connect that to folks who have that. I’d say that inner voice, that inner passion is going to attract the people that you’re meant to attract. The universe is going to see to that. It certainly has for you.

Warwick F:

You didn’t start out with this old business plan saying, “Okay, I’m going to tell stories because it combines my acting ability and it combines my sales ability and people raising series A financing will be perfect, because they need to tell better stories.”

Warwick F:

In hindsight that makes sense. But when you were trying to get out of the smoldering ashes of the previous job and life, it wasn’t like, “Okay, I got it all figured out. It’s series A financing. This is the one.” Right? It evolved. You had a thought.

Warwick F:

I think life is often like an impressionist painting. You had a thought, okay, it’s something to do with acting and sales and telling people stories. And you had that epiphany at the University of Seattle, but then it evolved from there.

Warwick F:

But I think the key, whatever people’s situation is, if they’re trying to shift to their second act, it’s just really understanding what is something that they’re passionate about. I said a lot of years ago, because I am an idealist at heart and still am, is if you’re not having trouble going to sleep at night, because you’re so excited about whatever it is, then maybe it’s not it.

Warwick F:

Now that’s you don’t necessarily have to suffer from insomnia to prove that you’re actually there, but it should be something that you’re really excited about.

Warwick F:

And the other aspect I reflect on is passion breeds persistence. You’re very persistent at what you do because you are passionate about this. This is going to help people. I love it and it’s going to help people. And so you’re good at sales, but this probably takes your selling ability to a whole nother level beyond what it was before, and that was probably already pretty good, if that makes sense.

Warwick F:

So does that make sense? Just passion will attract the people that you want to attract. It’ll help drive you forward and will give you persistence. Does that kind of make sense?

Melissa R:

Absolutely. Absolutely. And that to me is going back to the just trust us, just trust us. That inner dialogue that I was having way back at the beginning of it. I’m like, “What do you mean trust you? I don’t even know. Who am I talking to?” And it was like just trust it.

Melissa R:

And when you think about it, when you become aware of something and you start to see signs of it, like for instance, you want to buy a new car, let’s say you’re like, “I really like Lexus.” I want a Lexus car. And then all of a sudden every radio station, every magazine, and every newspaper has a Lexus ad suddenly there.

Melissa R:

That’s the universe in a way letting you know your awareness, your ask for it is now heightened and it’s now coming forward and you’re open to hearing and seeing it. Right? And you kind of get a giggle like, “Oh that’s so funny. That’s so funny. I was just thinking about, oh right, okay cool.”

Melissa R:

Or you can look at the clock and it says 2:22 or 3:33. Some people love that. They’re like, “Woo numerology. I’m being listened to.” I find this fun. Some people you can just sign it off. That’s fine. I personally find that when I’m living really consciously and I’m deliberately trying to create, you have to listen to all that stuff so that it can show up.

Melissa R:

And then when you see it, bless it. And know, I actually say that life is like a waiter. It gives you what you ordered. And if you don’t like what you ordered, send it back to the kitchen. But if you like what you got, tip.

Warwick F:

So, I feel like this is another example. Nobody would want to go through what you went through. I’m sure you wouldn’t want to do it again, having gone through that. But somehow I feel like the universe brought that onto you. Maybe without the challenge, maybe you never would be doing what you’re doing.

Warwick F:

Maybe sometimes it takes a smack on the head with a two by four to say, “Okay Melissa, we want you to go in this other direction, but you’re not listening. Okay. We’re going to make you listen.” Does that? I don’t know if that makes sense at all.

Warwick F:

But do you feel the bit of that for some people to shift to their second act sometimes requires a bit of pain to be able to shift?

Melissa R:

Absolutely. I think pain is what we launch from. So, that’s contrast. It’s like when we hit contrast, it used to be contrast was bad. Now I start to see the contrast, which is something I don’t want, sifting through all these things all day long.

Melissa R:

And when I hit contrast now and I feel it like, “Ooh, that doesn’t feel good.” I actually instead of going, “I feel bad and I’m going to lick my wounds again.” I actually pay attention to it because it’s talking to me. It’s letting me know you’re not really aligned here. Pay attention right now. And that’s been the work with all the reading that I did over this past time.

Melissa R:

Also, there was this when I was in my 20s and I was going to go for my acting career in LA, I said to myself, “I don’t want to look back and wonder if.” I don’t want to be on my deathbed and wonder what if I had gone to LA, what if I had given it a go?

Melissa R:

So, I did go to LA and I didn’t make it as an actor really, but I did make it in sales and I didn’t expect that. And a part of me had been calling out, I’m good in sales, I’m good in sales, I’m good in sales. And so the universe took me on that journey and you sometimes just have to ride your boat. Right now my big mantra is oars in, get your oars in and allow that boat to be steered because everything I want is downstream for me, everything, if I can just not try to paddle upstream.

Melissa R:

And that’s when I start pinching it off, I start going, “No, I don’t like it. Or it wasn’t … He didn’t show up the day that I wanted him to show up or that money needs be in my account now.” That’s pinching it off and it doesn’t serve me. It actually kind of spoils the joy of what I see life being now. I think life is a constant story being written before my eyes. And I actually have the pen.

Gary S:

This is the time in the show when I normally say that sounds you heard was the captain turning on the fasten seatbelt sign indicating our time to descend has begun. But come on, we’re talking to a storytelling expert, so I’m going to say we’ve reached the denouement of the story where we’re about to end, but we’re not quite there yet.

Gary S:

Before we get there though and Warwick asks you a couple more questions, Melissa, I would be remiss in my duties as co-host, if I did not ask you how can listeners find out more about Story Fruition and about the services you offer?

Melissa R:

Thank you. Yeah. So my site is probably the best place. I’ve got a lot of information at storyfruition.com and I teach workshops to corporations now because people are realizing that there are stories that companies all tell, but not everyone tells them well. And new people are aching to know more stories.

Melissa R:

So, I’m helping companies now build story libraries and I train their teams on how to be very vivid mind movie makers, even in a case story because that’s what’s going to differentiate. So, I always say, I’m like it’s like they’re going to create an army of storytellers throughout your organization.

Melissa R:

And the culture will be infused into your organization across divisions so those are some of the services I do. And then you can like me, Story Fruition is on Facebook, it’s on LinkedIn, it’s LinkedIn to me, that would be great, Melissa Reaves, R-E-A-V-E-S. And you have to be careful, because there is a Melissa Reaves is a pop star.

Gary S:

Yeah.

Melissa R:

But that’s not me. It’s a Melissa Reaves storyteller cause it sometimes helps.

Gary S:

And can the pop star sing more than eight notes? Do you know?

Melissa R:

Yeah.

Gary S:

Darn it.

Melissa R:

Yeah. She plays music. She’s really good. Yeah. I like her. I’m like, “Hey, there’s room for joy everywhere. Let’s go.”

Gary S:

Absolutely.

Warwick F:

That’s great. So, just as we sum up, what you talked about oars in I really want the listeners to hear that because unless you have the oars in and are just moving in some direction, the universe or however you term it can’t steer you. If you’re moving nowhere, you’re going to … nobody can steer you, whatever you think it’s a higher path.

Melissa R:

You’re never not moving.

Warwick F:

Right. So, I feel like by just going to LA and trying that, in hindsight, that acting was combined with selling to form Story Fruition. But if you hadn’t done that, if you hadn’t put your oars in, you wouldn’t be where you were.

Warwick F:

So, just put your oars in and try something and then the universe, however you frame it, will guide you. I think that’s such, such key advice. As we sum up, I love what you do in Story Fruition, but you have another thing you do at Melanin Stories Matter, which I’d love for you to just chat a bit about that.

Warwick F:

Because, it would be a whole nother podcast. But from my perspective, when you hear people’s stories, it humanizes people. It’s hard to dislike somebody whose stories you know, whose heart you understand. It helps people be seen who maybe people don’t see, if you will. So, just talk a bit about what’s the heart behind Melanin Stories.

Melissa R:

So, it was May 25th, 2020, and I’m in front of the television, learning the name George Floyd, along with everyone else. And then it wasn’t very long after I’m learning the name Breonna Taylor, and that too long after that I’m learning Ahmaud Arbery, and I just couldn’t handle it.

Melissa R:

I’m like, “Why are we so mean? Why can’t we just be nicer to each other? Why? Why?” And then my higher self said, “Well Melissa, you were raised to be racist.” “I was?” “Oh I was. Yeah, I was. Unfortunately I was.” I have a rich Southern history of family lineage and I did not grow up learning kind terms, but it never felt right.

Melissa R:

Me and my sisters would always just cringe whenever a word that was derogatory towards any person of color would be used. And it was just in the family culture. Not that my family was bad, it was just that side. It was not the shining side.

Melissa R:

So, I started to reflect on that and I thought, “You know what? Just because that’s how the family was, does not mean that’s how the family can be.” And so I realized that going out to protest was really dangerous. People were getting tear gassed, let alone COVID exposures. But I’m a storyteller, and I know how to produce shows.

Melissa R:

So we said, “Let’s make a protest from our living room and let’s have only black, indigenou,s and people of color sharing stories of moments that they had to face just because of their melanin being a little bit darker than mine.” And the floodgates opened. And I have made so many amazing friends.

Melissa R:

I had to actually look at my own network and go, “God, it’s so white. It’s so homogenized and shame on me for that.” And we started this show and it took off. We did seven different shows and we had your vote matters. So, as a person of color, what’s important to you about voting. And I had a variety of people.

Melissa R:

I’ve learned that racism runs within their own cultures. We’re all racist a little bit. And it’s like, okay we’re … I’m not going to solve racism, but can we start to move towards celebration of our diversity?

Melissa R:

So, Melanin Stories Matter. If you go to YouTube and look that up, you’ll see about at least 60 pieces of content from amazing storytellers, some I coached, some I didn’t. They’re already players in the space and they shared vulnerable moments so that we could do exactly what you said, Warwick, so that we could humanize those that have been dehumanized because it’s just not right.

Melissa R:

Every human being has a right to be happy and safe and feel included. And so Melanin Stories Matter was this journey that I went on with a group of incredible people. And we would even talk about the fact that as a host, I was the white elephant in the room, “Let’s talk about this.”

Melissa R:

Because it was the white elephant that needed to hear these stories because you can’t hear a story of this kind human being who’s being surrounded by a bunch of white supremacists in a 7/11, and dehumanized, without going, “Uh-uh, uh-uh.” That’s taking now storytelling and using it for social advocacy.

Warwick F:

When you break it all down, we all want to care for people, protect our families, help our kids, help our wife, partner, husbands. We have dreams, hopes. There’s a lot more that unites us about being human than divides us.

Warwick F:

And by sharing stories, that’s a way of saying, “You know what? I can identify. Even though I may be so different, I can identify with what that person’s saying.” At least an element of it.

Warwick F:

Does that make sense? So, I think by telling stories, you help bring people together. It’s not going to solve everything, but to me, even helping a little bit, it’s a start. It’s a start. Right?

Warwick F:

And so thank you for what you’re doing. That’s really an important mission. And thank you for everything you’re doing in Story Fruition.

Melissa R:

Thank you.

Warwick F:

Left brain is all good, but we want to share people’s stories and don’t forget what Melissa’s advocating. For those obviously with families, parents, try and get your parents and loved ones to share their stories. Don’t lose that. That’s part of what makes us, us. So, write them down.

Melissa R:

Yeah.

Warwick F:

But, anyway thank you for being an advocate for stories because that’s part of what us human, part of what binds every culture is stories. You don’t have … We don’t tell stories. We don’t know who we are. We lose that. And so thank you. That’s, I think really important work. So, thank you for what you do.

Melissa R:

Well, thank you. Thank you universe. I’m definitely doing the work I’m supposed to be doing. I know that hands down. So, it took a little journey to get there.

Gary S:

That sounds like an excellent place to wrap up an episode of the podcast that’s about Second Act Significance. Listener, we have been talking about the importance of story in the context of pursuing second act significance.

Gary S:

And in addition to our guest, Melissa Reaves, our host, Warwick Fairfax has a little experience in that realm as well. And if you’ve enjoyed what you’ve heard on the podcast listener, a couple things that you can do to find out more about the stories that Warwick has lived.

Gary S:

One, his book Crucible Leadership: Embrace Your Trials to Lead a Life of Significance is filled with stories, not just of his own crucible experiences. And speaking of stories, Warwick tells his story and has been doing so on a speaking tour that has been sort of intermissioned right now, but he’s about to go back out and do some more speaking.

Gary S:

If you would like to find out more about how you can get Warwick to come speak to your group. You can find that at our website, crucibleleadership.com. There’s a speaking tab you can click on. You’ll see actually a very nice little video of Warwick speaking or some highlights of Warwick speaking.

Gary S:

And you will also be able to reach our speaking agent at Crucible Leadership, Carrie Childers. Also at crucibleleadership.com. The book I mentioned earlier, Warwick’s book, it’s available there as well. I think I’ve done all of the marketing homework here. Melissa, as an expert, you can tell me if I did.

Melissa R:

You did it.

Gary S:

I think I covered it all. So, I will leave it. Listeners, I will leave you with this. We understand, we know you’ve heard it here on this show from Melissa and from Warwick. We know that crucible experiences are difficult. We know that starting a second act can be difficult, but we also know that starting the second act can be enormously rewarding.

Gary S:

It can lead to enormous significance because if you learn the lessons of your crucible, if you press into that, which brings your heart alive, if you press into that, which you were created for, if you press into that, that takes your skills and talents, and you can leverage what you’ve learned in your crucible, recognizing that what happened didn’t happen to you. It happened for you.

Gary S:

You can chart a course to a new story, since we’re talking about stories. And the great thing about that story that you can get on the journey toward is that it ends in a life of significance.