Tell to Win: Connect, Persuade, and Triumph with the Hidden Power of Story

Tell to Win: Connect, Persuade, and Triumph with the Hidden Power of Story

by Peter Guber


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Tell to Win: Connect, Persuade, and Triumph with the Hidden Power of Story by Peter Guber

Today everyone – whether they know it or not – is in the emotional transportation business.  More and more, success is won by creating compelling stories that have the power to move partners, shareholders, customers, and employees to action.  Simply put, if you can’t tell it, you can’t sell it.  And this book tells you how to do both.

Historically, stories have always been igniters of action, moving people to do things.  But only recently has it become clear that purposeful stories – those created with a specific mission in mind – are absolutely essential in persuading others to support a vision, dream or cause.
Peter Guber, whose executive and entrepreneurial accomplishments have made him a success in multiple industries, has long relied on purposeful story telling to motivate, win over, shape, engage and sell.  Indeed, what began as knack for telling stories as an entertainment industry executive has, through years of perspiration and inspiration, evolved into a set of principles that anyone can use to achieve their goals.
In Tell to Win, Guber shows how to move beyond soulless Power Point slides, facts, and figures to create purposeful stories that can serve as powerful calls to action.  Among his techniques:
*Capture your audience’s attention first, fast and foremost
*Motivate your listeners by demonstrating authenticity
*Build your tell around “what’s in it for them”
*Change passive listeners into active participants

*Use “state-of-the-heart” technology online and offline to make sure audience      commitment remains strong

To 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 Normal 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307587954
Publisher: The Crown Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/01/2011
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 317,083
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

PETER GUBER has had an extraordinarily varied and successful career, serving as Studio Chief at Columbia Pictures; Co-Chairman of Casablanca Records and Filmworks; CEO of Polygram Entertainment; Chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures; and Chairman and CEO of his current venture, Mandalay Entertainment Group.  Among the award-winning films he has produced or executive produced are “Midnight Express,” “The Color Purple,” “Gorillas in the Mist,” “Batman,” and “Rain Man.” Guber is the co-owner of the NBA's Golden State Warriors and oversees one of the largest combinations of professional baseball teams and venues nationwide. He is also a longtime professor at UCLA, a Harvard Business Review contributor, and a thought leader who speaks at numerous business forums around the country.  For more about Peter Guber and the power of purposeful story telling visit



Read an Excerpt


It's the Story, Stupid

The boom in Vegas was our golden ticket. This thought propelled me up the Strip to meet with the city's political gatekeeper, Mayor Oscar Goodman. As chairman of Mandalay Entertainment Group, I was determined to ride the momentum that had turned Sin City family-friendly. So many new residents had been drawn to Las Vegas in the early 2000s that the construction crane was laughingly referred to as the city's official bird, and all this wholesome expansion virtually guaranteed the business home run that I was about to deliver for my company's professional baseball division.

Our proposition: to build the ultimate state-of-the-art ballpark in the entertainment capital of the world. Our agenda: to elevate our sports entertainment business onto the national stage. Our success hinged on my ability to persuade Las Vegas's chief politician to lead the campaign for a municipal bond to fund this multimillion-dollar civic project. But since this huge, iconic city currently had no quality professional stadium, let alone the kind of cutting-edge venue that was Mandalay's specialty, my proposal had to be a no-brainer for the mayor. Or so I thought.

Mandalay Baseball at the time owned five professional minor-league franchises across the country, including Single-A, Double-A, and Triple-A teams, and our partners included basketball superstar Magic Johnson; Heisman Trophy-winner Archie Griffin; and Tom Hicks, owner of the Texas Rangers. There's nothing minor about the business of the minor leagues, which attract more than 40 million fans each year, and our profits validated that. We had an established track record of attracting public money, winning local support, and building top-of-the-line stadiums. Recently we'd acquired the Las Vegas Triple-A franchise of the legendary LA Dodgers. Now we wanted to elevate this franchise by moving its location from Cashman Field, the outdated university ballpark where it currently played, and building the twenty-first-century world-class stadium that Las Vegas's home team so richly deserved. As I arrived at the mayor's headquarters, I thought, OK, let's play ball!

Even though I was late, the mayor made me wait. Goodman was a shrewd wielder of power. The decor of his anteroom let you know you were dealing with somebody in show business—he showed you his business wherever you looked, from the replica of the iconic Las Vegas sign that read, WELCOME TO FABULOUS MAYOR GOODMAN'S OFFICE, to the glass display cases crammed with more awards and tchotchkes than I could count. There were photos of Goodman with everyone from President Bill Clinton to Michael Jackson and actors Tony Curtis and Steven Seagal. I even noticed a pair of Muhammad Ali's boxing gloves.

Every detail of that office screamed, Major League! If only I'd paid attention.

Finally the mayor was ready for me. But before I could get a word out, he peppered me with talk about the movies I'd produced, executive produced, or supervised, especially the two—Rain Man and Bugsy—that were made in Vegas. He asked if I had any plans to make another film in his fair city. Then he quoted the box office numbers that had lifted Batman into the stratosphere. I took all this foreplay as proof that Goodman was the perfect audience for my perfect pitch.

I told him I'd come to deliver box office success for Vegas—this time not through movies but through baseball. As proof, I reeled off the data that I was sure would mesmerize him: figures proving Mandalay kept design and construction costs down, quality up, and completion on schedule. Our most recent stadium, built for our Single-A Cincinnati Reds team in Dayton, Ohio, featured amenities such as upper-deck seating and luxury suites, making it unique among minor-league ballparks at the time.

I gestured toward the window view of cranes marching across the desert. "All those new hometown fans in Las Vegas deserve a legacy team and ballpark of their own."

The mayor considered this statement. Then he asked, "Can you deliver a major-league team here?"

Had someone dubbed the word "major" into his mouth? He'd stopped listening the instant I said "minor-league," but I was so caught up in my facts and figures that I thought he was just confused. "This is professional baseball, all major-league affiliates," I assured him. "You'll be able to ride on the back of the most storied team in pro history—the Los Angeles Dodgers."

He shook his head. "We're overdue for something really, really big."

"What I'm proposing is huge," I insisted. "In the years since our stadium opened in Dayton, we've sold out every single game. That's an unprecedented phenomenon. And we intend to surpass it here."

Goodman shot me a cold squint. "This ain't Dayton, kiddo."

Even though I met with the mayor several more times, bringing him to my home in Los Angeles and presenting him with several more decks of killer data, my efforts only proved that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. And I never even made it to first base with my "guaranteed" home run.

This failure haunted me. How had I managed so decisively to turn our winning odds to a loss in Vegas? The metrics certainly weren't to blame. Not long after striking out with Goodman, a car dealer out of Detroit named Derek Stevens attended a game at Cashman Field and was excited by exactly the same vision we'd had, that of building Las Vegas a professional ballpark. Good luck! We sold him our Las Vegas Triple-A franchise for a then record price, making a handsome profit for Mandalay. But my business goal had been to turn Vegas into the engine that would lift our company to the next level. The economic windfall was little consolation. I'd lost the game I came to play.

Failure, however, is an inevitable cul de sac on the road to success. As we began crafting a new strategy, one of my Mandalay colleagues remarked, "We'll have to change our story."

And that's when the lightbulb turned on: Ahha! You forgot to tell a story, stupid!

I'd thrown a powerful barrage of raw facts at Goodman—data, statistics, records, forecasts—but I didn't organize them in any way to engage his emotions. No wonder he hadn't swung at my offering!

"Stupid" was right. I'm in the entertainment business! If anybody should know the strategic difference between a data dump and a winning story, I should. I'd produced dozens of films and television programs. Before starting Mandalay, I'd been studio chief at Columbia Pictures, co-chairman of Casablanca Record and Filmworks, CEO of Polygram Pictures, and chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment. My core business was telling stories to move people! Furthermore, as a full professor in the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, I'd taught just about every possible aspect of this business to graduate students of film, business, and law, and the number one lesson was to distinguish a data dump from a well-told story. How many times had I pounded into them all the things that stories are not? Stories are not lists, decks, PowerPoints, flip charts, lectures, pleas, instructions, regulations, manifestos, calculations, lesson plans, threats, statistics, evidence, orders, or raw facts. While virtually every form of human communication can contain stories, most conversations and speeches are not, in and of themselves, stories.

What's the essential difference? Non-stories may provide information, but stories have a unique power to move people's hearts, minds, feet, and wallets in the story teller's intended direction. Come to think of it, if it hadn't been for the story I told to move my listeners in Dayton, I wouldn't even have had all those metrics to prove Mandalay's process to Goodman!

Initially, Dayton had seemed as much of a long shot as Vegas had seemed a sure bet. Ohio's media had suggested that the rundown city center was an irredeemable blight on the landscape and not worth a dime of investment. Few of Dayton's officials thought suburban fans would venture downtown after dark, and the urban dwellers supposedly couldn't afford the luxury of a ball game. Besides, the press insinuated, those two cultures would never mix. But we shaped the perfect story to turn those attitudes around.

We told them the core tale of Field of Dreams, in which Kevin Costner's character, Ray Kinsella, was perceived as out of his mind for building a ballpark in the middle of a cornfield. Instantly, I had their attention. Then I ignited their imagination by portraying our new stadium as the catalyst for a rebirth of the city's center. "If we build it," I told them, "they will come."

Our story had even the naysayers believing that our stadium really might bring commerce back into the downtown area. Together we really could create the kind of wholesome family entertainment experience that was Mandalay's specialty. And if we succeeded, this would give the city a unique new story and brand.

We told the same story—that we were building a real-life Field of Dreams—to persuade Magic Johnson and Archie Griffin to invest in the project. Then we kept telling the story together until Dayton's civic leaders sponsored a municipal bond just like the one I'd needed in Vegas.

It would have taken a totally different story, of course, to drive home our Vegas proposition to Oscar Goodman. Although I failed to realize it at the time, Vegas was beginning to shift its brand from a family-friendly city, for which family-friendly baseball was a perfect fit, to "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas." So even if I'd realized my story could be a game-changer, I'd have had to tell Goodman a tale that delivered the majors with an R rating! Sadly, I never told him any story, let alone the right one! Of all people, I should have known better, and yet I still defaulted to the standard operating procedure of American business, relying solely on talking points and financial models. The numbers were so good, how could Mayor Goodman fail to be wowed?

He didn't fail. I did—several times over. I failed to grasp my audience's interests. I failed to listen to my audience. And I failed to tell him a story. How could I have been so clueless?

I wondered . . . Could the reason be that I'd aimed for Goodman's head and wallet instead of his heart? In the movie business this would be strategic suicide. Miss the audience's heart as a filmmaker, and the only wallet that gets hit will be your own. That's because the heart is always the first target in story telling. But my Vegas strikeout suggested that this rule went beyond show business. What if reaching the audience's heart was critical to winning in every business?


In my life I've experienced tremendous success across diverse ventures and industries, but I've also had a boatload of professional tip-overs, economic mishaps, managerial disasters, and creative flops. I've backed products that left my bank account empty and my garage full of unsold inventory. I've started music companies that were off-tune and bought the Las Vegas Thunder, a pro hockey team that then went on to a five-year profit-losing streak with an audience that didn't give a puck. My movies weren't all boffo, either. Folks tried to walk out on The Bonfire of the Vanities even when it was shown on planes, and I certainly had my ups and downs at Sony. These losses were financially and emotionally painful—and often highly public. And my many successes only made the failures that much more confounding. For years I wondered, was I ruled by dumb luck? Or was there a game-changer that would enlarge my target, sharpen my trajectory, accelerate my momentum, and shorten the distance to my goal? Wouldn't it be terrific if this game-changer also increased the joy of the enterprise? If somebody invented a technology that accomplished all this, they'd make a fortune!

After my loss in Vegas, it occurred to me that everybody in business shares one universal problem: To succeed, you have to persuade others to support your vision, dream, or cause. Whether you want to motivate your executives, organize your shareholders, shape your media, engage your customers, win over investors, or land a job, you have to deliver a clarion call that will get your listeners' attention, emotionalize your goal as theirs, and move them to act in your favor. You have to reach their hearts as well as their minds—and this is just what story telling does!

What if purposeful story telling was the game-changer I'd been looking for all along?

I'd taught for more than thirty years that stories teach, model, unite, and motivate by transporting audiences emotionally. Many of my films, including Rain Man¸ Gorillas in the Mist, and Midnight Express, delivered purposeful calls to action that went far beyond entertainment. Because audience members were emotionally moved by each film's central message, they passed that message on to others by telling and retelling the story of their own experience of the film. And that word of mouth moved millions more as the story traveled orally around the globe. Each of these retellings extended the reach and impact of the original story, but each new teller also turned that story into something new and different by adding his or her own emotion to it—proof that you don't have to be a professional to tell a moving story. Anyone can do it, and everyone does do it!

I got more and more excited as I began to see telling to win as the secret sauce for success. You don't need a special degree to tell the story of your company, brand, or offering and make it a powerful call to action. You don't need money or privilege. This really is a vital skill that's freely available to anyone! Moreover, telling stories is a source of joy as well as success. It's like a guilty pleasure that's also lucrative. What could be better?

But if this was so, how could I possibly have failed to see the strategic importance of telling to win before in my career? Or had I? Was it possible I'd benefited from this art without even realizing it? Suddenly I felt as if lightning had struck.

IT WAS THE EARLY 1990s. I'd been named CEO of Sony's then-recent acquisition, Columbia Pictures Entertainment. This multibillion-dollar global media conglomerate was a later incarnation of Columbia Pictures, where I'd served as studio chief twenty years earlier, so at first this new job felt like a homecoming. But it wasn't long before I realized the company had lost its center.

For years before Sony came along, Columbia had been in the going-out-of-business business, with all divisions greased and oiled for sale to the highest bidder. Although the biggest revenue generator in the film industry at the time was video, Columbia and TriStar's video distribution had been sold to RCA, which was then acquired by General Electric before my arrival. The loss of that asset was a drag on company morale and productivity. And there was no unified direction or vision connecting the various surviving divisions. The assets of Sony's acquisition included two film studios (TriStar and Columbia Pictures), global television operations, and the Loews theater circuit. Its executives were spread among rental facilities from coast to coast, with the studio's production and management teams occupying the once-great but now dilapidated MGM lot. The lion on the sign at an adjacent building MGM still owned seemed to be pondering our future.

Table of Contents

The End vii

Voices ix

Part 1 There's No Business without Story Business

Chapter 1 It's the Story, Stupid 3

Chapter 2 Got Story? 17

Chapter 3 You've Got It! 39

Chapter 4 The Story That Runs Your Story 59

Part 2 The Art of the Tell

Chapter 5 Ready… 83

Chapter 6 Set… 119

Chapter 7 Tell! 169

Chapter 8 The Never-Ending Story 217

Chapter 9 The Beginning… 239

Acknowledgments 247

Index 249

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Tell to Win 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 37 reviews.
T_Alam More than 1 year ago
Peter Guber's career encompasses a wide wide variety of experiences in the entertainment industry. Using those experiences and personal ones as well, he brings a great deal of insight on what made him successful but also outlines the techniques he learned and used to get him where he is now. In particular, his use of storytelling to deliver his message and elicit his a call to action for his audience is Tell to Win's focal point. Peter Guber brings his knowledge about storytelling and its real life applications to succeed at your own goals. Peter goes over the fundamental ideas present behind storytelling and shows that it's something achievable for everyone. He does this by sharing a lot of great personal stories featuring well known names such as Frank Sinatra, Will Wright, Bill Clinton, The Dalai Lama and others. All of his stories tie into the basic principles behind storytelling that he feels are essential in order to be successful in your career and life. Again, these top-level ideas for readers to implement in their daily lives as they try to achieve something. Don't go into the book expecting a detailed step-by-step plan. Overall, the book is a fun read that combines a wealth of Peter Guber's personal experiences with people you probably admire and more than enough lessons to learn regardless of background.
Knightoftheword More than 1 year ago
In Tell to Win, Peter Guber demonstrates that telling purposeful stories is the best way to persuade, motivate and convince who you want to do what you need" - President Bill Clinton Exactly! Peter Guber sites an number of sources from Chad Hurley, Larry King, and Steven Spielberg and uses these illustrious sources as a means to explain to the reader the power of narrative as a means of self empowerment. Great book with a great lesson!!!
melissapoppress More than 1 year ago
Peter Guber's "Tell To Win" is an amazing book! Filled with stories from well know experts in all fields from Sports to Social Media and Politics. It's a quick and inspiring read and will have you re-thinking your next cocktail party conversation for sure!
tek860 More than 1 year ago
Once you start reading you wont stop. As an MBA student, I bought and read it looking for tips and first hand accounts on success. What I got was so much more than that. Great book, great read, great buy!
sarahwNY More than 1 year ago
Over 10,000 business books are written each year, and the message of many could be summed up in an essay. "Tell to Win" is not that book. It provides an amazing overview into the success of Hollywood executive Peter Guber's varied and highly successful business life - as well as an overview into the success of dozens of other highly successful people - who all cite their ability to use narrative as a cornerstone in their success. The book's premise is that we are all hard-wired for "state of the heart" technology through the millenia of evolution - that we all tell stories, and that we all learn, communicate, persuade and live via this approach. However, it's when we tell a purposeful story - that we are motivated to tell, that connects with our audience in an authentic way, that resonates emotionally so our audience can pay it forward and has a strong call to action - that's when we succeed. Great book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Peter Guber, has shared a series of life stories which are funny, poignant and powerful to get us to try to understand the importance of emotionally connecting to your audience. The book intertwines famous and not so famous people and their stories in a "how to" tell stories that transport and motivate others. It is an easy read and has a purpose.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really think the range of uses is vast, in terms of being able to artfully tell a story and achieve success at the goal in hand Peter has done just that. Some of the stories Peter tells about his personal experiences which include encounters with politicians, major entertainers, and business moguls are very inspiring and really uncover the power of storytelling. Definitely take the time to read Tell to Win if you are looking to grasp people's attention while telling your stories, and make sure you take notes :)
MA_DR More than 1 year ago
"Tell to Win" is not your typical self-help manual. It doesn't bore you with details on how to change your life for the better. Peter Guber simply draws from his life experience, for being successful in every aspect of his life. He inspires you to do exactly the same using one powerful tool that helped him along the way to achieve his life's goals, telling a story and believe in it. Granted the book can overwhelm considering not all of us have met, nor even came close to meeting countless celebrities, politicians, and public figures. However, this is the aspect of "Tell to Win" that gives it overwhelming credibility. It works! This is the kind of book you pick up if you need motivation to reach for the unreachable.
BigBoyJack More than 1 year ago
This week I found a book that has really resonated. i have only read a couple of chapters, but it really has me thinking -- deceptively simple, it's a list of interesting stories by a guy who I had never heard of. A behind the scenes person that is so fun to discover sometimes - - wow, he did that? and that? For decades Peter Guber it appears has been producing iconic movies that were integral parts of our culture. A real Hollywood player that most of us never new about. And that whole time he's been teaching as a professor at UCLA. And he has a TV show. And he guests on various tv and radio shows. And the people he's been hanging with range from Bill Clinton to Deepak Chopra. The whole message here is that it is the story and the telling of it that matters. This book is teaching by example - i was glad it did not bore me with data or pontificating. All of us can look at our daily needs, wants, activities and struggles and try to remember to apply a little of this. I may never find myself in front of people that are this famous - but the inspiration is what has stayed with me. I am looking forward to trying an approach inspired by Tell to Win on my wife soon!
Grady1GH More than 1 year ago
Peter Guber is well known in the entertainment industry and that background serves him well in this immensely entertaining and clever book TELL TO WIN: CONNECT, PERSUADE, AND TRIUMPH WITH THE HIDDEN POWER OF STORY. His premise is simple and should be obvious to us all - but it is not! It is refreshing to read a book about how to succeed in life, whether business or interpersonal relationships, by connecting with our 'audience' not with a list of cold facts, figures, and predictions, but instead to gain the attention and thus caring of the audience by bringing them into the realm of identifying with a story that has permutations guaranteed to address their personal interests. In Huber's introduction he states 'For too long the business world has been ignored or belittled the power of oral narrative, preferring soulless PowerPoint slides, facts, figures, and data. But as the noise level of modern life has become a cacophony, the ability to tell a purposeful story can truly be heard is increasingly in demand.' 'The heart is always the firs target of story telling.' Guber then proceeds to explain the techniques of story telling - finding the right kind of topic to entice the listener, making the story's purpose one of encouragement to the idea of buying in to the business at hand. Each informative chapter is followed by a seperate 'aHHa' page summarizing the techniques Huber has demonstrated. The author has a smart, warm delivery and presents his thesis so well that it is difficult to think his technique would not work. And in the end it is such a pleasure to read a business help book that returns to the human side of personal interaction. Grady Harp
Dr-Mark More than 1 year ago
I'm going to compel you to buy Peter Guber's book by a story from it that caused me to take action in better dealing with people in my life who overwhelm me with their problems and one that has enabled me to do it with a smile. Guber was working at Columbia Pictures early in his career and he was being inundated with people coming into his office with every conceivable problem and like you it was driving him crazy. At that time he had the chance to meet with Jack Warner, another Hollywood icon and one of the original Warner Brothers. Warner told Guber, "You're the zookeeper." Guber didn't understand. Warner went on to explain, "As a boss, everyday all sorts of people will come into your office and they are bringing a monkey with them. Sometimes you can see it and sometimes it's hidden, but it's always there. And when they come in, they're trying to leave you with their monkey. If you let them do that, pretty soon your office will be filled with monkey crap. What you need to do instead is make sure that whenever someone comes into your office, that at the end of meeting with them, that you take their hand and the monkey's hand, put their hands together and send them on their way." Why did Guber's story cause me to take action whereas I wouldn't have if someone advised me to "set priorities, boundaries, yadda, yadda, yadda?" I realized that a story has power that logic, reason and data lack. So, "you're" the book buyer. Buy Guber's book and you can become the great storyteller that will enable you increase your impact at work, at home and in your life.
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