Happy Birthday Pope Francis, Master of Metaphor


In The Storyteller’s Secret I devote an entire chapter to one of the great spiritual leaders of the world, Pope Francis, who turns 80 today. Francis learned his communication skills as a Jesuit seminarian and continues to deliver speeches that rely on the building blocks of narrative to capture attention: metaphor.

Whether he’s comparing greed to “the dung of the devil” or the church as a “field hospital” that must go into the streets to find the spiritually “wounded,” Francis’ speeches are loaded with vivid imagery to make the abstract tangible.

In some speeches Francis will use more than one metaphor in the same sentence:

“For Mother Teresa, mercy was the salt which gave flavor to her work, it was the light which shone in the darkness of the many who no longer had tears to shed for their poverty and suffering.” People who have done evil and know it, live “with a constant itch, with hives that don’t leave them in peace,” he once said. Vanity is “like an osteoporosis of the soul: the bones seem good from the outside, but on the inside they are all ruined.” Some people, argue Francis, are afflicted with “Spiritual Alzheimer’s.”

In April, 2016, Francis released his first major paper on marriage and the family. “Amoris Laetitia” is beautifully written.  Once again, Francis relies on metaphor to communicate the topic. Quoting the psalms, children are “like olive shoots,” full of energy and vitality. Letting them go is like “flying a kite.” When the kite begins to waver, you don’t pull the strings tighter. Instead you give it some slack.

An increasing body of evidence is emerging in the neuroscience literature to support the power of storytelling; specifically, the effectiveness of using analogies to bring abstract concepts to life. Stories work because they activate many parts of our brain. Metaphor and analogies are critical devices to make it happen. Pope Francis is a master of the technique and his speeches are well worth studying.

Carmine Gallo is a popular keynote speaker, best-selling author, and communication advisor for the world’s most admired brands

Passion is Everything: My Interview with Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz


“Take your presentations to the next level with Carmine as your coach.” – Howard Schultz, CEO Starbucks

I was grateful to receive that endorsement from Howard Schultz for one of my books on leadership and communication. Schultz recently announced that he would step down as CEO of Starbucks. Needless to say, Schultz has reinvented the coffee culture in America by introducing Italian-style cappuccinos and lattes to the U.S market.

When I interviewed Schultz I learned a valuable lesson about inspiration and leadership, a lesson that has had a profound influence on my career, writing and speaking. And that lesson is this:

“When you’re surrounded by people who share a common purpose around a collective passion, anything is possible.”

In my first conversation with Schultz I was astonished that he rarely mentioned the word coffee. I was the first to bring it up.

“We’re not in the coffee business. It is what we sell as a product, but it’s not what we stand for,” he explained.

Starbucks is NOT in the coffee business, which is why it’s successful. You see, Schultz loves coffee, but he’s passionate about the people, the baristas who make the Starbucks experience what it is. Schultz’s vision was much bigger than to make a better cup of coffee. His moonshot was to create an experience; a third place between work and home. He wanted to build a company that treats people with dignity and respect. Those happy employees would, in turn, provide a level of customer service that would be seen as a gold standard in the industry.

Inspiring leaders like Howard Schultz are not afraid to share their passion. Passion is everything. A leader, manager or entrepreneur cannot inspire without it. Dig deep to identify your core value, the area where you want to make a ‘dent in the universe,’ as Steve Jobs once said. And ask yourself a question that Howard Schultz says is the key to success: What business am I really in? 

Carmine Gallo is a popular keynote speaker and communication advisor. Howard Schultz is one of more than 35 business leaders featured in Carmine’s bestselling new book, The Storyteller’s Secret: Why Some Ideas Catch On And Others Don’t.