Dream Bigger With the New Book Bill Gates Calls His ‘Favorite of All Time’


After reading Steven Pinker’s new book, Enlightenment Now, you might never complain again about a delayed flight or a long line at Costco. And if you do, you’ll feel bad about it.

Pinker, a Harvard psychologist and Pulitzer-prize winning finalist, has written a book that Bill Gates calls his “favorite book of all time.” In the 500-page book, Pinker tells “the greatest story seldom told.”  What is the story? In a sentence,


The world has made spectacular progress in every single measure of human well-being and almost no  one knows about it.

Pinker reminds us of the daily gifts we take for granted. For example:

“Newborns who will live more than eight decades, markets overflowing with food, clean water that appears with a flick of a finger, and waste that disappears with another, pills that erase a painful infection… critics of the powerful who are not jailed or shot, the world’s knowledge and culture available in a shirt pocket.”

The graph below shows the stunning progress that America and the developed world has made since the recorded calendar began in the first century. As Pinker notes, the history of civilization has been marked by extreme poverty among everyone except a few nobles. Massive wars that collectively killed millions were common, as was famine, starvation, and early deaths (most children never made it past their 5th birthday), and no access to the life-saving medicines, vaccines, and procedures that have only arrived in the last half century.  Around 1820, something changed. The ideals of the enlightenment—freedom of ideas—began to flourish. And then suddenly—BOOM—the world made “spectacular progress in every single measure of human well-being.”

Pinker_Graph (1)

The Mental Bias That Will Hold You Back
So why don’t people know this story? Blame a mental bug we’re all born with—the availability bias. In 1971, Nobel prize-winning economist Daniel Kahneman and his academic partner Amos Lewis Tversky discovered the bias. They defined it like this.

People estimate the probability of an event or the frequency of a kind of thing by the ease with which instances come to mind.

In other words, if you’re glued to the news and you stick to the echo-chamber on Facebook or among your friends and peers, your view of the world will be distorted by the problems and bad news you’ll hear over and over.  Our brains are wired in such a way that we look at the available information and extrapolate the future based on what we see today.

According to Pinker, “Every day the news is filled with stories about war, terrorism, crime, pollution, inequality, drug abuse, and oppression…news is about things that happen, not things that don’t happen. We never see a journalist saying, ‘I’m reporting live from a country where a war has not broken out.’”

What does all this have to do with leadership? Bill Gates says you cannot move the world forward if you’re not motivated by the progress that is happening every day. It’s only by learning about what works that we can spread the progress. If you consume negative news, studies show you’ll become more glum, have a higher and distorted picture of risk, higher anxiety, lower mood levels, more hostility, and—very dangerous—fall into learned helplessness, which means you give up on bettering yourself. And remember, A great leader sees around the corner. You’ll be more successful if you recognize and manage the bias.

Great Leaders Have Perspective

Pinker advised us to maintain perspective. “Not every problem is a Crisis, Plague, Epidemic, or Existential Threat, and not every change is The of This, the Death of That, or the Dawn of a Post-Something Era…problems are inevitable; but problems are solvable,” Pinker writes.

The story of progress is truly “heroic, glorious, and uplifting.” If you need a lift, pick up Pinker’s book. It might change your life–it did for me and Bill Gates.

Carmine Gallo is a popular keynote speaker and bestselling author. Carmine’s new book, Five Stars: The Communication Secrets to Get from Good to Great, is available for pre-order (June, 2018 St. Martin’s Press)

3 Communication Tips From This Summer’s Nonfiction Bestsellers

On any given week I read about 40% of the nonfiction books that make up the top 10 of the New York Times or Wall Street Journal bestseller lists. From time to time, I like to share some of the insights that relate directly to your success in communication. Here are some tips from recent bestsellers:
Captivate: The Science of Succeeding With People
by Vanessa Van Edwards
“Whether we like to admit it or not, we decide if we like someone, if we trust someone, and if we want a relationship with someone within the first few seconds of meeting them.” Van Edwards recommends the following skills to improve the way you come across and to make a more favorable impression: 1). Use your hands when you talk, 2)Stand like a winner (Take up physical space on stage and 3). Engage with eye contact.
If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look On My Face? My Adventures in the Art and Science of Relating and Communicating
By Alan Alda
“Not being truly engaged with the people we’re trying to communicate with is the grit in the gears of daily life. It jams our relationships with others when people don’t ‘get it.’”
The actor Alan Alda is a student of communication. He helped to establish the Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University in New York. Among the key takeaways—the power of story. “Storytelling is amazing; it has the power to make people really aligned.” Alda interviewed some of the same researchers that I talked to for The Storyteller’s Secrets. Both books will help you understand and implement storytelling in your business.
The Fuzzy and the Techie: Why Liberal Arts Will Rule the Digital World
By Scott Hartley
“Finding solutions to our greatest problems requires an understanding of human context as well as code; it requires both ethics and data, both deep thinking people and Deep Learning AI, both human and machine,” writes venture capitalist Scott Hartley. His book is a good reminder of what Steve Jobs taught us — the best products, solutions and communicators combine technology with liberal arts.
If you have any books that I should read and share with my readers, send us your thoughts. We love to hear from you!
Carmine Gallo is a popular keynote speaker and author of the international bestseller, The Storyteller’s Secret

A Rare Example of Too Much Data (That Works)

Screen Shot 2017-06-06 at 4.54.40 PM

June 6, 1944… D-Day. How big was the invasion? This graphic, courtesy of the BBC, shows the sheer magnitude of the allied forces that stormed the beaches of Normandy that day.

Normally, in presentations and graphic design, less is more. I prefer one statistic on a slide or one story. This is a rare example, however, of a slide where more is better.

An impressive slide that serves its purpose.


The Seed Investors Behind Airbnb Say Passion Means Everything


Without passion, emotion and an unwavering belief in their ideas, the Airbnb founders would never have pioneered the sharing economy.

Recently, I had a wide-ranging conversation with Yahoo Mail creator and Y Combinator partner, Geoff Ralston.  The prestigious Silicon Valley startup accelerator has provided seed funding and training for over 1,460 startups including Airbnb, Dropbox, Reddit, and Stripe.

In this video you’ll learn why Ralston says passion plays a major role in their investment decisions.

According to Ralston:
“The reason I talk about emotion, passion, and obsessions, the reason it matters in the startup world, is simple. Startups are really hard. You will get punched in the nose. You will have investors say no or tell you that your idea is bad. You will have key employees walk away. You will fail to get a deal. You will make mistakes. You will make the wrong product or feature. To sustain and continue through the inevitable roller-coaster that is the startup adventure, you need emotion and passion. It is a pre-requisite that you care enough to get back up, dust yourself off, and keep on going.”
Carmine Gallo is a keynote speaker and bestselling author of eight books including The Storyteller’s Secret: From TED Speakers To Business Legends, Why Some Ideas Catch On And Others Don’t. 

Under Armour CEO Tells Powerful Personal Stories To Rock Presentations


“Every great brand is like a great story. Every great story is made up of chapters in a book,” Kevin Plank told an audience in Las Vegas recently. The billionaire chairman and CEO of sports retailer, Under Armour, knows the storyteller’s secret, and he uses the power of story to wow his audiences.

Beginning at the 4-minute mark in Plank’s CES presentation, he shared the story of how Under Armour came to be and how his personal story reflects the brands’ promise today.

Here are 3 specific tips you can (and should) adopt from Kevin Plank’s presentation style.

Use specific, vivid details to transport your audience

“All companies begin as an idea. My idea was simple. I was an athlete. I was a college football player. I wasn’t the biggest and I wasn’t the fastest, but I had a huge passion; a passion to be on that team. I wanted to run out of that tunnel. I wanted to be a part of it, a part of something bigger,” Plank began. That passion put him on the field the University of Maryland. He vividely remembers practicing in the summer of 1995.

“It was hot on the east coast. You know what that humidity feels like. That heavy, heavy deep heat. That year, nine of my teammates had been treated for dehydration. Wearing heavy, sweat-soaked, drenched, cotton T-shirts. Why hasn’t anyone made a better alternative to that wet, cotton T-shirt? I thought.”

“That original insight was simple and pure,” Plank continued. “That’s where my passion met with my curiosity and the entrepreneurial spirit took over: to build something bigger, a better T-shirt. One that would keep athletes dry and light.” Plank didn’t know anything about apparel, so he hopped in his 1992 Ford Explorer and drove north to New York City’s garment district to learn more. The company, he said, was started “brick by brick,” literally. “It began on a dining room table in the basement of a brick rowhouse owned by grandmother in Georgetown, Washington, D.C.”

 I don’t know what it’s like to play football for a Division I college, but I know what the east coast heat feels like in summer, I can picture a young man with a dream driving north in his 1995 Ford Explorer, or working at the dining room table in his grandmother’s brick rowhouse.

Small details add authenticity to personal stories, transporting the audience to another place and time.

Favor pictures over words

While Plank delivers the personal story behind the founding of Under Armour, every slide is a photo. There are no words, text or bullet points. The slides show Plank playing football at several stages in his life. They show his grandmother’s brick rowhouse. They show photos of sweat-drenched players on the field during his playing days at Maryland.

Text gets in the way of a personal story unless, of course, the text is key component of the story. Otherwise, favor pictures over words.

Under Armour’s CEO uses photos to transport his audience. You should do the same. The more personal the photos, the better.

Connect the struggle with the brand’s values

Plank doesn’t end the story by simply concluded that he developed a better way for athletes to stay dry. He infuses the brand narrative with purpose and meaning. “We don’t just make products, we solve problems,” Plank says. “Our mission is to make all athletes better, through passion, design, and the relentless pursuit of innovation…“We’re not just a logo slapped on a shirt or a shoe. Brand is a culture and that culture has the power to make you feel invincible.”

Wow. Who doesn’t want to feel invincible?

In seven minutes Plank brought us on a journey, from sweat-drenched playing fields to the dining room table in the basement of a brick rowhouse, and from $17,000 in revenue in his first year to a nearly $5 billion company today. Kevin Plank makes you feel unstoppable.

A great presentation has the ability to make people feel differently about you and your brand. And no technique makes someone feel as deeply as a strong personal story.

Carmine Gallo is a keynote speaker , communication advisor and bestselling author of “Talk Like TED” and The Storyteller’s Secret