Joseph J. Romm, the legendary MIT graduate and physicist who was brought on as a strategic consultant to work with James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger on the creation of the SHOWTIME documentary called “YEARS OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY” starring Matt Damon, Jessica Alba, Don Cheadle, America Ferrera, Jack Black, Sigourney Weaver, Thomas Friedman, Olivia Munn, David Letterman, Gisele Bündchen, Joshua Jackson, and Harrison Ford stops by to share how to break out of the clutter of commerce and how to go viral and reach millions. Joseph breaks down his newest book, How to Go Viral and Reach Millions: Top Persuasion Secrets from Social Media Superstars, Jesus, Shakespeare, Oprah, and Even Donald Trump.
Get the BOOK – How To Go Viral and Reach Millions: Top Persuasion Secrets from Social Media Superstars, Jesus, Shakespeare, Oprah, and Even Donald Trump
12 Years of Blogging About Climate Change
Biography – Joseph Romm attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in 1982 and a Ph.D. in 1987, both in physics. He pursued part of his graduate work at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. In 1987, Romm was awarded an American Physical Society Congressional Science Fellowship for the U.S. House of Representatives, where he provided science and security policy advice on the staff of Representative Charles E. Bennett.
From 1988 to 1990, Romm worked as Special Assistant for International Security at the Rockefeller Foundation.
A former official at the Department of Energy. An American author, blogger, physicist and climate expert who advocates reducing greenhouse gas emissions and global warming and increasing energy security through energy efficiency, green energy technologies and green transportation technologies. Romm is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In 2009, Rolling Stone magazine named Romm to its list of “100 People Who Are Changing America,” and Time magazine named him one of its “Heroes of the Environment (2009)”, calling him “The Web’s most influential climate-change blogger.”
Romm is an MIT-trained physicist and author of 10 books. His latest, “How to Go Viral and Reach Millions,” is “an indispensable book for everyone who tweets, who posts online or who loves language,” NY Times columnist Tom Friedman tweeted in June.
Romm is also Chief Science Advisor for “Years of Living Dangerously,” which won the 2014 Emmy Award for Outstanding Nonfiction Series and now generates viral videos online seen by tens of millions a month. He is a senior advisor for New Frontier Data, the leading “big data” firm in cannabis, whose content reaches hundreds of millions of people.
Welcome back to the conversation and and Dr Dr. Zoellner today, I am very excited about our guest because we have a guy on the show. Typically every guest we have is significantly smarter than I am, but this guy is a legendary mit graduate who really knows what he’s talking about. A Joe, welcome onto the show. How are you sir?f
I am really excited to be here. Thank you so much for having me.
Well, we’re going to try to keep today show fair and balanced and we’ll kind of keep it politically right in the middle here. Although if people google your name, they’re going to find that you are involved in quite a bit of topical topics. And uh, we’re here to have you on the show today to talk about how to go viral and how to reach millions. Your new book, um, my friend you, you’ve been blogging for 12 years. There’s a lot of people out there have been blogging for 12 years or two years, or one year. How do you go about if somebody, if somebody’s out there listening, there are a business owner, how do they go about making their blog or their content stand out in such a cluttered, as you put it, a Niagara Falls of noise coming from social media? How do our listeners go about making their social media posts stand out? Well,
I think the main, my main point is that there are a series of strategies that do work to make your content much more likely to go viral. And I talk about the, you know, the bottom line goal is, look, I think anybody can see, uh, that there is a Niagara Falls of noise. There’s just a constant volume of content free content that everyone has been bombarded with, whether it’s business or politics or, or the Kardashians. Um, you know, it’s, it’s nonstop. And so it has gotten considerably harder to break through. And that’s why, uh, you know, and I’ve been fortunate after 12 years, you know, a blogging, you really get to learn. You get a lot of feedback on what works and what doesn’t work. You know, I see a, which headlines work, which gets most facebook likes, which gets page views, which gets how much time on the page, you know, I have a lot of data at my fingertips now given the state of the art in, in, you know, apps and software packages.
So, um, you know, as someone with training but who’s also a writer, I have tried to merge the two together and that’s sort of what I talk about in how to go viral and reach millions and you know, the central thing we’re trying to do to break through is, is to be cliquey and sticky. To use the modern part, clicky meaning I need to grab your attention, your attention. You have a million things that could potentially distract you. So I have to grab it. But then it’s not enough just for me to grab your attention. I have to hold onto it and be memorable. So, uh, I want to get you to click on my post or click on my facebook page or, or, or if it’s a email, uh, you know, I want you to open the email, click open the email, and then I want you to stick around, stick around long enough to read the content and, and ideally at the very least, remember it, if I’m trying to sell something, I’d obviously love you to buy it, but oftentimes I’m just trying to brand or get a, a message out. But the goal is how do I be a, grab your attention, how do I keep your attention? And there is now a lot of data and a lot of social science and marketing science on what works
best. Now, what I would like to do is I’d like to have a very linear, a dialogue with you and you feel free to make it non linear because you’re the mit graduate and you’re in charge here. I’m just going to go kind of step by step. And Chuck, I love the strategy. I’m a very, you know this, I’m very systems based. I love strategic step by step. So we’re going to go into email subject lines. Okay. Um, when you write an email subject line, so many peoples, the, I’m sure you’ve had this, someone sends you a, a wall of text in a subject line that is not interesting. So Joe, if you were trying to get the attention of somebody, if our listeners are trying to get the attention of somebody in an email, I’d like to tap into your wisdom about how to write a headline in the email subject line that’s going to be cliquey and sticky. How do we do it?
Absolutely. No, that is absolutely the central thing. And, and, and by the way is true. If you’re doing a facebook post, that first line, a tweet, the first few words, I’m a blog post again, the first line or you know, a regular print ad or any other kind of that. And you know, there’s in the book I have a whole chapter on headlines and, and I quote David Ogilvy, you know some. Yeah, the Advertising Guru Guy Advertising Google. Some people come, the the father of advertising he wrote, and this is back in 1963 on the average, five times as many people read the headline as the body copy and a change of headline can make a difference of 10 to one in sales. Um, right. So yes, the headline you should. And, and by that I’m saying you should be spending a lot more time writing your headline or the subject line of the, the chances and, and you know, from your own how much email you get, right? And how much do you delete instantly?
It’s certainly instantly.
So, uh, you know, the, the open rate on an email might be one percent, two percent. You know, if people are really good at it, three or four percent. Now if it’s your friend, you know, it’s, it’s a higher probability, but we’re talking about emails that are either trying to get you business or maybe you’re sending a cold email to a prospect. So you have to grab their attention. And, and so you have to first of all, be very clear and blunt right up front, you know, you don’t have time to mess around. I can just tell you from my experience, I get to see in real time because we actually test our headlines, um, uh, that it, the first few words make a big deal difference the way you should approach this all writing, everything you’re doing online, but even public speaking is I have to get someone interested in, in the first few words, and then I have to keep them interested in the next few words and next and next, and next. Now, if I want to draw them in, right? I want to give them the impression that I’ve got something of value to say to them, uh, and that it’s going to be interesting. That’s the other thing that, that I’m a person who can deliver on the headline because we all have the bad experience of clicking on a link thinking we’re going to get something interesting. And then it turns out that was all hype. It’s just click bait. It’s garbage.
Oh, I hate that. Hey Joe, this is Dr Z d preferred Joe or Joseph or Joe is great. Joe Is Great. Okay, good. Um, when you give us some examples because we love the examples. I mean, you know, in theory say, hey, you gotta you gotta write something that really grabs them. I mean, that’s cool, but give me like one that you, you test it in real time when you saw that really grabbed and given me some, uh, one or two success stories of, of a headline that you wrote or you helped one teacher. We know your are filled with these things. Give us, give us a little something.
Here’s, here’s an idea that I would, I often give people, if I’m writing you to remind you about a lunch, don’t just reply to whatever the was original hello memo. You know, put a, you know, lunch tomorrow at, at 1230 because they may only look. I mean, let’s assume that the only piece of. So one lesson to be learned is there’s a very good chance. The only thing they’re going to see is the email a headline. Okay? So if you’re trying to communicate a piece of information, let’s use that piece of information. If it’s someone you know moderately well and maybe you know someone you’re trying to do a sale too, or you’re sending them an email reminder, don’t bury the lead that, that’s, you know, the first, what is the single most important thing that you are trying to communicate? Um, so you know, my father was a newspaper editor for 30 years, so I sort of heard over and over again, don’t bury the lead, don’t bury the single most important thing, thinking you have to build up to it because nobody’s reading that long anymore.
Good work to do. I’m going to do this and, and, and Joe, I’m going to, I’m going to kind of put my foot into the water of politics, not a, not a political show. And then you can just kind of slap me because you are the mit graduate. So here we go. You are a guy who is schooled in fit. You’re, you’re, you’re a physicist, you’re an author by training. Yeah. You’re a blogger and there are a lot of physicists, authors, and bloggers out there. Frankly, there’s a lot. The difference between you and them is that you were named by rolling stone in 2009 as one of the hundred people who are changing America now, whether I agree with you about politics or not or our listeners do. The point is people know your name and they know what you’re working on. You’ve been able to draw attention to some of the things that you’re working on. Specifically have a new project or not new, but it’s new earn that’s 2014, so last four or five years years of living dangerously, which is a feature, I believe you can see it on showtime if I’m correct, a showtime. It was originally showtime now
National Geographic and and facebook, which is we really transitioned to focusing on online a viral video.
I like Don cheadle and I like Harrison Ford, so I watched the whole thing on showtime and then digging, digging in on facebook. You can get on Youtube, you can get it on showtime. You said National Geographic, so I guess the non political thing is you are an expert of climate change, but there’s a lot of guys at local coffee shops who think they’re an expert on climate change, so you’ve been able to stand out as a result of being able to write, being able to write good headlines, but then you back it with research. So let’s get into this. This headline thing. If you’re going to write a headline for your blog, how has that maybe different from writing a headline of an email or a subject of an email? You know the subject is the headline of the email. When you read a headline of a blog, how have you been able to. How’s it different from the subject of an email and then talk to me about the importance of backing what you’re saying with research because once someone does get to the body of it, it can’t just be hot. Right? Well look, I, I, I think
all of them the same. In other words, if it’s important, I’m going to spend a lot of time on the headline and to flesh out a little what I’m saying. You know, I’m trying to, uh, stimulate an emotion because that’s what makes things. That’s one of the things that make things go viral, right? We’re not, we’re not, uh, W, w we are creatures who like, uh, stories and we like stories that, that have compelling characters that, that stir and ocean fundamentally that were, those were the first things that went viral. Those were the great stories, the epic poems by the Bards Iliad, the Odyssey, the stories in the Bible. These are stories about the that we come to care about a and emotionally connect with. And, and ultimately the goal. Uh, so in the headline, if I’m really trying to write a good headline, I want to promise the reader something that, that is going to be emotionally compelling to them and suggesting to them that when they’re gonna, what they’re gonna read is an interesting story, not just filled with numbers and facts.
And you’re hearing this from, you know, from a, from a guy with a phd in physics, but it has taken me 10 years to unlearn what I learned and, and, and I try to make this point wherever I go, I mean, and it’s one of the reasons I’m able to understand it because I had to physically you this, the higher educational system in this country does not teach people how to communicate effectively. It is. They are teaching based on this model that people are persuaded by facts and numbers and charts and powerpoints with bullets. And that’s not true. People have always been persuaded and connected to stories and emotions and the, the, the memorable compelling phrases that make up stories which are called the figures of speech, things like irony and, and hyperbole and metaphor as well as repetition and rhyme and ponds.
So, as an example, as an example, I’m going to tee this up real quick. Yeah. You, um, and I see I’m going to give, I’m going to give Mr Joe here, the floor and I’d like to get a good dialogue going here between you and jokes. This is good because Dr Zellner is an optometrist. There are so many optometrists that will run ads talking about. Do you want your cornea to be healthier? Do you want your. No. Talk about feel good. What’s the cornea, the pupil? Do you want your pupils to be? Do you want to help your end people’s. I don’t know what that means. And then Dr Z says at Dr Robert Zoellner and associates, he’s the leading optometrists in Oklahoma. Uh, we’re going to see you do an exam and your first pair of glasses for $99. That’s, that’s the headline. But yet when you get into your optometry clinic, see there’s a lot more to it.
There’s a lot more value they offer. There’s a lot more, obviously prescriptions, there’s tests. It’s, it’s more specific than that, but what gets them in as the headline? So for you, Joe, as a climate change expert, give us the headline. If you had to say in like two sentences or less, what’s the headline on your worldview about climate change? I want to, I want to get your headline. You had to break out of the clutter and you go, hey, hey, hey, everybody out there listening. What is your headline or your thesis or what, what are you trying to tell them? Tell the world and is it, is you know, what, what’s, what’s your headline?
Um, the headline is climate change is real. It’s happening now, uh, it’s caused by us, but it’s a solvable problem if we act quickly. Otherwise, the kinds of store superstorm super droughts, the hurricane and heartbeat while you’re down in, in, in, in your neck of the woods, you know, the, the, the kind of, uh, of, of deluge once in 10,000 year deluge that, that, that were just remembering the one year anniversary of hitting Houston, hurricane harvey. These things are becoming more and more common.
But what I went and I, I went and I watched your film, years of living dangerously that you advised on the Emmy Award winning film there that featured Don cheadle, Harrison Ford. James Cameron was involved. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The film wasn’t just you standing in front of a whiteboard spitting off
facts, right? No, not at all. I’m not, I’m not. I’m, I’m, I, I don’t think I make an appearance at all. I, I was the science advisor and my job was to help make sure they keep the facts.
So why does this work? Why doesn’t that work? Why can’t you just sit there in front of a screen and spit off facts even though you know that you have done the research behind your facts and whether some of our listeners are, I agree with you or not, you’ve done the research, but why can’t you just hop in front of a blackboard and just bring it? Why do you have to bring on some celebrities and bring on some emotion? Why do you have to do that?
Well, there’s no short and so let me give you the medium answer to that. Fundamentally, our brain is the most energy consuming, but you know a part of our body, it’s like a 25 percent of our metabolism and in we, we developed over thousands and tens of thousands of years. All these shortcuts, so we don’t have to spend a lot of time thinking in, in, in situations like if your, if you and your tribe are out there in the jungle, uh, and, and you’re kind of, you’ve got separated from them and all of a sudden you hear some strange noises and everyone in the tribe is running the opposite direction, right? So what do you do? Do you stop and analyze the facts? Can I figure out if that noise is getting louder or not? Is it a dangerous animal or not? Or do I just do what everyone else is doing that.
So the, the main shortcuts to people are using to figure out if they believe you or not is, are you in my tribe? Are you want to meet one of us? And number two, do your emotions match your words truthfully. And, and that was the great insight really, that the, um, that the Greeks had when they, when they codafide rhetoric. Um, and uh, and so it turns out that if you can do those two things, you will be persuasive. You will make a sale. That’s why they say to salesman, the first thing you have to do is sell yourself. If you can convince the customer you are trustworthy and on their side, then they’re going to listen to you, but that’s the first thing. If I just throw a bunch of numbers at you, you know I quote in the book, Dan Cameraman who won the Nobel prize for helping create behavioral economics.
It’s the first psychologist ever to do it. He basically told the economic community, hey, people don’t act rationally, and he wrote the book thinking fast and slow and he just talks about, you know, in some situations you have the time to do a lot of deliberate thinking. But most of us have this thing called intuition are fast thinking process, which is really a pattern matching process. Do I recognize this situation on the basis of something I was in before or someone told me about before? And fundamentally those shortcuts are the things everybody uses to make decisions. So look, if I give, I don’t, I don’t even give talks on detailed science talks on the science of climate change anymore because no one in the audience is in a position to adjudicate the science. I try to speak where they are, you know, and, and, and let me give you just a broader example of the, of the change that the smart business people are making.
So Jeff Bezos, a richest guy in the world, his company just became the second to hit a trillion dollars in market cap in his 20, 2018. I’m a letter to his shareholders. He says, I just banned powerpoints at. I’m at Amazon in business meetings. No one comes with power points because that’s not how people learn. It’s not how they retain information with a bunch of bullets. He switched over to what narrative memos. You write up a story because he’s this literature. I mean it’s just endless amounts of social science that we spent thousands and tens of thousands of years telling stories to each other. And that’s how our brains developed. And so the, the, the job one is to package yourself into a story, you know, what is your story, what is the story of your product and how is it connected to a problem the person you’re talking to wants to solve. And what I tried to do and how to go viral and reach millions is talk about the both the ancient art of storytelling and the modern science of storytelling, z. We just, he just gave some knowledge bombs
exploding right now. Powerful. I know and I love, I love your, um, your, when you, when you research, when you google the thing called the could be Gogel, I don’t know. Could be compared to its angle. It’s a new thing. It is how to go viral and reach Milligan’s top persuasion secrets from social media superstars. Jesus Shakespeare, Oprah, and even Donald Trump. I mean, you’ve either offended everybody in the world or you’ve turned out to everybody in the world with that, with that line right there. That’s awesome. By the way, that’s a good headline. I’ve got. I’ve got to kind of a two part question for you. Yeah. And you may not know the answers, but I’m hoping you do. Could you send like a really smart guy? So it’s not like a, it’s like a challenge, but, you know, why do you think, number one, why do you think people out there don’t believe your narrative of global warming? That’s the first part. And then the second part is, for those who do believe it, the average dude on the street, what can you do about it?
Well, I think, uh, it’s a great question. I actually just did a post today, um, uh, I, I spent a lot of time talking to people, obviously that question. One of the reasons I became a blogger, a this true story, um, because I was doing clean energy. I had worked at the US Department of Energy and I worked with the office of efficient energy efficiency and renewable energy. I work with some of the people who, who did the underlying research that led to natural gas fracking, a Texas people actually bill white, mayor Houston. And um, uh, I switched from clean energy. However, I was doing clean energy consulting. I was consulting with companies like IBM and Johnson Johnson, uh, on how to use renewable energy, how to cut your energy bill, that sort of thing, how to reduce your pollution. And then my brother lost his home and Hurricane Katrina. Uh, he was, he was, uh, working at the Va Hospital in Biloxi, uh, as, as the head of Rehab medicine.
And uh, he asked me if he should rebuild his home and, uh, because losing your home is a big deal as I’m sure you know, and, and you don’t want to do it again. And I started researching the science and talking to scientists and going to lectures and I realized two things, one of which was the situation was more troublesome than people realize. But secondly, scientists were doing a lousy job of communicating. And so, um, I really have tried to devote the last 12 years to understand what doesn’t work about communications the way scientists traditionally do it, you know, and what does work. So, you know, the, the, uh, the shortest possible answer to your question of why large numbers of people don’t believe it is because this issue has shifted from being a science based issue to being a political tribe issue. And it is, it is people, their identity now through politics, right?
We don’t, we don’t have to get into politics discussion, but I think, you know what I’m saying. And once you sign up and you say I’m with this party or I’m with this person or I’m with that party or on with that person, you then buy into their slate of beliefs and you don’t do a lot of your own investigation. And I, um, and, and that is why in the show years of living dangerously, uh, and, and online at the website, we have switched over to just doing these stories. A short form stories or the long form stories. We did win the emmy for outstanding nonfiction series in 2014. The guys, you know, the executive producers or James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger and the line producers were these two former 60 minutes producers who have 13 mes between them. And I’ve learned a lot from them because they know, you know, how to do a certain kind of storytelling and it’s got to be built around interesting people and be emotionally compelling and uh, and then, and, and tell stories along a certain pathway.
And that’s one of the things I really want to communicate to your audience because the, the chapter in the book that has gone the most viral that, that most people have responded to and said, boy, this has really changed the way that I look at writing and writing speeches. Um, is this a rule of replacing this, this way of a simple strategy for turning any, uh, written item or any speech into something that, that operates the way and emotionally compelling story does. Um, and so I’d love to just spend like literally just a minute and explain that because it is really, it is, it is the simplest thing. Uh, but like I said, for instance, I bought my book on kindle so I could see which of the most marked up passages. God, I can tell you all of the most marked of passages in this book are in chapter two and it’s really quite simple.
Literally all that you need to do is to go through, it’s called the rule of replacing and you just take something you’ve written or a speech that you’ve written out and circle all the words, all, every use of the word and got it. And you’re now going to replace them as often as possible with the word but, or equivalents like yet because you’re trying to introduce the kind of conflict and narrative tension we expect in our best stories. Got It. And then, and then you’re going to replace and with therefore or equivalence like so to introduce the resolution of that conflict intention. And, and what you’re trying to do, uh, is, is instead of having a, just this happened and this happened and this happened and this happened, which is the height of uninteresting the story. The basic story line is, uh, you know, this happened and this happened, but then this happened.
And so I was forced to do this. And this is the arc of the setup of, of all of the great stories. This was invented by Trey Parker who did, uh, the book of Mormon, a monster, Broadway head and South Park, a multi enemy winning’s a storylines. But I’ve gone through, I just looked, for instance, at the most viral speech in all of human history, which is probably the sermon on the mount a since there’s billions of bibles out there and people have been going to church and hearing this, uh, over and over and over again for 2000 years. Um, that speech, again, it has, it has a large number of buckets and a large number of therefore, it’s because what Jesus is doing in, in, in the sermon on the mount is he is, he is describing way people thought they were being taught. And then he’s saying, but really this is what you’re supposed to be doing. And so, and if you go through, um, all the great speeches I, I referenced in the book, Oprah’s the first viral speech, 2018 may seem like a really long time ago. But Oprah speech at the Golden Globes that you may remember, people, uh, uh, spoke, you know, that really called a lot of attention to her. It again, it uses this and, but therefore trick and I talk about the Gettysburg address and what Lincoln dones, and fundamentally, literally, it may seem incredibly simple, but all of the great speeches throughout human history have used this basic formula.
All of your titles, all the chapter titles in your book are all going to get people’s attention. I mean, how to be a big winner like trump without being a big loser like trump. How to tell a viral story, word of mouth from Jesus to Lincoln to Oprah. Short words when short word sell, repeat, repeat, repeat. Only memorable memes go viral. I mean, you, you really, you are the master of headline writing. And you talked a lot about these five rules for going viral online. Can you share a couple of those rules for going viral online?
Sure. And, and what I do justice, the first rule is you have to put things in a story form, okay? And persuade people that you, that what they’re going to get is an interesting story because that’s, you know, I have an 11 year old daughter. So for the first 11 years of her life, it’s just stories, stories, stories. Please tell me another story. Please tell me that story. Can you read that story again? Can I watch the first movie of Harry Potter Thirty Times in a row? Um, the stories are, are we are the story craving animal really. And so rule one is you have to tell the emotionally compelling story and uh, use this and, but therefore rule of replacing rule number two is to use the figures of speech. Now, you know, when we were in a middle school, may be we, you heard some figures of speech, like metaphor or irony.
It’s not really taught that much anymore, but what are the figures of speech to figures of speech are literally just the memory tricks that were created by the great storytellers of ancient times so that they could memorize a two hour long epic poem and that people could remember them and it got quoted a codified by the ancient Greeks. And I’ll just tell you the fascinating 62nd story of why rhetoric was codified by the ancient Greeks and then by the Romans was the Greek switch from trial by magistrate to trial by jury and in front of a magistrate you’d be arguing the law, but these juries were 500 people or more. It was majority vote and it would decide your entire future. And there’s no judge, no rules of evidence. Your accuser spoke for 30 minutes and you spoke for 30 minutes and you simply had to persuade the majority of the hundreds of people listening that you were more believable than your accuser.
And as a result, a group of people arose who would write those speeches for you if you had enough money. And if you didn’t, they would teach you some lessons or you could buy their book. And unsurprisingly, there were lots of books written about how you could be an emotionally compelling and believable speaker. And so that’s. And they codify all of these things. And, and so why do we use metaphors? Metaphors are maybe the single most memorable figure of speech because I’m connecting something we know with something we don’t know and that’s why it’s very common in advertising chevy like a rock, that sort of thing. Um, and uh, so all of these figures of speech, which we don’t teach much, but the modern advertising industry we discovered by, in fact most of the marketing literature makes is, you know, how do you write a compelling headline, how do you write a compelling ad?
You use the figures of speech and, and literally 80 percent of all advertising headlines uses one or more figures of speech because those are the things that are going to stick in your mind. And it’s why you hear so much repetition. Repetition is the single most commonly used memory trick. And if you have a small child, you know how effective simply repeating the same thing over and over can be. And we see politicians who are good at repetition and politicians are not so good at repetition. And I don’t think it’s a surprise that the people who are good at repetition tend to do better.
Now I, I don’t want to steal your thunder. Went back to you. Thank you. Well, I had a second part to my question. The second part, second part, and when something like this, if I can remember it, Joe, if I’m, what can the average person do? Joe Slash average proactive listener. The, yeah. He’s out there listening, going, you know, I believe in climate change and I don’t want the world to burn up and I didn’t want to die. What, what, what are some steps? What are some just basic things that the average person can do to help this phenomenon?
Climate Change, correct? Sure. Well, let me, and I, you know, and I, uh, I, Oxford University press asked me to write their, their primer on, on, on, you know, climate change, what everyone needs to know so that, that book is also out there. And I think, you know, uh, I tell people, you know, you should get informed because it’s gonna, you know, I, uh, I tell people that the impact of, of climate change and what we do about it, it’s going to have as big an impact on the world in the next 25 years as the Internet did in the last 25 years. And if you were up to speed, if you were ahead of the curve 25 years ago on the Internet. And so, you know, the information technology revolution, you were in better shape in terms of your career or what your kids went to school in, um, or choices that you made in the stock market.
And the, and the same is exactly true. We’re in the midst of this clean energy revolution. And I write it, you know, as I say, I would former acting assistant secretary of energy for energy efficiency and renewable energy. So, uh, I write a great deal about the, about the clean energy revolution and whether it is, it is a solar power or wind power. These things have come down in price. You know, literally by a factor of 100 over the past quarter century or so. And uh, if you, if you hadn’t looked at it in recent years because you thought it was sort of expensive and clunky right now, there are renewed solar power deals where companies will literally come to you and you don’t have to put any money down. They’ll do a leasing deal where they’re going to lease you the solar panels, uh, for less than your current electricity bill.
Uh, so the entire world of financing has changed. And, and you know, if, if you haven’t had an energy audit in your house, you know, the, the, uh, uh, led lighting, which you know, 10 years ago was just quite expensive and you only used in unique situations. You know, you can go into a Sam’s club or, or any one of those stores or go on Amazon and you can buy an led light bulb for two or three bucks. And this is a light bulb that is basically going to last your lifetime. And it is going to use so little energy that it, that it will pay for the extra cost compared to an incandescent, uh, within a year or two. And so there’s been this whole revolution in clean energy. And I, I think, and by the way, if you have kids, I’m sure they’re nagging you, cause the kids are, you know, way ahead of all of us, uh, in terms of the use of technology.
Um, so, you know, I, I think, uh, you know, my advice always is, is, is getting formed and, and um, you know, we can’t all be experts on everything and I don’t, I don’t ever tell anyone you got to go out and be an expert on every subject. Obviously you can try to find people that you trust, um, and, and go buy them or find a website that you trust. Something like that. The way we do with the movie reviewer, right? I mean we have a movie review or maybe we like, I mean obviously now we go, uh, to rotten tomatoes. Um, but, um, so, you know, I, I think people should understand it is a serious problem. But there are lots of solutions, there are lots of things individuals can do.
What’s the biggest area that contributes to global warming in your opinion, in your scientific opinion? What? What’s, who’s the principal?
The principal cause of, of, of the recent global warming is, is, is burning fossil fuels. There’s simply, I mean, I don’t know, in the scientific community there’s not, there’s not, you know, any, any, uh, a question of that. I mean, we’re talking about essentially all of the recent warming is due to the increase of carbon dioxide and some other heat trapping gases into the atmosphere. That is what has changed. And you know, I don’t, like I said, I understand. I’m not going to be able to persuade everybody and that’s, you know, I think people need to understand this because like I said, it’s going to affect, uh, your lives and your family’s lives and where you want to live. You know, already we’re seeing by the way in, in, in on coastal property values that places that are more prone to flooding are already seeing slower growth in property values than places that aren’t prone to flooding.
So let’s just say out there, I’m listening and I say to myself, I’m going, you know what, I agree with your worldview, or someone said they don’t, but either way they’re a blogger and they want their story to go viral. My friend, you have, it appears as though you’ve developed super hacks or super moves or strategies for telling viral stories that are now used by Hollywood’s best screenwriters. So regardless of what side of the political aisle somebody is on a listener or what kind of they have, that seems to be a pretty awesome move to be able to take a worldview that you’ve studied and researched and to be able to tell a viral story that is now used by Hollywood’s best screenwriters. I mean, James Cameron, we’re talking Arnold Schwartzenegger. How do you do that?
Right? And, and so, you know, one of the points I want to make is, you know, in, in the book how to go viral and reach millions. That book, uh, is, is, um, focused in, you know, primarily on discussing, uh, these, these secrets. And I think that, that, uh, and as you can see in the subtitle, you know, these are the Oprah and Donald trump. They do many of the same things. Maybe you like one don’t like the other, it doesn’t matter. We, you know, clearly both of them know something about making content go viral or whatever else you like about it. That’s for sure. And, and, and look, I tell, you know, I’m, I’m, I’m more on the progressive side, you know, I, I tell my progressive friends if you, you, you can’t, let’s learn from people who know how to do what they do and if you think that they don’t, you’re not paying attention to what’s going on.
So you know, this. And by the way, Donald Trump is a complete and total master of using this using the word, but, um, you know, to, to, to create attention and then offer his answer, right? That, uh, and, and a friend of mine, uh, uh, another, uh, actually marine biologists who went to USC to study filmmaking because he also was frustrated at how poorly scientists were communicating. He actually did this analysis. You can analyze any speech, including one of your own speeches where you take the text of the speech and you count up the number of and, and you count up the number of butts and you divide the butts into the and you’re looking for a ratio and then you could multiply it by 100 and that will give you a number between zero and 100. But the point is the people who are really good at storytelling are using a lot of butts. They’re using like a, uh, for every and for every four and they’re using a bud or for every three ends they’re using, uh, but the people who are not good at storytelling, they’re just using a lot of ants.
Okay. Question for you. Have a question for you. I just want to say, but right now because I feel like I’m not a good speaker unless they say it. You are an mit trained physicist. You’re an author of 10 books. You have advised a project that was put together by Schwartzenegger and James Cameron, but can you imitate Arnold Schwarzenegger? That’s a good question. Come on Joe. You could do it, you can, but you won’t be buck. Now. I want to ask you when you were putting
in play. I give inner. I’ve met Arnold a couple times as a result of this. I’ve been able to go to some shoots where he was and I, and at the second season premiere that was at the, the in New York City. I was able to interview him. I actually did the red carpet interviews, um, have, have an Arnold Schwarzenegger with, uh, you know, who else was there was Tom Brady and his wife, but he brings up this job. I had to bring up brady because he, his wife just l is in the set is in, um, the, the uh, season two. She’s Brazilian and she actually goes to Brazil and, and looks at sort of what’s going on with the rain forest, you know, that we heard about, you know, 15, 20 years ago. But what’s going on? What are they doing right, what are they doing wrong? And she came a have a photo. Someone snapped a photo of me with Xcel. But in the background is Tom. He was trying to, you know, he was totally cool. He was like, this is his wife’s moment. He was like being very low key as low key as, as you’re Tom Brady.
Yeah. Question for you. I’ve got a hot question on these shoots. Are you shooting animals or you’re shooting? Who would, I mean, I’m sure it’s not like
people. No, no, no, no. I’m sorry. These are films Shoots. Oh, I’m just trying to judge. I don’t know. You’re out there. You got a gun. I’m thinking, you know, these are, you know, and I, one of the things by the way I learned is, is that no matter how amazing and compelling the movie or whatever thing you’re watching is the filming of it was really boring and you know, it takes an hour of filming to get like 10 seconds of good footage. And I used to go to these shoots because like, oh, I get to meet so and so, you know, and Oh, I get to meet so and so and that was exciting. But now I’m sitting around and nothing’s happening most of the time. Um, but that’s what you have to do that to make something go viral. The point is, yeah, you have to do a lot of behind the scenes work in terms of thinking you can’t just do crap off the top of your head and think anyone’s going to be interested. You don’t know. As Joe’s Tonkin though, he kind of inserted a little bit of Tom Brady knowledge there. As these we’re wrapping up, we’re only going to give him an extra four hours on this interview was
mentioning Tom Brady to here. But that’s fair. That’s fair. Right. So as we’re wrapping up our final, our final three questions, um, I want to ask you jokes. You spent so much time studying this. What makes a good storyteller when you say the, but I love the butt ratio. That’s great. Yeah. So I guess maybe where do you see most people getting it wrong when they tell stories? Because I feel like as I used to travel all around the world doing, speaking and Joe, because I was a former disc jockey, people would hire me to teach you how to grow a company because I grew a entertainment company and my job was to make, you know, boring events. Funny. So that was kinda like my superpower was combining entertainment and education. But I would want somebody speak before me or after me who is dramatically more educated, more intelligent, and they just could not get anybody to pay attention, but they knew all the answers. So talk to us about where we’re getting it wrong as it relates to storytelling.
Well, I think you know that in higher education, the higher educational system does not teach storytelling. In fact, it teaches anti storytelling, right? I can, I can tell you, you know, in, uh, I got, you know, went through a phd program in science. Of course you’re told don’t talk about yourself, right? Remove the Adi because this is all about quote unquote objective fact. And therefore, don’t talk about, you know, the troubles you had doing the experiment or why you’re passionate about the science or why you think this problem matters. So, uh, but I, I’m quite well aware that it’s not just scientists who get this training. I think this training occurs on the medical side. I think it’s even, even even in, in the, in the social sciences, whether, you know economics or, or, or art history, this notion that we can reduce things to sort of this fact.
So I think that people have to unlearn that. And that’s, like I said, it took me many years, uh, if, if people just listened to me and try to do some of these things, it will make a difference. But you are going to have to very consciously catch yourself. You know, I was fortunate to have a daughter. So, you know, there’s a story I tell at the beginning of the book where, where, uh, uh, she says to me, I’m, I’m talking to at the age of three. And she starts saying to me, blah, blah, blah. Oh. And I’m like, uh, well, you know what, I had this view because she picked up a lot of phrases. Hey, she could use a phrase if she knew what it meant. So I said, you know, uh, so, uh, Antonio, do you know what Blah, blah, blah means. And she pauses instead, it’s when daddy says something that doesn’t matter.
So she got it. She did what I was saying not matter to her. And it literally took me years to realize, uh, you know, the, what I have to do is tell stories. Now there’s a certain form of a story. He talked a bit about that there are certain phrases and words you wanna use, like metaphor and irony and repetition. And then of course, there is the most famous stories, the stories that comprise, you know, half of all movies, which is the hero’s journey, uh, that I’m sure you know, many people have heard that term. That was the term Joseph Campbell studied all the great myths from the great storytellers and figured out that all the great hero stories followed a certain pattern and book was read by George Lucas and he created star wars, episode four, five and six based on that heroic myth called the monomyth.
And then, um, uh, uh, Bill moyers did a series of interviews which, which, uh, uh, of, of Joseph Campbell in which he talked about the hero’s journey and I commend people to one or more of those. And that translated out. And then there was this screenwriter who wrote a book called the screenwriters journey, basically saying, hey, this is the basic story and if you’re wondering why all the superhero stories and all the Disney movies and all the romantic comedies and all these movies seem to have the same story arc. That’s because this is the story that was the most viral story in human history passed down over thousands of years and it has become embedded in our culture. And, and, uh, people do need to understand, and I talk about it a bit in the book, what is this Hero’s journey? Sometimes it’s called the zero to hero story.
You know, you’re, you’re explaining why it is someone at the end of the day when I’m talking to you, you’re, I’m trying to convince you that you have a problem that I can solve, right? I mean, if I’m a salesperson, there’s some problem you have, I can solve, and my story are, is how I went through this tough time hitting the same roadblock that you did and how I got through that point and attain the wisdom to solve this problem that you did and this story which is very, it’s the same story, uh, uh, whether we’re talking Luke skywalker or, or, or spiderman or Harry Potter or, or, um, judy garland in the wizard of Oz. It’s always the same arc of the story. It’s always has the same components and this story, I can assure you when someone is getting up to speak and you’ve never met this person before and they’re introducing yourself to them, they are telling you some version of this story.
Now, Joe, they’re the final two questions I had for you. I’d like for you to just touch on the three activating emotions that trigger content sharing, and I’d love if you could recommend a book for all the listeners out there, the three activating emotions that trigger the conduct. You just kind of touch on that a and then I’d like if you could recommend a book for all the entrepreneurs out there who are big readers. They like to just devour a book recommendations from guys like you. So you start by talking to us about the three activating emotions. Sure. So when people study content that goes viral online, let’s say an easy analysis someone did is they looked at 7,000 New York Times articles and see which ones made the most emailed list, right? Because those are the ones that people wanted to share with other people and they found that that what made stuff go viral was something that that arouse people emotionally, but it was a certain type of emotions.
What they called an activating emotion. So, not surprisingly outrage is, is a, a, something that motivates people to share, and I’m sure we all have plenty of texts and emails of content that outrage. Someone, uh, another one is anxiety, something that made someone worry, you know, uh, like, you know, those articles on the three foods you shouldn’t be eating, you know, that sort of. Um, and then the third is the things that create awe, you know, the things that are like, oh, this cat can play the piano type of thing, or this guy can kick a football through any hoop, anywhere, you know, if you seen that. So what we’re trying and, and the other, the fourth element is in which I talk about separately is humor, which is related to irony. You know, uh, we’re, we’re trying to show someone something that’s unexpected and therefore, you know, makes them laugh.
Um, these are the things that, that, that people are the most likely to share. And if your headline can sell them on the notion or the subject line in your email or your tweet can sell them on the notion that when they click through or read the email or read the rest of the post, they’re going to get that emotion satisfied and maybe they’re gonna like it so much they’re going to share it and they’ll get a little social credit with their friends for sort of being, Hey, I saw this viral thing that’s amusing or interesting or outrageous first and I’m sharing with you, uh, and that’s what we’re social animal. And that’s what, what sharing is all about. Um, so a cat video kicking a football through a hoop sensitively but makes you laugh, is a, is a no, it’s just a slam dunk.
Right? And there’s like, why, why cats are so viral. Cats are not as domesticated as dogs, right? They’re still half. You know, if you look at the history of dogs, they came to humans, uh, and we, you know, we’ve been breeding them, you know, for, for tens of thousands of years. Capture are much more recent. They’re much more, you know, hey, they, they, uh, you know, they’re coming to us for food or to kill rats, you know, and all that stuff. But the point is cats are much more unpredictable, much, much less socialized and that’s why they seem to do things that are so unexpected compared to, you know, your domesticated dog. Not the dog videos aren’t cute. I’m not here to get emails, dog, dog lovers. Now to answer your question clearly a, you know, I was frustrated that I didn’t see put together in one place the ancient art and modern science of storytelling and, and, and not only that, the reason I wrote how to go viral and reach millions is also because I’m, a lot of the books on communications aren’t actually very readable and I’m glad you read the headlines because I spent, I spent years figuring out how to, you know, when I write, I have a chapter on irony, but I wrote, I put in a lot of irony and ironic humor and I have a chapter on metaphors and I quote, you know, Lincoln, a house divided against itself cannot stand.
The point is, the metaphor chapter has metaphors and it also has modern stuff, you know, and I quote from Seinfeld, one of the most ironic of shows and I quote from the Big Bang theory which, which again, another very, very heavily ironic show and you know, I talk about a Hamilton Lin Manuel Miranda’s masterpiece, which is, you know, I tell people, people ask me what is the single thing I can do to become better at storytelling? And I tell them, download the soundtrack to Hamilton and memorize it. My daughter did that in three weeks. It was. I had taken my mother to see Hamilton because I knew she would love it. I brought the soundtrack home. My nine year old daughter memorized it within three weeks was unbelievable. And then I talked to her friends and other kids. So many kids out there memorize the score to Hamilton because it is truly a cliquey and sticky thing, but it’s also a story told in the form closest to way the way the ancient bards did a coming into town telling their to our epic poem. Either you throw, give them food or a place to stay or money or they’re a failure, so needless to say, all those stories, all those epic poems, they all have in them, the masterful tricks of going viral and being memorable.
Joseph, I appreciate you for being on the show. I’m your career is, is legendary, and yet I know you have a lot more big projects that you’re working on. A, I encourage all of our listeners to check out your newest book, how to go viral and to reach millions top persuasion secrets from social media superstars, Jesus Shakespeare, Oprah, and even Donald Trump. And I understand there’s an audio book coming out. When’s the audio book coming out there? The God, I just got the notice. You can get an audible. It will be within two or three days. Oh, it will be on Amazon. I had been promised. Who’s real? Who’s reading it? Do you know? Is it just a random, is it Donald Trump or is it like, did you have Donald Trump to read it? I mean, that’d be fair. I mean, he’s on the cover.
You know, I, uh, right now, uh, a lot of communicators have been reading it and people who give a lot of speeches, um, and I’ve been, I give talks to people on public speaking and that sort of thing. So, you know, it is, it is a diverse group. You read the reviews, you know, and by the way, if people buy the book, please write a review because if you want a book to succeed long term on Amazon, you need to have good number of good reviews. Throwing overtime.
Yes, absolutely. And Real quick for me, I always like to ask this of our authors that we’d get on the show. What is your process for writing a book? I mean, you’ve done 10 now, right? And I’m sure you probably have wonder, you probably thinking about the next one, what’s your process for doing or you go to the beach, you get a Pina Colada Kinda guy. Are you a hole up in a hotel and some swanky part of Manhattan and just to order room service over and over and over. I mean, what do you, what do you, what’s your move?
Well, I, I, um, there’s no, for me, I’ve been writing, you know, my father had a newspaper editor, so writing, you know, when you’re in the newspaper business, you know, or the media business as you know, you, you can’t afford to have writer’s block, right? You have a deadline. You, if you can’t make the dough and you’re not in the paper. So, you know, I got that ethic. So I, you know, I try to write every day and I will tell you one secret that I, that I stumbled into biaxin. I dictate everything using voice dictation software we use using dragon naturally speaking or, or the, the version for Mac. And what I have found particularly for blogging but also for writing books is when you dictate if you can do that. Not everyone. That’s not a process that will work for everyone, but if it will, now you’re being more conversational. Right? Frankly, most people would be better off if they’re writing. We’re more like they’re speaking if they were more conversational and less, you know, I’ll be blunt. Academic.
Joseph, I appreciate you for professionally speaking, being both clicky and sticky on today’s show. Thank you for taking time out of your schedule to be on here. I’m not funny. Chubb. Seriously. That’s good. This is going to be shared. People are going to share this. Uh, we just hit number three on the itunes podcast charts and people are going to share this with the brows. Thank you for number two. Number two is to charge this. Justin. Joseph, thank you for being here. Have a blessed day and we like to end the show with a boom and internally booms stands for big, overwhelming optimistic momentum. So we’re going to going to do a one, two, three and then a boom, or I got to get to a three to five.
One minute. Z. Are you ready? Are you ready? I’m ready. Okay. Here we go. Here we go. Three, two, one. Go.
Not over quite yet. We have a little something extra for you.
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