Tuesday
Nov062012

Riding The Trojan Horse

For those of you who don’t know the story, the Trojan Horse is a tale from Virgil’s Aeneid, a retelling of how the Greeks ended a 10-year siege of the city-state of Troy…a conflict which had become mired in stalemate. The Greeks built a massive horse and filled it with a select group of soldiers. The Greeks then pretended to sail away, abandoning their wooden horse. The people of Troy opened the gates to the city and pulled the massive horse in as a trophy of war. That night, the men in the belly of the wooden beast climbed out and opened the gates to the waiting Greek army who overwhelmed the city.

The modern men and women of Troy live on a strange island floating off the southwest edge of downtown LA. I had the privilege recently of being a guest lecturer at a postgraduate marketing class at USC. My friend and colleague, Freddy Nager, asked me to talk to his students about story-driven marketing. Something I’m always happy to do.

After regaling them for some time with my amassed wisdom I realized I was breaking one of my golden rules of communication: listen, don’t just talk. So I adjusted. We focused on an exercise I encourage all organizations to do: Answer the question…what are you fighting for? The students did this work applying it either to the business plan they were working on or their personal life-career. The idea was to give their business a purpose or their resume a passion and drive.

Stories were told, exercises were undertaken, and I left feeling there were some budding entrepreneurs who might just put a little more attention on story when they went forth to help our species evolve.

So what does that all have to do with the Trojan Horse?

What I failed to mention is that I arrived at the USC Annenberg School of Communications and Journalism on the night of the first presidential debate. You’d expect this to be a non-event given the endless reports of the apathetic youth of today. Instead, what I saw was a large room bursting at the seams with enthusiastic students effervescently engaged. There were students spilling out all over the place.  

I looked down from an upper floor staircase in awe. This was the belly of the beast. And all those older generations shaking their heads with bitter expressions about the youth of today are about to get stormed by these exuberant youth who are likely to embarrass the “Greatest Generation” with a new way of making the world a far better place. We’ll never know what hit us.

It may be blind optimism in the future, but I wouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth…after all, it’s the belly you should be worrying about.

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