Legalized mind control that keeps you watching the Olympics

For 10, 15, and 20 years, elite athletes have been preparing to win Gold in Rio. But for much longer, TV network executives have been preparing in a different way to guarantee you’ll stay tuned in.

Their secret is 100% relevant if YOU want to win Gold in the areas that matter to you.

How do the TV networks keep you coming back?
It’s hidden in plain sight: Storytelling.

storytellingA well-told story will inspire you to act in ways that defy logic — including staying glued to the screen when it’s past time for bed. It’s legalized mind control.

If it was just athletes racing on a track or swimming laps in a pool with no stories, it might catch your eye. But you wouldn’t rearrange your life to keep tuning in.

It’s the stories.
National pride stories. Personal dream stories. Underdog stories. They’re like a siren song.

Story hooks your brain.
Story hooks the emotional and social parts of your brain, superseding logic and priorities. It keeps you magnetized to the screen long beyond your intention.

Network executives know your brain just can’t resist the behind-the-scenes story about an über athlete or a team plagued by injury.

Add in the hook no one can resist: no guaranteed victories
The Olympics aren’t an action movie where your hero always wins. Olympic drama is real, and your hero could lose.

Will Michael Phelps do it again? No guarantees. You have to keep watching to the end.

Stories change your actions — leverage it!
When stories hook us, they cause us to act in ways that defy logic and reasoning. Stories get us to blast through fears and obstacles.

Without stories, you’d never do anything great.

You don’t need steroids to fly high. You need an awesome story.

A good story will win you Gold
Let these three levels of story “Olympicize” your success.

Level One: The hero’s story is your story
Master storyteller Bo Eason says that we listen to stories autobiographically. A story of an Olympian who struggled through overwhelming difficulties makes you think of your own struggles. Their grit to persevere reminds you of your own grit.

Be shameless. Let these athlete’s stories remind you of your own awesomeness.

Level Two: Olympians tell Olympic-sized stories
The most important story for elite athletes is the one they tell to themselves about themselves. What kind of a story do you think they’re telling?

Unless their stories of themselves were as big as their dreams, they’d never have endured the years of grueling training to arrive at the Olympics.

Story alone will not make them an Olympian. But if their story isn’t big enough, they need not bother. They won’t exceed their own autobiography.

Level You: How grand is your autobiography?
What’s the story you’re telling about yourself? Really, answer that question for your own sake. Your answer determines your future.

Just like athletes, your level of success and satisfaction won’t exceed the level of your autobiography. But a well-told story can pave the way to gold.

How big is your story? Is it as big as your dreams?



  • David, your observations are spot on! Having worked at Disney (including ABC and ESPN), I can attest to the fact that it’s the stories that arrest us. Swimming would have never garnered the viewership it has if it wasn’t led by the Phelps story. He needed to participate even if he had a broken leg-actually NBC would have garnered even greater ratings 🙂 Each of us have interesting, if not some Olympian stories to tell that can magnify us but I find that it is sometimes the smaller ones that can also have a real impact on people. Love your thoughts and writing. Thank you for sharing a great perspective.