How to Use Storytelling For Leadership and PR With Dave Ursillo

Episode 41

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How to Use Storytelling For Leadership and PR With Dave Ursillo

Welcome everyone. Our topic today is how to use storytelling for leadership and PR. Our guest is Dave Ursillo. He’s a teacher of writing, creativity, yoga and all things self-expression. He’s a former politico who once walked in the west wing of the White House and aspired to become a presidential speech writer, which is so fascinating. We were just talking about how to frame questions properly that you learned from being in politics. Then in 2009, disillusioned with the state of politics and questioning his role in the system, Dave quit his job and abandoned his career in public service to live a life of personal leadership, using writing as his vessel for change. That’s so beautifully written too, Dave.

Thank you.

I’m obviously reading your bio. It’s a story in itself, right?


Your bio is even your very first story. We’ll talk about that in a minute. When Dave is not writing, he loves to travel abroad. He’s been to India twice. He considers coffee an act of artistry. Oh my God, we didn’t talk about Bulletproof Coffee, which we’ll have to do, which I’ve had my first cup this morning.

There you go.

He wants to help humans love one another. Find Dave and his 400, Dave, wow, published pieces of writing at Gosh Dave, I forgot to ask you one of the cardinal rules. Did I pronounce your name right?

You did. You pronounced it phenomenally. It roughly translates to mean small bear.

But you’re a big bear, aren’t you? Because you look like you’re like 6’8″ or something.

I wish. I’m like only 5’9 1/2″.


I’m trying to stretch out that 5’9 1/2″ to 5’10”.

Oh my God, I thought you were like a giant, honestly. I thought you were at least 6’5″ from all your pictures. That must be just …

The beauty of working online is that you can feign extreme height and size and Tony Robbins’ stature. No, I’m just a humble 5’10”-ish. I can throw down. I don’t do much throwing down but I can throw it down if I need to. At least, I’d like to think so.

BAMD0041 | Storytelling for leadership

Dave Ursillo shares how to use storytelling for leadership and PR.

Good for you. I just want to say to our listeners too, one of the things, if you have a difficult name or anything to pronounce, tell the person ahead of time if they don’t ask. I forgot to ask. I usually ask. I assumed I knew how to say it. But then as I was saying it, I’m like, oh my God, I’m hoping that I’m saying it right. If I didn’t, that you as the listener should correct me in an instant because there’s no shame in that.

Absolutely. You nailed it. I’m glad I didn’t have to correct you. I do the same thing too. This is another little tip for listeners, because I do some interviewing myself with different people. Without a fail, if I do butcher something or have to ask them again to pronounce their name correctly, my go to little self-deprecating humor is that with a name like Ursillo, you’d expect me to be better at pronouncing everybody else’s name because I would hope that they pronounce it better myself. It breaks the ice when I have that faux pas myself and butcher a name. It does happen.

That’s great. We’re talking about storytelling for leadership and PR. Storytelling is so hot right now. It’s always been hot because it’s the way that we pass on tradition from one to another. Oral storytelling. It’s had a comeback. I see now, everybody’s a storytelling coach. You’ve been one for quite a while. You’ve told me that how somebody tells her story or tells his story is someone’s first and perhaps best source of PR. I’m curious as to how and also how did you use story to get where you are today?

Absolutely, Susan. It’s a great question. Thank you for asking it. It’s so true. You’ve led in by saying that everybody’s kind of a storytelling coach nowadays. It’s making a big comeback. What I really like to make clear, and I tell this to myself all the time, is I don’t, deep in my heart, consider myself to be a storyteller. I consider myself to be a writer and someone who naturally, years ago, gravitated to the art form of story to not only change my life but quite literally save it from …

You mentioned in my back story, being disillusioned with politics and public service. I was also quite depressed at the time, at this point in my life when I was really, a total crisis of identity. I was young at the time but I was living in this phase of everything that I expected the world to be and my career to be and my life to be was exactly the opposite of what I had hoped. As a result, going through a breakup at the time, nothing was going right.

Somehow, tragically, nothing was wrong. I had a job. This was in 2009, just following the housing crisis and credit crisis. The world was in pretty rough shape economically. I had a job and I had possibilities. I was in a position of privilege and dreading that my life wasn’t as good as I had hoped. The crisis was more of the spiritual one. This is where the storytelling came into play, where I knew that, deep in my heart, I was not living the story that I wanted to be telling.

Sometimes that phrase can seem like, the life is meant to be told or witnessed in a shallow sense. Truly, it was more that my soul was so craving purpose and depth and experience that was not being experienced as it was in my life. I decided to leave my job relying upon that the tool that I felt so close to, which was writing, as my own personal means of not only knowing myself but sharing myself.

I believe that writing could be my tool for giving to the world in ways that could make an impact starting today, whereas the world that I was living in, the world that I was leaving in politics and public service, which you could relate to really any industry on a corporate level or just something that doesn’t completely jive your heart and soul.

That world was telling me that I needed to wait to make a difference, which was ironic because it’s public service. It’s supposed to be serving the public and helping people. But I was told that I needed to wait to earn my keep. I was told that I needed to do more to deserve to help people. In my heart, I said, “I’m not going to save the world all on my own but I can’t help but feel like I could help one person today.” If that’s with a blog post then I was intent on doing that.

I left my job, my career and I started to … Before I really knew it Susan, I was sharing my story because it just seemed so natural for me to be telling other people who may be in the position similar to me that there was hope and that there was a chance and that there was choice.

The circumstances that, whether there was a job that they didn’t find fulfilling or there was other circumstances of hardship, like depression or disillusionment, or whatever the circumstances were almost didn’t matter. If there was a sense or a source of suffering within that person, I wanted them to know that there’s a possibility for change.

BAMD0041 | Storytelling for leadership

Blogging can be an outlet of storytelling for leadership and PR.

On the merit of telling my story and exposing myself and my own beliefs and also my struggles, before I really knew it, I was becoming a storyteller and I was using my story to start to cultivate the life that I wanted to live. In turn, helping others change the story of their lives.

These years later, now over seven years later, I find myself doing what we would call business storytelling work or professional storytelling work. Sometimes people use the term storytelling to mean that they get on stage and they have rehearsed different various stories that they performed.

For me, I get very intimate into the voice and the values that somebody lives by. I help them express where they’ve been, but more importantly, where they’re going or where they wish to go and what they wish to create with others hand in hand to co-create a future that is brighter and healthier and more unified and loving. That’s the storytelling that I do now.

Almost by accident Susan, I started to become a storyteller just out of pure necessity. That’s the essence that I really want to give to people, is that storytelling isn’t necessarily an art form that ought to be mastered before you start telling yours. Story is the most human fundamental art form that has ever existed. It’s psychological too.

We tell stories just to make sense of the world, to explain how we began this phone call or the commute into work this morning or how to make the perfect cup of coffee. It’s all story because story is just context, it’s relevance, it’s creating some meaning, it’s assigning relevance to otherwise random facts and details.

We’re all telling stories all the time. We’re telling stories in our head and out loud. When you start to at least just understand how many stories we live and share and experience in marketing and PR and advertising and so on, then I believe it really starts to open your world to the possibility that exists to re-story yourself or to story yourself all over again in the ways that you desire. It’s something just as simple as using your words can help you open the door and walk through it.

I think you said you weren’t living the story you wanted to live. By using your voice and values and what you want to create for yourself and others, you can change the direction of your life.


You also were saying that you can re-story yourself by telling the new future, the stories. Is that what you’re saying too? You can say, “Okay, this was the story that I was,” like you were in the west wing of the White House and that was not serving you. Now, you’re going to tell a new story and then tell the story first and then live into it?

Absolutely. It’s two fold, Susan. Exactly right. If you look at yourself in the present moment, you can take a journal, take some paper or just sit in thought and meditation and reflect on what are the stories that I’m living right now? What are the stories, when I wake up, I hear in my head? Is it a story of anxiety, of nervousness? If I have to do more, I have to rush, I have to do this XYZ. Is it a story that I’m living my purpose? Is it a story that I’m fractured and I’m un-whole, that I don’t feel like I’m living my authentic truth?

These are the things, the narratives, the quiet narratives that we hear in our head. The ego, the narration that we always hear and that affects our physical bodies, that affects the direction, the quality of the decisions that we make, the quality of our relationships. Here and now, in the present moment, you can start to look at the stories that are dictating your reality.

That’s what I was doing over seven and a half years ago when I said … I kind of had this out of body experience, this awakening moment when I realized that I didn’t want to keep living the story of, “I’m depressed.” I was that thing but I also didn’t want to continue to live the story of, “I am depressed and I hate my job and I have to wait five years to start to make a difference.”

That was the impetus for me. Quitting my job was small in comparison to the decision to start to change the story. Quitting my job was a facet of how I physically adjusted my life to change the story that I would be living in the future. From that point, when I found the space and the freedom, having quit my job. Not everybody needs to, but whenever you cultivate the physical circumstances to help you create the space, it’s almost like you’re opening a new journal page and you’re saying, “How do I want to fill this space now?”

To me, through a process of deep and long reflections over months and months of just writing for myself and for no one in particular, I started to realize all these pieces that I had been living throughout my life which were, “I’m here to make a difference in some way. I’m here to lead with or without followers. That I don’t need politics and public service to validate a calling of leadership within me,” but just by writing, starting a blog, starting to publish some of those 400 essays and blog posts.

That’s a lot.

BAMD0041 | Storytelling for leadership

By blogging over 400 essays, Dave found how to use storytelling for leadership and PR.

I can start to make a small difference. The co-creative power is once you’ve made peace with the past, you’re starting to adjust the things that have led you to where you are here now today, then you have the freedom, the choice, the creative ability to say, “How do I want to live and what do I want to bring other people into relationship with me and what does that look like, what does it feel like?”

That’s what we all do all the time. When we’re doing the work that we do, whether it’s purely independently as a self-employed creative or an entrepreneur or a coach or if it’s being a part of a bigger entity. We’re still considering what is our relationship to the future that we’re creating.

Story, just literally writing it out or talking it out, is a way where it starts to become less ephemeral and intangible and starts to feel more real. I believe in the power of that. Just by putting words onto paper, something truly magical begins to happen. For me, it’s like the universe starts to birth this reality along with you when you start to take action to make it real in your life.

I love the phrase, “Change your writing, change your life.” That’s a book, right?


When I train people, media train, typically we do it orally and I write it down because they don’t necessarily … It’s such a different process, writing down a story than it is speaking a story. It’s using a different part of the brain. Both are completely valid. Is your process on storytelling for leadership and PR when you say … I’m going to ask you a couple of questions about this. The first one, is the process for you and how you teach, to write the story first? Because you’re so prolific in that regard.

It’s a great question. I actually have used it with my storytelling for leadership clients. My story clients I work with both in partnership with a storytelling company and on my own. Just so you have some background, you mentioned the kind of people I work with, conscientious creatives but very driven professionals, very high achieving professionals who are on the cutting edge of innovation and doing something very new and different that doesn’t have a name.

Also, coaches who are living their leadership. They’ve been in a certain place in their life and now they’re trying to take where they’ve been and share that with others to help those in a similar position. I actually have used both sides of the approach Susan, where sometimes I’ll prompt people into writing their story first as a benchmark.

Sometimes we start with just a purely oral conversation. Lately, it’s been the oral conversation is what starts and then we complement the oral exploration with writing and writing to finesse things out. There’s quite literally a back and forth between spoken and written. We have this dual approach to get the story just right.

Ultimately, when we’re working online and we’re dealing with different bios, we’re mostly dealing with … Although the Internet more and more has different mediums of experiencing, from audio to video. I always find that written is the passive evergreen source of developing relationships with people.

The about me page, for example. It’s great to have some audio or video on there. To me, the written word is such an intimate form of experiencing one’s soul and it’s so chosen, which is why I really fell in love with written word. I don’t want to get too far off from your question here.

But to consider, just for a moment as you listen, you the listener, the difference of being spoken at in video or audio form or even just by someone in person, versus the medium of willfully choosing to engage and entertain the ideas in written form on a piece of paper.

The reason that I first gravitated to writing when I was younger, I was in junior high and high school, was that I always felt, as a natural introvert, I felt very almost repressed when somebody spoke at me in a way that I couldn’t choose to avoid. Conversely, written word was a purely invitational form of dialogue. I felt expansive when I wrote and when I read. When I was with random authority issues that I had as a kid and still to this day …

We can talk about that.

Being spoken at or commanded or told to do something or respond to something, I really disengaged from it. That’s why I had this admitted bias towards written word. To answer your question, I really believe that in conversation, you can stumble upon things because you’re in a relationship to the story in this collaborative, constructive way with one another.

In writing, that’s more of an intimate form. It’s more you enable someone, you empower somebody to fall into their story in a way that’s like a communion with self and with spirit and with source energy. There’s two beautiful ways of getting deeper into the truth of what the story is. I believe that both forms really help you get there.

It’s so interesting because you’re right, they’re so different. I like that you mentioned that it’s an invitation. Somebody chooses to read it. It’s their choice whether they want to continue or not as they’re reading it. They’re feeling you through those words on paper, which is completely different sometimes. It shouldn’t be, but oftentimes there’s a disconnect between someone reading you on paper, in your bio or your about me, and then what they feel or what they get when you’re either speaking or on video and making those things a congruent.

Absolutely. I think that there’s room for both of them. Nowadays, everything is trending towards video. I don’t have any statistics off the top of my head but the world is all going video. Facebook’s algorithm rewards you for using video.

Now, there’s Facebook live where you’re recording videos live. All the mediums that we’re using in PR and in marketing nowadays are gearing towards video especially. Podcasting is getting bigger and bigger than ever.

I hope you’re not going to knock that since we’re on one.

BAMD0041 | Storytelling for leadership

Storytelling for leadership and PR can be accomplished by podcasting.

Absolutely not. In fact, I’m playing with the idea of starting my own. I use video for my different E-courses and for my writers group. I believe in really mixing up the mediums. I love engaging people in different ways. To me, I’ll always have that special place writing has in my heart. Like you said, I think the perfect way to put is as these mediums change and become more popular and more effective for attention spans and the ways that trends work, I still believe that there’s a very important place for the writing.

Like you said, for it to be congruent with everything else that’s being conveyed in audio and video form is very special because it speaks to a certain segment of potential customers and clients who require perhaps maybe a longer term relationship based approach. Building that emotional trust and emotional rapport.

It’s like chicken and the egg where am I partial to writing stories for my clients because it’s effective in its own way or because my clients tend to be these types of people who all share similar values, which is that it takes a lot of trust and patience and very low pressure form of developing a business relationship?

For example, just this past week, I landed a new member of my online writers group, the Literati Writers, who has been on my waiting list and considering joining for probably sixteen months. I don’t gear all of my marketing towards converting someone who’s going to be on my waiting list for sixteen months.

But it’s an interesting example of even though the world is moving so fast, I think there’s still a place for the slow and for the slow to be very effective in cultivating profound change. Ideally, right Susan. Ideally, the work that we do can last a lifetime.

I think people, maybe they’re interested in you at that time but they’re not ready.

Exactly, you never know.

They need to be cultivated along. Maybe they need to read your 400 pieces before they realize that they too can, before they join your Literati Writers (Now Closed). 

I don’t think we can second guess people’s internal process or what happens. Part of the importance of that and the importance of what you’re saying is giving them the opportunity to go at their own pace in storytelling for leadership.

Whether it’s reading you’re writing or writing their own writing and finding their own rhythm for that. Maybe somebody reads one piece of yours and wants join your LiteratiWriters (Now Closed). Another one, this guy, this person has sixteen months of doing whatever’s that internal process.

I want to let everybody know, you can read some of Dave’s 400 published pieces at and join his LiteratiWriters group (Now Closed). The home of his positivity infused online writers group.

BAMD0041 | Storytelling for leadership

Storytelling for leadership and PR involves a change in your mindset.

The other question I wanted to ask you that you mentioned, which I think is so important in terms of storytelling for leadership and PR. I know that the popular term is mindset. What you’re calling the stories that are dictating your reality that you have in your head. How do you go about shifting those negative stories that people have in every aspect of their life? Whether it’s holding them back from one obstacle or holding them back from a whole career.

For you, you said you were depressed and then you started locating the stories that you were telling yourself to say, “One of my stories is I’ve got to wait five years to make a difference. But no, I don’t think that’s true.” How do you start to locate those stories that are holding you back and then how do you shift them into a new story?

Fantastic question. For me, this is where the ability to write the stories out and to see them being birthed by your hand into physical form becomes so powerful. For me Susan, when I had quit my job, I was trying to make sense of everything. There’s only so much that I think your brain, that your mindset as you termed, that your awareness can hold the space for at one given time. When you have too many stories and narratives …

Just think for a moment, if you will, of all the different titles, for example, that we might come by on any given day. All the different labels that we own or that are assigned to us by other’s expectations and assumptions. From being human, male or female or both, gender association to race and religion to what is your job title, are you a mother or a father, are you a partner or a wife or a husband, are you a child or a son, do you have children?

This is actually an exercise that I do in my storytelling for leadership workshops. You can run upwards of 80 to 100 on any given day of all the different titles that you assign to yourself and that are assigned to you. When you start by looking at the number of titles that are assigned to you, all those different titles can hold maybe one to five different stories to them of how you came to be this and what is it right now and what is the potential for it in the future.

I say that just to say the number of stories that we’re expecting to hold and maintain in our poor little brains is enormous. The act of examining which stories are dominating your thoughts and your mindset and your heart space, I think is really important. Meditation and things like this are beautiful but they still reside in the mind. The ability to just reflect on that in written form is where I believe you begin to develop a relationship to see how malleable the stories ultimately are.

Although they feel very much dictated to us a lot of the time, there’s a lot of stories we feel like we can’t escape, when you do put pen to paper … You don’t have to be a writer. You don’t have to be a member of my writers group just to say, “This is the story that I’m feeling or experiencing. I am depressed but do I really have to be?” Then you realize that the stories in our heads and in our hearts are just as malleable or editable, if you will, as when we write them on paper or we type them out on the computer.

Ultimately, a story is a choice. When you sit down to start to examine and say maybe the three stories that are really dictating how you feel everyday and how you perceive yourself, this is where you start. If you never expressed it then you have nothing to build upon or to edit or to change.

Just the act of writing them and observing them, you can literally put a match to that paper and light it on fire and say, “I’m starting over.” Or you can start to take a red pen and start to edit, speaking metaphorically now. Or you could literally light something on fire if you really want to. I wouldn’t stop you as long as you’re being safe about it.

I can’t believe you added that.

Just for the sake of liability. Just observing the stories in written form physically affirms to you that you have the ability to change them. If you are in a space of writing or creative self-expression or coaching, start to notice where you find your stories, oral or written, going. Do you find yourself continually going back to a story of a few years ago?

I will never forget this one conversation I had Susan, where I asked somebody, this was a few years ago. I just had met somebody who was a friend of a friend. We were sitting down for coffee. It was like a meet and greet sort of thing. I said, “Tell me about yourself. What are you doing these days that’s getting you really excited?” She said, “Two years ago, I had this really bad breakup.” She went on for about 40 minutes talking about two years ago. I stopped her after the 40 minutes. I was really waiting for her to bring it home for those 40 minutes.

I just very gently said, “Do you realize that the question was, what’s exciting you nowadays? In other words, what are you looking forward to? What are you co-creating for your future, your short term future with the people with whom you work and other people around you?”

Her instinct was to go back to two years. She had to set the stage for right now two years prior. That told me, as a writer and as a storyteller and as a story coach, that there was still a lot of her own story that she could not yet rationalize. She hadn’t brought it up to speed. I encouraged her to sit down on her own and to work all of these out as much as she could so that when somebody asked her again, “What are you doing right now?” she didn’t need to preface it with a two year run up.

That’s the type of thing where we’re in a space of service or giving, that we need to be extra cognizant and extra aware of where our heads are and where our hearts are. Because if we’re still working out things in the recent past or the distant past, which is completely fine and completely normal, it risks bogging others down whom we’re trying to serve and help.

That’s just an added caveat of presumably if you’re in PR, you’re doing something, you’re creating something, you’re helping others do that and bringing people along to help create a future and do something special in the here and now. It’s just a matter of being extra cognizant of where your mind is and where your heart is and where the stories are holding you back from. If they are holding you back then you’re not living as much as you can in the moment and doing as much as you can with the time that you have.

I think that’s so true. That woman’s story from two years ago was so fresh that it was dominating, what you’re saying is that it was dominating her complete reality. She couldn’t even get to the happiness part without telling you all of the sadness that was holding her down. It sounds like the happiness part, what was really juicing her, wasn’t really even available at that moment for her to articulate.

BAMD0041 | Storytelling for leadership

Consider which part of the storytelling for leadership and PR is karmic, a past story orientation; and which is dharmic or future story orientation

It’s all based on the story. A lot of the story work that I do and the story work that I’ve done for myself … I break it down, the yogi in me breaks it down, as which part of the story is karmic or is it a past story orientation, and which is dharmic or future story orientation? In the philosophy of yoga, as well as in Hinduism, as well as Buddhism, all the new age-y stuff that we latch onto and also apply to our own lives today, regardless of religious denomination …

Wait. Which part of the story is karmic, which is past? Which part is dharmic?

The philosophy of karma is that it’s things that you’re carrying from the past or things that you need to learn to heal yourself. Healing yourself of the past stuff so that you can be fully healed here and now. Dharmic or dharma is another belief around your destiny, your faith, your purpose in this lifetime. These things are independent from one another but they’re also really entwined when you think about it.

For the example of this woman who I’d asked basically what is the dharmic story that she’s living right now. What is her purpose? What is her passion? What’s lighting her up? What is she doing these days? She instantly went back into, “These are my wounds that I’m still trying to heal and overcome.” It was almost like she was telling me passively that she couldn’t be fully in her mission because she was still holding on to wounds and pains of her past.

A lot of the storytelling for leadership and PR work that I’ll do is simply noticing, when I have a new client, where does their instinct take them? Does it go into their future story orientation of, I see a vision where people who are young mothers, they’ve just given birth to their children, their young child, they want to get back on the health track but they’re feeling really bogged down by expectations, by this presumption that they’re going to have to be not only very tired but look tired and not have time for themselves.

Not only be tired but look tired.

Right. The coach says, “I want to change that by giving them the resources that they need to find fifteen minutes of healthful living so that they can … yada, yada, yada.” I’m just literally making this up off the top of my head. That’s a future story orientation. I can see, this person has a very vested stake in creating a future for ideal clients.

Then I can go into clients … Let’s call her Samantha. “Samantha, why do you care so much about this person?” Chances are very good that she has lived a similar story. I take her back into her past story orientation, her karmic story. Chances are very good, not always necessarily, but there’s a good chance that she’s lived this story herself or she’s experienced it firsthand.

That’s really where we get the meat and potatoes of the story to complement what vision she has for somebody, which is to say, “I want this for you because I’ve lived it myself. These are things that I’ve experienced and so on and so forth.” These two sides of the story really interplay quite a bit. It comes down to being your own story as your own form of PR is to examine your relationship between past and future story orientation.

It can feel a little bit like a seesaw. Some days you’re living in the past, some days the future. It’s all about just finding the threads that you can pull into the center where you are here and now so that you can keep doing what you do so well and sharing where you’ve been, what you’ve done and also what your vision is for the future for people, for your ideal clients, your ideal customers, your readers, etc. So that you can just keep living here and now and doing the best work that you can.

It can feel, at times, overwhelming. It’s really just about asking yourself, “Where do I want to move forward with my ideal people and how can I bring some of those threads of the past with me to help people understand it and resonate with it and learn from it?” It all ties itself together in the here and now where you can tell a very short story … 

What you Susan, read for me to introduce me, of dreaming of being a presidential speech writer someday. You can see the roots of my writing passion and also the vision that I used to have for myself but feeling disillusioned and now I added depressed. It was the impetus for me to leave and to try to do my own thing and be a leader in my own life using writing as my tool and vessel.

Just in a few sentences, you who’s listening, can have a pretty healthy little understanding. If you did some digging, you did some exploring around those concepts, you can probably figure out that I’m pretty service minded, service oriented. That I’m independent, that I also would want to take it upon myself to create something.

These are all little clues and things that we can use through our language to help us understand when we’re resonating with somebody, if they’re one of your “people”, someone in your tribe or if they’re living a different mindset or mentality.

What you’re saying too, when you’re examining your past and you’re pulling these threads through, some people want to discard those painful pasts. What you’re saying is that that’s informing your future and to keep that in there and make the connection between what your pain or what you’ve left behind to where you are today. Because that’s the whole story.

There’s a big movement, “Be vulnerable and show your pain.” There’s, I think, a graceful way to do it where you’re not miring someone in your pain and you’re just showing it to them and saying, “Here’s where we connect.” Do you know what I mean? I think there’s a real different between bringing somebody down from the pain of your story versus showing it to them, opening yourself up to show it to them to say, “We’re really the same inside and here’s why and here’s how far I’ve come and you can too.”

Absolutely. It’s all about how you tell it. Here’s how I can tell, when I’m reading somebody’s bio or about me page, I can tell what they’ve done wrong. Wrong, relatively speaking, like you’re saying, you don’t want somebody visiting your about me page for example and feeling like they’re being pulled into the dark hole from whence you have emerged years prior.

When people use language like saying, “I’m still a work in progress.” That doesn’t need to be said. That’s a disclaimer around somebody’s imperfections that is spoken from a place of guilt or shame. It’s subtly plants a seed of doubt in the person who’s reading it. It’s one of those things that I try to encourage people to avoid saying.

You don’t need to air out your guilt and your shame and your fear. But you can show someone a very deliberate path from which you have emerged and express it from a place of confidence so that the story of pain or suffering no longer has power over you.

When I talk about depression, I don’t want someone to feel depressed when they’re reading my story. I want them to know how much the depression was an impetus that sprung me to new heights, that challenged me to go forward. I still would want them to know, this is what depression feels like. If someone’s reading it who, for example, is suffering from depression, I’ll write in a different way of saying, “I know what you’re going through, here’s how I can imagine your feeling.”

The point is, you can use the suffering, the hardships, the trials, the questions, the doubts to frame up why. Why you are where you are today. When you can explain to somebody why you have a personal stake in what you’re doing, what you’re trying to do, what you’re striving for and what you believe, you don’t need any other explanation. Frankly, you don’t need many other credentials to validate what you’re striving to do.

I had no credentials in doing what I was striving to do. I was a 23-year-old aspiring author who had mediocre writing skills but was hell-bent on doing something with them to serve people. The story that I told then was a lot different from the story that I tell now because I’ve had seven plus years of experience writing and rewriting and rewriting and also just living. The story changes as we change. It’s always a very malleable and changing thing, the stories that we live and the stories that we tell.

I knew that if I shared how much I cared about what I cared about, that people who validated that, the underbelly of passion and consideration and determination, that those are the people I wanted to work with anyway.

Those are the people that I wanted to be my tribe. I didn’t want people to look at my subscriber account and my Facebook likes and to take that as validation for what I had to say. I wanted them to feel just how emotionally invested I was, how much I was bleeding into my computer screen for them to feel cared for.

If I can make them feel that, then nothing else mattered. I knew that I was developing trust with them. That’s what I value most. That’s how I live and that’s how I try to tell stories and how I try to create work, where people feel so cared for through the impersonal medium of as I flick my computer.

The computer, this medium which does bring us together but is not human. I think our biology is very confused by the contrast of connecting two people through such an impersonal medium like technology. That’s something that’s accessible to everybody.

You can’t feign how much you care. When you package that and share it in your own unique ways and with poise and grace and confidence, then you have enough at your fingertips, I believe. I’ve lived it so I can I guess prove it in one limited case study, to say that that’s enough for you to start to garnish your own PR and to get attention in all the right ways that honor you and what you believe.

BAMD0041 | Storytelling for leadership

Dave Ursillo guides people on storytelling for leadership and PR through his Literati Writers group.

I like that you say you can’t feign how much you care. It’s also not about stating it. It’s about how you’re telling your story. I also like what you said about the validation isn’t how many people you have in your Facebook page. It’s really when they’re looking to someone like you help them tell their story, it is about how much you care and how you’ve helped others to get to the place that you got to yourself.

Absolutely. I completely believe that, Susan. In a digital world that we keep our faces in, which is such an amazing tool for doing more of the work that we love to do. I have clients who have ranged from the Philippines and Australia and New Zealand to Northern Europe to South Africa and everywhere in between. It’s absolutely amazing. I would never be able to do it otherwise.

I think it’s really important to remember that even though we’re in this digital world of numbers and conversion rates and funnels and marketing, that you can still bring a ton of heart into it. One of my friends, Jacob Sokol, who’s a life coach and just an awesome guy, says, “Follow your heart but bring your head with you.” There’s space for you to bring an abundance of passion and care and consideration and also to have the mental aspect of how do I make this work. It’s important to have these two in relationship with one another.

Bring all the care that you can when you’re making that evergreen funnel. Bring the amount of passion that another human being deserves when you’re telling them a story of overcoming and not just trying to get them to sign up for your newsletter. There’s a really beautiful space to finesse … You mentioned I said coffee is an artistry to me.

Make this an artful thing, whatever it is that you’re creating and however you’re trying to serve. Make it artful so that it honors you, so that it feels good. So that the journey that you’re on right now doesn’t feel excruciating, like you’re just striving for an outcome or an end goal.

You’re in the experience. A cycle of vinyasa, as we would say in yoga, of really intentionally placing things, from words to products to Skype calls, and really making it rewarding. That will have a broader effect. It’s the stuff of loving relationships. It’s the stuff of bringing communities together. Even though you may be playing in Mail Chimp or in Gmail, it does have an effect that’s broader because I believe that how you do anything is how do everything.

Making room for the heart space to market yourself and to reach out to people and to serve people will be necessarily how you carry yourself in everyday life. When you’re driving in rush hour or ordering your coffee from your local café or raising your kids or whatever the case may be.

I think that’s really true. I think you’ve expressed it in the word, infused. That as you’re writing and as you’re going through all of this daily process, whether it’s your storytelling or what you’re offering somebody, that you are, in part of that process, then you are infusing it with your good intentions and your care for the other person. Not just for yourself, the outcome of the funnel and that sort of thing.

Let me get back for one minute to examining the three stories that are driving you. Because I think that’s really an important point in being able to move forward with your future vision. I know for myself, an example, I’m training in Aikido and I’m really a dork. Very awkward and clumsy on the mat.

One of my values is to be graceful and elegant. To have me not do that on the mat and be so awkward is very painful. I remember walking out the door and then I say, “I’m off to dork out on the mat.” My sweetie saying, “I don’t think that language is helpful to you.”

Just to be able to examine that myself, I thought in that moment, I said, “I am continuing to practice to be graceful and proficient on the mat.” Now, I’m a black belt. I’m still not graceful. Now, I’m starting to teach Aikido to the beginners. That’s a whole new experience that’s not yet graceful either, that’s very awkward. I’m at the beginning of something, at this age of 59. Beginning at something like that is really challenging too because it’s a different type of teaching.

To start to frame that, like when I came last night after teaching, it’s like, “How did it go?” I’m like, “Well, it went okay. I really learned from the senior teacher after me how to break things down even more specifically and more understandably. That, I’m going to take to my next teaching.” Instead of beating myself up like, “Oh my God, I did an awful job.” Do you know what I mean?

Absolutely. You will believe the stories that you tell yourself and the stories that you tell others. If you tell yourself, “I’m not a good yoga teacher.” Why wouldn’t some part of you, subconscious, your soul, be listening to that and start to abide by it? If you tell friends in passing, “I’m undateable. I’ll never find a relationship.” How open will you be to possibility when somebody walks into your life if you’re constantly telling yourself that this thing cannot happen?

It’s so basic. It’s so simple. That’s why it takes so much discipline Susan, to observe the stories that we’re telling ourselves. There’s so many different options for how to get into … For me, things like movement and writing, movement as in yoga, help disrupt the stories, the ongoing narratives. What we call in yoga, Samsara or Samskara, which are mental grooves of the mind.

I haven’t heard of Samskara. Is that a real word? Samskara versus Samsara?

It’s a variation of how you pronounce the same word.

That’s really funny. Like you’re scarring yourself with your past.

Yeah, basically. It translates to mean mental grooves of the mind or mental grooves. Tracks of the mind that basically, the groves that you imprint upon yourself based on your thoughts. Giving yourself the opportunity in writing or journaling, in yoga, running, walking, being outside, being in nature, doing something that you love, is a great way to disrupt these ongoing tracks of the mind.

Once you disrupt them, then you see the potential for rewriting the story, for telling yourself a different story. For you Susan, it was your partner who was able to reflect back to you, “I don’t think that that’s a good story that you want to be telling yourself.” The ability to just be cognizant and aware creates this world of potential. All that you really need to do is start listening to the stories.

Listen to the ones that you’re repeating to yourself. That was a common one for me on the mat. I’m so awkward. I remember something super painful. I’ll never forget this, that one of the guys, we were sitting, standing around sensei’s desk. I was trying to get a little shot glass out of a cardboard, the cardboard thing that held it. I ripped it by accident. This one guy said to me, “Just like your Aikido.” I was stunned and hurt. I’ve ripped this, not gotten it out gracefully, just like my Aikido.

How you do anything is how you do everything. We’re expressing the same stories in different unique ways all the time. The more that you can thread your awareness of them into just knowing that it’s all you …

Not to let others reinforce that, that’s what I’m saying. That reinforced my own story about my own Aikido. I just have to say, even though I don’t know that I’ve let that go, it’s something that burned into my mind. On the other hand, I’m continually training to what we call Shugyo, which disciplined training toward enlightenment, no matter how far off it is. That continual training is what you’re saying in examining your mind and then putting it down in writing and refining it. Putting it into your future on paper.

BAMD0041 | Storytelling for leadership

Storytelling for leadership and PR is a story journey, much like learning yoga or Aikido.

It’s all a process and it’s all one of refinement. The journey that we’re on, let alone the story journey, is not linear. It’s cyclical. It’s repeating. It’s a journey of depth, of getting deeper into the truth and to the essence of what we want to be living and how we want to be living it. Basically, just about everything in their life can reflect the stories.

Like you mentioned Susan, there’s other people who reinforce those stories to you. You might have an old friend who tells you that you’re the one who’s undateable just based on ha-ha or this is what we’ve always joked about. You have to be aware of the stories that others impress upon you as well and question if you want those stories in your life at all. Because your energy, it’s your story. You have permission to cut out what doesn’t serve you and to welcome in what does.

I think that’s true. You also mentioned using movement to shift the story. Using yogic movement or any kind of movement. Aikido is the same thing. We’re using movement to move the energy but also to move the stories and to create new neural pathways, when you were talking about those mental grooves. I think yoga, any kind of physical movement, is instrumental in shifting those grooves.

Absolutely, because movement, as you mentioned, shifts energy. When we shift energy, transformation occurs. On the mental plane, when we’re shifting energy and moving energy as we move our bodies, we’re disrupting, like I was talking about, the Samsara, the Samskara. The mental grooves of the mind, the narratives that the ego is entrenched in and doesn’t see any other way around because it’s so comfortable in those stories.

Our minds get very comfortable with what is known. That’s the scary part of changing your story, is that the mind, the human mind, we call it the lizard brain or the monkey mind or all these different terms that are given to this lower state, the animal state of acknowledging ourselves. The mind is always going to feel more comfortable with what is known than what is unknown.

What’s unknown is always going to feel uncomfortable or threatening or vulnerable. Even if we know in our conscious minds that where we want to go is good and healthy and positive, it’s still unknown and it still intimidates us and scares us. The mind is really good at keeping this semblance of harmony with what is simply known and comfortable and certain.

Even something small, like going to a yoga class or going for a walk, being in nature, gardening as we were talking about before we started our interview Susan, just communing with tags that make you very present and physical and embodied, in your body or embodied. You give yourself a window of opportunity to see the truth and feel the truth beyond that your mind is telling you is comfortable and safe because it is known and certain.

You can shift. Sometimes if I’m crabby, I’ll just go out and sniff flowers or cut off the dead leaves just to be out in nature and the hear the birds, just do things like that. I have a blue jay that comes when I call to get his peanut. It’s so fun. He’ll sit on the tree, “Hey, where’s my peanut?” It’s just sometimes that five minutes or even 30 minutes can shift your mindset. Just doing something a little bit different and then come back and just shift that.

You got to give yourself the chance. Give yourself the chance to just think anew and feel anew and be renewed. Suddenly, you discover all this room of possibility that’s always been there. You just got to risk yourself into it, I guess.

We’ve been talking about a lot of great story telling things and ways to tell your story and how to get the negative stories out of your head. What about some of the things that people may be doing wrong with their storytelling for leadership and PR that they don’t know? We mentioned one thing, which was don’t say, “I’m a work in progress,” because we know that. Or don’t blurt out, “I’m being vulnerable here.”

That’s to me, one of the worst things you can do. It’s like saying, “Honestly or I’m being honest now or I’m telling you the truth now.” It’s like, what have you been doing before? What other kinds of things do people typically do incorrectly in their storytelling that they could shift so the tell a story that really reflects them and really inspires other people to connect with them and co-create with them?

Right off the top of my head Susan, there’s either not committing yourself to labels or titles. That’s a very common one. We know that you’re an enlightened yogi, new age philosopher and you don’t subscribe to the fact that your soul can be contained within a title, like writer or coach. But for your reader, it’s ever important for them to be able to place who you are and what you’re claiming to be and what you’re trying to do instantly upon meeting you.

It’s just one of those things where I was joking and being efficacious. If somebody really feels uncomfortable with assigning a label to themselves because they’re like, “I’m not just these things. I’m not just a PR coach. I’m not just in marketing.” We know that. Like you were mentioning Susan, you don’t need to disclaim that you’re more than these things. We can assume it.

Just as when you’re meeting somebody for the first time and somebody says, “What do you do?” You give them some nuggets of information that they can chew on to understand and start to place you.

Oftentimes, when people feel really reluctant to give themselves their titles, it makes the readers feel uncommitted to you because they feel like you’re not committing to them, you’re not giving them the trust that they deserve to know more about who you are and what you do.

On the other hand, there is another trend, which people in a self-help or personal development or coaching space do. It’s tongue and cheek but I also find that it’s really unhelpful if have limited real estate for describing yourself. I usually use two to three titles to help a reader triangulate who you are and what you do.

I can use some variation of writer or author. I’ll mention being a yogi or a yoga teacher and I’ll mention either running an online writers group or being a business storyteller so that people have this triangulation around me. They see that I write, that some of the work that I do involves business storytelling and that I also happen to be a yogi or a yoga teacher.

There’s an understanding that there’s a holistic approach to the ways in which I do things or there’s some essence of spirituality or whatever you define yoga as. The other way of doing that is creating a title like happiness lover or joy-ologist or catalyst.

I like joy-ologist.

It’s nice, it’s really nice but unless you’re really onboard with that …

Do you mind if I take that? Because that’s one of core values too, is to spread joy. I haven’t thought about calling myself a joy-ologist but I love that.

It’s fine and it can reflect what you do, but I would rather Susan, rather than saying you’re a joy-ologist, say some of the relatable tiles that I understand and then to say, “Susan is XYZ who is intent on spreading joy to people through her work.” Almost you can just shift, you can get away from the title maybe isn’t so self-explanatory and using the economy of your language in such a way where you can reflect more deliberately and also …

I can use it in the triangle … Not all by itself. It’s like, “I work with people to double or triple their business using soundbites effectively in publicity, and in that process I’m a joy-ologist.”

But you have to explain that too.

I do it with joy because sometimes people think it’s such a painful process to move from private to public person.

BAMD0041 | Storytelling for leadership

Moving from private to public storytelling for leadership and PR can be a difficult shift.

See, I love how you just explained it. That’s perfect. That’s why I almost askew people away from using titles that they know what they mean but others don’t. It’s fun but it’s one of those questions where your reader, your perspective client or customer, how are they interpreting that and what does it mean to them?

One of the greatest adages in all of communications is, it’s not what you say that matters, it’s what people hear. Ultimately, that’s what we’re trying to do. It’s difficult because you don’t know how people are defining these different words and phrases. We’re trying to give people the best semblance of bridging what we’re saying to what they’re hearing. Those are a couple of things with titles. It can be tricky but it can also be a lot of fun when you nerd out about it like you and I do. Like we are doing right here and now.

It was fun just to play with it, to shift that. I think it’s different saying it versus writing it too. In that kind of conversation, I can transition or I can say use the startle. Joy-ologist is like, “Wait a minute. I don’t know what that means.” Just to shift the attention. You’re like, “Wait a minute, what does that mean?” Then you can have the conversation, “What it means is …” Shifting that pain to pleasure, blah blah blah. I think this different. That was really fun to just play with that. Is there anything I haven’t asked you that you wanted to add?

No, I think we’ve covered a lot of ground. I certainly hope for you, the listener, that’s it been helpful and engaging. We’ve given you plenty to chew on and different things to try out. Just remember, it is a journey. You shouldn’t know everything based on the extent of this one call. I trust that these things that I’ve told you are things that I wish that I had learned a little bit more quickly. I learned them mostly on my own, out of my own stubbornness, trying to figure it out on my own for way too long. If I had had them early on, I think it would have been much a great help.

I also would like to extend that I’m more than available to chat with you if you do have any questions. You can find me, as Susan mentioned, at My online writers group is the Literati Writers, which you can find at LiteratiWriters (Now Closed) if you’d like to get into a three month expansive, spacious, creative experience that is lately guided, mostly self-guided, but includes premium writing prompts.

It’s basically an online space that is protected for you to explore your self-expression to write more, to learn how to write better through some yogic principles and a chakra guided E-course. Also more importantly, non-judgments, no criticism, no fear of trolling or anything. It’s a place where you can express yourself and feel safe.

Do you jump into that place? You jump in and then …

Yeah, I write myself.

You have group calls and things like that in there?


That’s and LiteratiWriters (Now Closed) where you can connect with Dave and share in his enthusiasm and creating your different stories and maybe get some good yogic tips about shifting your Samsara.

There you go. Exactly right.

Thank you so much for being our guest today, Dave. This is great information on storytelling for leadership. A totally different view on storytelling I think, really from deep inside. To not just crafting a story but getting to the essence of your past and really envisioning your future. Right?

Yeah, absolutely. That’s exactly right. A story is a soulful process. To me and to those of you who want to be experiencing a soulful rewarding journey through your work and how you’re creating change, then story is one way to start to tap into that and to really keep yourself authentic and aligned to the values that are motivating the actions and the work and how you show up in the world.

Thank you so much. I so appreciate that. Thank you, Dave.

Thank you, Susan. Appreciate the time.

About Dave Ursillo

Dave Ursillo is a teacher of writing, creativity, yoga and all things self-expression. He’s a former politico who once walked in the west wing of the White House and aspired to become a presidential speech writer. Then in 2009, disillusioned with the state of politics and questioning his role in the system, Dave quit his job and abandoned his career in public service to live a life of personal leadership, using writing as his vessel for change. Today, Dave works with conscientious creatives, innovative professionals, heart centered self-starters and everyday yogis who wish to live, serve and thrive at the crossroads of self-knowledge and self-expression. He’s published five books and been published six more. He’s led writing, creativity and yoga workshops in eight countries.

He’s the founder of the Literati Writers, a private membership writing community, which teaches writers of all levels how to stop struggling and start loving their writing at LiteratiWriters (Now Closed), that’s the home of his positivity infused online writing group. When Dave is not writing, he loves to travel abroad. He’s been to India twice. He considers coffee an act of artistry and wants to help humans love one another. Find Dave and his 400 published pieces of writing at


Take Dave’s Literati Writer’s E-Course (Now Closed) to explore your self-expression to write more and better through yogic principles and a chakra guidance.

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I’m a media coach, martial artist + marketing strategist who helps you communicate your values, mission + message during media interviews to multiply your revenue while building your brand + business. I believe that you don’t need to brag, beg or whore yourself to get the publicity you want. Nor do you need to be an axe murderer, a shamed sports star, or be involved in a sex scandal. There is another way…

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