Imagine you lived in Paleolithic times. Your name is Blug. You live in a cave. You’ve used fire for years, to cook game that you’ve caught or to prepare the hide in order to turn it into leather. In any case, you know it’s hot. You know fire burns.
Geg suggests you have three options:
- try putting it out
- jump over the flames
Initially, you decide to try putting it out. You throw a pelt on the flame. It looks like it dies down, until…wait…the fur on the other side of the pelt catches. The flame grows even higher.
It’s getting harder and harder to breathe because of the smoke. You’ve moved everything else away from the fire in order to prevent it from spreading. If you wait any longer, you’ll start choking because of the smoke.
You are left with one option. The only way out is over the rising flames. Having suffered 2nd degree burns as a child, Geg’s terror increases as the hypnotically dancing flames get larger.
You’ve noticed that waving your hand over a campfire feels warm, but if you move it quickly it doesn’t burn. Based on this observation, you decide to take two hops and lunge forward over the conflagration. As you fly through the air, you feel the heat all around you. You raise your knees up high, minimize contact. The jump itself lasts a split second. You land on the other side of the fire, intentionally falling forwards to avoid any contact. You get up immediately, a bit bruised but thrilled you got over the fire without getting hurt.
You yell out to Geg, “Jump over it! I’m fine! Just hold up your knees and jump as far as you can.”
Unconvinced, he counters, “What do you mean? I’ll get burned again.”
You respond, “As long as you go over it quickly, you wont get hurt.”
Geg sucks in his breath. One, two, and clears the fire lifting up his knees, just like you. He lands cleanly on the other side, grinning from ear to ear.
“You were absolutely right,” he proclaims, as you emerge from the mouth of the cave. “You saved my life.”
Afterwards, when Geg tells friends the story of how you discovered this new fact about fire, they repeat it to their friends. The story travels far and wide. Other cavepeople enjoy hearing about your tale of courage, learning about this particular aspect of fire in the process. Before long, you become well-known as the One Who Discovered Fire Jumping. It’s how you’re introduced, whenever you meet anyone new. This story of struggle, this moment when you almost lost your life, enhanced the rest of your life and that of your fellow cavemen significantly.
Fire Jumping 101, or Why Stories Matter
Storytelling, like many things which are a part of our everyday lives, has been around with us since prehistoric times. It was a key survival skill for human beings, humans as a race. The fact that we could share information in the form of stories meant that knowledge traveled among people. Thanks to stories we learned vicariously, not only from personal experience. Stories made it possible to build and spread knowledge.
Imagine that your product idea gives your customers the power to jump over fires, something they never believed they could do or knew was possible. Or probably, you have some other main benefit in mind. Packaging it into a story will make it easy to explain what it is and how it works, even if it sounds incredible at first. A good yarn helps your product find a context.