new to you friday–success story

Once upon a time there lived a freelance writer who really wanted to attend STORY.

In 2010, because of a generous person, this writer attended the second-annual conference. She heard amazing speakers like Charlie Todd, Andrew Klavan, Jason Fried and David McFadzean. She sat at the feet of legendary UCLA screenwriting professor Richard Walter (literally–there was no more room on the couch). She got some free stuff and met Ben Arment and heard Amena Brown share one of her newest poems at an Elements event at the city’s “premiere gay and lesbian bar” before snagging the last cheese pizza at a place down the street and eating it with her buddy Kyle while standing outside on one of the summer’s last lovely nights.

And that was just day one.


6a00d83451dccb69e20115707ca4e1970b-300wiHumorist and cookbook author Peg Bracken once described the difference between a gourmet cook and her own humble efforts this way:

[The gourmet’s] assignment had been dessert. So, at dessert time, she brought out big plastic bags of old-fashioned plump chocolate-marshmallow cookies.

“I adore these, don’t you?” she beamed, handing them around. And everyone did, thinking, moreover, How original, how posh! But if someone else had done this they’d have thought, Poor child, how naive!

The same principle applies in other areas—people already established as successes in a particular field can often do no wrong, while an unknown but equally-talented counterpart couldn’t pull off the same thing.

This struck me Monday as the buzz began building around Ben Arment’s announcement of his new STORY conference scheduled this October in Chicago. Until this week Arment served as the “Innovation and Experience Director” at Catalyst and is now going out on his own to create a production company for live events and film. STORY is his first project in this new role.

As soon as the news hit, so did the twittering:

@Church Relevance: Ben Arment is putting together another fresh ministry conference called STORY.

@mknisely: #STORY is going 2 do something significant 4 church communicators & open the possibilities 2 a new way of thinking.

@vjProctor: check out STORY by @BenArment – a first-of-its-kind experience –

@GBrenna: I’m pretty excited about this!!! (thanks @BenArment)

@mknisely: dude. #STORY is going to be off the hook. i cannot wait.

I’m not knocking the conference; in fact, Monday I emailed Christian Standard and offered it to cover it if they would pay my expenses and registration. (No response yet.)

But what I find amazing is that within minutes, hundreds of people around the world were not only talking about this new venture but singing its praises. It’s true Arment has a history of successes, and that influences us; J.J. Abrams was able to get the new Star Trek movie made in part because of his track record creating TV shows like LOST, Alias, and Fringe. We all build on past successes and Arment’s work speaks for itself.

So kudos to him. But I wonder what would happen if someone else, someone less well known and less affiliated with other hip initiatives, created the exact same conference. How much do we miss out on because it’s new or needs better branding? Is it that loser’s fault for not doing a better job grabbing our attention, or ours for being so hard to impress?

In the investment world, past performance does not guarantee future results. But in marketing and personal branding, past coolness predicts future acceptance. “Mrs. Tiffany can wear paste beads, and J. Paul Getty can wear out-at-the-elbow sweaters, too,” Bracken writes. “That’s the way the world wags, and no one has yet discovered what to do about it.”