Shannon Cason is an authority on storytelling. He has told stories all over the country – with The Moth, Snap Judgment, and his own podcast, Shannon Cason’s Homemade Stories. His training and consulting on Brutally Honest Storytelling is helping people and organizations connect with their audiences better through honest storytelling.
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- You have an obligation to speak up and share your talent with the world.
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Time Stamped Show Notes
(click the time stamp to jump directly to that point in the episode.)
- [01:03] – Shannon lives in Detroit with his wife, two daughters and niece. They are regularly visited by his mother-in-law, mother and sister, so he lives in a house full of women that keep him insane. He is on the road a lot telling stories, hosting and giving workshops
- [02:02] – Shannon will be one of the keynote speaker at 2017’s Podcast Movement
- [02:35] – One BIG and Unique Value Bomb: The stories of your failures and mistakes are the most interesting and relatable. It is important to be honest about those obstacles and it will inspire others to overcome their own obstacles
- [03:17] – The stories that changed your life might be the stories that will change someone else’s life — don’t be afraid to tell that story
- [04:21] – Worst Entrepreneurial Moment: Shannon says he has failed so many times but realized these failures are where his stories come from; so he started to put himself in impossible situations to get a good story from it
- [04:58] – Shannon was at WBEZ Chicago where he created his Brutally Honest Storytelling series of keynotes and workshops — his live show of homemade stories were not as successful as he thought they would be and he felt it was because he was playing it safe
- [05:42] – Shannon did an open mic show in Ann Arbor, Michigan and only a few people showed up. Shannon realized he had to go bigger
- [06:16] – Shannon thought that if he failed, more people should see his error rather than just a handful of people
- [06:30] – Shannon has plans to do bigger shows and he already has a budget for it
- [07:13] – Biggest Lesson Learned: When you fail, it’s okay to go back. Do not downgrade your vision for the next time you go at it. Learn from your mistake and then go for a different goal than the one you failed at. Do something bigger, do something greater than you have before
- [08:25] – JLD says he las listened to Shannon’s stories and can listen to him all day, as he has a way of weaving tales together in a mystical way
- [09:01] – Entrepreneurial AH-HA Moment: Shannon was sharing his stories in the back closet of his apartment and was waiting for his big break. Shannon asked Glenn Washington to mention him and his podcast and Glenn agreed
- [10:23] – Shannon’s listeners went from hundreds to thousands and then he did his Kickstarter campaign to get better equipment
- [10:54] – Shannon got to work with WBEZ Chicago, and he now hosts for The Moth; he also did an episode for Snap Judgement and has done storytelling everywhere
- [11:32] – Shannon wanted to be noticed, but he waited for a long time and now he challenges himself to speak up and let people know that he is here
- [12:02] – JLD says you have an obligation to raise your hand and say “pick me”
- [12:36] – JLD tells Fire Nation to stop waiting and steer your own life in the direction you want it to go
- [13:47] – What are you most FIRED up about right now? – Brutally Honest Storytelling. People have stories to tell, but they sugarcoat them
- [17:21] – The Lightning Round
- What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur? –“My patience on being discovered. You know, I had to learn that I had to discover myself.”
- What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? – “Do one thing.”
- What’s a personal habit that contributes to your success? – “Being myself”
- If you could recommend one book to our listeners, what would it be and why? – Understanding Your Potential by Myles Munroe
- [22:23] – Don’t let anyone else control your story, they might get it wrong. Tell your own story
- [23:21] – Tell the stories that you are afraid to tell and you control that narrative
- [23:55] – If you share your stories, you can help yourself and others
- [24:01] – Connect with Shannon at his website and follow him on social media @shannoncason
Shannon: Light them on fire. Let’s light some fires here John.
John: Shannon is an authority on storytelling. He’s told stories all over the country with the Moth, Snap Judgment, and his own Podcast, Shannon Cason’s Homemade Stories. His training and consulting on brutally honest storytelling is helping people in organizations connect with their audiences better through honest storytelling. Shannon, take a minute, fill in some gaps from that intro, and give us just a little glimpse of your personal life.
Shannon: Well, thanks so much John. I’m from Detroit; lived in Detroit, have a beautiful wife, Cindy, two amazing daughters, Zoe, and Madison. I have an amazing niece, Riley, who lives with us. A mother-in-law who’s here most of the week. My mom and sister visit all the time. So I have a house full of women keeping me on my toes, keeping me insane, whichever button you decide to press that day. But I’m on the road a lot. I’m in Detroit. I’m on the road a lot telling stories, hosting, giving workshops and just living day to day recognizing the interesting in the day to day, finding the good stories to tell.
John: Well Shannon, I’m excited that you get to tell some stories to Fire Nation today because you are a master storyteller, and you and I were chatting a little, bit pre-interview chat about our all too brief face to face interaction that we had at Podcast Movement 2016. I’m fired up personally that you’re going to be keynoting 2017’s Podcast Movement so you can count on me in the audience supporting you, brother. I hope to get that chat with you again. And Fire Nation, if you’re listening to this episode and you’re attending Podcast Movement, don’t miss Shannon’s keynote because it’s going to be awesome.
One thing that I love about you Shannon is that you really understand the power of story so break it down for us. Tell Fire Nation, my listeners, here, something that we probably don’t know about storytelling, but we should because it will help us in many ways.
Shannon: It’s the stories that are about your failures and mistakes that are more interesting and relatable. I think that’s one of the key points. Being honest about those obstacles inspires others to overcome their own obstacles, and that’s where it’s at. For me, it’s like the best stories are the ones that you might be afraid to tell. And it don’t always mean you gotta tell it immediately right when you’re living it. But after you get through it, to go back and tell the story, those are the ones that change your life that change someone else’s life and can even affect the world in ways.
There’s been stories that have affected the world so that’s my value bomb. Don’t be afraid to tell that story.
John: Well Shannon, we are brothers from another mother, my friend because you are Episode 1701 of EO Fire and for the last 1700 interviews before you, there’s been one question I’ve asked on every single episode. And that is, tell me the story of your worst entrepreneurial moment because I want my listeners at Fire Nation to understand there’s so much to be gained value-wise from hearing of the struggles, the obstacles, the challenges, and the failures of those that have come before so that we can learn from that. We can maybe avoid the same pitfalls or just realize that hey, it’s part of life.
So now I want you to be number 1701 my friend to tell that story of what you consider your worst entrepreneurial moment, that really difficult time in your life. Tell us that story.
Shannon: I failed so many times John, so many. But I learned that it’s the raw materials for storytelling. Once I figured that out, I started to just put myself in impossible situations sometimes just to see what happens because I knew I’d get a good story from it if anything. And I actually just started my business last year. I’ve been doing what I do and storytelling for awhile, but I just started the business of what I do just recently. I took my podcast Homemade Stories back independent. I was with WBEZ Chicago for some time. And I created my brutally honest storytelling series of keynotes and workshops.
But I also started hosting events like my own Homemade Stories live events. And I do them all over the place, but I was starting them in Detroit and I just started doing everything. With my live show, Homemade Stories live; it was no big preplanning that went into it. And it wasn’t the success I thought it should have been. Also, this is going to sound kinda crazy, I didn’t think it failed big enough. I was playing it safe. So all the shows that I did, they covered cost, but it didn’t pop, it didn’t explode. It didn’t blow up for me. I tried to do this open mic show in Ann Arbor, Michigan. And only a handful of people showed up. Just a few people.
And my stories, I feel I’m more entertaining than a handful of people. Just being real. But this helped me research the dynamics of why this happened. It also made me readjust, get the right people. But also determine what I really wanted too. Did I even want to do small shows at all? So what did I do?
I decided to go bigger. I felt like it didn’t fail big enough. It should have failed bigger. It should have been a thousand seat theater and only a handful of people. You know what I’m saying? So instead of doing small shows, I partnered with Knight Foundation in Detroit. Now I plan to do bigger shows. The Knight Foundation funded me 65,000 towards my next Homemade Stories live shows. So my next season has funded in the bank already for it, and I can go even bigger this time. More planning, more resources, getting the right people and we shall see what happens. Dream no small dreams. They have no power so it’s already a success in my mind, in my eyes just stepping back and coming back in a bigger way.
John: So Shannon, from that, what do you wanna make sure that our listeners get from your story? What can we really maybe apply to our lives that is a lesson learned that you had?
Shannon: When you fail, when things don’t come to the fullness of the vision that you set for it, it’s okay to go back think about it, research, readjust. But also don’t downgrade your vision for the next time you go at it. You learned from that first time even though it didn’t hit where you wanted it to hit. But you learned something. Now when you go back, don’t go back for that same exact goal. You’re bigger than that now. Go bigger. Do something more. So in my mind, I learned so much this past year. And I just through failures and successes, that this year’s bigger and the next year I’ll probably push for more and more and more. You get what I’m saying? It depends on what you’re going for. It always depends but go back, readjust but don’t go for that exact same. Change it up somewhat.
John: Shannon, I’ve heard you on the Moth. I’ve listened to you on Snap Judgment. I’ve heard you on your own podcast, Shannon Cason’s Homemade Stories. I mean, I could literally listen to you tell stories all day. You just have this really adventuresome mystical way of kind of weaving these tales together. So I don’t want to stop you. I want to just kind of be this conduit for my listeners today of your stories. And the next one that I would love you to share is what’s one of those ideas that you’ve had, one of those aha moments? I mean, you’ve had a few so just maybe tell us a story of one of them and how you turned it into a success. Tell us that story.
Shannon: John, I used to wait for somebody to notice me. I’m excited just hearing that you listen to stories on the Moth and Snap Judgment –
John: Heck, yeah!
Shannon: And my own. That just excites me right there because I’ve listened to your show from the beginning.
John: Ah, you’re the man.
Shannon: I was there at the beginning. I was listening to it. Well, I have my little podcast going, Shannon Cason’s Homemade Stories. And I would make it in the back room of my apartment. I remember your show. It was like a brown couch behind. You was in San Diego. I remember. I remember I would watch the shows. I made mine in the back closet of my apartment. I got noticed for telling good stories with the Moth and Snap Judgment. I was touring with both organizations just telling my brutally honest stories. But I was waiting for a big break.
Waiting for someone to notice my brilliance and just sweep me away from my back room closet to work on stories and radio, film, TV, all these big projects. But you know what happened? No one noticed.
John: So true.
Shannon: No one noticed. So one day I told Glenn Washington; we was in some show; and I said, “Hey, man. Next time you run one of my stories; can you mention my podcast Homemade Stories?” I asked. And he did it for me and he did it in a big way. And immediately my listenership went from hundreds to thousands. Then I went and pushed my own Kickstarter to get better equipment. I was using this little mic taped to a coffee can. You use whatever you got. I used that for three years. The Kickstarter was a success and I got better equipment.
But then other organizations started to notice that I had ambitions with my storytelling. So I started doing things with WBEZ Chicago. Now I host with the Moth. I took over an episode of Snap Judgment recently. I tour Homemade Stories all over. I recently did a drop box podcast studio at south by southwest. I host duties keynotes and storytellings all over the place. And not for the cheap either, John. You gotta step up. You have to move and become professional. But I had to put my own hand in the air and say, “Hey, this is me.” I had to ask, “Hey, put me out front. Notice me.” I was waiting for so long. So it’s still a challenge for me because I’m kind of a – I like behind the scenes. I like the back room closet things. But I challenged myself to speak up now to let people know, “Hey, I’m here. I do this. Can I get involved in this?” Those are the things I do now.
John: And Shannon, I think this is a mindset shift that it seems like you’ve had, but I hope that you really follow through with that. As you have an obligation to put yourself forward. You have an obligation to raise your hand and say, “Pick me”. Because you have so many great stories to tell that are going to impact so many people’s lives. So why would you not put this forward in the most spotlight manner that you can by having people like Glenn Washington and getting out there and sharing your voice, your message, your mission with the world? Because it truly can impact so many people. And hey, what if you do that and it only impacts one extra person? Isn’t that enough?
Because that could change a life. That could be a ripple effect of amazingness. And my question to you Fire Nation is, what are you waiting for? Are you waiting for life to pass you by? If not, how about you grab the reins; take control, make things happen. And Shannon, I heard this from a guest just a few episodes ago so you’re welcome to take this – give me credit a couple of times and then use it for your own because I do love it. But you can’t steer a stationary ship. Ships only become steerable when you start moving when they start moving. So you gotta take action in life. You don’t necessarily need to know where you’re going, you just need to take action, get moving and then you can start to steer your life in the direction that you want it to go.
So I love all of what you’ve done, Shannon. And kind of fast forward a little bit to where you’re at today. We’re talking you’re about to be keynoting Podcast Movement. I mean, I look back to the first Podcast Movement that I keynoted in, and I just loved being up on stage in front of 1500 people that were all lovers of podcasts. And that’s what you’re going to be doing here in Anaheim for August in 2017. That’s gonna be amazing. I’m going to be one of those people in the audience as well. I can’t wait for your talk. But what has you most fired up today right now?
Shannon: Brutally honest storytelling has me on fire right now. Our stories are so valuable, John. Each of us has these stories that sometimes we sugarcoat, we try to make them so pretty and perfect.
John: You don’t let people sugarcoat stories, Shannon. I’ve heard you.
Shannon: I’m gonna tell you, man. No one wants to hear that story anyway, John.
John: No, they don’t.
Shannon: That’s the most boring story ever.
John: I just fell asleep.
Shannon: And it’s just if I want to hear – I want to hear about how you came back from the brink. You tell a story about how you almost quit. You started doing the daily podcast. You tell a story about how you almost just like, “Eh, I’m gonna quit.”
John: Burned out.
Shannon: But you didn’t quit.
John: Didn’t quit.
Shannon: You get what I’m saying? You didn’t. And that story is the storytelling magic. If I want to hear a story about how great someone is, I’m just gonna listen to hip hop music instead. I’m going hip hop it, and they gonna tell me how great and awe – so I listen to the new Drake album. And Drake, I like Drake.
John: How can’t you?
Shannon: He’s telling me how great he is throughout the whole album. You don’t understand up cars and – but we wanna hear the dirt. We wanna hear that question that you asked. That’s the question that I wanna hear on each and every one of your shows. What’s your biggest mistake? What was your biggest mistake?
John: I don’t let people get away with it. They try to tell me like, “Oh, yeah. I’ve had a couple of bad moments” I don’t wanna hear the couple of bad moments, I wanna hear the worst entrepreneurial moment you’ve ever experience – I want the dirtiest of the dirt. Take me there.
Shannon: Yeah, I do a lot of stuff on stage. I love hearing the biggest comedians and storytellers and public speakers tell me about their bombing experience. When they bombed because everybody’s got one and that’s the interesting thing because this guy or this lady is the most amazing person ever. And you’re sitting there and hearing the story about when they bombed. No one laughed. No one was – I love those stories.
John: You know what I noticed, Shannon? Is that I have a lot of books on my Kindle that are autobiographies of people like comedians or entrepreneurs. They’re all like 62% completed because I love the beginnings when they were struggling and failing. And then as soon as they make it and life starts to get all good and amazing, I’m like, “Nah, it’s kind of boring now. I wanna start reading another book with some failures.”
Shannon: That’s the magic right there. And then once we understand that, that we can talk about the dirt – my speaking, hosting, and workshops, we dig in the dirt. We get to the real magic of storytelling and find the stories that really connect and move people. That’s the things that I’m interested in, and I’m looking to inspire others to take that challenge. Tell about the real brutally honest stories in your life.
John: Shannon Cason’s Homemade Stories. Fire Nation, make sure you’re tuning into those. Sugarcoating you will not find. This guy, you might try to sugarcoat it. It ain't gonna happen. He’s gonna dig underneath that sugar. He’s gonna dig underneath that whipped cream and that whatever you have coated on there. He’s gonna get to the dirt. Now speaking of dirt; we don’t have any dirt for you in the lightning round; we have nothing but value bombs about to be dropped. So don’t you go anywhere. We’re gonna take a quick minute to thank our sponsors.
So, Shannon, we’re back and I have a question for you. Are you ready to rock the lightning round?
Shannon: Come on. Let’s put our super power lightning into effect on the lightning round. Come on. Let’s do it.
John: Shannon, what was initially holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Shannon: My patience of being discovered. I had to learn that I had to discover myself. It’s no need to wait, no need to wait, no need to ask for permission for everything. So that was my hold back and now I push forward.
John: Stop waiting for permission Fire Nation. Give yourself permission. Hey, right now myself and Shannon, we’re giving you permission. Whatever it is, you have our permission. What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Shannon: My dad drops – you call them value bombs, he drops value bombs all day long. He a Detroit legend. Everyone in Detroit knew him at one time. He drive around Detroit in his Fleetwood brown Cadillac and everyone would wave and showed him respect to Mr. Cason. I use Cason but he gotta put an accent on it. Cason.
Shannon: Cason is what he –
John: That’s why I asked you because I’ve heard people say Cason before so I wanted to make sure that you – I was pronouncing it correctly for you.
Shannon: For me it’s Cason. I’m pretty basic. So he told me, “Do one thing. Everyone is gonna be trying to do a thousand things following every fad, every scheme. And they’re never gonna be the master of nothing. Do one thing. And if you have a goal, put that lightning round beam focus on that one thing and the only excuse is death. Now if you die, I understand why you didn’t reach your goal.”
John: We’ll give you a pass this time.
Shannon: “But do that one thing till death.” So that’s my thing, storytelling is my thing. And if you come at me with things that’s outside of that, that’s not my focus. My focus is on the storytelling thing and that’s what I’m doing. So do your one thing. Find your one thing. It could be broad which can include a lot of things, but that one thing is important.
John: Shannon, what’s a personal habit that you have that you think contributes to your success?
Shannon: Being myself. Way back when, when I was a kid, we had a group. I was in a hip-hop group and our group was called BU. It was Born Unknown but the BU was the letters. So we would say BU and I’m real. I keep that going still now. I’m real with the people. I don’t try to put on; I don’t try to be who I’m not. If you listen to my podcast, it’s the same person talking to JLD right now. And it helps that I don’t have to adapt to all these different personalities with different people and different situations. A lot of people don’t have that. They’re one person with their wife and one person at work and another person with friends. But I consciously fought against that early in my entrepreneurial storytelling career so people can expect the same person in most circumstances. If I’m on stage, if I’m in person, or if you catch me off guard. People caught me at the airport sometime. Same dude. Same guy.
John: Same dude. It kind of reminds me of that quote. “Always tell the truth and you’ll never have to remember anything.” Because it’s just the truth. Always be yourself and you just have to be yourself. I mean, it can really be that simple Fire Nation. Now Shannon, if you could just recommend one book, what would it be and why?
Shannon: Understanding Your Potential by Miles Monroe. I read that book when I was young, a teenager. And we’re all seeds in a sense and we have seeds. And what’s the purpose of a seed? You plant it, you water it, give it sunlight, prune it, grow, bear fruit. And there’s no use in remaining a seed or just keeping seeds in storage. Seeds are potential. You gotta plant your potential Fire Nation. That book helped me understand that I needed to plant my potential to one day receive a harvest. Understanding Your Potential by Miles Monroe. And it’s funny like a lot of friends – like one of my best friends, he read the same book. And we both was like, “Man, that book did something.” It did. It did something to me.
John: Love that. Well, Shannon, let’s end on Fire with you giving us a parting piece of guidance, the best way that we can connect with you, and then we’ll say goodbye.
Shannon: Most definitely. I’m saying John, don’t – in talking to your audience. Don’t let anyone else control your story. They might get it wrong. You stand in front of everyone and you tell your own story. If you need help telling it, you can come talk to me. I’ll help you out but I’m blessed to work with so many great organizations like the Moth who just released a book and I’m in their newest book.
John: Ooh, congrats.
Shannon: Guaranteed to be a really good book in your bookshelf, All These Wonders. Worked with Snap Judgment, worked with WBEZ Chicago and I receive and receiving awards, grand acknowledgment. But for what? It’s because I told a story about addiction. That’s not a victory story. But it is. You know what I’m saying? It is a real victory and vulnerability of being able to share that. So if you tell the stories that you’re afraid to tell, you control the narrative. And that control is empowering, it’s pressure releasing. You ever felt pressure like when you’re feeling something and everything get off your back for a second? Man, it get all that pressure off you for – right off your back.
It changes lives and eventually the perspective changes and the story is no longer about you. It’s about who it’s helping. And those are the stories a lot of people are afraid to share. But if you share them, you can really help yourself and a lot of others. So to find me you go to shannoncason.com. Cason is C-A-S-O-N. Don’t wait to do it. You can go to that right now. Follow me on social media. I’m on all the social media, John as @shannoncason. But this is an honor talking to you on Entrepreneurs On Fire. I’ve been a long time listener, long time follower of everything that you have going on. And I’m really; really happy to see your success and blazing that trail for all us other podcasters.
John: Bang, bang, bang.
Shannon: We appreciate it.
John: Shannon that means a lot my friend. And you’re gonna continue to carry that blaze. On behalf on all of us at Podcast Movement, keynoting. I’m so excited for you. And you know this Fire Nation. You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with and hello, you’ve been hanging out with SC and JLD today. So keep up the heat. And if you head over to eofire.com, you just type Shannon in the search bar. The show note pages are gonna pop up. His show notes page with all the links that we’ve been talking about today. T
These are the best show notes in the biz. Time stamps. Links galore. Of course, head directly over to shannoncason.com and the book that’s coming out, All these Wonders by Moth where Shannon is featured. Definitely, check that out and if you’re not listening to his podcast. What are you doing? It’s amazing. Shannon Cason’s Homemade Stories. Find it all the great podcast directories. Shannon, thank you for sharing your journey, your stories with Fire Nation today. For that, we salute you and we’ll catch you on the flip side.
Shannon: Thank you so much, John. Thank you so much. Thanks for Fire Nation.
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