Thinking in calories

I’ve been thinking a lot about how everything comes down to survival instincts. And as it turns out, “everything” includes writing that’s too long. This quote from Building a StoryBrand stuck out to me:

When having to process too much information, people begin to ignore the source of it in an effort to conserve calories. In other words, there’s a survival mechanism within our customers’ brain that is designed to tune us out should we ever start confusing them.

Imagine every time we talk about our products to potential customers, they have to start running on a treadmill. Literally, they have to jog the whole time we’re talking. How long do you think they’re going to pay attention? Not long.

And yet this is precisely what’s happening. When we start our elevator pitch or keynote address, or when somebody visits our website, they’re burning calories to process the information we’re sharing. And if we don’t say something (and say something quickly) they can use to survive or thrive, they will tune us out.

Donald Miller, Building a StoryBrand

That’s a book about sales and marketing, but the same thing goes for all writing. Get to the point quick, or human survival instincts prevent them from sticking with you.

Public speaking is another classic example I’ve been pondering. Our ancestors needed to live in groups to survive. If you’re ostracized, you’re as good as dead. Public speaking means getting up in front of the group and risking saying or doing something that may make people think badly of you. And that’s a slippery slope to being ostracized.

It all comes back to survival. In the words of my friend Caroline, “It’s an ooga booga thing.”


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