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  • Toby Sinclair

Summary: Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller

Updated: Feb 29

⭐ Toby's Rating: 10/10

StoryBrand by Donald Miller Summary Image

Why read this? 📚

I've read this book five times! If that isn't enough to convince you, then here is another reason. Everyone says the best leaders are great storytellers. But how do you tell engaging stories? This book has the practical framework to tell your best story yet.

3 Big Ideas from Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller 💡

Here are three big ideas that business leaders can apply to lead their business and team more effectively:

  1. Identify and Combat the Villain: Donald Miller highlights the significance of pinpointing the 'villain' in your brand's narrative. This villain isn't necessarily a person but a problem that your customers face, which your product or service aims to solve. By giving this problem 'personified characteristics', making it relatable, and presenting it as the root source of your customers' frustrations, you can effectively engage your audience. It's crucial to address not only the external problems but also the internal and philosophical dilemmas your customers face, thereby deeply embedding your solution into their narrative​

  2. Position Your Brand as the Guide: In any compelling story, the hero encounters a guide who helps them overcome their challenges. Your brand should assume this role, offering empathy and demonstrating authority to gain trust. By showing understanding and competence, you establish a connection with your audience, guiding them toward a solution. This involves employing empathetic language in your marketing materials and showcasing your expertise through testimonials, awards, and statistics​.

  3. Focus on Survival: Once a brand defines what their customer wants, they are often guilty of making a mistake—what's defined isn’t related to the customer’s sense of survival. In their desire to cast a wide net, they define a blob of a desire that is so vague, that potential customers can’t figure out why they need it in the first place. Donald Miller shares an example of working with a leadership coach who defined their brand as “Inhale knowledge, exhale success,”. This does nothing to connect with the customer's sense of survival. Instead, Donald Miller suggested “Helping you become everyone’s favorite leader.”. This is connected to the customer's deeper need for status and connection.

2 Best Quotes From Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller 💬

StoryBrand Framework Example
“The only reason our customers buy from us is because the external problem we solve is frustrating them in some way. If we can identify that frustration, put it into words, and offer to resolve it along with the original external problem, something special happens. We bond with our customers because we’ve positioned ourselves more deeply into their narrative.”

“Always position your customer as the hero and your brand as the guide. Always. If you don’t, you will die. The day we stop losing sleep over the success of our business and start losing sleep over the success of our customers is the day our business will start growing again.”

Toby's Top Takeaway From Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller

You want to be helpful. Especially when your team is under pressure and lost for answers. 

In these moments, the easy options:

  • You give advice - "Here is how I would do it..."

  • You take over - "Let me do that for you..."

You become the hero.

The harder option help your team be the hero.

StoryBrand by Donald Miller shows you how. It's aimed at helping companies clarify their brand. However, this is a problem we all face. How to understand how to be helpful.

It starts by understanding you are not the hero. Your team, colleagues, and clients are.

To do that, you need to understand the hero:

  • What do they want? (status)

  • What are their fears? (rejection)

  • Where are they going? (mastery)

  • Where do they want to be? (promotion)

Once you do that, your role is to be the guide on the side. Not the sage on the stage.

Learn how to do that in StoryBrand by Donald Miller

Turn Your Knowledge into Action 🛠️

Here is an exercise you can do based on the lessons from Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller:

Exercise: Help for Heroes

Objective: To utilize the StoryBrand Framework for personal leadership development, helping leaders understand how they can more effectively guide their teams and contribute to their success.

StoryBrand Framework Canvas


  1. Identify the Hero: Recognize that your team members are the heroes of their own stories. Reflect on their goals, challenges, and what success looks like to them.

  2. Define the Problem: Identify the external, internal, and philosophical challenges your team members face. How do these challenges impact their work and motivation?

  3. Position Yourself as the Guide: Consider how you, as a leader, can show empathy towards your team's challenges and establish authority by demonstrating expertise and experience. What stories can you share that show you understand and have overcome similar challenges?

  4. Present the Plan: Develop a clear, actionable plan that outlines how you can help your team members overcome their challenges. This could include mentorship, resources, training, or specific strategies tailored to their needs.

  5. Call to Action: Determine how you will invite your team members to engage with your plan. How can you communicate your offer of help in a way that is compelling and supportive?

  6. Highlight Potential Failure: Reflect on the consequences for your team members if they do not overcome their challenges. How can you address these fears and motivate action without resorting to scare tactics?

  7. Envision Success: Imagine the success your team can achieve with your guidance. How will overcoming their current challenges improve their work, satisfaction, and contribution to the team's goals?

Estimated Time: 2-3 hours

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