What The Ancient Wisdom Of Philosophers Can Teach Us About Storytelling

Ancient Wisdom


Most of what I write will include a quote of some type. I am a great believer in not “reinventing the wheel” and if somebody already has stated a concept in an easy to understand way then I will include it as a quoted source. This regularly leads me to quote the ancient wisdom of deceased philosophers because I believe they still have relevance for brand storytelling today.

I have picked 10 ancient wisdom quotes that help me when creating a story that will resonate with my audience.


1) “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”  Lao Tzu

Every endeavour starts with a first step and this is also the case with brand storytelling. It is impossible to create a great brand story by doing nothing. Thinking is not enough you need to put “pen to paper” and create a plan for creating your next video, blog or podcast.


2) “While we are postponing, life speeds by.”  Lucius Annaeus Seneca

This quote is linked to the Lao Tzu quote because it highlights the problem of not starting your story or procrastinating too much. Commit yourself to tell the story and then do it. The first draft may not be perfect but you can refine it and improve it with an edit. The key is not to wait for a perfect result, as you will always be striving for perfection.


3) “Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance”  Confucius

There are gaps in everyone’s education. When creating your next brand story you need to accept this fact and fill in the blanks. You need to do some research with customers, colleagues and experts to fill those blanks. Armed with this knowledge you can then share the story with your audience.


4) “Human behaviour flows from three main sources: desire, emotion, and knowledge.”  Plato

This quote contains the ancient wisdom that I think is most relevant to us today. If you want to tell a brand story that will inspire your audience to action you must make it resonate with them. This is achieved by understanding what motivates them and how you make them care about your story.


5) “Know how to listen, and you will profit even from those who talk badly.”  Plutarch

I really like this quote from Plutarch because it highlights the importance of listening. The best stories resonate with an audience and you can only achieve this by understanding your audience. True understanding comes only after you have taken the time to truly listen first.


6) “Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees the others.”  Aristotle

I like this quote because it reminds us that we all need to be brave in our decision-making. When deciding to tell our brand story we need to be different and creative with our approach to storytelling. Merely repeating what are competitors our doing adds no value for our audience and they will simply look for more compelling and interesting content elsewhere.


7) “When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.”  Confucius

It is easy to start a story that simply does not work. When this happens to a brand they need to reevaluate their position and see how they can tell their story in a way that works. Remember good storytelling is a process and it may require multiple efforts before you get a format that delivers your message in a compelling manner.


8) “Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”  Lao Tzu

Storytelling can take time and as long as you are not unnecessarily procrastinating, it is worth giving it the time needed.


9) “The person attempting to travel two roads at once will get nowhere.”  Xun Kuang

I have included this quote because it highlights the point of knowing what you are trying to achieve and sticking to that purpose. A story that leaves the audience “scratching their head” wondering what was the point of that is not worth telling. Clearly understand what you are trying to say to your audience, stick to that message and avoid trying to make unrelated points.


10) “There is nothing permanent except change.”  Heraclitus

Now more than ever we are aware of how change, impacts on our existence. Our storytelling has to accept the fact we are in a period of unparallel change often driven by technology. Brand storytelling that can embrace change and show there are benefits with change, will resonate with its audience.