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17 Sparks

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Today is my son’s birthday. 

He was born on Father’s Day, twenty years ago. 

I am in awe of how much things have changed in the last two decades. 

Him. The world. Me. 

Everything around us. 

Except for all those things that remain exactly the same. 

And despite the world changing at the speed of AI these days, there are still countless things that have survived. I’m grateful for the good ones and eager to see the ugly ones go.  

There has been significant evolution in my life over this last year, and I’m constantly leaning deeper into it. 

One month after my son turned four years old, I wrote online for the first time. Sixteen years later, we celebrate that date (July 17) as Sterling & Stone’s birthday — even though the studio was really born a few years later.  

A month from tomorrow we’ll be holding our annual Summer Camp, with S&S studio storytellers from all around the planet coming to spend a few days with us in Austin. 

I’m a romantic who can’t help but pay attention to seeming trivialities on occasion. Like numbers that shouldn’t actually matter, but do when the decision is made to give them significance, because then the number becomes part of the story, and story is everything. 

This isn’t mystical … exactly. I don’t believe that numbers have power in any astrological or numerological sense. But they work as frameworks, containers, and directions for my ideas. 

Like how I’ve been thinking in terms of sevens lately, and 17 is a recurring number in my life that might have artificial significance, made real by the attention I’ve paid to it. 

I felt a little aimless a few months ago when emerging from the story mines to post publicly for the first time in years. I needed both ambition and borders to stay focused and interested. 

So I decided that on the 17th of each month, I would pilot a new idea or offer of some sort, and commit to the practice for 17 months in a row. 

On April 17, I started StoryStreams

And on May 17, I started the Plotting Success newsletter. 

Today I’m offering 17 Sparks.

I got on LinkedIn because we were seeking leads for Invisible Ink, with no idea that DMs would be the most valuable currency.  

Now we have a waiting list at Invisible Ink, and relationships are the biggest benefit and my favorite thing about LinkedIn.

That makes perfect sense, seeing as I’m in the ideas-and-relationships business. 

I’m on Zoom five days a week, with some afternoons stacked back-to-back-to-back, from right after nap time until just before dinner. 

  • Conversations with storytellers in our S&S family. 
  • Conversations with existing or potential partners.
  • Conversations with clients for Invisible Ink.

Every conversation moves our studio forward, but time is scarce, so I’m extremely guarded, and you’ll never find events on my calendar just because. 

I’ve been especially careful with my time during the last few years as Niamh and I have been building our studio’s elegant engine. 

But being out in digital public has opened me up in the last few months. 

  • Conversations with old friends and new friends-to be, business partners and otherwise.
  • Conversations with an incredible spectrum of authors needing books.
  • Conversations with podcasters as guests on their show. 

And conversations with people — just because. 

That last one is where the 17 Sparks comes in. 

In an effort to blend purpose with spontaneity, I’m inviting 17 people to a conversation. Not all at one time, of course.  

Who am I looking to connect with? Someone who:

  1. Has specific questions where my unique experience can provide significant value, rather than general inquiries that could be easily answered through a quick search.
  2. Is on a mission to spread a message that matters, and wants to explore how storytelling can amplify their impact. I want to change the world with story, and if you have a meaningful message out there that I can help amplify through narrative, I would love to. 
  3. Hosts a podcast that could benefit from my particular brand of irreverent wisdom. I can speak from a spectrum of hard-earned experience, with high value for an audience that can benefit from my sharing, especially in terms of storytelling. 
  4. Is curious about either ghostwritten or collaborative IP, especially fiction. The latter fits neatly into our model because it naturally bleeds into film and television. I’m always looking for the right clients or partners, and for the appropriately-curious, a conversation could turn into mutual magic. 
  5. Believes that they might be an excellent addition to the Sterling & Stone storytelling family. This means you’re a creative misfit, a giver more than a taker, and you know how to spin a yarn better than most. 
  6. Has a crystal ball and isn’t afraid to use it. I love glimpsing into the future, now more than ever, and especially when it comes to the horizons of storytelling. Conversations with people who are consistently ahead of the trends always light me up. 
  7. Defies categorization and just has a hunch that we’d hit it off. If your Spidey-sense is tingling, don’t be shy. Maybe we’ve traded comments or DMs, or you just resonated with something I wrote and don’t want to regret not reaching out.   

NOTE: We can absolutely already know each other. We might have even had a conversation before. You could even be a client or partner I’m currently working with, but you want to talk off-book about something else that this offer inspired.  

So what are my criteria for choosing the 17 Sparks? It’s a mix of strategy and serendipity:

  1. Will this conversation move the needle on my big-picture purpose?
  2. Is there potential for a true win-win? I believe in the power of reciprocity and always aim to give as much (or more) than I get.
  3. Does it just sound like a good time? Life is short. I want to walk away from every interaction feeling energized and inspired.
  4. How much impact could this conversation have? I’m a sucker for ripple effects (they don’t tend to spiral out of control like those butterfly effects). 
  5. Is there potential for a great story for either one of us? 
  6. Can we cover the important bits in 20 minutes or less (that’s 17 minutes and change)? I am long-winded, but also ruthlessly efficient at listening to what someone is saying and a fast thinker when it comes to intersections and solutions.
  7. The beauty of this experiment lies in its potential for serendipity. If you have a compelling case for why we should connect, even if it doesn’t fit neatly into the aforementioned categories, I’m open to pleasant surprises and unexpected connections.

I will be asking you 7 simple questions in the linked Google form:

  1. What is the most interesting thing you’ve read, watched, or listened to recently, and what made it so compelling?
  2. If you could wave a magic wand and instantly become an expert in one thing, what would it be?
  3. What’s the biggest challenge you’re facing right now in your creative or professional life?
  4. If you could go back in time and give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?
  5. What’s one book, movie, or other work of art that fundamentally changed the way you see the world?
  6. In an ideal world, what would be the ultimate outcome of our 20-minute conversation? Dream big!
  7. What’s the most unconventional or surprising thing about you?

17 Sparks and infinite possibilities. 

I’ll be back with another 17th surprise (on our S&S birthday) next month, and I’ll let you know how the conversations went. 

If you’re interested in a spark, you can fill out the Google form here!

P.S. There were 17 deer frolicking less than 50 feet away from me as I wrote this.