Storytelling Through the Highs and Lows with Robert Hartwell

November 11, 2022

Storytelling Through the Highs and Lows with Robert Hartwell

November 11, 2022

About This Episode

Storytelling is an integral part of our lives. From the first cry we let out when we were born, to living well into our adulthood, we tell stories to communicate and connect with others. That is what Robert Hartwell, our guest for this episode of Brilliant Thoughts, a Success magazine podcast, is all about.


He’s been captivated by the stage since he was seven years old, and has made a living off of storytelling since making it on his dream stage.


From Broadway to TV screens, Robert is passionate about telling stories. He founded The Broadway Collective, to help other artists be more effective storytellers on stage, and has been on several TV shows on HGTV, Discovery+, and the Oprah Winfrey Network. He also started Strengths on Stages so that more entrepreneurs could leverage their signature stories for business success.


He is also working on a show, as the host and executive producer of "Taking Back the House," a television show presented by the Oprah Winfrey Network, HGTV, and Scott Brothers Entertainment.


Regardless of where his calling takes him, whether it be on a stage, on a screen, or in a live video on social media platforms, storytelling is at the core of Robert’s mission.


“It's really just continuing to say ‘yes’ to that little seven-year-old boy who said he wanted to tell stories for a living,” Robert shares, “[and] reminding that little boy that it's OK to continue to come out and play.”


But for him, it was also about looking around at who was asking him for his help—and sharing stories that might inspire them into action.


Tell stories that inspire transformation and action in other people’s lives.

“…Storytelling is a money-generating activity with an extremely high ROI, especially for entrepreneurs, that their strengths lie in relationships,” Robert says.


And for us entrepreneurs who aim to make our businesses grow and have a positive impact in our communities that will cause a ripple effect, telling the right stories is crucial. It starts with knowing what we want and what changes we want to see in our business.


We all want more clients, to reach a wider audience, and to build our influence, but how can we tell stories that move people to action?


Robert says there are many ways and frameworks that we can use to do this, and the first is by identifying what your signature story is.


“A signature story truly is one that activates an audience to action, point blank,” he tells us. It can be short, simple, and quiet. It doesn’t have to be filled with fanfare or anything grand. It just has to be honest and have a clear call to action.


An easy way to flesh this out is to ask ourselves three questions:

  • What happened?
  • What did you learn?
  • What do you want them to do?

It is also important to know who your audience is. “Because when you can see the eyes of the it is that you're talking to, your voice changes, your physicality changes, how you put pen to paper and formulate the words changes,” Robert shares.


We empathize better with stories that resonate with us and feel inspired by lessons others learned after going through similar struggles in their lives. And once that connection is established, it is easier to move people into action.


Whatever messaging you put out there, always ask yourself: What is it that you want? What do you want them to do? How can you help the people listening to you?


Telling stories that connect.

“Are you coming into the room, or is your representative?” — Robert Hartwell


Everyone’s got their stories to tell, but how do you identify which one will connect with your audience? Robert answers that question for us, too.


“I think you start by asking yourself, ‘What scares me today?’ Because I don't think we're telling the truth as much as we should be,” Robert says.


Being honest with ourselves, and showing up with our authentic selves—not the version we think people would like to see—is what transforms a good story into a powerful and effective one.


Trust the process.

When you were starting out as an entrepreneur, you probably thought to yourself, “Once I hit a certain level of success, I can say to myself ‘I’ve got it all figured out,’ and can rest easy while the money makes itself.”


But at every part of the journey, whether in life or in business, every new level of success comes with a new set of challenges and opportunities. And those come with new tools, skills, and knowledge you need to equip yourself with. 


“I think so many times when we hit a quote-unquote level of success in our companies, then it … almost gives you this godlike complex in a way that—sets our clients up for failure,” Robert shares. “Because then they believe that when they hit that level, all those problems go away. [But] it's like ‘No! New level, new possibilities,’ you know?”


Even people at the C-level have to learn how to juggle the tasks and responsibilities that come with the title. Tell stories of your struggle in figuring things out. We are always in the process of figuring things out, and learning is a lifetime endeavor.


Whether it is aiming to grow our business or closing down a company to start a new one, we learn new things.


Sometimes, the lesson is the value of patience and waiting.


Robert shares a similar story with the show he is working on with the Oprah Winfrey Network called Taking Back the House. It took a lot of patience to wait for the right talents and the right people to show up.


“...If we would have gone with the green light too soon, I would not have maybe found the right director. And that right director creates a supportive space for me to show up to set every day and not bring my representative, but bring the pieces of me that need healing,” he shares.


Other times, it is learning how to trust the process.


After figuring out that he has outlived his old dream, with theater and Broadway, Robert had to re-learn how to build Strength on Stages from zero. He had to give himself time to grieve that old dream so he can give 100% to his new dream.


When he was starting his new business, with zero people on his list, he realized that it was time to practice what he preaches about patience. He told himself, “...if you build it step by step by step by step, they will come. They did before. So, I know they will now. However, it's going to take a little time and that's OK.


Keeping burnout at bay.

Of course, he encountered challenges along the way, one of the biggest being burnout. During the holidays of 2021, Robert found himself sick in bed, not because of COVID but because of exhaustion. 


“And it was all because of an inability to trust [the] process and to trust that sometimes the answer is, ‘I don't have an answer for you right now, but I will be back in touch,’” he shares. “I think we live in such an age of immediacy and information that we feel we need to run our companies in the same way—we do not. It's why you've committed to owning a small business.”


One of the reasons he was able to pull out of that burnout was because he had people in his corner that would really hold him accountable and help him do what needed to be done. “I think there's a way to hold someone accountable, like in a way that feels like love and support and kindness,” Robert shares.


The other was therapy and taking time to honor the inner child in him while letting go of the maladaptive behaviors that don’t serve him. Robert believes in the power of writing things down. He had old journals from when he was a kid who wanted to be a clown, and he reverse engineered his cash flow opportunities to make that happen.


“...the art and the practice of writing it down because discipline is remembering what we want,” he says.


The last one comes full circle to trusting the process. In order to avoid burnout, go back to the plan. Figure out what it is that you want, and change the plan if you need to, so you can achieve it. Commit more to saying “no.”


“There are some projects that I said yes to at the top of the year, and I've pulled out of them,” Robert shares. It is hard to say “no” to financial opportunities, but for him, saying “no” means saying “yes” to not being sick in bed again by December.


“I think just continuing to go back to the plan and remembering, 'What did I write down?’” he says.

Listen to the whole podcast to hear more of Robert’s stories.

Want more from Robert Hartwell?

You can follow him on Instagram (@sirroberttakespics) and visit his website at

DISCLAIMER: The people interviewed are well-trained experts and highly skilled in their areas of practice. They take many safety precautions prior to attempting the activities described. The activities or research discussed in these podcasts should not be attempted without qualified supervision and training with professionals.

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