Neil Bearden

Neil Bearden, Plot Wolf

I did a PhD in cognitive psychology at UNC-Chapel Hill and later a postdoc in neuroscience at Duke. Most of my published work is on topics in memory and behavioral economics. I understand what makes things memorable and what influences human decision making.

I’m signalling here that I’m educated. I’m a serious person with training relevant to business messaging. But I’m wilfully concealing my negatively-impressive undergraduate years – I don’t want to lose credibility too quickly. But clearly that’s a standard intro written by an academic who thinks degrees and publications have a primary relevance here. (They don’t.)

I’m currently a professor at INSEAD, where I started out teaching statistics but now focus on storytelling. I’ve learned from very demanding audiences how to communicate difficult ideas. Memorably. Like an inception. As a result, I’ve accumulated a foot-high stack of teaching awards.

If you know INSEAD, that might sound ok. If you don’t know what the heck it is, it sounds credibility eroding. I’m deliberately avoiding trying to elevate my status by referencing business school rankings. Statistics mention is there to appeal to the engineer types who might otherwise think I’m an actor or something. Some vague bragging because I feel uncomfortable talking about awards.

I’ve taught storytelling to thousands and worked with people from hundreds of companies and organizations – from startups to Google to Habitat for Humanity to Navy SEALs.

Point: I have a lot of experience. Navy SEAL thing sounds cool.

Through Plot Wolf, I bring all of my training together to help companies message more effectively. Distinctly. Memorably. With enduring impact. Like an inception.

That is: I’m a rigorous nerdy dude type – not some failed country singer, say. But my writing tends to have a cadence to it – poetic, maybe.

My experience as an early-stage investor has given me a perspective I couldn’t get as an ivory tower academic. I’m close to business every day and know the importance of effective communication.

I’m trying to disabuse you of the notion that I’m a boring, disconnected academic with no understanding of the “real world.” Probably I’m protesting too much – I have a complex, an insecurity. Perhaps.

There’s a character in the movie Pulp Fiction called The Wolf. He’s the guy you call when you’re in big trouble. He said,

“I’m Winston Wolf. I solve problems.”

I started Plot Wolf to help you develop and deliver engaging, impactful stories built on a strong, rigorous foundation. No BS. No breath-into-your-diaphragm useless advice. Just hardcore effective messaging built on sound logic.

Exactly that.

I’m Neil Bearden. I solve problems.

“Call me” is implicit there. Good storytelling advice is: Show, don’t tell.

That description of my background  – though accurate – isn’t that interesting. There’s not a lot there to remember or start a distinct conversation, except maybe the meta-bits or that last part about Pulp Fiction

And it’s too long – even without the commentary.

Why I'll Fix Your Stories – The Real Cause

My real path to storytelling began when I spent an evening with a homeless poet in San Francisco. His name was Osiris. He was real – a rare free, authentic human. 

After I bought us footlong hot dogs, which we ate together sitting on a curb, we went to a mostly empty bar in the Tenderloin. We sat in a big red booth for hours while he read aloud poems from his notebooks. He gave me a sheet of paper with one on it. But I lost it on my way back to my hotel. I never got to read it. No clue what it said.

A couple days later, I flew back to North Carolina and started writing my own poetry. I soon began performing spoken word and telling stories to crowds.

There are latent semantics embedded in these rambles / Not the ravings of a madman alone in the dark with candles

After writing a lot of bad poetry, eventually I got pretty good.

Now I teach storytelling to business people, and ground it in a solid understanding of how the human mind works – cognitive science and all that.

That’s a beautiful thing.

If I hadn’t met Osiris, I might still be teaching statistics. I might be one of those boring academic types. I might value my human worth based on my publication record.

I don’t.

I value my life based on the quality of the relationships I form. I like to help people. The way Osiris helped me.

Ask me about these things when we speak.

Thank you, Osiris.

If you like this honest self-description, we can work well together. If you don’t like it, we can’t. Effective triaging. Efficient. Better for everyone.

Always message deliberately – with a clear objective in mind. Know what’s important.