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Many people I used to know made a lot of money off Madam Teoh. But, no one had ever met her. They never showed any picture of her. No one knew how she looked like. Each of us, probably, have a different portrait of her in our mind. Based on how we interpreted her life. From the story we heard about her. We had never really met Madam Teoh. We did not know if she existed, if she lived. And, we did not care. We just made money off her story.

Madam Teoh's story took a few minutes. She lived in the Capital where the cost of living was high. She was a single mother. With kids. Illiterate. She was a fresh vegetable hawker. She had some money but not enough. She borrowed two thousand to join 'the Opportunity.' She recruited a few friends. Then, with some persistence...she became a millionaire!

I suspected that Madam Teoh was a creation. She was the grand subject that segued into the business side of the opportunity. She was created to speak the difficult. If not for the savior, Madam Teoh, the host of the presentation would have to say this, " No money to join? Borrow-lah." Which may made him liable if people were strangled with debts. Or, "Are you stupid or what? Even an illiterate can make it and you are not up to it?'

Of course, individual presentations and persuading had to be made to make the sales. Madam Teoh made it easier. Her story soften the ground. My guess is that, without the story, it would be doubly hard to close a prospect. Madam Teoh, the concoction of the marketing company helped to sign up thousands of people for the Opportunity.

Why is a story so effective? Simply because, as humans, we relate to stories. We are conditioned by stories. We grew up with stories. We hear all kinds of stories as we grow. Stories about a favorite aunt. Stories of a neighbor's struggles. Stories of historic figures such a Napoleon, Alexander the Great, Marco Polo, Kublai Khan, Ford, Edison....Even story-type stories; Snow White, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood...Stories about money; Bezos, Gates, Buffet... Stories about disciplinarians like Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad...

We resonate, especially, with stories about human struggles. Rags to riches. Because they give us, who are not born with a silver spoon, hope. In the case of Madam Teoh, there was no need for a face. From her circumstances, we made a face. If we knew of a struggling lady, hers was the face for Madam Teoh. At the market, the face of the vegetable seller was the base we use to imagine how Madam Teoh would look like. We love stories about humans. Stories of struggles are inspiring. People signed up because they were inspired by Madam Teoh's story. The master story teller covered enough details with colors to make her an icon, a role model for the many who attended the BOM (Business Opportunity Meeting) to want to be part of her tribe.

The most important and cunning use of stories is to speak the difficult.To pose the difficult questions. To stir emotions. Without being intrusive. Without sounding confrontational.

Don't thank me for the story. The pleasure is mine. Just one thing. If you know Madam Teoh, and, the next time you meet her, please say, "thanks a million." Not referring to dollars. Memories.

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