Benjamin Franklin Envies You.

Why your story matters in the age of AI.

Benjamin Franklin loved writing… but he was a slowpoke.

He took over 20 years to write his autobiography (and he didn’t even finish!)

If only he had ChatGPT to help him. Things would be different.

AI is well and truly here, as we’ve found out with the dazzling feats of ChatGPT and others. Ben missed his time, but ours is just beginning.

Over the next 6-24 months, the world will radically change as regular people discover the superpowers AI gives us. Things will get crazy. The world will become fraught with misinformation, deep fakes, and confusion.

But once we get used to the chaos of AI, we’ll realize this: the value of knowledge, information, and perhaps even wisdom will wane, while the importance of sharing personal experiences will soar.

As amazing as ChatGPT is, there is one frontier it has yet to explore: our personal stories.

There is no data training set for our memories and experiences (yet..!)

While many people fear AI is going to crush the creative spirit via automation, I believe the opposite. Creativity will flourish. AI can assist us in sharing and articulating our stories with a newfound flair —and saves us time.

For two and a half years, I ran a book publishing company that specialized in helping clients publish their books without writing a single word themselves. Our clients had powerful ideas and experiences, but they hadn't spent years refining their writing skills, so we used interviewers and talented writers to do the heavy lifting.

It was the authors’ ideas, the writers did the “executing”.

Now, with ChatGPT at our fingertips, we all have the most talented writer by our side. It’s good at the writing, not the thinking. Instead of being a writing expert, you can focus on your experiences. The “doing” gets done by the machine, and the story “decisions” are made by you.

This leaves us with the challenge of learning how to guide this AI to effectively articulate our ideas and stories.

And I believe that there is something truly fascinating about each and every one of us. We’ve all lived a life, so everybody has a story.

Stories are the most potent form of communication. They speak to our deepest emotions: fears and dreams. Learning to share your story unlocks the power to captivate and inspire.

I discovered this many moons ago, at the dawn of my journey to establish an online business. I wanted to create a life that would allow me to explore the world as a digital nomad (before such a thing was en vogue) and stumbled upon the writings of early travel bloggers like Chris Guillebeau and Colin Wright.

“You don’t have to live your life the way other people expect you to.”―Chris Guillebeau, A Brief Guide to World Domination (2008)

“You have exactly one life in which to do everything you will ever do. Act accordingly.” —Colin Wright, Act Accordingly (2013)

Though reading this seems a little trite now, these pioneering souls left a permanent mark on my 20-year-old psyche. Their experiences, shared so candidly, struck a chord within me and helped shaped my own approach to life.

Yet I never shared my own stories.

Now –a decade later– I realize the value of undertaking the arduous task (even with AI) of sitting down and writing my own stories.

As I was reminding myself of the value of allocating time to this endeavor (i.e. procrastinating), I rediscovered the significance of writing by revisiting the essays of Paul Graham —a true advocate for the notion that “writing is thinking”. 

His ability to distill life lessons from his experiences through clear prose is remarkable. While I may not possess his writing prowess or the depth of his experiences, I hope that my stories, in some small way, can offer a glimmer of help to others.

Here’s how I currently do it:

  1. Bullet point the main beats of your story (like this!)

  2. Choose a couple of writers you’d like to emulate and ask ChatGPT to write your first draft.

  3. Manually edit: remove, add, and refine.

  4. Put back into ChatGPT, and ask “how can I improve this?”

  5. Final rewrites.

Ernest Hemingway said, “The only kind of writing is rewriting.”

AI allows us to skip the “blank page” —and go straight to the rewriting. I’ve found ChatGPT most helpful with 1) creating a first draft, and 2) rephrasing ideas. Eventually, it’ll help you stress test your ideas too.

Our photo reels and social media posts provide snapshots of our lives, but the true lessons lie in the narratives that draw lessons from our personal experiences.

(The "Homework for Life" exercise from the book Storyworthy is a superb way to embark on this journey of self-discovery —though difficult to stick to!)

So, I extend this challenge to you: join me in documenting your personal stories with the help of AI. 

Invest the time and effort to articulate them. The process will be not only cathartic for you, but also an invaluable resource for others. It will be hard, but not as hard as it used to be.

If you’re struggling, just remember how long it took Ben Franklin.

As AI inevitably reshapes the world of content creation —our experiences, and our stories are the last bastions of true value. 

It’s time to share your story.