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‘Inside Out’ writer Meg LeFauve thinks about the art of storytelling


In this series of Group Thinkers podcast episodes, our focus is on leadership. Throughout each episode, we’ll chat with leaders in the nonprofit and commercial space to learn more about their careers and the unique journeys that led them to where they are today. 

On this episode, we sit down with Meg LeFauve, co-writer of Pixar's Inside Out to discuss: 

  • Meg’s perspective on how Inside Out came together (4:19) 
  • The challenges of making characters out of emotions (13:00) 
  • A look at Meg’s career and what she’s learned along the way (20:49) 
  • Her tips for finding fresh ways to tell a story (29:08) 

Meet our guest

Meg LeFauveMeg LeFauve 

Co-writer of Pixar’s Inside Out 


“It’s a sacred job that you’ve been chosen for. You have a responsibility to be that conduit and to push, as a storyteller … to tell the stories, and to find them as you tell them. And that’s a sacred job. I believe that people at nonprofits are doing sacred work. It’s not always easy. It’s not always fun … but it’s a sacred job that we need. And it comes with this push and this grit and this failure … it’s part of that work.” 

Podcast transcript

Justin McCord: So, Ronnie, I heard this quote, I don't think it was super recent, but I heard this quote, and it's been tattooed on my brain, and it's really inspired a lot of my thinking as we get into our conversation today.

And the quote is that storytelling is the last true competitive advantage in business. And so, the way that you're able to tell stories is truly a potential differentiator.

So today, we get to talk to a real-life storyteller.

Ronnie Richard: Exciting, definitely exciting.

Justin: It is exciting. And so, I want to welcome to the Group Thinkers podcast Meg LeFauve. Hi, Meg.

Meg LeFauve: Hello. Thanks for having me here.

Justin: Meg, when you hear me say a real-life storyteller, like, what goes through your mind?

Meg: Oh, well, it makes me very happy because that's what I wanted to be since I was little. So, it's thrilling. I love that quote. I have a podcast myself. And we just had Joe Cole on, who did Black Panther and Wakanda Forever, and he talked a lot about how, in his opinion, and I think he's completely right, storytelling is one of the best ways to change the world.

And it's used in every kind of religion and discipline to communicate and change views and opinions and perspectives because, ultimately, you’re talking about the human condition, and it's all about connection. So that quote fit perfectly with what I am so fascinated by and what Joe is talking about on screen writing. So, I'm right in that boat with you today.

Justin: Yeah, yeah. You know, so Meg this is Group Thinkers. And, you know, as we've traded notes, our podcast is for nonprofit marketers. And on each and every episode, we have someone join us for a chat on how to think about something differently.

So many times it's someone from the digital marketing space or the technology space. And I reached out to you, cold, through LinkedIn. And the reason for that is that you're not just a storyteller. You're a very good storyteller, as evidenced by your background. For our audience, Meg has been nominated for an Emmy, a Golden Globe, an Oscar, and awarded a Peabody for her work.

And I don't know if it's most notably, but the immediate connection for our listeners is that Ronnie and I have spent time talking about emotions and emotional intelligence. One particular animated film kept coming up, and that was Inside Out. And we had kind of a running bit about how could we find someone connected to Inside Out that would join us for a chat about storytelling and about emotions. And we found her. We found her; we found you. And it's truly an honor to have you on.

And our worlds, I believe, are more tangential and connected than we know. And I think we're going to find that today. And so, thanks for being here.

Meg: Yeah, sure.

Justin: So, here's where I want to start. I want to start with Inside Out. And I want to hear your perspective on how that story came together, how the ideas of humanizing or putting characters to emotions came together.

Meg: Sure. You know, Inside Out is Pete Docter’s baby. I'm sure he'd love to be here talking about it today, but he's running Pixar, so a little bit busy. Pete Docter originally pitched―directors at Pixar kind of pitch to the brain trust what they're interested in doing next―and he originally pitched his experience with his daughter, who, when she was young, she, you know, met people at the front door and would do a tap dance for them and just thought she was fabulous, and she was just a happy, joyful child.

And then she turned 11. And in his original pitch, he would show a slide of her at 11, which was sitting in a chair with her hair over her face, turned away, really a very different experience of her. And as a parent, it kind of broke his heart. And he said, as a parent, I have a question, which is, where did my daughter's joy go? And I want to go find out. I want to tell a story about where her joy went and what happens to the little girl, 11 years old, that she lost some connection to that.

And then it was a journey of a lot of research. Before I came on, I think they did two years, if not more research, talking to experts in emotion. You know, at one point, I think, you know, one expert said, there's 21 emotions. And at one point they had 12, including, like, schadenfreude and all kinds of fun stuff. But eventually they settled on, when I came on, they had the five main emotions, and it boiled it down to that. And they had some places they knew that they wanted joy to go out into the mind and have an adventure out there and come back.

But Pete hadn't yet, as a storyteller, really deeply thought about thematically what he wanted to talk about in terms of emotionally. For sure, this question about his daughter was in there―the loss of your child, as a parent, that you suffer in terms of their memories and who they are.

But the more ... he was looking for even more deep insight into emotions and being human. Before I came on, he had had fear out in the mind with joy because he used to joke, I don't know, when I was 11, I was afraid of everything. So, I must have something to say about fear. But he just couldn't when he couldn't think of what it was that he wanted to say about fear.

So, there's a great video on the DVD extras of Inside Out―I don't think it's on Disney Plus; they should put it on, it's amazing―where he's very concerned because people are walking out of the screenings at Pixar. You've a lot of internal screenings of drawing boards, not animated, and they're still saying, it's a good idea. They're not yet, it’s a good movie or, it's a good story.

And there's a very, very big difference when you're a storyteller between an idea, a situation, you know, a list of situations and a story. And so, he takes a walk in the woods because that's what he does when he's stuck. He gets out into nature and walks, sometimes we’re with him, and sometimes he's alone. And he took a camera, and he recorded himself: “OK, OK. Well, I'm ...” and he just went down into his emotions because that is what Pete Docter is a genius at doing.

He just went deeply to find story, to find what it is that he was compelled to talk about, which is at some point as a storyteller in the unconscious. He just started verbalizing what he felt in the present moment, which was fear, like, oh my god, I'm gonna get fired. Which is ironic, right? The guy's won, like, multiple Academy Awards, but he's human, and we're all human. And it doesn't matter what you've done before. He was just, I'm going to get hurt, OK?

And he just kept asking why and getting more and more present. And I think this is a good technique for anybody, becoming more and more present with, OK, well, what do I miss if I get fired? Well, I’ll miss my house with office in it, and well, I'll miss going to work. OK, why will I miss going to work? Well, I'll miss going to work because I'll miss seeing everybody every day. And what will I miss about that? Well, I'll miss what a good time I've had with these people. And then he realized, you know, what I'm going to really miss is how bonded we are. And how did we get that bonded? Well, because we went through some tough times together. They lost Joe Raft, who was an original founding member of Pixar. He died in a car accident. And they lost Steve Jobs, who was a very important part of their group and life there.

And he suddenly realized, oh, it's sadness. I want to talk about how sadness actually connects us. And we always want to try to avoid it. We don't want to feel that, but in fact, it's a gift, and it's something that brings us together, and it's a good thing.

So, I, of course, was like, Pete, that'll change the world. And he was like, please, don’t say that again. That's, like, too much pressure. Let's just tell a story, right? Let's just, let's just have fun and tell a story. And then it's my job to then take the research that I have and what I know about emotion, which we talk about, where that came for me, and try to shape it now into a story using the craft that I know as a storyteller to take that idea, which is that basically your main character has to have that experience in the movie. Because I said, you know, Pete, if this movie's about, it's OK to be sad, then our audience is going to have to be sad in this movie. They're going to need to feel the emotion that we're describing.

And, you know, at the time, that John Lassiter was at Pixar, and I was like, I have no idea if he's going to let us do this. But he was so onboard, he was, like, I want to cry right there. So, that's kind of how we started to shape the movie, which is, if you want the main character to get to this, this realization at the end of act two, oh my gosh, sadness is what Riley needs as a child, then the beginning of the movie, she has the opposite idea, which is, sadness is a bad thing. Don't let Riley feel sad, which is a really, really high bar for a storyteller because I have to convince the audience that joy is right.

Meaning I have to convince the audience that the idea of ‘don't let this child be sad’ is a good idea because otherwise you're not deeply in the story; you're kind of watching it, and you're ahead of your main character, like, OK, joy, that's kind of a silly idea, and you're waiting for her to come to consciousness. Well, that's not, you're not going to have an emotional, cathartic experience in the theater.

So, if you really look at act one, we are setting up and convincing you that joy is right about sadness, and we're doing lots of fun things to do it. There's a whole montage of sadness making Riley cry and doing all kinds of fun things. And we spent days in the story room talking about our lives and ourselves and trying to find the best thing to really convince an audience. Oh, don't let her feel sad. And, you know, I think crying at school won, you know, her crying in school, you know, the visceral, like, oh, please don't do that, which is what joy is feeling.

Right, so that's kind of why that became the kind of penultimate ‘get sadness out of here.’ And of course, it's Amy Poehler. So, she's having super a lot of fun, like the circle of sadness and all the fun stuff that she's doing. And Amy Poehler was a big, big part of why that story works because she's so delightful. And even while she's being happy, she still wants you to be happy, too. You know, it's a very connected happiness.

So that's kind of how it came to be and how I came on the project and kind of where we went with it.

Justin: From the outside, it seems like such a unique project in terms of the way that you’re writing for something that we feel. And making that into a character. Something that we know to be true is that the feelings that donors have to nonprofits can dictate whether or not they support them more or support them less.

And two feelings in particular, feeling valued and feeling connected, brought in, like you're a part of the family, so to speak. And so many times we talk with nonprofit leaders about ways that they can stoke those ideas. What was it like to sit in emotions as characters? Is that more complicated, less complicated, than writing for any of your other projects?

Meg: Well, in some ways it's easier because they're archetypes. They're just archetypes. But that then becomes harder, right? As soon as you think something is easy, it's going to flip on you, right, of course, and be like, oh no, this is actually harder.

Which is, you know, when I first came on board, somebody said to me, nobody likes joy. You know, she's just … and I'm like, cool because incessantly happy people are annoying. And you think, why? Why are incessantly happy ... because it isn’t real. Because nobody ... nobody is happy all the time. I don't even think that's healthy, you know? So, I had to really think about joy and that she's not using her joy to control because then we're really not going to like her if she's trying to be the boss and control this whole situation.

So, what is her joy? I really started to think psychologically about what is this kind of archetypical joyful, happy person and enjoys. The case I came to when joy feels vulnerable over her head and the stakes are her child, her default, her survival instinct is happiness. So, like, we had a bit in the movie where joy sees a piece of her kid called goofball island shatter and fall into the forgetting dump. And it's tricky, right? Because from a story point of view, visually, all you're seeing on the screen is a mechanical thing, right?

Justin: Industrial.

Meg: Right so it's super important that you have the edit cut off as that thing falls, you're actually seeing that little girl who was being goofy so that you really understand that is what this parent’s losing and to be deeply in that point of view. And if, in the cut or in the writing or storytelling, she watches it fall and then goes, don't worry, I know what to do, you're like, oh my god, I hate you. I just ... Wow, that's so bad, right? And you don't even know why. Intellectually, it's just almost like an animal reaction to that because it's not connected to what emotionally does happen.

So, it's super important to have joy, take a bit of, oh my gosh, I just lost a piece of my kid, just to feel the overwhelming vulnerability. I believe we connect to vulnerability, which is why, as a storyteller or an artist, you have to find some way to become comfortable with it. If not comfortable with it, at least allow it. On my podcast, sometimes we call it lava. You know, it can burn, it can feel like it will burn you up. But that's the job of artistry and storytelling is to be the one to wade into the lava first.

So, to be vulnerable, and to let joy be vulnerable, and let joy not know what the heck is she going to do now? And then you watch her start to calibrate and go, OK, OK, here comes survival instinct. Now it's kicking in, and you're like, OK, all right, wait, wait ... we could do that. OK, that'll fix it. And OK, now I know what to do. And we now admire that, right? That in the depth of this fiery lava of vulnerability and overwhelmingness, she's able to get some grit and rise to save her kid. So, it's that kind of swing from vulnerability into kind of a heroic moment.

I'm sorry. My kid is on a drum. Why now? Why is my kid on a drum right now?

Ronnie: Because of course, now, right?

Meg: I don't know if I have a drum in my house. Do I have a drum in my house? He's supposed to be sick. He's clearly not that sick. Here I am being a parent right now.

Justin: No, it’s fine, it’s totally fine.

OK, so there's a powerful connection here between what you're talking about in terms of vulnerability and the space that we operate in, that when our team creates a letter or an email or a display ad or a TV spot, whatever it is that we are trying to create vulnerability in between a nonprofit organization and a potential donor, the goal is actually to expose that vulnerability. So that the person feels compelled to and drawn to authentically helping and partnering with that organization to solve a problem that they can't do on their, right? And so, it’s like there’s this parallel of living in the vulnerability that, you know, to your point, I think that's the ultimate artistry.

Meg: It is. To be able to, in a letter or thing I see on social media or wherever it's coming at me, to feel the vulnerability of, oh my god, I can feel that. And then I feel slightly overwhelmed by that. But then … but, but here is the answer. This group is doing it. This group is valid. This group has had success. Like, that's the survival instinct kicking up. No, you can do something that may seem so much bigger than you, and you can feel that overwhelm and that overwhelm. You know, there's so many emotions that can be in there, sadness, fear, so many things.

But to me, the key is that. And the key to the character and why they're the hero, right? Why, of all the people in this movie, it is joy who we are choosing as our hero, because she's the one who can do that, who can still say, I hear you. Yes, this is overwhelming. I get it. I'm there with you. I'm so overwhelmed, too, but I'm passionately going to find this solution. And here's my plan, which is also, in a story, very important.

When I teach, I teach emerging writers, yes at the end of act one, your character has a goal. And there are stakes to that goal, and there's conflicts to that goal. But what really gets the audience excited is the plan because if we don't have the yellow brick road, you can have all the munchkins and fairies and people coming, but the yellow brick road is the plan. That's act two. That's the story.

And then, working with Andrew Stanton was so great because he would talk about expectation. Now this, I don't think, goes with what you're doing, but just on the side for a fun thing. Because then, as a story in a movie, you lay down the plan. So, you can completely mess with it, and you completely can say that. Does it work, but did it work right now? I don't want my nonprofit to do that, but I want to know that the nonprofit has a story, and as a thing I'm connecting to is ready to pivot, that they're not so narrow that if it doesn't go according to plan … because what in life does? They have a breadth, and a depth and the skill set available to shift and to still stay on the journey, to learn, to grow, to be present enough that the rigidity doesn't then narrow down the effect.

So, there is still some, I think, connection to what you're doing in terms of, can I want to hear the plan and then know things can go not to plan, but that's OK?

Ronnie: Meg, kind of shifting gears a little bit, I'm curious about, I guess, I guess your character arc in the story of your life. So, as you've gone through your career now, I know you started working with Jodie Foster and Egg Pictures, and then you shifted kind of into writing and all this. As you've gone through this career, what are some things that you've learned? And I'm just curious, people who maybe, who have inspired you and really taught you, or things, like, that you've picked up along the way that you mentioned. You're working with students, you know, things that you're sharing as you're kind of giving it forward to the next generation.

Meg: Well, there's so many things, I'm trying to think what may be relevant to this context. But, you know, certainly Jodie Foster, one of the smartest people in the business, if not so the world. Just a great, great artist. She taught me to approach story as a director or an actress does, because that's what she is, which is all about character and is thematic. What is this about?

And she used to say, when you wanted to picture something, she used to say, what's the big, beautiful idea in here? And we almost made T-shirts. And, you know, and I say that now to my students. When I was a producer, I knew I had to answer that question. If I was taking anything to her, I needed to be able to say, what are you trying to say? Now, she didn't say big, beautiful ideas. She said idea. And it had to be digging down to something insightful about the human condition. She would always talk about, this is about ... storytelling is about exploring the human condition. And now you can do that in movies with superheroes or two people sitting at a dining room table. The context can shift dramatically in tone and size. But ultimately, what are we digging to?

And, you know, when I went to Pixar, we would put a word, if we could just find a word, we put that on the wall. But our job is a word and it is not a theme yet. So, let's just say now―this wasn't at Pixar, this was a different job I had―but let's say, you know, we know this is about redemption. But what do we have to say about redemption is the emotional thematic we're going for. It's not just a big part about redemption because, boy, there's a lot of things you could say about redemption if you take different points of view on it. Right?

So, it was always trying to really get down to a sentence or two that really stood for that human condition―emotional, thematic. So now in storytelling, there are social themes for sure, and those are great―you know, Joe, talking about Black Panther, Wakanda Forever, you know, there's a lot of great social thematics―but from a storytelling point of view, we're also deeply interested. And what I'm talking about is the emotional, human thematic that is deeper than the social issue.

And that's what we have to be able to put up on the wall so that everybody involved knows that's where we're digging up so that when animators come in or set designers or character designers or actors, this is what we're going for. And in Inside Out, now that I'm a writer, I had to really be able to see, how do I actualize this? As a producer, I'm just trying to help other people do it.

And, you know, for Inside Out, when we got to this idea of sadness, Ronnie Del Carmen, the genius co-director and artist that he is―and you can see this in the art book―he drew two drawings. One is joy keeping those core memories away from sadness and not letting her drive, and the end is handing them over so that you really understood these are the poles of the movie. This is what this movie's about emotionally, thematically, put into action, right?

Because in storytelling, people lie, so dialogue doesn't really do so much. It's about the active, action behavior that somebody is doing. It really shows it. So that really was, that really was ... and it translated over.

I'd say the other thing was, I had a learn as a writer to play. As a producer it was all intellect, it was all analyzing, trying to help other people do their work. But as a writer, as a storyteller, that step is sitting in a different part of your brain. It’s sitting over in the unconscious, in the sacred unconscious, so you can analyze all you want, you can outline, you can have meetings, you can put things on whiteboards until somebody walks down into the unconscious lava and just starts―on my podcast we call it a barf draft― just … or another, maybe different, more beautiful metaphor is, bring up the clay. That process as the storyteller is super important because you will reach deeper things than you even knew intellectually you were doing. It's where the lava sits which can be fiery. But so, that is something that I learned from working with the co-writer, John Morgan. He was an actor, and actors play, and they play a lot. Animators and drawing artists play a lot. So, you can't get too precious about it.

And just, I guess that shift that was the biggest shift, out of the intellect and into the more sacred writing process, and then I know the reason I started a podcast at all was to help people know that process. And that's what artistry is, and that you're not alone in it.

And I also think, I don't know if this applies, but I think a lot of people come into our industry assuming that there are these people who are born like gods, who just know how to do it. And their very first draft is amazing, and it just proves that they are chosen to be storytellers, and yeah … No, no, that's not how it works at all. I have had emerging writers say to me, well, you know, it sucked. I mean, what I wrote versus what was in my head, that kind of beautiful, amazing idea you have in your head versus kind of what you get on the page. It's such a gap. It's like the Grand Canyon. So, I must not be a writer. And I'm like, oh, no, no. That means you are a writer. Like, it's like once you see the first drafts of these geniuses and know that the only difference between them and you is they kept going, and they accepted that, what didn't work, and understood that the first draft, the second draft, the third draft is all about what doesn't work.

That is also what you're trying to pull up so that you can give us new information about, oh wait, that doesn't work because I'm not doing that. Or, that's confusing because I don't actually know what I'm saying yet. Or wait, I thought that was the thematic, but this over here is much more interesting and scares me more. So probably I should go towards that because that makes me really almost physically nauseous to think about doing that. I better go over and do that.

So, it's that kind of … it's the, it's a deeper shift into artistry of allowing yourself to be really bad at it so that you can find what's in there and try to ... Will you never stop the judgment? I mean, who does? Nobody does. But you do it anyways.

Justin: Yeah again, just, yeah. I can't help but feel the parallel into the life of a nonprofit. And, and where you see them succeed is when they live in, I'll borrow your phrase, the lava of their mission and are able to communicate that authentically and beautifully in a way that drives connection, deep connection with outside individuals who want to partner with them.

And so, the inverse of that is sometimes you'll see them go off script, go off of their mission. We call that mission drift that, you know, you talk too much about yourself and not about your mission. You use too much ‘I’ language versus ‘you’ language when you're talking to a donor that you're getting away from the nucleus of what makes your organization special.

As a creator, as a storyteller, how would you counsel someone who has the task of telling the same story over and over to find fresh lava in the midst of it?

Meg: I'm not sure this applies. So, we can have a conversation about it, but if there was an actual storyteller, I would say, why are you drifting? What's happening that you're drifting? There could be many, many reasons that you're drifting, but instead of just saying, don't drift, I would be more curious about it.

Instead of saying, don't say I, say you, I’d say, why are you saying I? What's happening? What's coming up? Because there might be gold in there. And if you get too rigid about it and say, well, that doesn't work, OK, maybe in the long haul, yes. But why is the passion coming up there, and how is it coming up? Because there might be, like I said, gold in there that there is something really beautiful and juicy in there to actually bring up into the conduit of ‘you’ or the conduit of the original mission.

Or maybe because of what's been happening, the mission is shifting it. Maybe there is a deeper insight into it, or you need to go 5 degrees to the right, or whatever. I, I tend to trust the unconscious. I tend to trust flaws.

When I worked with Jodi as an actress, she didn't approach flaws as something to be cut out, something to be dramatically changed. She approached the flaws inside of a person as something very positive and a skill that is being used in the wrong way.

So, it's more a reclaiming. It's more of a transformative thing for that character through act two, than it is a, don't be that way, cut that out, because then you might silo something that had been knocking on the door. So, I would be curious. I would take curiosity to it.

And it could also, on the flip side, be fear that if I do succeed in this mission, can I handle it? If they do say yes, does that mean, oh, my god, I actually have to perform and succeed? You know, there's other reasons we start to, quote unquote, mess up or back up because we're actually unconsciously backing away from success while we're backing away from that, that next jump. We have to take that suddenly some part of our brain is like, you're not going to make it. You're not going to make it. You're not going to make it.

That's really good information to know. And maybe you can't change it right now. But if you can go to yourself and say, why am I saying ‘I’ now? And oh, because you know I'm scared to death. OK? You are. You know to change it. But it's good to know that you are, and now help steps to see and maybe it's super smart fear. Maybe it's gut fear. Maybe there is something to be afraid of, and you need to go look at that, or it's just run of the mill fear we all have. We’ve got to jump off a cliff. And we don't want to. Suddenly we're like, whose idea was that? I can't tell you how many times I'm in the middle of writing the script; I'm like, wait a minute. Whose idea was this? I don't even know. This is impossible. Then I’m like, alright, it’s me.

Justin: Yeah, but to that extent, I mean, there's value in the failure. There's value in the tripping and falling. There's value in each of those pieces.

Meg: And, you know, at Pixar―and people always ask me, like, what are the rules at Pixar? Because they want to somehow adapt them into theirs. And I'm like, listen, the only rule I ever heard, and it wasn't a rule, it was a suggestion, was ‘fail fast.’ Because if you're really going for it, and you're really pushing out to the edge of a story, to the edge inside of you, to artistry, you are going to fail. They want you to fail. They want you to be pushing so hard you do fail so that you learned something super important and bring it back.

So, it’s not the easiest thing to do. I'll tell you, I don't enjoy it, but I, we, we do fail a lot. And you're, you're supposed to because otherwise how do you know? You don't know. Failure is an intrinsic part of manifestation. It's necessary.

And so, you know, the other dangerous thing I find about manifestation is perfectionism. It is the enemy. It is the enemy of manifestation because it'll give you all the survival reasons you need to not try or not push harder. But that's just, as my grandmother used to say, malarkey, like, yeah, there's no such thing as perfection. Just, just go for it.

Ronnie: That makes me think of when we had Brady Josephson of charity: water on. He talked a lot about how they're willing to take chances on trying new things and new ideas. And if they fail, that's OK. Because as the nonprofit world continues to change and marketing continues to change so rapidly, if you don't take those chances, you're, ultimately, you're going to fail just by not taking them. So, take them, fail occasionally, but learn. And, you know, some of those ideas will be successful.

Meg: Well, the other crazy thing about taking those chances and failing, at least in storytelling, I assume it's the same, is … OK, and this happens all the time, just in a room, every single day of my life where people bring up a note on the story. And you, right now in the moment, have to start pitching fixes, right? I don't, like, I'm literally throwing them off top of my head. So, a lot of people say, OK, well, here's the dumb version, right?

Well, the dumb version that everybody kind of inside is like, yeah, that's the dumb version, we’re not doing that, but it just took somebody else, gave somebody else an idea. And they took a tiny piece of it and put it with an idea. And we're like, OK, that's less dumb, but that almost works. But it does. And then the next piece, and, and it starts something moving around the table that we get to a solution that we never, ever would have gotten to, except somebody was brave enough to say, I know this doesn’t work, but in my gut, I feel something like this. Like, is that crazy? Like, or somebody take this and help me fix it.

So, I think often failure, quote unquote, is just the stepping stones to get where you need to be. And if you don't ever step on that stone, you're never getting there. Like, you're never going to get across because, yeah, your feet are going to get wet; it’s cold. Like, you're going to look, you know, you just can't worry about it now.

It has to be a safe space to do that. Of course, you have to know that you're with people who are not there to tear down, judge, compete. That'll kill that spirit in two seconds. But I also think in terms of, you know, even on our podcast, we're doing … I don't know what I'm doing. Like, I don't in terms of marketing and Patreon, I don't know what we're doing, but I'm kind of, like, well, we'll just try, let's just try. And, you know, some people say, well, people are going to think you're trying to make money off of them. And I'm like, well, we're not, so we're not making any money, so that's OK. You can think that, but that’s not what’s happening. But we're getting places that I never could have imagined. And even for myself, I never … if you told me when I was 25 years old I was going to write a Pixar movie, I would have told you you're bananas. That is never going to happen. But it happened because I just kept stepping on those rocks or, you know, metaphors. Jumping off cliffs.

I believe the universe can dream much bigger than you. So much bigger than what you can dream for yourself or your organization. But boy, it is going to ask you to come to the table. It's going to ask you to push. It's going to ask you to risk. It's going to ask you to fail. I mean, sometimes dramatically, OK, right? And that's OK. That's part of it. So, I just ... I trust in that. I trust that it's, I know this is going to sound L.A. Woo Woo, but here it is: Like it's a sacred job that you've been chosen for as a conduit. And you have a responsibility now to be that conduit and to push and do what, as a storyteller in my version, to tell the stories and define them as you tell them half the time. And that's a sacred job.

And I believe people in nonprofits, they are doing sacred work, and it's not always easy, it's not always fun. You're not going to, you know, be a billionaire. I get it. But it is a sacred job that we need. And then it comes with this push, this grit; this failure is part of that work, and not everybody can do it. That's why you've been chosen because everybody else will quit. Everybody else won't want to fail. Everybody else won't want to do that. That's why you are the warrior.

Justin: We couldn't agree more. I mean, it's, we consider it to be a noble profession and that there's a need to solve the world's biggest problems. And if you're not going to do it, then who, right? And so, for those who are called into the space, to be bold about it and to learn from their peers but also to learn from people outside of their space.

And that's exactly what you've helped us with today, Meg. Honestly.

Meg: And to be bold means failure. That's just part of it. Get used to it. That's part of it. Then, I also do understand because I have days where, you know, some days you just don't want to be noble anymore. You know, some days you're like, OK, I'll go with this nobility, I’m done with this sacred job. You know, in storytelling, I always say, you will transform as you write the story. That's the job of an artist is transformation. You will transform. There my friend Laurie is, like, yeah, I'm done transforming. Yeah, I don't need to transform any more.

And I'm, like, well, I'm sorry. That's just not true. I think that fatigue, that fatigue is very normal. And I think part of the process, so I also think we can get so again into perfectionism, or somebody else wouldn't be fatigued right now. And, you know, it's just not true. Like, they do get fatigued. I work with some of the best storytellers in the business, multiple Academy Awards. They also get fatigued. They also doubt. They also don't know what they're doing, but they just keep trying, right? So I also have compassion for the … behind the nobility is the effort, the incredible effort every day.

Justin: Yeah Meg, we really appreciate you offering up your time and your experience and helping us think about the power of storytelling. And, you know, honestly, we may need to have you record some messages for us for bad days, for just, you know, just all of us to remember the, you know, the value of the journey.

Meg: Well, I so appreciate all of the work that anybody in nonprofit does. You are our heroes, our warriors, and that you're doing this for all of us in the world. And such a deep respect for that work and that calling.

And, you know, I hope I've helped in some way because we do need your stories, and we do need your plans. We really do. We need to hear them. So, thank you.

Justin: If you want to check out more of Meg's work, one of your latest projects came out in November. That's My Father's Dragon, which you wrote and you executive produced. You wore multiple hats as part of that process.

And then, as you mentioned, The Screenwriting Life, which, I guess that's available on Apple and other platforms, to be able to understand a little bit of the storytelling from a different angle.

Meg: Yeah, if you're interested in storytelling, it's all, that's all it's about, is, is the ins and outs of that. And, and right now I'm writing Inside Out 2, so I'm deep into it.

Justin: Yeah, yeah. Very busy. So, we can't wait for those things. And Meg, we're again, we're so thankful for your time. As we wrap up this episode, just encourage everyone to check out any of our past episodes which you can find on or whatever app or wherever.

Ronnie, favorite animated film?

Ronnie: Oh, that’s uh ….

Justin: Don’t say Inside Out. That's a really bad choice.

Ronnie: Inside Out is definitely in the top five. And I'm not just saying that, I absolutely love that movie. I also love some of the more, like, pre-computer-drawn. Like, I loved Aladdin and the story of that one in The Lion King and some of those movies when I was a child.

Meg: My Father's Dragon was done by Cartoon Saloon, and they have come out of 2D animation. It's incredibly beautiful for that very reason.

Justin: Yeah, Sword in the Stone. That's the one that ... And I burned out VHS cassettes multiple times over on that one as a kid, even named a pet lizard Archimedes.

Meg: That's amazing. I love that.

Justin: Yeah, Meg, what about you? Favorite animated film that you haven't worked on.

Meg: That I didn’t work on? I just love Ratatouille. It's just one of my favorites. I can watch it a million times.

Justin: Very cool. Alright, Meg, you're the best. Thank you so much. Thank you for giving your time. We'll, we hope to catch up and see it on the road.

Group thinkers is a production of RKD Group. For more information, visit Special thanks to our production team, including the talented Ryan Mellinger for his work on mixing every episode. Also, a shout out to the content team that helps pull together research and guests, puts the marketing efforts behind Group Thinkers, Suzanne, Ronnie and others for their work on this and every episode of Group Thinkers.

RKD Group

RKD Group is North America's leading fundraising and marketing services provider to hundreds of nonprofit organizations, including hospitals, social service, disease research, animal welfare, rescue missions, and faith-based charities. RKD Group’s omnichannel approach leverages technology, advanced data science and award-winning strategic and creative leadership to accelerate net revenue growth, build long-term donor relationships and drive online and offline engagements and donations. With a growing team of professionals, RKD Group creates breakthroughs never thought possible.

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