… or why rule-breaking means progress

Nikola Tesla was a heroic innovator

More recently, I investigated the connection between heroism and innovation… and I found that innovating, not surprisingly, can be a heroic act indeed.

Let’s take a look at heroes first. There are some common misconceptions about heroes: Many people intuitively imagine heroes as superhumans with super-strength, perfect, and free of any flaw. But mostly, it is quite the opposite. Like all of us, heroes do have flaws and weaknesses, shortcomings and fears. Most heroes are quite ordinary people. It’s their deeds that are extraordinary.

The definition of what a hero is varies widely out…

The title might be misleading as, well, technically COVID-19 and the current crisis is not really a black swan event, but more of a grey rhino. The reason being is that black swan events are technically events that are unpredictable and beyond what is normally expected. However, proponents to call COVID-19 a Grey Rhino argue that a global pandemic has been on the cards for quite a while so that even Hollywood made movies about it. In other words: we should have been prepared for it. But we were not.

No matter how you label it, COVID-19 hit us severely…

Every decade is known for something; and every decade brought us some key innovations they will always be associated with.

The 1960s were the decade of civil unrest and fundamental social change that also brought us colour television and the moon landing. The 1980s were times of cold war and nuclear catastrophe that also produced the widespread use of home entertainment and personal computers.

So, what will the 2020s be known for? What significant innovations will leave a mark on this decade?

Just in the dawn of the 2020s, COVID-19 has grabbed the whole world and shaken it severely. Things…

Companionships are essential for stories

In today’s chapter, I analyze why heroes value social companionships, team-work and friends and what lessons this beholds for the rest of us.

“Let the rest of the world beat their brains out for a buck. It’s friends that count. And I got friends”, says the troublesome Bette Davis in All about Eve who had enough of the quarrels in her life. She has one comfort that keeps her getting up in the morning: knowing that she has good friends she can rely on. And this is all that matters for her.

“I can’t carry it for you, but I…

Bilbo and Gandalf

In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit. He enjoyed a calm life somewhere in the Shire on the edges of Middle-earth. All the other hobbits lived equally content and peaceful lives and every day seemed to be only a slightly different variation of the day before.

However, our hobbit wanted more. He had itchy feet. Wanderlust. He felt the strong desire to leave his village and find out what else is out there. …

Imagine a young businessman who is sentenced to two consecutive life terms in prison for the alleged murder of his wife and her lover; a crime he never committed. He has to do time in a horrible jail with inhuman conditions and sadistic prison wards who enjoy torturing the inmates for fun. If that wasn’t bad enough, the prison is of course also packed with brutal criminals. However, our business man manages to slowly build positive relationships with the inmates as well as with the prison wardens. …

Imagine you are a boxer. Imagine in one fight your face is hit so often that it resembles a cauliflower; imagine you see your opponent double and imagine you can’t feel your legs anymore. Every time you get knocked down, the only thing you hear is the faint noise of the hostile crowd booing at you, and you’d rather be dead than getting back up to fight a seemingly invincible opponent. But: you get up anyway. And you keep on fighting with all that is left in you.

This is the story of Rocky Balboa played by Sylvester Stallone.


Remember the beautiful movie Dead Poet’s society? It tells the bitter-sweet story of the progressive teacher Keating who stands up against the arch conservative norms in an elitist boarding school in the 1950s. Mr. Keating, wonderfully portrayed by Robin Williams, warns his students against leading lives of “quiet desperation,” and encourages them to break social rules and norms in order to find their own voices.

He is disobedient, unconventional and does not fit into the reactionary surroundings of 1950s private schools, and for that reason, he eventually gets discharged from his position. However, he leaves a mark; his students are…


In my newest chapter about the characteristics of heroes and what we can learn from them, I want to take a closer look at responsibility and accountability and why those characteristics are so valuable for our lives.

Let’s start with Sully.

The pilot Chesley Sullenberger aka Sullyin the eponymous movie starring Tom Hanks performed one of the most astounding and improbable emergency landings in the history of civil aviation. After a flock of Canada geese destroyed one of the plane’s engines, his Airbus A320 with155 passengers on board went slowly down.

Pilot “Sully” Sullenberger didn’t have the luxury of time…

Done. My resolution for 2017 was to read 52 books and I read 52 books. And finally, I found some time to brag about it.

Recently I proudly told my 93-years-old grandmother about this and she asked back “What, only 52?!? Lazy you!” (I will never forget how grannie read a full 120-page crime novel on a half hour cab ride from the airport…)

Anyway, I am happy with this achievement and most importantly it got me back into the habit of reading more fiction and I encountered new authors, stories and viewpoints. …

Universal Storyteller

Nicolai Schumann is the founder of Universal Storyteller and teaches storytelling at universities and to corporates. www.universalstoryteller.co.uk

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