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Expert Feature: This Great Story Teller’s Writing Tip Reveals The Greatest Purpose For Goals

Would you believe that an important story writing tip from a top story teller reveals the greatest purpose for goals?

I’ll explain this more to you in a few minutes.

But first, you need to learn the surprising story of how this great story teller went from an academic failure to a story telling master.

stephen j cannell

The Stupidest Kid in the Class

His name was Stephen and he was born February 5, 1941  in Los Angeles. His parents were the co-owners of a highly successful interior decorating company that his father had started.

He seemed to be set up to succeed. Except there was one major problem: he had severe dyslexia. In 40’s and 50’s dyslexia was something that no one had heard of, so he wasn’t given any help.

He just suffered in school. 

No adult ever told him that he was stupid. They just told him that he wasn’t applying himself enough.

But by 3rd grade, he had decided he was the stupidest kid in the class.

That was the only answer he could come up with to explain all of the bad grades he kept getting.

And things continued to get worse. In high school, he failed three grades.

When it came to school, the only thing that he was good at was football.

You would think that a kid like this, wouldn’t want anything to do with school.

That’s why what I am about to tell you next is so unbelievable, yet true.


Despite having dyslexia, he would later choose English as his favorite subject.

Not only that, in the high school yearbook Stepehen listed “author” as his future career.

He later graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in journalism. 

But none of these changes could prepare him for the surprising twist his life was about to take.

One of his unspoken dreams was about to come true.


The Unbelievable Dream That Came True

After college, he worked for awhile for his father’s business, but that really wasn’t what he wanted to do with his life.

He had a much different dream, one that none of his teachers would’ve ever imagined.
He wanted become a television script writer.

So during the day he’d work for his dad and then, every night, he would work endlessly churning out television spec scripts.

After five years of trying, one day it finally happened.

He sold his first story to Mission Impossible in 1966.

He sold his first script to It Takes a Thief in 1968.

And landed his first steady job in television as the story editor of Adam-12.

By age 29, he had become one of the youngest executive producers at Universal Studios.


The Most Prolific TV Writer in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s

The Stephen that I’ve been telling you about is Stephen J. Cannell.

He created or co-created more than 40 shows. He wrote more than 450 episodes and produced more than 1,500 episodes.

He became one of the most prolific TV writers in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. 

Here’s a list of just some of his shows:


  • The Greatest American Hero
  • A-Team
  • The Rockford Files
  • Baa Baa Black Sheep
  • Baretta
  • The Commish
  • Riptide
  • Hunter
  • Hardcastle & McCormick
  • 21 Jump Street

This small list of hit TV shows is impressive enough, but Stephen didn’t just rest on his laurels.

After a very successful television career, Stephen finally decided to achieve the “author” status that he dreamed of as high schooler.

In 1996, he released his first best-selling mystery novel, The Plan.

He later wrote seven stand-alone novels and ten, best-selling Shane Scully novels.

From this list of hit television shows and best-selling books, one thing is clear.

Stephen J. Cannell knew the key elements of a great story.

This might surprise you, but what if one of the greatest lessons he learned about creating great stories can teach us the kind of goals we should be setting in 2015?

One of His Story Writing Lessons Reveals the Greatest Purpose for Goals

Sadly, Stephen died in 2010.

But in his later years of life, he loved to share with young writers the hard-earned lessons he  gleaned from writing all those years.

In one of his TV Writing workshops, under some additional writing tips, he revealed something that could change how you see goals

“24. THE GOAL: The goal is an essential part of drama. But not just any goal will do. In order for a goal to function well, it should try to meet three main requirements: First of all, something must be at stake in the story that convinces the audience that a great deal will be lost if the main character does not obtain the goal. Secondly, a workable goal brings the protagonist in direct conflict with the goals of the antagonist.Thirdly, the goal should be sufficiently difficult to achieve so that the character changes while moving toward it.”

Do you realize that what you just read doesn’t just apply to how to write a good story?

It also applies to how to live a good life.


Three Lessons on Goals from Stephen J. Cannell

If you want the story of your life to be a good one, then you need to remember these three lessons from Stephen J. Cannell:

1. Your goal must be worthy.

If you don’t choose a goal where a great deal would be lost if you don’t achieve it, then why bother?

Worthless goals won’t inspire you or attract the help from others that you will need to accomplish them.

2. If it’s a worthy goal, then you must expect conflict and opposition.

You need to realize that any great goal will only be achieved through conflict.

If your goal is worthy, then you will face antagonists.

Don’t be surprised when conflict and opposition happen. Be surprised if you don’t experience them.

If you don’t, maybe your goal isn’t worthy enough.

3. Make sure your goal is “sufficiently difficult”, so that you must change.

You know that setting unrealistic goals is a waste of time. 

But do you realize that setting goals that are too realistic is also a waste of time?

Your goal must be difficult enough so that it requires you to change.

The greatest purpose for your goal is not what you gain or achieve, but it is in what it causes you to become.


Stephen’s Life the Perfect Example

An academic failure who dreams of being an author?

Now that’s the kind of goal that’s worth striving for.

That’s the kind of goal that will bring on a lot of conflict and opposition.

And that’s the kind of goal that transformed a dyslexic boy into a master story teller of the screen and print.


Did you know that there are 6 Wednesdays left in 2014?

You will be setting some goals for 2015 very soon.

When you do, don’t just choose goals to get things done.

Choose goals for 2015 that will transform you.


Source: and 

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About Scott Aughtmon (1872 Articles)
I’m author of the book 51 Content Marketing Hacks. I am also a regular contributor to and I am the person behind the popular infographic 21 Types of Content We Crave. I’m a business strategist, consultant, content creation specialist, and speaker. I’ve been studying effective marketing and business methods (both online and offline) since 1999. ===> If you would like to see ways that we could work together, then please click here to learn more.