Timeless stories

The 3 keys to tell stories that last

Make it timeless.

Nassim Taleb says, “If you want to be read in the future, make sure you would’ve been read in the past.”

Critics argue that Harry Potter is Star Wars retold with wizards instead of Jedi:

To them, this makes Harry Potter a lesser story. A copy. A phony.

Maybe. Except they act like Star Wars was an original. Even George Lucas disagrees:

“I had an idea of doing a modern fairy tale. I stumbled across The Hero with a Thousand Faces. I began to understand how I could do this. It was a great gift.”

Lucas then rewrote Star Wars to follow the Hero’s Journey. So, you could argue Star Wars is a copy of every story that came before it that follows the Hero’s Journey.

It’s a silly debate. I’m with Virgil Abloh who said, “To create something new, you need to make it 3% different than anything else.”

But the lesson here isn’t story structure — it’s what makes a story timeless.

Harry Potter, Star Wars, The Alchemist, The Odyssey, Beowulf. Some written in the last 50 years, others over 2000 years ago. All will be relevant in another 100 years because they focus on timeless ideas:

  • A young boy / girl overcomes unthinkable trials and comes home a new person

  • Individuals should live in the singular pursuit of their individual dreams

  • Hospitality, loyalty, love, and vengeance

Every story comes from somewhere. But not every story can be timeless.

3 ways you can tell timeless stories:

1. Focus on your category

Over the last few years, “web3” rose to fame, had millions of dollars poured into it, and then crashed in a storm of scandal and fraud.

Many creators made their entire story about web3. Today, their engagement has fallen off a cliff.

It’s not because of bad content. It’s because they tied their story to an idea (“web3”) that isn’t timeless.

An outlier? Jack Butcher.

He didn’t brand himself ‘web3’. He’s art and design, sometimes through NFTs as a medium.

Art and design are timeless. So, if Jack’s work is great (it is), then it's timeless too.

Storytelling is my category. Here’s a great guide On Creating a Category of One.

2. Focus on the transformation (theme)

A story isn’t a string of crazy events thrown together. A story is how the people involved in those events changed, diminished, or grew through those events.

I was once this, but now I’m this.

I was once lost, but now I’m found.

I was once trapped, but now I’m free.

Stories about transformation, change, and growth never go out of style.

3. Apply the Hero’s Journey to your ideas (structure)

I know. The “Hero’s Journey” sounds so… cliche? So dramatic? Yes, but it’s effective. It gets to the core of the human experience.

We come wired to understand the Hero’s Journey. Not to tell stories through it (that takes practice!), but to relate to stories that do it well.

  • We’re frustrated in ___ situation.

  • A call to adventure comes through ___.

  • On that journey we fight ___, overcome ___, realize ___, and become ___.

A structure as old as time. That does not mean it’s boring. Quite the opposite. That means it’s timeless.


When you tell a story, make it timeless in 3 dimensions.

  • Category

  • Theme

  • Structure

Hope that’s helpful.

— Nathan

Want to go deeper on storytelling?

1. If you want a practical way to improve your storywriting in less than 25 minutes daily, check out StoryWork (200+ students).

2. Grab time with me for a 1:1 session on newsletters, storytelling, audience building, or anything else.