Have you ever been inspired or moved to tears? Chances are this was as a result of listening to a story.
Storytelling is powerful and important. In ancient societies, the story was the way that knowledge was passed from generation to generation. It was how the young caveman knew about how to avoid sabretooth tigers or how to hunt a mammoth. The stories around the campfire were not just a verbal report, they were not just retold, they were re-lived! Ok so we don’t know this for sure, but it certainly happens in Aboriginal culture – which is one of the most ancient on earth.
The Aborigine’s call the time before creation began ‘The Dreaming’. All their stories – which pass down the wisdom they believe was created in the DreamTime, were and are still passed down through oral tradition, through story telling. For every life lesson there are one or more stories, and sometimes their stories cover many lessons. There are also stories just for women and for girls reaching a certain age.
And this can also be seen in other areas such as in the Bible The old testament was passed down through oral tradition and storytelling. And this tradition of story telling continues when books started to be written because most people could not read (and much of what was written was in Latin anyway), and so storytelling continued to be one of the main ways that knowledge was passed down to future generations. (I know some of you may be shocked at my bible knowledge, not only was my mother a Sunday school teacher, I also studied Religious Studies, now that’s a story for another time!).
It’s clear that storytelling is in our DNA, it’s why films and books exist, it’s why children love to be read to. And equally clearly – the stories we tell other people are a vital part of our lives. When it comes to business – the stories you put out there, through your blogs, your articles, your marketing and branding, your social media etc – are all key to positioning you and your business.
Being able to tell a story and create a ‘future story’ is a very powerful way that you can change the world. Think of JFK creating the story that within a decade Americans would walk on the moon. Think of Martin Luther King telling the story of oppression but also of hope, the story of a world where all men were equal. Or Gandhi with a similar story of oppression and a different future. See what happens when the stories are powerful enough to change the world.
So whilst the stories you share with others are important, here’s the thing, the stories you tell yourselves can be even more impactful. These stories are the most powerful of all because they determine exactly how your life is.
You are where you are right now because of the stories you have told yourself up until now. Mohammed Ali told the world (and more importantly himself) “I am The Greatest”. And he told himself that many many thousands of times – until it became reality.
However, I am sure you know – that most people don’t tell themselves stories that are AS positive as Ali. Most people’s stories are all about why they can’t do what they really want to do. They might go like this – “I can’t do maths because my teacher at school told me I couldn’t”. “I couldn’t run a business because no-one in my family has ever run a business”.
If your stories are not helping you to get to where you need to be, then you might want to learn how to tell better stories, to yourself and to others. Which makes me think, on Wednesday this week I was at the RadioWorks World, Make the News event, where I have the pleasure, on a regular basis, of coaching people to be able to relive their stories on stage. The biggest mistake I hear all the time is when people narrate their story, which means they don’t connect with the audience, or else their ‘acting’ is so over the top I feel like I’m sitting watching a stage play, which doesn’t work either!
Few things position you quite as well, as an expert in your field, as being able to tell your powerful, relevant and inspiring story on stage so your audience can understand how it is that you are an expert and how you can help them. Telling your story in a book is probably the other most powerful thing you can do, but I believe presentation skills, and very specifically Story Telling, are THE most powerful. Ideally, you will have both.
At the event, I was very proud to see one of my mentees: Cecilia Fanner, up on Stage launching her new book which is all about helping families cope with dementia. Being able to tell her story, both in the book and on stage, positions her as someone who not only knows about Dementia, but can help her audience deal with it. And right here and right now Cecilia is changing the world through Story Telling.
If you think you might need some help with telling your story or general presentation skills, get in touch with me by mail firstname.lastname@example.org and meanwhile remember to tell yourself a fairy tale ending and not a horror story because you are the narrator of your life.