Beyond the Facts & Stats


 

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The dissemination of intellectual or knowledge-based information is often achieved through educational lectures and professional seminars.  Word-impacted power-point presentations fill overhead screens accompanied by handouts with accompanying empty black lines flanking images of screen shots. Thus offering audience members an additional way to record another’s idea of what they think is truly important. Opinion poles, bar graphs, and test results are frequent flyers in the realm of evidence-based documentation or presentations. This type of official data also provides audience members with justifiable proof and unquestionable credibility about what they have to say and why they should be paid.

These authoritatively utilized, zealously prescribed and frequently clung to methods of information dumping are heralded by acclaimed experts. Yep, duty-bound experts in any given field come fully armed and loaded with their ability to blast us with yet another round of impressively, important material. Information we’re privileged enough to listen to and even more privileged to pay for.

OK, I get it. Informational programs and seminars can be helpful and informative. Learning new information and being exposed to fresh ideas can also be illuminating, practical and even inspirational. Still, they can also be easily forgotten, yawn-provokingly dull, and stoically lifeless. But what about story? A word, a concept and an art form often lost in an impressively, impersonal jungle of justifiably, unwavering facts and stats.

Now back to story, with its emotionally engaging and creatively inspiring conquests of intrigue, suspense, and adventure. Stories are juicy, zany, troublesome, romantic, cataclysmic, informational, cautionary and heartwarming. They captivate our attention and tug at our heartstrings. Stories remind us of who we are and inspire us to be more than we thought we could be. They remind us of what is important and how our lives impact others. They challenge us. They inspire us. They incite action. They are intrical to who we are and to the foundation of our lives.

For now, let’s power down our powerpoints and put down our writing utensils. Let’s nestle in, leaving behind the concerns of the day. Let’s forget the past and focus on the present. Through the power of story, let’s discover more of who we are and the resources we have to meet the challenges which lie ahead. Let’s find out who or what changed over the course of story’s journey. Let’s experience the intrigue of what happened, how it happened and how it all came to be. Let’s move into action and gain inspiration from the protagonist or others who have gone before us. Let’s celebrate the victory of story’s success.

Great, so where do we go from here?

What is a problem or challenge does your audience needs to solve?

Who is the main character? (a worker, manager, client, patron …)

What obstacles have to be overcome? Pick a few of the key ones. It’s ok, even preferable if the protagonist doesn’t meet all of them. This is just life and part of what makes a story great!

What happens at the end?

How do they get there?

Who or what has changed?

What’s the most important point of your story?

Once you’ve formulated your story, tell it to a few supportive listeners or a storytelling coach. The job of supportive listeners is to listen; not to critique. Although, you might ask them what they liked about it or if they had any questions.

Facts, stats, and figures have their place. Yet stories engage us. They are easily remembered. They compel us to tell them again and again. For a story well-told is always the beginning; never the end.

Until next time . . . Let your Storyographer’s journey continue!

 

 

 

 

 

Forecast: Stormy with a Chance of Wedding


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Dementia is a cruel and unyielding player in the mind-full game of life. Yet for many of us it’s elusive powers fragment our memories from a time of ‘who knows when’. However, for this eighty plus year old woman, its diagnosed presence leaves a thundering trail of compelling stories at a local diner.

Accustomed to life at the country club and being side by side with the man she loves, this elderly woman meets the challenges of dementia, of widowhood and of the loss her two children; one girl and one boy at the ages of twenty and twenty-one. Her cherished memories now consist of outings to a local diner and talk of others getting married. Well, others, yes, but her primary focus was me.  Her weekly companion. A graduate student in her mid-twenties, single and quite without a boyfriend. The only dates I had were the edible kind: a preferred snack in-between classes, especially during exam week.

Joyously anticipating a study break, I leave for a dinner date at the local diner with my elderly friend. Sliding into the front seat of my bright orange Horizon we leave at once. The days previous sunny with a chance of clouds forecast was rapidly becoming stormy with a change of flooding. Racing into the restaurant only minutes before the thunderclouds boomed, we were seated at our favorite booth.  Smelling the aroma of fresh brewed coffee and freshly prepared meals steaming on their way to hunger customers; we placed our orders. Like the weather, our conversation went from clear and calm to windy with a chance of unexpected. Our discussion went from small talk on the storm front to my choice in clothing. I mean this is not the Ritz, the country club or any such state of the arts dining establishment; just a well-loved, local diner. I was dressed for a casual, yet enjoyable evening with a cherished friend. Or, at least I thought I was. Instead I found myself being chastised, however politely, for wearing blue jeans and athletic shoes to my rehearsal dinner.

Rehearsal dinner! I didn’t even have a date for the weekend, the next weekend or even the weekend after that, let alone an actual boyfriend.  It’s not like marriage would have been an option for a full-time graduate student working three part-time jobs. A social life or any life was already in question. Attempting to avoid the current, laser-focused topic of discussion, I decided it was a great time for a bathroom break. Excusing myself, I made my exit, hoping that, upon my return, the conversation would take a significant turn for the better.

Exiting the ladies room, I noticed empty tables were now filled and long lines of hungry guest standing in the entrance way. Outside winds howled. Rippling sounds of booming thunder and pounding rain echoed inside the diner.

Returning to our booth an overwhelming feeling of uneasiness passed through me. Looking across from me, my elderly friend possessed the type of smile which could either have generated enough power to light an entire city or gleefully devoured multiple, unsuspecting souls. A small, but steady stream of people began cloistering around us. A  group of concerned faces and their harrowing stories followed.

“My father’s got creamed. He was driving home from work in a storm just like this one. Lightning hit and split the tree in front of him. After he crashed, tt took them almost four hours to pry him out. Lucky he’s still alive. Just got out of intensive care the other day. . . Oh, and, by the way, congratulations on your wedding,” says one customer.

“Almost the same thing happened to my Brother. The house was fine but the winds got him. Standing in the front door he heard a roar. It was worse than a night at the movies. The wind whipped up on solid oak and crashed it through the roof of the car. Totaled it before the insurance company did. Lucky for him he was inside before it happened . . . Hey, congratulations on your wedding,” says another.

“Just last week my daughter totaled her car. Her first accident. It came out of nowhere. One of those freak storms just popped up. Don’t know if it was wind or lightning but a tree crashed. She got pinned in a car for a couple of hours. Came out a bit cut up, but no internal bleeding . . . ” Extending his hand, he says, “Congratulations on your wedding.”

Sitting quietly, her folded hands resting on the table, my friend beams.

A restaurant manager, formally dressed, briskly, yet solemnly approaches our table. “Excuse me, Mam, are you the owner of a bright orange Horizon, license plate number . . . ?”

Confused, yet hesitantly, I answer; yes.

He continues, “I am sorry to report damages to your car.”

My mind begins spinning as fast as the gale force winds still howling outside . . . The images of other customer’s stories still whirling inside my head. Blurting out I ask, “What? Damages . . . ? What kind of damage? Is it still drivable? Was anyone hurt?”

He continues, “The wind blew down one of our signs and it hit your car. I have been in contact with our insurance company . . .” Oh yes, and congratulations on your wedding. I hope you get your dress on time.”

Still sitting in the booth across from me, my friend holds the knowing smile of a story well told.

Years later, following her death, I find  myself standing alongside a dirt road wearing a
t-length wedding dress, holding a bouquet of flowers. Posing, surrounded by dappled light streaming in through the trees, a camera flashes. A camera flashes again. A trip down memory lane ensues. Looking up, smiling, I think of my friend. In a loud voice I cry out, “I got the dress!”

The photo shoot is now complete; another modeling job well done. Still standing beneath the leafy-shade of the trees, I question. I wonder. I wonder when and where I might meet the perfect bride’s groom.

Until next time . . . Let your Storyographer’s Journey Begin!

Bombshell – Haircut or Hairicy?


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Haircut or Hairicy!

Have you ever walked into and out of a beauty shop or barber shop and felt like someone unleashed a bombshell on top of your head? It wasn’t exactly what you were expecting. It isn’t exactly what you wanted. Yet, somehow, it happened. How it happened, you’re still not quite sure. As to where it came from, you think might have had something to do with this seemingly, charming person you first met behind the counter. The same one who just handed you the bill. Actually the same one who actually expects you to pay for the services rendered on this now explosive mass of folic-ally challenged residue called hair. The very appendages, which less than an hour ago gleefully hung in neat rows adorning your head. Looking in the mirror you now find yourself wearing the fragmented shrapnel of some unidentifiable, desecrated, hair-raising remains of what? No one really knows. Downcast you saunter out the door. Your head’s few remaining hairs desperately clinging to your scalp.

What makes things worse . . . if this could even be possible, is that this very person  actually, not only attended, but graduated from an accredited institution of higher learning. A place where they were educated, discharged and licensed to utilize their board certified skills and their near-lethal, non-registered tools of mass hair destruction on your head. The one you wish was no longer attached to your neck or in any way identifiable or traceable to your specific body. Bombshell – Haircut or Hairicy.

Until next time . . . Let Your Storyographer’s Journey Continue!

Skip the Movie – Live the Part!


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“So often life is every bit as good, if not better, than the wonderful make-believe movies we love to watch. It is all the same joy and sorrow, mystery and suspense, adventure and excitement, love and emotion, except it is real. Live your life as if it were a great movie—complete with the happy ending.” Excerpt taken from: “The Art of Acting” by Stella Adler, a book written by a man named Kissel.

Stories tell us and others about us. The  find their way into the stories we tell. The stories we tell, as in the lives we live, are about us; our beliefs, our perceptions and the role we cast ourselves into. Even the quirky, zany, eccentric, oblivious, weasley and outrageous aspects of ourselves and others we know show up in the stories we tell. Whether or not we are developing a personal story or a folktale, we are the story. A story which reflects aspects of our own lives.

What is your favorite folktale, story or movie? How does it touch or inspire you? Take a few minutes and cast yourself in the leading role. The stage is set. The curtains open:

Who are you?
Where are you?
What’s your story?
Who’s in your story?
What do they think of you?
Where are you going?
What do you do or hope to become?
What are you doing that you never thought you could do before?
How is the ending different from the beginning?

Now, what about, just maybe putting ourselves, yourself, into the leading role in our own life story?

Who are we right now?
What decisions are you making?
Who are the main people in your life?
What are your goals?
What is your bigger vision or dreams – the ones bigger than what you’ve ever accomplished before?
What is the next step?

So . . . What’s your story?

Until next time . . . Let Your Storyographer’s Journey Begin!

 

Our Stories Reveal Who We Are


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“I do this exercise in my seminars where a person speaks for five minutes about someone who has been very important in their life who has been very important in their lives. I then ask the listeners to write down what they conclude about the speaker. I am not asking about the person the speaker talked about; I am asking about the person who was speaking. It is amazing how much people can conclude from listening only 5 minutes to someone they have never met. People are able to make statements about what the speaker values and what they would be like to work with. When I share the assessments with the speaker’s co-workers or family, they attest to how on target the assessments are.  . . People rarely understand that they tell people who they are every time they talk. ” Linda Garbe

“Once you understand that you will reveal yourself when you tell a story, the next thing to accept is that “here is a mental discipline need to develop to tell a good story. One has to have time and commitment to shaping a good story.” (Denis Bertrand) Except taken from How to Tell a Great Story by Aneeta Sundarara.

The stories we tell are about ourselves whether they are folkloric or life-loric. In the world of storytelling, select a story that you love. Find out who you are in this story and why it is important for you to tell it. Also, is it something your audiences will love to hear?

The images of our lives from the homes and towns we live in to the people we meet along the way often become the images and characters of our stories. Since we are already telling people who we are every time we speak, in the art of storytelling and the artistry of story development, why not be the person we truly are? When we embrace this reality and step further into the reality of our stories, again identifying who we are, we more consciously and with greater confidence, step into the into the vivid reality of our story the unique expression of our voices.

Until next time . . . Let Your Storyographer’s Journey Begin!

Armed with Nothing but a Handful of Quarters . . .


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Every day brings each one of us so many unique and amazing stories to both share and tell!

We have all been there. Watching our time pieces in fear of the dreaded swing of the parking meter’s arrow. Its ill-fated consequences should we dare go over our allowed, pre-paid time limit. Looking at our watches, we gasp. It’s later than we thought and the metering meter is farther than expected. Rapidly surveying all possible. all most immediate and all practical building entrance and exit options and wishing we had a spare parachute for just such an emergency, we run.

Torn between the professionalism of our trades and the desperation of meeting our doom at the hands of an unknown, often unidentified ticket bearer, the second option talks the lead. Choosing to leave rigid and motionless clutches of professional uncertainty the metered race continues. Unstoppable we race down towering flights of stairs, across semi-vacant rooms littered with people and through hinged doors. Coming face to face with the elements we race on. Our goal, to get there before anyone else does, with our pocket full of quarters.

Yet, unknown and never will be known to any of us, a man, in a simple brown suit armed with a hand full of quarters secretly and effortlessly impedes on the city’s parking violation funds. Without a cape, or a telephone booth to aid in his hidden identity changes he stealth-fully walks down the street, one parking meter at a time. Coming around the corner, continuing on to the road ahead, he stops. He stops next to metalized chunk of rubber-wheeled, motorized containment, called transformation. The very kind and the very one that got you to your current location. Like those meters before, he once again drops in a small handful of quarters just seconds before the parking meter’s ill-fated, needle pointing, predetermined expiration times. Hat’s off and flags a waving to this mysterious man in brown, who walks just footsteps ahead of city’s hired, meter-ticketing collections agent.

 

Until next time . . . Let Your Storyographer’s Journey Begin!

Story Harvest – Daily Conversations


24034069-circuslionsI love sitting around large gatherings of people and listening in to their conversationally inspired memory flashes. A treasured garden filled with ripening, story igniting images.

A grow man, with two teenage sons of his own shares his father’s first known driving experience. “My Dad got his first truck driving job when he joined the circus. The work was hard, but in these days, work was work and most people didn’t have it. Early morning routines consisted of shoveling manure, setting up tents, wooden planks for audience seating and generally, what ever else needed to be done. The key to having a good job and keeping it is doing what ever your boss wants you to do. I still remember the time when they needed a driver for one of the trucks and they asked me. I watched people drive those things everyday, it didn’t look that hard. No problem, I told them. I grabbed the keys, climbed into the driver’s seat. I looked down at the floor boards;  clutch, brake and gas, the only thing I needed to know. After getting things going, the only thing I really needed to know was how to keep it running. Red lights and traffic signs on pre-historic roads made keeping up and keeping the engine running a tougher job than I expected and getting lost was not an option, so I decided that running through red lights, whizzing past stop signs, was a better option. Later in the early morning hours, terrified with a white knocked grip on the steering wheel, the circus lions arrived at the fair grounds.”

MIA (Missing in Action) a soon to be identified suspect showed up missing at a mandatory family photo-shoot appointment. But wait, the over 50-year-old suspect was just here not more than 30 minutes ago! An all adult family gathering photo opt is now put on hold as the great search begins. Where could he be? How could he do this to us! I mean everyone is waiting! What is the purpose of cell phones if your don’t even carry it with you, as the ? What they did not know,suspect’s blue backpack gleefully range in the presence of its callers. What did not know then, but would find out later, is that the identified suspect had recently been picked up by none other than New York City Police Department’s (NYPD) finest men in blue. The identified suspect was found lost on the streets of Queens, NYC. When questioned he had no known local address, telephone number or mental image of his desired location. Talking non-stop in the back seat of the squad car, police officers continued circling the area. In a moment of desperation and their need for mental sanity the two officers contemplate taking him to the downtown police station until further information as to his residence uncertainty could be solved. The impending reality that he might indeed end up “downtown” sent his heart rate beating faster, increased his blood pressure and forced his brain into gear. “Excuse me officers, my brother lives in the Midwest, I know his telephone number!” Radio-ing into dispatch, the number is dialed. “Hello” Yes, this is the NYPD, what is your relationship to . . .” With the family’s printed itinerary attached to his refrigerator, his brother was able to give the address of his brother’s residence in Queen’s NYC. Thank him for his time, the officers turn around once more. “Hey wait!” I thought this place looked familiar!”, came a relieved cry from the back seat. Police Officers exchanged knowing glances, replying, “We drove by several times over the course of the past hour. Actually ten to be exact, but who is counting.” Once safely inside and the family photo session being now complete, a Mother pulls her son,  the 50 plus year old suspect aside, scolding him saying, “Don’t you know it is rude to get lost when people are waiting for you?’

To all your special story moments!

 

Until next time . . . Let Your Storyographer’s Journey Begin!