Storytelling for Fun and Profit

Storytelling - It’s a hot topic these days. What do I mean by storytelling? One website says that it is “a narrative account of a real or imagined event or events” That same website (http://www.eldrbarry.net/roos/st_defn.htm) says “Stories connect us with our humanness and link past, present, and future by teaching us to anticipate the possible consequences of our actions.”

Once a month I read to a local first grade. The children get very excited when they see me because they know we will spend a wonderful hour together using our imaginations. We do that by looking at the pictures in the book and then making up a story to go with them. Sometimes I stop in the middle of the story and ask them what they think is going to happen. When I read the poem Casey at the Bat, they preferred their ending with Casey hitting a home run!

Aside from its entertainment value stories help us to connect to others. There is a certain amount of shared intimacy when one person shares a story with another. In addition to that some stories help a person to learn something new. Business leaders are just beginning to see storytelling as a way to deal with change. It can be used to produce a practical outcome that changes an individual, a community and/or an organization.

A story is told about a student and his master. Everyday the student spent learning from his master. The student noticed that the master always taught him through stories so one day he asked the master if it wouldn’t be faster if the master taught him directly. The master responded by asking the student to bring him some water. The student thought this response was odd but dutifully got a pot and filled it with water for his master. Seeing the pot of water, the master asked the student why he brought him the pot when all he asked for was water.

To me that story says so much more than a direct answer and that is just the point of the story, isn’t it?

How does one gain the insight necessary to find just the right story? I always envy musicians and actors in their ability to improvise. A jazz musician for example can pick up the melody and improvise wonderful variations. Actors in the same way can get the barest of facts and then create a monologue or dialogue right in the moment. To me improvisation is amazing! I am in awe of those who do it.

Creating something in the moment is a skill to cultivate if one wants to use the art of storytelling effectively. As a child I remember that at camp we used to sit in a circle and the counselor would start a story. In the middle of the story (sometimes in mid-sentence) she would stop and the person beside her would continue the story. Each person in the circle would add to the story until the last person got to end the story. I haven’t done that in years but what a great exercise to flex the storytelling muscle!

Recently I listened to a wonderful interview between Dovid Grossman (www.DovidGrossman.com) and Jack Canfield (www.JackCanfield.com). Both men had stories to share and the conversation went back and forth very much like a dance. One way to learn to tell a good story is to listen to great storytellers.

I’m planning to hone my storytelling skills by participating in a teleclass called The Hero’s Journey for Parents with Dovid Grossman, a rabbi, youth leader and father of nine children and Christopher Vogler, author of The Writer’s Journey. What child doesn’t like to hear stories about his/her growing up years! My grandchildren at 2 and 5 already love to hear about what they did as babies. For more information on the program go to www.HerosJourneyForParents.com.

Whether you are a business leader, a parent, or a student, connecting with others and learning through a powerful story can be rewarding and fun. Learning the art of storytelling is a skill we all will need to develop in the 21st century.

About Alvah Parker
Alvah Parker is a Business and Career Coach as well as publisher of Parker’s Points, an email tip list and Road to Success, an ezine. Parker’s Value Program© enables her clients to find their own way to work that is more fulfilling and profitable. Her clients are managers, business owners, sole practioners, attorneys and people in transition. Alvah is found on the web at www.asparker.com. She may also be reached at 781-598-0388.

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About Alvah Parker
Alvah Parker is a Business and Career Coach as well as publisher of Parker’s Points, an email tip list and Road to Success, an ezine. Parker’s Value Program© enables her clients to find their own way to work that is more fulfilling and profitable. Her clients are managers, business owners, sole practioners, attorneys and people in transition. Alvah is found on the web at www.asparker.com. She may also be reached at 781-598-0388.