Think back to the most memorable lessons of your life. Perhaps you learned about the value of respect from a favorite teacher, or a grandparent. A mentor or coach may have given you a kind word of encouragement during a tough time; you then passed along that wisdom later to a child or young adult in similar straits. Sometimes we learn our values from others, and sometimes we learn our values from stories. Aesop’s Fables, the Bible, Cat in the Hat or Harry Potter all hold secrets and stories that edify and illuminate.
I used to think that stories had to be dramatic and filled with heroism to be beneficial to an audience. Hearing other professional speakers talk about rock climbing or hang gliding or other daring feats made me want to seek out a mountain-top and go on a fantastic spiritual journey to discover my own death-defying lessons. Then I’d remember the two young boys who expect Daddy to deliver macaroni and cheese on a nightly basis, or my darling wife who needs to be saved from bath-tub spiders. With expectations around the house as lofty as those, who has time to scale Everest?
Stories have a mythic hold on us from our very first moments of cognition. “Good Night Moon” lulls us to sleep when we’re very young. Heck, reading that simple tale to a child lulls the reader to sleep as well! Our connection to stories lasts a lifetime, and while children’s books may not hold much instructive value as we age, stories themselves can help us make lasting connections as adults.
So what do the non-mountain climbers and non-space explorers among us do for great stories? First, you must plumb the depths of your own experience. Follow what I’ve identified as the Three Step Story Process. There is tremendous value in what you have experienced in your lifetime, and the first step is to Reflect.
Reflect: Find a quiet spot where you can think, and bring along a notepad and a pen. Start by listing all the places you’ve ever lived and the years you lived in each one. Addresses are not nearly as important as cities, towns and countries. As you reflect on locations, start to jot down some words and phrases that you associate with those places. For instance, from September 1970 until January 1974, I lived in Brighton New York. The word I associate with that time is “fire”; a house fire at 4:00am on January 16, 1974 forced my family from our home and through the frigid night to a neighbor’s house. I can “recover” the sights, sounds and smells from that night in an instant!
Steps Two and Three come your way next week in the NSA Blog!
Mike Faber is NSA Colorado’s Marketing Director for 2009-2010, and a story-teller at heart. To learn more about Mike please visit www.mikefaber.com or call him at 720.851.5208.