Where do you find good stories to tell? Here’s a suggestion… – (Thoughts on the Power of Stories and Story-Telling)

Once upon a time…A_long_time_ago

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…


There is a lot written these days about the power of stories. This is a “well, duh” flash of insight. All human communication has revolved around stories.

I have written about the power of mythos before – the “narrative appeal,” the power of the ongoing, shared story. (Read this blog post: Why Story Matters – The Power of Mythos, the Shared Story, A Powerful Tool for Persuasion).

And, I have observed that it is not just the “good story,” but it is a also the power of “good story-telling.” A good story, told poorly, simply does not have the needed power.

So, here’s a question: how do you find good stories?

The answer is simple: find a lot – a whole lot – a whole, whole lot – of stories. It’s like the pursuit of a good idea. To have a good idea, you need a lot of ideas. It’s like writing jokes (so I’ve read). To come up with a good joke, you need a lot of jokes. So it is with stories.

So, where do you find good stories? My suggestion – read more widely. And, read books by good story tellers.

Bill Gates reading Business AdventuresIn September, 2014 I presented a synopsis of the book Business Adventures: Twelve Classic Tales from the World of Wall Street by John Brooks. This was Warren Buffet’s favorite book, and his personal copy was loaned to Bill Gates, who arranged to have the book re-issued. It is nothing abut a book of stories; important stories, well told — thoroughly told.

My two favorite stories ever (for business audiences) both came from books by David Halberstam. OneThe Powers that Be involved William Paley – great story! The other had to do with the Japanese automobile and steel industries. David Halberstam was a great story-telling writer!

There are some modern exemplar, like Charles Duhigg and of course Malcolm Gladwell. Maybe Gladwell is the “father’ of modern story-telling writing for the business book arena.

So, you’ve done a lot of reading, (and there is always the next new book to read), and now you’ve got an overflow of stories in your arsenal. How do you decide which ones to tell? And, how do you tell them effectively?

Here are a few hints;

#1 – Pick a story that makes a point!

#2 – Pick a story that has a larger, transferable point. In other words, make sure that the story you tell can translate into different arenas in business .

#3 – As you tell the story, tell it with a touch of mystery. Tickle the curiosity of your audience, and then build to the point. (If you are old enough, think about the brilliance of “The Rest of the Story” by Paul Harvey).

#4 – But, don’t belabor a story. Tell it, get to the point, then move on in your speech/presentations.

Stories are big. Story-telling is equally big! Read many stories; practice telling them — get better at telling them. And then, make sure they are sprinkled liberally throughout your every speech or presentation.

And remember the real power of mythos – when your audience members sense that “I can become part of that ongoing story,” you’ve hit story-telling gold!


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