Success and the Stories We Tell

I want to change the world, one story at a time. That’s my story for today, and it’s been my story for awhile.

You might say, “that’s a little over the top, don’t you think?”

“Not really,” I reply.

I’ll be talking about stories and their power to transform when I deliver two breakout sessions this morning at the MACTE fall conference. My topic will be, “Success and the Stories We Tell.”

We all have a stories that we tell ourselves. In fact, man has been telling stories for 27,000 years, since he was painting figures on the walls of his cave.

Our brains are wired for story. Studies have indicated that our brains  “light up” to stories. We resonate with stories, all day long.

Robin Dunbar, a University of Liverpool psychology professor, posits that personal stories and gossip make up 65 percent of our conversations. This shouldn’t surprise anyone that’s gathered ’round the water cooler in the workplace, or the lunch table in the break room.

Students, if given the opportunity to connect with stories, particularly stories that resonate and have relevance in their lives and to their personal situations, are transported, just like anyone else.

When we take stories and craft narratives, it becomes writing. Writing matters. Despite claims that “print is dead,” and the push away from literacy coming from some, writing matters more, not less for the world of 21st century work. Sometimes, writing well requires more than 140 characters.

The CTE model of education is one committed to contextualizing learning. They do a great job in most cases. My challenge this morning is to provide a slightly different spin on story, narrative, and it’s role in connecting with students, particularly students struggling to connect school with the real world. I’ll also be sharing some ideas of my own about how these education hubs in key locations throughout Maine can impact their communities in a positive manner.

That’s my story and I’m sticking with it. What’s yours?

2 thoughts on “Success and the Stories We Tell

  1. Yes, our brains are wired for story. Daniel Pink was one of the ones who named storytelling as one of the right brain competencies necessary for success in business. The annual Business Innovation Factory event is all about storytelling. Somewhere along the line people figured out that power points and business plans put people to sleep, but a dynamite pitch or story, gets people’s checkbooks out, or at least their attention. Of course, it’s helpful if you can back up your “story” with some sound numbers. I once had a career coaching client who had a gift for ‘telling the story behind the numbers’.

    Of course, Facebook pictures and YouTubes attempt to do the same. So do our albums of our family vacations and pictorial record of our children’s childhoods. And then there is blogging. But what to do about those great photos of you and an old boyfriend or friend after there was a breakup or heart break? Shred ’em? Here is another dimension of the power of story.

    I just finished a couple of moving memoirs by Louise DeSalvo, who teaches memoir writing and storytelling at Hunter College. She has another book entitled WRITING AS A WAY OF HEALING:HOW TELLING OUR STORIES TRANSFORMS OUR LIVES. One line that jumped out at me was about how she came to view depression as a complex story which has yet to be told. Hmmmm.

    Then last Sunday in the NY TIMES I read an beautiful essay by a psychiatrist called GREAT BETRAYALS. She says that one of the great losses after discovering major deception (or experiencing other kinds of profound emotional pain) is that one loses the narrative of one’s life, which must be reconstructed truthfully and integrated in order to move forward. Not easy to integrate the ambiguity of the past, but it’s one of those developmental tasks in life. The author closes with an Isak Dinesen quote, “all sorrows can be borne if you put them in a story or tell a story about them.” Now about what to do with those old photos…

    • Emily,

      Thanks for your thoughtful and thought-provoking comment.

      Stories are powerful on multiple levels. The more I delve into them and crafting narratives, the more I know this to be true.

      The link to the NYTimes story about “Great Betrayals” is fascinating. I’ve been working to create a new narrative for the past decade in my own life. There are betrayals that I’m still working through, which includes fundamentalist Christianity and a series of charlatans associated with that movement.

      I often think this very formative time in my life, which occurred when I was in my early 20s, is why I have such a visceral reaction to news stories and the behavior of politicians like our current governor, Ted Cruz, and a host of other figures that remind me of the manipulative leaders at the Bible college I attended in Indiana during the 1980s.

      I’m actually going to touch on this in tomorrow’s blog post (I think) and I’m working on a long essay for my new book that details many of these things.

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