Story time isn’t just for bedtime

“Hey, kids, who wants to hear a story?”

As a child, those words were music to my ears and still are today. After all, who doesn’t like to hear a good story?

Storytelling is the way we communicate on the most personal level. It is, without a doubt, one of the most powerful ways to convey a message. From bedtime tales when we are toddlers to water cooler talk when we are grownups, we love and respond to a well-told story.

Last week, I wrote about the importance of storytelling in public relations on the PRSA-NCC Blog. As I thought more about this topic, it occurred to me that I had recently put the power of storytelling to a real-life test.

Let me explain.

This fall, my friend and former NAFCU colleague Peter Taylor lent me two books to read: a self-help book describing the steps to creating a one-page life plan and a novel that, coincidentally, also dispensed some helpful career advice.

Design a Life That WorksI immediately tackled the self-help book because it seemed to be exactly what I needed to finally get going on a business plan. But Peter also did something ingenious that caused me to read it right away. He checked it out of the public library; and when he gave it to me, the clock was already ticking. With just two weeks until the due date, Michael Alan Tate’s “Design a Life that Works” definitely moved up on my reading list. The fear of an overdue library book is one of those childhood anxieties that never quite leaves you. It certainly had its intended effect because I finished the book in no time!

Under an Orange SunIrving Belateche’s “Under an Orange Sun, Some Days are Blue” didn’t come from the library, and so it sat on my desk for a good long while before I read it. With no deadline, there didn’t seem to be any rush to start it. I’m not sure what finally prompted me to pick it up; but when I did, I could barely put it down. The taut writing (Belateche is a screenwriter) and first-person narrative hooked me from the beginning. But what really got me was the poignant story of Belateche’s loss of his six-year-old daughter to leukemia, the resultant depression that he fell into, the impact it had on his writing and then, finally, how he pulled himself out of his “deadworld,” as he calls it.

So which book do you think moved me the most? You guessed it, the story by Belateche. Writing on The Huffington Post blog last year, Belateche noted that “the most powerful motivational books are those where someone takes you through their own personal journey.” Exactly!

So what about Tate’s book? It’s good, too, in it’s own way. But it follows that familiar formula you see in so many of these types of books: motivational quotes from famous people, anecdotes from the author, some basic action steps, some exercises and some examples of how others have done it. To his credit, Tate has a template you can follow to write a one-page life plan. In fact, you can get it off of his Resources page if you know the password. (Psst, it’s “yourway.”)

Perhaps it’s just my lack of enthusiasm for planning, but the book didn’t prompt me to do what I had hoped it might. I didn’t sit right down and hammer out a business plan. Writing a plan is one step higher on my to-do list, but, still, there it sits. Sigh.

In a future post, I’ll tease out some of the salient points from Tate’s book as I begin to write my plan. In the meantime, take a look at this troubling article (“Common core sparks war over words“) from Sunday’s Washington Post about how the study of literature is being eliminated from public school curricula. It’s the result of a new and confusing “common core” standard that is causing English teachers to favoring nonfiction “informational texts” over fiction. Yikes, it looks like story time may be fading away; and that’s a tragedy, if you ask me.

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2 Responses to Story time isn’t just for bedtime

  1. Jay, Thank you for the kind words about my book. It means a lot to me that my story made a difference in your life. I can’t tell you how many emails I’ve received where the Principles in the book helped others get through a rough time or helped them make a great and needed change in their lives. Good luck with your travel on your Wayward Journey and remember, sometimes you find more purpose by not being persistent. Our true nature is trying to tell us something. Or as W.C. Fields put it, “If at first, you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. No use being a damn fool about it.”

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