Excerpt 3: A Story To Remember

We have this amazing capacity to connect with an individual or a group when we share our story or when a story is shared with us. Consider this: the plight of education in many cities is a litany of drop outs, low achievement, horrible physical conditions, and lack of books and other resources. We all know this yet are unwilling to do what’s required to fix it. But when faced with a single story of a poor child who is desperate to find the resources to escape poverty through education, we open our wallets. The facts leave us cold but the story catches our heart. Healthy nonprofits have learned this lesson. A good appeal letter always starts with a good story.

A good story has the ability to cut through all the clutter around us and pull us right to the core of the issue. A good story leaves plenty of room for our imagination to fill in the blanks in ways we understand, that resonate with our reality, that connect to our needs and aspirations.

This power of Story captures people everywhere. In the business realm it creates strong bonds between you and your peers, employees, customers, suppliers, partners, and prospects. Yet for some reason many business leaders fear Story. In a sales presentation the first thing, and sometimes the only thing, they share is a list of facts and figures, the spec sheet. After all, they reason, isn’t that all anyone needs to make a decision? Then they wonder why the sale went elsewhere.

People are social animals. We like to be with people and we like it even better if we’re with people we like. Story helps us find and connect with those we’ll like, and guides us away from those we’d rather avoid. Story helps us create our reality in ways that guide us forward to a future we seek.

Most importantly, we remember stories. Think back to your life some years ago. What do you remember? You probably remember a handful of dates and a few other facts but mostly you remember the experience, the feel, the emotion, the colors…the story. It doesn’t matter if you remember all the details or even if you remember exactly what happened. The basic story stays with you.

  1. You’re so right—story is essential. We’re wired for story. We’re an insatiably curious social species, and story is our oldest way to pass on what we learn and make sense of what happens around us. Stories also broaden our worlds and grow our brains by helping us imagine things we don’t actually experience. With all that evolution and history behind us, we can usually tell whether a story is authentic. I don’t mean whether it’s true or false—we swallow lies wrapped in stories all the time—but whether it ‘works’. Some folks hide behind walls of data and jargon because they’re not sure of the story, and they realize that if they get it wrong, everyone will know. But wow, what a burst of vitality when they get it right.

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