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To Change Reality-Change the Story P3

Stories have always been designed to entertain, inform, educate and persuade. Stories also have the power to gain momentum and public opinion that can change lives as well as laws.

maddlogoFor example, the MADD movement began with the tragic death story of a 13-year-old girl named, Cari Lightner, who was killed by a drunk driver.  It was Cari’s mother, Candace, who decided that she would make her story known with the hope to help other families from experiencing her loss and tragedy.  From 1980 to present, MADD has seen a 55% reduction in drunk driving causalities.

megans-law-1In 1996, it would be the story of the kidnapping and brutal murder of seven-year-old Kelly Megan that would create a new Federal law—The Megan Law. Later, in 2016, President Obama, advanced and signed into effect the International Megan’s Law to Prevent Child Exploitation and other Sexual Crimes Through Advanced Notification of Traveling Sex Offenders.

On April 20, 1999, 15 students were massacred by two students with automatic weapons.  In addition to the 15 dead, 20 students were wounded.  Since the Columbine High School Massacre, 31 related school shootings have occurred in the US with 18 reported just this year alone.

douglas shooting copyThe cold-blooded murders that occurred recently at Douglas High School has been globally reported weakly as the “Florida shooting” or “Douglas H.S. shooting.”  The debates and arguments started immediately, with one side proposing the elimination of all Assault Weapons, while its opposition argued that the real issue is centering on mental health.  Suddenly, the victim’s story has been sadly put aside.

I wonder why the media has chosen not to use the word massacre?  17 human beings, 14 young people and 3 adults were murdered in cold blood.  Twenty-three wounded.  The definition of the word, ‘massacre’ means:  an indiscriminate and brutal slaughter of people.  Because this was more than just a shooting—it was, by definition, a massacre.

To change the reality, you need to change the story.

gun-control-7-728In a previous blog” Getting Results,” I commented on the 1929 Valentine’s Day Massacre, which happened in the city of Chicago, where seven gang members were executed by a rival gang posing as police officers. Five years, a new Federal law was passed, The National Firearms Act.  This law removed the Thompson Submachine Gun off the streets.

The difference between Columbine, twenty years ago, and today, is social media.  Twenty years ago, you got your news from newspapers and television.  Today, social media brings stories to life in real time.  Another difference was back in 1996, cell phones were only phones.  Today, they’re portable broadcast studios connected to a global network.

Like the 1929 Valentine Massacre, the 2018 Valentine Massacre is picking up momentum to change public opinions and maybe even laws.  That in part is due to the number of people using Social Media to read and tell the same story from a different perspective. The lines may be drawn, but you can be sure this story is still developing itself towards change.

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To Change Reality–Change the Story P2

walt-disney-treasures-tomorrowland-disney-in-space-and-beyond--20040524043358986Back in 1994, I thought it would be great if I could do science projects with schools across the nation.  At that time, I had an account with AOL and my username was OceanFront.  I had memories of the space station created by Walt Disney back in 1955 and shown on his Disney television show, and imagined a similar virtual space station where students and teachers would be welcomed aboard to conduct experiments in space.

aol4I worked with AOL in developing the Electronic Schoolhouse to help launch an idea I developed called, “Space Island.”  I used the Internet to invite schools in the United States to partner with the idea to cross-train and learn from each other.  Soon, schools from around the world were contacting me to join our Space Island’s story.

 

Projects varied around the world.  For example, students in Kuwait discussed how water would be made in space, since water was an important necessity in their desert country.  Students in Nebraska wrote, “Using this water maybe we could raise corn in hydroponic labs.”  Students from Cambodia said, “While corn is a good crop, we think rice would have more benefits.”

Back in the 1980’s and 90’s, universities were prime online connectors that linked to other universities and schools that were connected to them.  The Universities of Helsinki and Amsterdam were key to spreading the Space Island program globally.  University students from Helsinki noted that with so many languages aboard our virtual space station they would work on a language translator.  Their initial project translated Spanish, English and Finnish into the present tense.  Online translators, like “Babelfish”, started their first explorations at this point.  Today, you can find ‘Babelfish.com’ now translates about 75 languages.

Clinton_and_jiangBack in the late 1990’s, the United States had boycotted China, but online, my program reached a teacher in Beijing, China.  Not able to directly contact me, her request traveled to Helsinki, then to Amsterdam then to me.  I was an educator not a politician, but the red lights went off when China became part of the program.  This caused an investigation.

Two State Senators came to my school to find out what my connection with China was. I was working with JPL and NASA and there was probably concern about Space technology getting passed around.

While that was going on a reporter from the Los Angeles Times Newspaper started his investigation on the number of participants in the Space Island online program.  Working with AOL, the number of participants was confirmed to have reached globally 2.3 million students and teachers in forty nations.  In short–It went Viral.

In 1996, the United States Congress placed my Space Island Program into the Library of Congress as a historical event.  It was considered the first long distant educational program ever developed.  Both the State of California and NASA also gave recognition.  Today, all online educational programs are a continuation of the story.  When I look back, I realize good stories can influence and change lives globally.

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To Change Reality-Change the Story P1

If you want to change reality—then change the story.

Sometimes, it is just a matter of seeing the same story from a different perspective, sometimes the story must be told from a different character in your story, and sometimes, the rules need to be changed. Stories have power to influence, inform, and educate. Maybe it’s time to take time to re-examine your story and retell it.

This week we will explore how individuals or companies were able to move forward into positions of influence by just changing their story. Let’s start back in the 1980’s, under Steve Jobs, the Apple mission statement, which was his company’s story was, “Man is the creator of change in this world. As such, he should be above systems and structures, and not subordinate to them.”

I think, back in the 80’s, this statement was ringing true with many people who were now starting to use more and more technology. For example, when you bought software it generally came with a lot of technical instructions, same with the computer and its components. The joke being played around during that time was that you needed a degree in engineering or be a programmer to understand the instructions.


In the 1980’s, there were many computers: Atari, Commodore, Texas Instruments, Kaypros and more. Compatibility and standardization did not exist across the board in these early years.

imac-vs-dellBy 1996, Apple was in a mess. Leadership was weak, Apple was searching for a new OS for the new millennium, and internal strife for recognition and power had brought Apple to a grinding halt. In 1996, Jobs returned and immediately changed the story. It was simple in its design and complex in its operation—a new term “Simplexity.”
Simplexity refers to an idea, or concept that appears to be simple to understand, yet is quite complex in its design structure. The PC back in 90’s was not user friendly. The back of the PC had multiple cables requiring multiple outlets for the monitor, PC, printer, and modem. Using the computer was not easy for the average person either. Cryptic commands and symbols were common.

Apple since that time has changed their story to, “Apple is committed to bringing the best personal computing experience to students, educators, creative professionals and consumers around the world through its innovative hardware, software and Internet offerings.”

Steve Jobs
FILE – This 1998 file photo provided by Apple, shows Apple CEO Steve Jobs pose for a photo with an iMac computer. Apple on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2011 said Jobs has died. He was 56. (AP Photo/Apple, Moshe Brakha, File)

Jobs announced the simplicity of his machine with a new story advertisement– “There’s No Step Three.” Mac’s screen icons were easy to identify, and you didn’t have to type commands anymore—just use your mouse and click. Mac’s sales were soon back in the playing field and its momentum hasn’t lost ground.

A lot has been written about Steve Jobs, but I think in the end, it was not technology that changed our reality but his story. A story that captured people because they wanted to move from the complexity of getting the job done to the simplicity of being creative. So, how will your story impact the world?

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The Quest

drama masksThe symbols of the two masks, one smiling and the other sad, comes from the Greek culture of theatre and drama ‘Comedy’ and ‘Tragedy’.  Comedy meant that a story had a good ending, like William Shakespeare’s, “A Midsummer’s Night Dream,” or Allison Schroeder’s screenplay, “Hidden Figures.”  On the other hand, tragedy always had a bad ending; again, we see Shakespeare’s, “Romeo and Juliet,” or Director Paul Greengrass’ movie, “United 93.”

What all good stories have in common is their ability to change perspective.  A good lawyer will work hard to change the jury’s perspective of his client.  “Perspective is everything when you are experiencing the challenges of life.”  Joni E. Tada.

This brings us to our next genre—The Quest.  The purpose of the Quest is to build tension in the story.  Demonstrate how your character overcomes his challenges.  End with delivering a satisfying conclusion, which creates a shift of your audience’s perspective.   In the end, the real power in a good story is the ability to continue to change the perspective of your listener or reader.

dan brownDan Brown is a master at weaving history and urban legends into powerful stories.  His  stories have the ability to alter his audience’s perspectives by presenting new definitions on symbols ranging from Masonic symbols to the rituals in the Catholic Church.  The Biblical writers of the New Testament likewise did not just introduce Jesus but have continued to change human perspectives for the past 2000 years.

The Quest, as a storytelling tool, works best when the stories are true and personal.  It is about stories of true human adventures, trials and tribulations, and overcoming the odds; transferring the emotions from setbacks and successes to the listener or reader.  It begs simple questions, “What would I have done in that situation?”  “Could I do the same in my own situation or quest?”

father&sonThere is a story about an elderly woman who boarded a train.   After a few stops she noticed a father and his young son, who looked like he was probably nine years old, board the train.  They took their seats directly in front of her.

Soon, the son started talking loudly to his father, telling him about the clouds he saw outside and buildings and trees the train was passing by.  The father listened to him and nodded encouragingly.

After a while, the elderly woman got annoyed by how the young man was speaking, and learned forward and said to his father, “Excuse me, sir, but have you considered taking him to special doctor?”

The father smiled at her, and replied: “Actually, we’re just coming back from the doctor.  You see, my son has been blind since birth, and this is the first day he’s ever been able to see.”

You see, it’s about taking your listeners\readers on a journey’s quest reaching a high point of tension or emotional buildup, like a mountain peak, then suddenly dropping them, like a steep slope, not negatively, but more of an awakening—a new perspective.

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In Medias Res

It was not a mutiny in the old-time sense, of course, with flashing of cutlasses, a captain in chains,and desperate sailors turning outlaws. After all, it happened in 1944 in the United States Navy, but the court of inquiry recommended trial for mutiny, and the episode became known as “the Caine mutiny” throughout the service.

The story begins with Willie Keith because the event turned on his personality as the massive door of a vault turns on a small jewel bearing.  Caine’s Mutiny by Hernan Wouk.

These are the opening lines for the 1951, Pulitzer Prize novel, which starts the story at the court martial; whereas, the 1954 movie version begins with the 2nd Lt. Willie Keith being assigned to the Caine ship.  The screenplay builds the characters and the causes for the mutiny.  The book novel is a good example of In Medias Res.

Today, I will introduce, “In Medias Res,” or learning how to begin the story in the middle where there is an action or dramatic scene that captures, engages, and motivates your listener to want more.  In Medias Res creates questions.  Questions like, ‘What happened before this?’  or ‘What caused this to happen?’  or ‘Who is he?’  These questions create engagement and capture the audience’s attention.

odyssey-homer

cumbelineIn Medias Res is a well establish style of storytelling.  For example, Homer’s Odysseus’ journey already is at the end when the story begins, what happens after this are flashbacks to different points of time, building the story, the characters, and answering the ‘Why’ questions.   William Shakespeare also used this format in one of his plays called, “Cymbeline.”

There are three good reasons for considering the use of In Medias Res.  The first has an advantage of focusing attention to the high point of the story.  A good analogy is on how movie trailers are designed.  They tend to place the audience right into the middle of the action to entice and motivate future ticket sales.  In storytelling, placing the audience in the middle of the action or dramatic scene has advantages.

The second reason gives you an opportunity to seize the attention of your audience.  But what is meant by attention?  The attention here means to engage or to invite a listener along the journey.

The third and what I think is the most important point is it creates questions immediately.  If the next turn on the road can be anticipated there isn’t much suspense.  Suspense comes from not knowing what will happen next.  The middle initiates the action, the beginning explains how we got there, and the end, which we are not sure, still lies around the bend unknown.

First-World-War-so_2786176bOPENING SCENE:   The soldier is writing into his diary his last thoughts before the final battle, he then stops to reflect on his earlier entries as we journey back in time through his memory.  Suddenly, we’re back, the battle begins.  How will it end?   Will the soldier survive? We don’t know. That’s the advantage of In Medias Res.

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Getting Results

 

Consider this: 

st-valentine-s-day-massacre90 years ago, On February 14, 1929, at 10:30 a.m. four hoods dressed as policemen, two in uniform and two dressed in suits, walked into a garage of a known local gang hangout.  Once in, they lined up, facing the wall, seven men. The four poser officers suddenly brandished four sub-machine guns and massacred all seven.

Newspapers called it, “The Valentine Day Massacre.”  This was followed by a nationwide  outcry to halt gang violence.

submachinegunIn 1934, under the leadership of the new President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt, the National Firearms Act of 1934, was passed.  Its intentions were specifically to keep the Tommy sub-machine gun out of private hands.  Interesting enough the NRA supported the enactment of the new law.  It makes one ask what has changed?gun-control-7-728

90 years later, on February 14, 2018, at 2:30 p.m. one young man with a AK-assault rifle killed 17 people at a local public high school.  Besides the 17 killed, 14 were wounded.  In 90 years, what took four perpetrators to kill seven men—now only took one murderer to kill 17.

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sparkyIn 1929, it was J. Edgar Hoover, who voiced the cause for gun laws and more power for the FBI.  Today, it is Al Hoffmann Jr., a real-estate tycoon, who in the past has been the major Republican donator, and who has donated millions to the party.

But as of this massacre was personal in his own backyard of Florida, he had decided, “Enough is enough!” and has written an open letter to all donators and Republican leadership that funds will halt if future candidates oppose new gun legislation.

I have interpreted Al’s message as:  No Bucks for Buckshot!

This type of genre is called, “Spark-line’s.”  There are three reasons to use it:

  1. To inspire an audience to action
  2. To create hope and excitement
  3. To create a following.

As of today, 100-plus student from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School took a bus to Tallahassee to speak to their representatives.  Other schools around the country are following suite.  There is great hope in changing the laws pertaining to assault rifles.

Online social media, television, newspapers, and talk radio topics are hot on this one.  The students are being backed by Hoffmann and other contributors, students turning 18 and parents across the nation are excited about making the change our nation needs to protect it’s future children and government.

Back to my lesson, Spark-lines draw attention to problems we have in our society and our personal lives.  The idea is to create fuel to motivate an audience towards a specific goal or action.

Throughout history, people have been moved to action even one speech.  I think of Mahatma Gandhi, Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy and so many others.  Spark-line stories are great to motivate engagement for all social causes.  The main idea presenting what the world will look like if the following changes are made.

I look forward to reading your spark-lines in the future.

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The Nested-Loop

In my junior high years, I loved collecting, trading and reading comics.  As kids, we brought our comics to school where all kinds of deals were made for the right story.  But, it was in my last year of junior high when my cousin Joel visited me with a special gift—a book.  He told me that as much as comics were fun to read he thought it was time for me to expand my vocabulary and world while reading science fiction.

s-l640My first book from him, “I, Robot,” a 1950 first edition.  This series was made up of nine stories which I savored every evening.  So popular was Isaac Asimov’s robot stories I continued reading them to Asimov’s passing.  I still have that original “I, Robot” book in my collection.

In more modern times, I have enjoyed stories from James Clavell, Michael Crichton, and Dan Brown.  These authors have a genius for weaving a network of stories into one complete story.  Nested-loop stories are the second classical genres I will be sharing with you today.

I saw Julie Heffernan’s artwork called, “The Scout III” (above) and asked permission to include it in this blog.  She asked me what I saw?  I told her, it reminded me of a storyteller who is creating a nested loop of stories within stories.  She agreed and granted me permission to display her artwork—which I’m most grateful for.

Speakers who perform nested-loop stories, like Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk, have the ability to explain a process while inspiring an audience.  The use of analogies and metaphors are also key in stimulating visual imagery for better understanding and comprehension.  In the end, the authors impart not only knowledge but wisdom, which the listener can pass on to others.  Check out James Burke’s, The Day the Universe Changed, and Connections.”

The nested-loop works like this.  You place your most important story (thought, concept, or idea) in the center and use stories at the beginning to draw your listener in.  The last story finishes the first story and ties in the center story into one neat package.

maxresdefaultWe find a good analogy of a nested-loop in the story of the “Godfather II.”  The story opens with young Vito Corieone witnessing the murder of his father, mother, and brother.  The center of the story covers the boy’s growth into manhood, where he becomes prosperous as both a businessman and a godfather. It ends with the beginning of the story as Vito returns to Sicily to take revenge on his family’s murderer.

stan-lee5Now it’s time for me to end this article, but I need to end it like a nested-loop, somehow bringing the beginning topic of comics through the middle and tying it at the end.  How?  How about—Stan Lee!

Stan Lee is known as the godfather of comics.   Stan Lee’s stories have moved from comics to television, to the silver screen; from movies to the game industry, now to online. Now that’s a real 3D nested-loop!