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Answer The Why!

Continued from Tuesday’s blog.

There is at least a good dozen books on the shelves today explaining how to tell your story for your business.  They center from writing a story to branding an image.  However, what is common in all of them is the story format they present.  Generally, a five-segmented format that consists of: Problem, Reaction, Action, Trouble, and Resolution.  William Shakespeare generally wrote 5 acts that mimicked these five-segmented concepts.  But his plays were 2-3 hours long and Strategic Stories are designed and crafted for minutes not hours.

While I really enjoyed Esther K. Choy’s book, “Let the Story Do the Work,” I felt the one element that was missing was the ‘Why.’  Choy did a great job in telling how to craft a story with some great examples; however, the one thing that was understated was the why stories should be told.  In Strategic Storytelling, the WHY is the most important element because it explains, teaches, or directs the listener to an understanding of his problem and the direction he needs to take to solve it.

It was said when you were in the presence of Abraham Lincoln you felt his full attention.  What he was doing was listening very carefully.  After someone spoke he generally paused before he spoke.  Too many people today are already at the gate ready to latch out as soon as the other person takes a breath.  That’s because they already have the answer and were just waiting for an opportunity to deliver it.  Listening is an important skill especially in Strategic Storytelling.

Listening is not a one-way street.  A good listener not only listens to the words but observes the body language (facial expressions, hand gestures, body posture) another topic I will cover in future topics.  Lincoln would only interrupt to clarify a point. When the person completed his request, demand, or anguish then he would speak.  If he decided to use a story for an answer he generally began, “That reminds me of a story I heard . . .”

LincolnIA

Lincoln used metaphors both in his negotiations and persuasive arguments.  I strongly suggest you read his Gettysburg Address.  A two-minute strategic speech that has been admired for the past 155 years.  Compare that to Edward Everett who spoke before Lincoln on that same day.  Everett’s speech lasted two hours.  Lincoln used a Chronological approach to his Gettysburg address.  I will cover seven introduction genre’s tomorrow.  As a master Strategic Storyteller he was, Lincoln ended his presentation with the most powerful punchline in history.  The punchline, not humorous, but so explosive it has been heard down the ages for the past 155 years, “. . .that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Lincoln focused on the living honoring the dead and why their deaths were important. Everett focused on the battle’s place in history.  See you tomorrow.

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Making The Connection

In the morning, I enjoy playing a game of Sudoku.  Sudoku is a popular logic puzzle that teaches about patterns and connections.  As I play this game, it tends to focus my mind and open it at the same time.  As I was playing it this morning I started to think about Abraham Lincoln.  Sudoku has a connection to President Lincoln?  Yes, let me explain.

In Sudoku, you start off with a 9 x 9 grid, which is further broken down into 9 smaller grids of 3 x 3.  The game comes partly solved with numbers randomly scattered throughout the larger grid (Fig. 1).  Your job is to find the missing numbers so that each smaller grid contains the numbers 1 through 9, while making sure the larger grid also gets filled with the numbers 1 through 9 horizontally and vertically.  No number can repeat horizontally or diagonally when finished (fig 2.)

Sudoku Fig1                       Sudoku Fig2

Fig 1: New Puzzle                                                             Fig 2: Completed Puzzle

Okay, you say, that’s interesting but what does Sudoku have to do with President Lincoln?  Okay, okay I’m getting to it.  Sudoku is about finding patterns, and like the game of chess there are known patterns that are sometimes discovered as you play though the game.  Once a pattern is established you start to make new connections to solving the puzzle.

Leonardo da Vinci wrote, “To develop a complete mind:  Study the art of science; study the science of Art, learn how to see.  Realize that everything connects to everything else.”

Abraham Lincoln was a master storyteller.  He gathered his stories from his past experiences, from other storytellers, from books, and from the Bible.  There didn’t seem to be a situation where Lincoln didn’t have a story to tell.  He is known for his stories that entertained, but he also excelled in delivering Strategic Stories that could change the direction of a river.

There are several examples on how Lincoln deflated his opponent’s arguments or diffused some opponents attack with just a quick story.  He used his stories to win arguments, votes, and to persuade changes that still affect us to this day.  Lincoln realized that when confronted with a daunting situation he would use a story to make a connection that would persuade his argument.

Newton Bateman, an educator and close friend of Lincoln, recalled that Mr. Lincoln “knew how to select and arrange the material, what to put in the fore-ground, what in the background, what to set up as the central figure, and how to make all converge towards the final climax. He knew how to whet curiosity just enough to hold the attention of all to the end, without giving the least clue as to the nature of the final explosion; and he especially excelled in that supreme generalship which enables an accomplished story-teller to keep his reserves out of sight till the opportune moment…”

Want to increase your visibility, leads, and profits?  Then tune in this week as I break down Lincoln’s storytelling patterns that will make successful connections for your business ventures.