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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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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.

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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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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!

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Hero’s Journey

Human stories began about 200,000 years ago, before the technology of writing was invented, stories were told and passed down orally.  The oldest recorded written story came out of Mesopotamia.   It was the Epic of Gilgamesh.  The classification of this story is called, “The Hero’s Journey.”

Epic-of-Gilgamesh

 

There are eight classical story themes and the ‘Hero’s Journey,’ is one of the most popular and oldest of all.  The oldest story, “The Epic of Gilgamesh,” was written a little over 4,000 years ago on cuneiform tablets and was taken from oral stories that had been passed down for generations.  Gilgamesh has all the hero action and suspense as in our modern-day stories.

Modern-day stories of a similar hero can be found in: George Baily from ‘It’s a wonderful life’ to Katniss Everdeen in ‘The Hunger Games.’  The hero can be male or female, young or old, rich or poor.  Our character seeks adventures only to find the real story is about discovering his weaknesses and his inner strength.

In the end, we admire the hero for overcoming the obstacles and challenges because our character generally overcome successfully their own physical limitation or disadvantages.  Ben Okri said, “The fact of storytelling hints at a fundamental human unease, hints at human imperfection.  Where there is perfection there is no story to tell.”  Harry Potter may be a wizard, but he was still a young boy.  The story is set in a David and Goliath format where a child character is challenged to face adult wizards and mystical creatures.

Every hero finds a mentor-friend along his path’s journey.  Gilgamesh, 6000 years ago, walked with Enkidu, Luke Skywalker finds Obiwan Kenobi, and even Marty McFly has Doc.  In all cases, they somehow lose their mentor along the way.  At the most crucial point our character must face alone his fears and doubts when the challenge, generally a life-death situation, comes upon him.

These types of stories demonstrate the benefits of taking the risks.  Risks can range from losing a kingdom to losing one’s life.  Behind these types of stories there are important characteristics in what makes human successes and human failures.  If the story is well presented, the listener becomes involved emotionally and psychologically drawing from experiences their own defeat and failures.

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Yes, stories allow the listener to travel with the hero, continuing to urge him on or to suffer with him.  The Hero’s Journey is about sharing emotions too!   Our hero may lose a battle but learns how to turn his weakness into the weapon he needs, like in, “The Last Samurai,” where the hero, Capt. Nathan Algren learns a new philosophy—Bushido, the way of the warrior.  This moves this character from a defeated drunk to a national hero.

Finally, the Hero’s Journey demonstrates that anyone can achieve newfound wisdom if they are willing to keep an open mind.  In the end, the Hero’s Journey is about a visual journey of emotions leading the listener to accept his weaknesses while discovering his inner strength.

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Experiences Are Best Shared

This reminds me of a story when I was branch manager of a Southern California S&L back in the 1980’s.  My supervisor was Samantha (Sammy) Galluzzo.  Our branch was open every Saturday but Sammy was never available because she went to the City of Hope each weekend.  When I first found out where she was going I wasn’t sure if she was going in for treatment or testing.

One day, she shared with me the reason for her weekly attendance.  She told me that she had had cancer.  She recalled in some detail her weekly trips for chemotherapy.  She said, “The minute I got out of the car and saw the hospital building, where my therapy would take place, I would immediately get sick.”

She continued, “There was a young girl who brought me and the other patients blankets, magazines, and even games to occupy our minds.  She would be so encouraging always saying, “This will soon be over and you will be well and never have to return—I know you will do fine.””

Sammy decided to ask her what cancer she had beaten and her reply was not comforting, “Oh, I’ve never had cancer, I’m just a volunteer.”

Sammy said she felt abandoned at that point.  All the good wishes and encouragement that this young girl had given was useless since she never had the experience.  She told me that she made a prayer that if God spared her she would return.  She would be able to tell others she knew what they were going through because she had also gone through the same treatment.  She would become the light at the end of long dark tunnel.

Well, Sammy was cured and she kept her promise.  Now when she got out of her car she could stare at the building that once made her sick and no longer feel the sickness but the strength to challenge others as a form of encouragement.  Hidden in her thoughts were the hopes that she might live long enough to see that building torn down.

Sammy used Strategic Stories from her own life experiences to give hope and encouragement to other cancer patients.  She volunteered, brought in the blankets, magazines and games, but she also brought in something more powerful—her testimony and strength.

I recalled this story because Strategic Stories are more powerful when they come from your own stories, and if you are telling another person’s story then you must be able to identify with the emotions to deliver the message.

Whenever you think, “I’ve been there,” you are hovering over a story that holds not only your experience but your emotions as well.  Leonardo Da Vinci wrote, “There are three classes of people: those who see, those who see when they are shown, those who do not see.”  Knowing which class of people, you are addressing, while understanding the real obstacle restricting movement forward are all part of Strategic Storytelling.

See you next week with more Strategic Story tips.

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Finding the Stories

Without material, you have no story.  So, where do you get the material?  Here are some thoughts.

First think about who will be your audience.  If you cater more to a Western Culture, who speak mostly English, then you will need materials and resources that your audience will understand.  Even though you enjoy writings from Eastern philosophies, like Sun Tzu, your Western audience may not get the point of your story.  There is a way around this and we will discuss this more next week.

If your audience is global, then it is even more important to understand what symbols in a multicultural world will best fit the stories you produce.  Lincoln’s repertoire of stories stretched from the Illinois’ back woods to the hustle and bustle of Washington elites.  From politically correct to obscene.  The key was in timing; knowing when and how to use them and what the ROI would be from the punchline.

Like Abraham, you have a lot of personal stories that you have collected over the years.  Telling a story that doesn’t always put you in the best of light can work for you, because that means you are opening trust and building a relationship.  Heck, we’ve all made mistakes, and when someone makes fun of his/her own short comings it can sometimes build a closer relationship with your audience.  This is key for stand-up comedians who tell stories that their audience can relate to.

Lincoln read books.  He created and developed his Strategic Stories from the Bible and other non-fiction books he borrowed or bought.  Books and stories are what made him a great orator.  John Kennedy was another voracious reader, writer and speaker.

 

Mary Bateson said, “The human species thinks in metaphors and learns through stories.”  Metaphors, for the Strategic Storyteller, are the most powerful tools for persuasive arguments.  Metaphors, if done right can engage and motivate your listener towards a specific action.  When you learn how to tell instead of sell, you will in the end, sell even more.

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Reader’s Digest has a host of short and long stories that don’t take much time to read.  Here is one I enjoy.  How would you use this story?

A pastor decided one Saturday to call on a new parishioner.  When he got to the parishioner’s home he saw a car in the driveway.  He knocked and knocked on the door with no one response from within.  So, he took out a small business card and wrote on back, ‘Revelations 3:20’ and stuck it on the door.  It read, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If any man hears my voice, and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he will with me.”

The next day as he was counting the offering, he found a message on his collection card, “Genesis 3:10” It read, “And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked.”

See you Wednesday.