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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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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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What Is Your Lynchpin?

There are seven types of openings a speaker can start with but given that I keep my blog to 500 words I will not detail them but cover the only one that pertains to Strategic Storytelling:  Stories\Persuasive.

A Strategic Story is a short persuasive argument whose purpose is explain a stand, clarify a point, or alter an opinion.  The story gets its appeal from the action which occurs, the struggle of protagonists leading to some climax, and the natural tendencies of listeners to sympathize or identify with the characters.

Great movies do this by placing you in a darkened room, accenting the story with background music, colors chosen, scene staging, close-ups of facial expressions, and other effects.  If done correctly you are entirely unaware of the bad popcorn taste and maybe that you ate without remembering any of the bites you took.

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Unfortunately, you can’t drag your client into a darken room and play background music as you tell your story.  You hold the listener’s attention through your voice, eye contact, and gestures.  You must draw your listener into the story with imagery and emotions he can identify and feel.  There are techniques and skills that you can learn and use, which I teach in workshops; however, there is not enough space to teach it all here.

I have a young friend, we’ll come him Erick, who wanted to start up his own business.  His number one problem was where do I start?  He was 22, had a Masters, no experience, but some great insights.    That fear of not knowing and fearing any direction might lead to disaster caused him to procrastinated until he ‘knew’ for sure how and when to start his business.

I told him there was a story about a king named Gordius who created a massive knot.  It was said, that if any man could untie it he would rule Asia.  Hundreds of men tried, failed, and walked away; however, when young Alexander the Great examined the knot he made several attempts and failed.  He didn’t know where the knot started or ended, the knot was most intimidating– then he said, “It makes no difference how they are loosed.”  At this point, he reached down in the center of the knot, pulled out the lynchpin that ran through the yoke that loosened the knot so that it could be untied.  While everyone else concentrated on how the knot was tied, Alexander focused on what was keeping it together.  In the end, what seemed so difficult was easy because the lynchpin was the key to the knots existence.  Alexander went forth to conquer Asia.

I then asked him what is the lynchpin in your problem?  Once he did he started his successful SEO Internet business and is successful today.

Strategic Stories must lead the listener through a short journey.  The end must always be a surprise or unexpected.  Timing on the end is key.  Because it is what lights up the ‘Ah-haa’ moment.  What is your lynchpin?

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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.