Psst, Hey Wanna Get High? On Stories?

Stories make us feel good. Yup, that good.

According to novelist and neurologist, Robert Burton, when we hear something with a beginning, middle, and an end, we get a hit of dopamine. Dopamine is our natural feel-good, high chemical. This is why we love and are addicted to stories. From childhood fairytales to novels, to TV shows and movies, stories have us hooked.

From an evolutionary standpoint getting high on stories makes sense. Stories serve many purposes in society. A few of the primary functions are to educate, inspire, motivate or entertain. A story that creates a shared point of view allows us to see from the same place of understanding. This is key to creating a culture of agreement and shared values.

The following is a story my mother told me about road safety when I was a little girl.

When my mother was a girl she lived next door to a boy who liked to play basketball in his front yard. One day, when he was playing ball, it bounced out into the street. He ran after it, without looking both ways. A car swerved to miss him, but it was too late. He was rushed to the hospital with a broken leg and needed a cast. Even worse than that he needed bed rest and his birthday was a few days away. He had to miss his own birthday party. And that’s why you always look both ways before crossing the road.

When you are a kid death is a big concept to grasp. Even as an adult, it is difficult to come to terms with. But missing your own birthday party? That is terrible, we all know that!

I am now an adult, but I will never forget that story. It has taught me to remember to look before crossing the street and become a useful storytelling tool. Thanks, Mum!

It is a simple story, but the message is clear, ‘Always look both ways before crossing the road.’

Are there any challenges you are facing within your business or organisation? A simple story maybe just the thing you need. Imagine a story that explains how a product or service works, or a narrative that inspires your customers to follow you on a social media storytelling journey.

A narrative strategy could be just the ticket. A narrative strategy uses the power of stories within your personal or professional realm to create a strategic way to inspire, education or motivate your employees, co-workers or clients.

I used the story of the little boy who missed his own birthday to explain how attaching a story to a message is effective. It conveys a message in a memorable and efficient way. The right stories addressing the right pain points within your business or organisation will create the same results.

If you want a hit of story, get in touch about my mini-narrative strategy sessions. I come to your location and run a short session to create a story for a problem that you need to solve.

Feed your story addition with me, it will feel good, I promise!

Who Is The Mysterious Lady?

There was nothing unusual about the small wooden pipe except for a tiny glass rectangle protruding from the bottom of its bowl. This piece of glass is so small it could be easily missed. For those who don’t miss it will see a black and white image if they press their eye against it at just the right angle. A magnified image of a woman wearing a peasant style dress with loose dark waves of hair around her face sits within a gold frame.

The woman in the image has a slight smile on her relaxed lips, not unlike that of another mysterious famous lady, The Mona Lisa.

How can one compare the Mona Lisa to a miniature photo of a peasant woman magnified on the bottom of a pipe? The similarity lies not in what it is, but what it represents.

The image in the tiny glass window the size of a hole in a large knitting needle is fascinating. Who was this woman? Was she the wife, daughter or lover of the pipe’s owner? And who was the skilled crafts person who created such a small and perfect magnified glass image on the bottom of this pipe?

This is something that I am not ever likely to find out. That is what makes this story great. It is a mystery with more questions than answers. This pipe and its hidden treasure are very old and the woman, the pipe’s creator and the original owner are all long gone.

A good story does not have all of the answers. A good story leaves something for the imagination of the reader to insert his or her own interpretation into. A story that asks questions allows the audience to create their own meaning in the story.

Who is the lady in the pipe? Who do you think she is? Tell me in a comment below!

Life Is Lived In The Little Moments

Life is not about the big stuff. Everything that is important is quite small.

We tend to think of a person’s life as a long and complex story. A biography shouldn’t be a short easy read right? It should be a complex narrative that examines a person’s loves, struggles, accomplishments and failures.

What if I said while life is complex, it is the little moments that count. Each life journey is made of millions of micro stories. All of these tales collected together create a much larger narrative. But the tiny moments carry the most meaning.

For example, the story of a wedding could start with a chance brushing of hands on a train during a morning commute to work. If that chance encounter on the train didn’t occur this couple’s life may have turned out differently. Our couple would not be tying the knot all of these months later. The moment they first touched is when this love story began.

What moments have you experienced today that you would like to share with your audience? Your ability to recognise and explain the relevance of seemingly insignificant events are the way to create the story of your life or business.

Pay attention to the little things, the small details. This is where your greater story comes together and the meaning of your life unfurls.

The next step is to tell them to the right person to move your personal and business goals forward.

Be Fearless : Your Message Is Your Eye In The Storm

“I feel like I have done it all, I have made all of the mistakes and now I am fearless.“

– Paraphrased from an interview with Barak Obama on Marc Maron’s podcast WTF.

 

It is not possible to be completely without fear, it is a natural part of being alive. Another way of looking at it is being comfortable with being uncomfortable.

This is how one day Obama decided he is going to run for president. He had to get used to putting himself in places that not feel comfortable, situations that were scary. The only way to move forward and pursue his goal is to decide feeling scared or uncomfortable is ok. He can sit with that feeling and get his message out into the world.

It is possible to be your own eye in a storm. The tempest may be swirling, but you can remain steady, secure and centred.

Fearlessness isn’t about ignoring feelings; it is about feeling that no matter what happens you will make the right choice.

Communicating with a community or audience works in the same way. The message should be the same, regardless of what is happening around it. The context and the delivery may change, but the values should be consistent.

Be fearless with your message. That means showing up and putting it out there. Sometimes there is negative feedback or low open rates for a newsletter. Does this mean change tack and go with a totally new approach? If it isn’t working make adjustments to the delivery, but leave the core message intact.

Do not let the situation or output change the core message, allow it to be the eye in the storm of marketing and promotion. Stay true to the message and the message will persevere.

The Art of Letting Go

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What is letting go? It doesn’t refer to everything, it means removing what is not essential. What is not essential? It is things that consume your time and energy without fulfilling you or moving you forward.

So for example, writing a book can be very time consuming, but it also fulfils a deep desire within you to share your story. On the other hand a project you are creating for a client may pay the bills, but does not move you towards your ultimate goal for your business. While this may meet a short-term goal of making money, it doesn’t meet the longer term vision for your life. So your next question should be, is it time to let it go?

Life is a constant balancing act between the ‘now’ and our ‘future’. Let go of the things that you do not need so you have the time and space in your life to nurture the things that will fulfill you for years from now.

What is one thing that you can let go of now that will ultimately make you feel better? Do not worry about other’s expectations for you. You do not need to understand anyone but yourself.

What is important to you? Share content that you find truly valuable, don’t worry about the current trends or lists that people are reading. What do you truly want to share. Authenticity builds trust, which builds long-term relationships.

So go on, let go!

What Is Your Word?

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One word is all you need to make a connection. One word can make people sit up, take notice and introduce themselves. We don’t need a lot of words to describe ourselves. We need one perfect word.

What is your word? Mine is ‘story’.

Discovering your word is not a simple task. It is an ongoing process. Start by asking yourself some questions. What makes you tic? What turns your head? What makes you feel good?

Write down words that come up as you ask questions. Keep digging, don’t stop at the first layer. Keep going. What do you love? How you do what you do? Where would you would like to be?

Start focusing on the words that resonate with you. When you have two stop. You might need them both. If one has more meaning for you, get rid of the extra one. Keep the one word. Work this word into your the next post, tweet or article. See who notices it and let me know what happens next!

Too Many Choices on Social Media?

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Having choices is something we all strive for. How is it that having too many choices can lead to a feeling of being paralysed? The feeling of paralysis can be scary and overwhelming.

Focus is the cure. When you feel like you can’t move, concentrate on moving just one toe, or finger. Focus on one small goal for the day. Goals are what keep us on the right track. When you are on the correct path you get lots of new followers on your Twitter account or great feedback on a presentation for your business, but where do you go from there?

Focus on your goals. Keep your eye on the prize and don’t let yourself get sidetracked. You know what is best for you and your business, no one else!

Share what authentically resonates with you and it will strike a cord with your audience. Pursue what is important to you and you cannot go wrong. Each blink and flex is working against inertia. One post at a time, one tweet at a time! Used correctly social media moves you towards the people and goals you want to connect with!

Build Quality Networks

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“You are what you share.”
C.W. Leadbeater, We Think: The Power Of Mass Creativity

What is value? Value is not intrinsic, it is assigned.

How do we decide what something is worth? Is it worth our time? What are we getting out of it? If we focus on valuable interactions, we can decide not to engage with situations that achieve nothing.

We only have so much time, at the end of the day we want to say that we had quality experiences. Chose quality as your focus. Don’t just follow anyone on Twitter. Find people and businesses that add value to your networks. If someone you are following is detracting from your network it is ok to put him or her to the side.

Have a standard and stick to it. Quality not quantity!

What Can You Offer Your Followers?

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This week in one word would be, ‘networking’. I have accepted a multitude of invites for various events in a very short period of time.  An invitation is an act of generosity and it is always a pleasure to be asked.

It is lovely to be included in various gatherings, however, I am not able to be part of every group. I must decide which situation is best for me. I must ask myself, ‘Who can I add the most value to?’ This question is important when approaching any relationship. It is not about what they can give to you, rather what you can give to them. We are selective when we pick our friends, our partners or who to date.  The same rule applies to building our online network.

We can have 10,000 Twitter followers.  If they are not actually engaging with us or providing actual value to our lives, that number might as well be 0.

How do we build value into our social media networks? Think about what you can offer your followers. Can you provide information and inspiration? Can you connect with potential collaborators?

Unfortunately we don’t know what will come from any of our meetings. We have all made decisions that have lead us to meeting our best friends or the love of our lives. We don’t know anything for certain. All we have is choices and we have to make the best decisions possible with the information we have. We remember the past and dream of the future. Now is happening now and we can only do what feels right.

Look out for opportunities for others and they will look out for you. Share insights, knowledge, contacts and successes. Generosity breeds more generosity.

What value do you provide your followers online? Add value to your online interactions and they will give back to you.

Give Up To Gain Up

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Next month I am giving up movies and TV and other online visual entertainment. Why am I doing this? I want to see what happens.

This week I have been cramming my head full of TV. That is what you do before giving something up right? You overload till you get sick of it and it is easier to stop. Or does it just reinforce all of the things that you are trying to change about yourself. Life is about balance, but sometimes we must jump in without looking back.  To make decisions stick, you have to commit.

The best way to stop doing something, is to stop doing it. What would you like to give up so you can gain something else? What will you have instead? For example giving up smoking to have better health or TV to have more time. I would like to practice creativity during my month of no TV. Creativity is a skill which we must commit ourselves to. If we cannot commit ourselves to pursuits that stimulate us then what are we doing to ourselves?

Beginning June 1st, what will happen? Will I finish writing my novel? Will I start drawing more? Will I find other ways to tell stories?

If you start a project, follow through on it. As Seth Godin says on his blog – “If you haven’t announced a date, you’re not serious.”

So get serious, set a date. Announce it to the world. Make it real, then start. Document the process so that other’s can follow along and you can remember what happened. Start a Tumblr or a WordPress site. Tweet your progress. Choose to commit and go for it. It is not self-promotion, it is self-explanation. You never know when you will need to look back and reflect.  Here is a wonderful example of one man’s commitment to Dinovember, where he devotes the month of November to convincing his children while they sleep, their plastic dinosaur figures come to life. You can even chat with Rex on Twitter.

During the month of no TV, I will be taking a course at Nest Coworking, The Artists Way. I am looking forward to how this will all feed into the process. At the conclusion of this journey I will publish my findings on The Shoe Alternative’s Blog.

I cannot wait to see what happens!