In the late 1980s I decided to become a storyteller. I parlayed my theater experience into one of the oldest art forms on the planet.
I learned Beowulf, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Australian Aboriginal DreamTime myths, Native American teaching stories, and I made up my own tales, too.
The picture at the right was taken in 1996 at my annual performance at a men’s gathering I have attended for over 20 years.
Storytelling became a personal path for me, opening up a new and profound awareness of the human psycho-spiritual journey. I learned a great deal not just from the stories but also from the audiences I performed for and their reactions to myth and folklore.
Then while at the World Bank I was part of a team that explored the
power of storytelling in contemporary organizations. We led think tanks
with the International Storytelling Center that included great thinkers
from Hewlett Packard, Ernst & Young, Disney, Luscent Technologies,
Eastman Chemical, and many others. I learned there that storytelling
was alive and well in modern society. It had morphed successfully and
was being used to create rapport, share knowledge, and spark action.
Over the years I have been sought out to help leaders with
storytelling, to examine and articulate the grand story their
organization is telling, and to better communicate in front of their
audiences. Often people ask me how they can improve their skill in
storytelling. The answer: become a better listener.
I love to listen to what people have to say – and that, as far as I am
concerned, is the gem at the center of great storytelling. Listen with
purpose. Listen with the intent to build trust by truly trying to
understand where someone is coming from. Listen beneath the words to
hear the spirit of their story. They won’t always get the words right,
but if you can listen to their body, the tone of their voice, and even
the look in their eyes, you will perceive their essence.
Listen to understand the world. Listen to their personal journey.
Listen well and listen hard and you will learn how another person puts
together their world, makes sense of life, and constructs their place
in the great web of life.
Listen to someone today as if your life depended upon it and you will
be enriched beyond your dreams. In the listening you will find things
you have been looking for, life lessons, keys that can open new doors,
gifts of the soul.
ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your
– Robert Frost