In what jobs you better be a good storyteller

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I was recently asked in one of my business storytelling workshops a simple but important question: In what professions are storytelling skills important?

I thought a bit about it and the answer I came up with is: in pretty much every!

Well, you might think know, that this guy has to say exactly this since he is blogging about the importance of storytelling; and you´re absolutely right!

But think one moment about what storytelling is actually good for: it is good to explain things and especially to make complex things easier; it is good if you want people to remember things; it is a really good persuasion tool; it is a good tool to trigger action; it is good to motivate people and create empathy; it is good as a planning tool and, yes, storytelling is a really, really good selling tool!

So in which professions do all these skills come in handy? Right! … in pretty much every profession!

Narrative medicine and lying politicians

Think about some unrelated professions and how having storytelling skills can help you succeed in those:

Historians – They always have write stories of the past and make connections to future ages. Actually since school history books are written in a story format, the retention rate among students went significantly up.

Medics – “Narrative medicine” is actually a new buzzword I recently stumbled over. Professors in renowned medicine schools use doctor stories, written by famous authors to teach students to go beyond clinical diagnoses by listening fully to patients´ stories as a way to connect emotionally with them.

Psychotherapists – Similar to doctors. Storytelling can be a catharsis for the patient and story listening on the part of the therapist can open a productive communication with the patient. Stories can also be a really good sense-making tool.

Teachers – If they are good, they tell stories to deliver knowledge and make facts more entertaining and memorable .

Lawyers – Especially in the Amercian law system, lawyers better tell good stories to persuade the judge about their position. For them it is mainly a persuasive tool.

Economists – Economists constantly have to put complex data and analysis in concise and sense-making future stories. They also use future scenario stories as a decision-making tool to help the government forming a decision.

Politicians – They have to create scenarios about the future and convince people to follow them. For them it is mainly putting positive outcome stories in other people’s heads.

…and so and so on… (storytelling is especially powerful of course in media, the arts and business related professions)

So go out there now and strengthen your storytelling skills. It will do you good.

Promise.

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Books of Note: WEEK #6 & #7 – Comet in Moominland and We have always lived in the castle

 

The last two-weeks´ books I read were Comet in Moominland by Tove Jansson and We have always lived in the castle by Shirley Jackson.

The first one is a children´s book about the moomins, which are roundish fairy tale characters with large snouts that make them resemble hippos. The second one is a creepy family story which is set somewhere in rural Vermont.

Dark and philosophical reads

What they are about:

Moomins and their friends who prepare for a comet that is about to hit their valley.

Two sisters who live reclusively in a castle after a murder mystery killed the rest of their family.

Why they matter:

Comet in Moominland is the second of seven moomins novels and this is by far the darkest. Mostly written during the Second World War it deals with the philosophical question of how people should deal in moments of crisis and an external menace.

Shirley Jackson is one of the masters of the ghost story and ‘We have always lived in the castle’ was her last book before she died an early death at the age of 48. As the main characters in the book, Shirley was very troubled towards the end of her life, which is reflected in the book. The book is widely hailed as Jackson´s master piece and has influenced modern writers like Neil Gaiman and Stephen King alike.

“With any luck I could have been born a werewolf”

Favourite Sentences:

“It´s strange”, said Moomintroll, “but it seems to me hat we aren´t as afraid as any of those people, although we are going to the most dangerous place of all, and they´re leaving it.”

“I have often thought that with any luck at all I could have been born a werewolf, because the two middle fingers on both my hands are the same length, but I have had to be content with what I had.“

Storytelling elements:

Comet in Moominland has a surprisingly complex plot with loads of small plots inside the main one. All characters they meet on their journey have their own little backstory told. In that respect it is almost like a little predecessor oft he hobbit for younger readers.

We have always lived in the castle is narrated from the point of view of the 18-year old sociopathic Merricat Blackwood. In storytelling terms this is called an unreliable narrator, as the reader can never trust the credibility of the events they are told. In the end the reader has to re-evaluate the point of view of the story and the way they experienced the story, which makes the read interesting yet chilling.

Children characters based on German philosophers

Some trivia:

The muskrat, a character from the Moomin book, which is described as something wet and miserable, with shiny black eyes, is based on German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer who was notoriously grumpy.

What others said:

“They seem to grow in wisdom and delight every time I read them” – Philip Pullman about the Moomins

“If you haven’t read We Have Always Lived in the Castle … you have missed out on something marvellous” – Neil Gaiman

Two beautiful books which I enjoyed reading.

The journey continues.

Books of Note: WEEK # 5 – Muhammad Ali: A memoir by Michael Parkinson

 

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This week´s book was Muhammad Ali: A memoir by Michael Parkinson. I was inspired to read this book as I went to a reading by Michael Parkinson in Covent Garden last week and had his book signed afterwards. When talking about Ali, Parkinson still had this sparkle in his eyes; the same sparkle people have in their eyes when they just experienced something extraordinary.

What it is about:

It is about the life story of Muhammad Ali framed by four interviews he gave to Michael Parkinson from 1971-1980.

Why it matters:

Muhammad Ali was probably the biggest sports personality of all times; getting a first-hand and personal insight from one of the best British talk show hosts about Ali´s life and their relationship is invaluable. It is interesting to see how both of their lives progress over the course of the four interviews and how their relationship deepens. The fourth and last interview is heart-breaking as Parkinson begs Ali to stop boxing as it could ruin his health. Ali didn´t stop and the rest is history.

Favourite Sentences:

“The real reason he fought for so long was that which him a great champion: his indomitable courage, unyielding resolve, unquenchable willpower. To expect him to take a careful approach to his life, to work solidly and cautiously towards a pension, is to misunderstand the soul of a prize-fighter.”

Storytelling elements:

The book contains full transcripts of Parkinson´s interviews with Ali. Those interviews are used to frame chronologically the real life events around Ali.

Some trivia:

Michael Parkinson interviewed hundreds of celebrities over five decades but the only one he wrote a book about is Ali as he thought he was the most “singular” of all of them.

What others said:

“Journalists are lucky in terms of the access we have to famous people. But only a few make you think: ‘That was a privilege – what an extraordinary person.'”

– Michael Parkinson being asked about his interviews with Ali, BBC –

 

Good life, good interviews, good overall read.

The journey continues.