Stories…It’s Always About the Story


November 28, 2014

I’m sitting in an airport in Washington, D.C. waiting for my flight to Geneva where I will teach a course on leadership and team building. I am sitting in the city of my birth, watching thousands of people walk by – each with his or her own story. You can hear some of the stories as people have their conversations or talk on their cell phones. Some are Interesting, some sad and some amusing. But there are always stories – people telling them and living them. Sometimes barely surviving them. And I was reminded of an article I read recently that talked about how storytelling impacts your brain.

Neurobiologist Paul Zak, in his article “Why Your Brain Loves Good Storytelling,” talks about the work his lab has done in measuring the brain activity of people while they watch a movie – and the way the narrative of the story changes their brains.

Recently his lab found that they could “hack” the oxytocin system of people to actually motivate people to engage in cooperative behaviors – and humanitarian acts. (For those science folk out there, they found that by taking blood before and after a narrative (story), that character-driven stories consistently cause oxytocin synthesis. This motivates people to sympathize with others and their causes. It can basically predict how charitable people will be or how willing they will be to buy into an idea, belief or value.) Such is the power of well-told stories. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. If a book or a movie can change the way someone’s brain works – and influence them towards something bigger than themselves, imagine how powerful the story of your LIFE could be – lived out in real time.
  2. Most people realize that the most lasting stories – the ones that we remember and that continue to impact us – involve a character that runs up against obstacles and struggles, but then finds something inside of himself – (or outside of himself) that helps him realize untapped abilities that he uses to overcome his obstacles and triumph. And we remember this – the influence of that kind of story is lasting.
  3. Stories connect with people, they give context to life and they give purpose and direction to your life – never underestimate the importance of the story you’re choosing to live. It will be your memories and it will frame your future.
  4. Everyone gets to write his own story – and those stories are visible to the world whether you intended to tell your stories out loud or not. If you don’t like your story – change it. Write a new one.

One of Global Next’s tag lines is  “helping people live better stories.” I am becoming more and more convinced of the power of a well-told story – especially the story of someone’s life that is committed to something of lasting value – something bigger than himself. My hope is that we all live better stories – and help others write better stories for their lives.

3 thoughts on “Stories…It’s Always About the Story

  1. Since we must inevitably write to the conclusion of our story, may we do so with wisdom, purpose, laughter, love, eloquence and beauty, so not to disappoint the reader.

    1. So beautifully stated. I’ve read some pretty disappointing stories…and I want the wisdom to make sure that all of my chapters – or at least the final edits are satisfying to those who both to read it. 🙂

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