Do you have a song or an album that you allow yourself to listen to only occasionally? Because you do not want to take it for granted, you do not want to lose its magic? Or a favorite piece of clothing that is only worn for a special occasion? Because there is only one of these, and it’s irreplaceable, so you can’t possibly just wear it on an average Tuesday and risk spilling coffee on it? I’ll go first. Album → Pink Floyd’s The Wall. I listen to it rarely, always by myself, and usually in its entirety. Clothing → my grandmother’s brown leather jacket. It’s forty years old. I know that because I’ve had it for decades, and it’s always been as old as me, and I am turning forty later this year. I have a TED talk like that too. This one.
It’s actually one of the most popular TED talks of all time - it will be at the top of most “best TED talks” lists, if you were to Google it - Ken Robinson’s “How Schools Kill Creativity”.
Ken Robinson has since died.
I have since had two children.
The talk is now fifteen years old.
I just watched it again last week, for the first time in a few years.
It’s like opening a bottle of super old cognac, and allowing yourself just a tiny sip.
It's the storytelling for me.
You see, I’ve been seeing this very particular type of storytelling lately.
Storytelling monetized, social media-ized, snippeted, and Tiktoked.
Storytelling as the key to your business success, to your email open rates, to your bottom line.
And so you see these “stories”.
You might recognize the script.
“Have you ever wondered INSERT A COMMON HUMAN PROBLEM HERE?”
Me too! Five years ago, I found myself INSERT A STRUGGLE HERE.
But then I… INSERT OVERCOMING STRUGGLE.
I amINSERT CREDENTIALS, and I help people DO A THING. And today, I will share X ways to INSERT A COMMON HUMAN PROBLEM!”
I know you have seen this.
I mean… it ticks all the boxes.
It starts with a hook, it identifies a pain point. There is some vulnerability there, the hero’s journey, the struggle. And, of course, the solution, and the promise of a bright future!
It’s all there, and yet… it feels, and sounds, and tastes like styrofoam.
It’s like eating Kraft cheese slices.
Fake and disappointing.
I re-watch my favorite TED talk to remind myself of the kind of storytelling I love.
The talk is scripted obviously, BUT Ken Robinson still improvises on the spot - weaving in references to previous day’s talks. He slips up, and makes a joke IN the moment.
He shares multiple stories, and quilts them together casually, conversationally… to make a larger overarching point.
And the whole thing feels… natural. It feels like you are being spoken to, not being spoken AT.
Ever noticed how all these scripts and videos make you feel talked AT?
You are the audience, they are the expert.
In the TED talk, you never really feel like you are listening to the expert. You are listening to someone interesting, share something interesting, and at the end, you find yourself at a destination you did not even know you were moving towards.
It’s like going for a walk with someone you really enjoy talking to.
Maybe, that’s why I have trouble wrapping my head around dancing on screen while pointing at words in the sky.
It doesn’t feel natural.
Then, there is Ren. And another way to tell a story.
I have never heard of Ren, but a friend sent this song my way.
A friend who has been suffering from severe depression for decades.
“Here is an amazing and brilliant song about negative self-talk and self-sabotage”, my friend said.
And I watched it, and cried.
I felt like I had witnessed someone share something precious from the heart.
I have never cried at a “have you ever wondered how you can get better at meal prep?” videos.
Oh, and you might have seen the story I have told on stage a couple of years ago. It was one of the chapters from my book, reworked to be delivered on stage, and it truly remains one of the scariest things I have ever done.
I don’t remember being on stage. It was electric. The story happened TO me, it flowed OUT OF me. It was scripted, it was rehearsed, but it was also lived, and performed in that moment - truly RE-LIVED for the benefit of the audience. This is the part where I feel like I have to wrap up this email with a pretty bow, but I don’t really have a pretty bow. And if I did, then we’d be back to that formulaic crap. So, no bow. Just sharing three of my favorite stories with you - all completely different. Told in different contexts, to different audiences, for different reasons. But all three take you on a journey, and make you feel things. If my tombstone says “she took lots of journeys, and felt things”, I won’t be upset. And then there is that saying… live your life, so there’s a good story to tell. Ha. Look at that. ^^^ A bow.