The Power of Story – and Saying “Yes”

It’s a warm summer night in June, and I am standing under a tent before 100 or so strangers with just a microphone in front of me and a bare stage behind, telling them a story.

It’s the story of how two days after giving birth, I am horrified to learn that my daughter, Lily, has a serious congenital heart defect. I take them along on my desperate search to find a skilled surgeon to conduct the operation she must undergo to save her life. On the day of her surgery, I tell them, Lily is five months old, weighs just 10 pounds, and her heart is roughly the size of a walnut. “How,” I wonder aloud, “can they even operate on a heart that small?”

As I tell the 10-minute story, the room falls silent. Everyone in the audience is reliving my journey with me, step by painful step. It’s the kind of rapt attention that every public speaker craves.

And it’s a testament to the power of story.

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Those are the opening paragraphs of this article about live storytelling that I wrote for Change Agent, the quarterly publication put out by the Communications Network, a leadership organization of 1,000+ communication executives at large nonprofits and foundations around the world, including the Ford Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the World Wildlife Fund.

This particular opportunity came about because a college friend fell in love with storytelling and followed along as I jumped headfirst into first telling my own stories, and then producing a show so that others could tell theirs. She works for a large non-profit and when she found out the topic for the next issue was storytelling, she urged the editor to include an article from me about the power of live storytelling. (She also wrote an amazing article about how she’s incorporating stories into the DNA of her own organization).

Aside from sharing my love of storytelling, researching the article flexed my journalistic storytelling skills again. And as I read the entire issue the other day (it’s currently only available in print), I was gratified to see that some of the storytelling concepts I learned at the feet of The Moth, Story Collider and Risk!’s storytelling workshop arm, Story Studio, seem to be universal storytelling truths.  Be authentic, share failures and roadblocks, speak from the heart.

It still boggles my mind that my passion for storytelling has opened so many doors for me. Baruch University called recently to ask me to sit on a panel discussion on true and fiction storytelling podcasts. I’m booked to tell a story as part of a famous cellist’s new classical music salon series. The association I’ve been involved with through my day job for nearly a decade asked me to come give a Ted-type talk about storytelling to its annual conference this spring.

The universe just keeps saying, “Yes, do this!” “Yes, do that!” And so I do.

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