There’s a crippling misconception floating out there in the world that tells us that the only good stories are based on Big, Dramatic Events. A major humanitarian crisis. Or a story of individual tragedy that, through heroic action, becomes a tale of almost superhuman triumph. While it’s true that those stories have power, sometimes the stories that resonate most strongly occur in small moments of reflection or realization.
What makes an event or moment story-worthy?
At the beginning of a new class or workshop, I’ll usually start with a quick exercise. Everyone closes their eyes and remembers a time that they wanted something. It doesn’t matter what the thing is, just that they really want it and believe that getting this thing will fundamentally change their life in some way. After going through a brief visualization exercise, I ask everyone to share their stories.
There’s no way to tell what will come out. Many people think of their desire for other people--a lover or friend. It may be a quest to find ice cream on a hot day. One of the most riveting stories I’ve heard come out of this exercise had to do with a man’s childhood desire for a certain pair of shoes.
None of these stories seem particularly dramatic on their face. But dig a little deeper and a different story starts to emerge. The shoes represented a sense of belonging for a poor kid who grew up feeling marginalized and alone in his middle class neighborhood. The ice cream reminded a young woman of her father who had passed away when she was a child.
What makes something ‘story-worthy’ has less to do with what happens in the story and more with what it’s about, the deeper human need that drives the action. This applies to organizational stories just as much as personal ones. A story about a small, human interaction can have just as much, if not more, weight as a tale of epic proportions.
Here are some questions to ask yourself when trying to determine the story-worthiness of an event or interaction:
If the answer to the first question is ‘yes,’ then chances are that other people will be moved, too. And if something moves people, it’s a story worth telling.
A story doesn’t have to have a grand scale to be epic. Look for the epic in the small moments and you’ll quickly build a trove of stories that connect, move and inspire.
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