At Christmas, I was in Melbourne with my two kids. All my family live there and I needed to do what I could to ensure there was no disharmony or feelings of favouritism. So I applied Shawn’s guiding principle in these matters: ‘Families are like fish. After three days they start to go off’. So I stayed for a few days with each of my relatives.
It turns out that there is another way to maintain harmony and indeed, to build resilience in families, especially children. Have a family narrative.
This article in the NY Times claims that “The single most important thing you can do for your family may be the simplest of all: develop a strong family narrative.”
Three types of narrative are described:
- The ascending family narrative which goes ‘when we came to this country we had nothing. We worked hard and look at us now’
- The descending family narrative which goes ‘we used to have it all and then we lost everything’
- The oscillating family narrative which goes ‘we’ve had our ups and downs, but no matter what happened we always stuck together as a family’
Apparently, this last narrative is the healthiest, especially for building the confidence and resilience of kids.
Many thanks to Ken Everett from Think On Your Feet® for the pointer to this article.
Every two months an email arrives that I am always happy to receive. Its the bi-monthly newsletter from the Awesome Stories website.
Awesome Stories is designed as an educational website that makes primary source material available to the general public. Much of the material is normally available only via national archives, libraries, universities, museums, historical societies etc. The stories are used to place these materials in context and make them much more accessible.
There are numerous categories: biographies, disasters, history; philosophy, sports, the arts, trails and flicks.
The site might be designed for educators, but it’s also very valuable in organisations. If you are looking for a story to use in a presentation or to support a point, this is a great resource. A word of warning though: it’s very easy to lose yourself for a few hours on the site
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As the proud father of two boys aged 4 and 2, I just had to share this story I saw yesterday. I could picture this exact scenario happening with my eldest son.
At the grocery store a 4-year-old boy is running around doing superhero moves with a fierce expression and making a bit of a spectacle of himself.
A lady says, “Hello, young man, what’s your name?”
In his best growly, grown-up voice, he says “I’m BATMAN.”
The lady laughs. “I mean, what’s your real name?”
Again: “I’m BATMAN!”
“No, what’s your actual real name?”
(long pause and then in a whisper while looking to see is anyone was looking)
“It’s really Bruce Wayne.”
Story based on this blog post.
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Last Thursday night, Tony High asked me if I knew what a ‘mondegreen’ was. I had no idea. A quick search of wikipedia revealed that a mondegreen is a term coined for those times when we get the lyrics of a song wrong. But to be a mondegreen, the incorrect version needs to be better, in some way, than the original.
The term mondegreen comes from the first verse of a 17th century ballad:
Ye Highlands and ye Lowlands,
Oh, where hae ye been?
They hae slain the Earl O’ Moray,
And Lady Mondegreen.
The actual fourth line is ‘And laid him on the green’. I know I have many mondegreens in my repertoire, and my kids are ruthless in pointing them out.
Then, on Saturday night, I saw Colin Hay, former lead singer and songwriter from Men at Work, in concert. Apart from being a terrific guitarist and singer, he is an accomplished raconteur and had the audience in stitches for much of the concert. At one stage, he described how one of the lines he is most proud of is in the song ‘overkill‘ which goes ‘ghosts appear and fade away’. A few years back, he was about to start a concert in country South Australia when a guy came up and asked him if he was “going to do the song about the goat?” Colin replied “I don’t have a song about a goat” After some to-ing and fro-ing, the guy said “you know the one…’goats appear and fade away’” Colin’s response was “yeah, I’ll do that one tonight”.
All of that is a little by-the-by, as the point of this post is to explain that I got to have a chat with Colin after the concert – its one of the beauties of living in Canberra . We often point people to Colin Hay as an example of good storytelling in action, so I asked him if he had any tips on being a good storyteller. He answered “If you think any of this is ad lib then you are sorely mistaken. You need to practice, practice and practice some more in order to get it right.”
So, even those who appear to be natural storytellers practice extensively to refine their skill. Its an important realisation for the many people who think they are not natural storytellers. Maybe we just need more deliberate practice?
2012 has been an exciting year for Anecdote. We have worked with many inspiring and energetic people and organisations…making strategies stick, helping leaders communicate, influence and inspire, bringing value to life and building more collaborative workplaces. During the year we worked with Paul and Dan from Route to Greatness and this led to a significant change in strategic focus for Anecdote.
In 2013 we intend to focus lots of effort on getting out and meeting lots more people. We love nothing more than meeting interesting people and drinking coffee and if we can achieve both these goals at the same time then all the better. If you want to catch up then please let us know via email.
On behalf of all the team at Anecdote, I wish you a safe and happy festive season and an exciting and prosperous 2013.
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A nice story by Tim Minchin as beat poetry.
An American businessman was standing at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish.
“How long it took you to catch them?” The American asked.
“Only a little while.” The Mexican replied.
“Why don’t you stay out longer and catch more fish?” The American then asked.
“I have enough to support my family’s immediate needs.” The Mexican said.
“But,” The American then asked, “What do you do with the rest of your time?”
The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos, I have a full and busy life, senor.”
The American scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds you buy a bigger boat, and with the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats.”
“Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the consumers, eventually opening your own can factory. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually NYC where you will run your expanding enterprise.”
The Mexican fisherman asked, “But senor, how long will this all take?”
To which the American replied, “15-20 years.”
“But what then, senor?”
The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO (Initial Public Offering) and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions.”
“Millions, senor? Then what?”
The American said slowly, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take a siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos…”
I initially found this story here.
Shawn and I have spent the last couple of days working with a client helping them create their strategic story down in the Mornington Peninsula. There are certainly worse places in the world to spend a couple of days than at a winery in such a beautiful spot. It was a throughly enjoyable off-site, made even more so by working with such an energetic, passionate and fun bunch of people.
During lunch yesterday I noticed that Harry, the guy sitting beside me, was checking his emails, and on his screen was the image below from The Sun newspaper.
Obviously curious I asked him what that email was about. He laughed, and then explained it was from one of his guys who organised the teams lottery syndicate. That night was a $70 million jackpot prize on offer in the OZ Lotto, one of the biggest prizes in Australian lottery history, and as yet he hadn’t signed, or paid up.
There was no other text in the email. All the person did was send on this story about how an entire Spanish village won part of a £600 million ($960 million) lottery jackpot apart from one resident who got nothing because he didn’t buy a ticket.
That was it. They let the story do the convincing. And it worked.
I’ve been in San Diego for the past three days – mainly holiday but with two speaking engagements for the annual leadership get-together for Sharp HealthCare. Its one of my biggest ever gigs with over 700 people present for each of the days.
At lunch yesterday with some of the folks at Sharp, one of the ladies from the sound booth asked me to clarify something I’d said. I’d mentioned Ned Kelly and described him as an infamous bushranger (outlaw) who had become something of a folk hero. So, Jill described that the folks in the sound booth were sure I’d said ‘Ned Kelly is a famous bushwanker’ and she wanted to know if that’s what I’d meant to say. This caused a huge outburst of laughter from everyone in the room. I’m 100% sure I said ‘bushranger’ and explained that ‘bushwanker’ would be highly inappropriate.
Sharp HealthCare are one of the major health providers in San Diego with 15,000 staff. I was really impressed with them – storytelling is one of their five ‘foundations’ and much of the day was devoted to sharing both staff and patient stories. Their vision is to be ‘the best health care system in the universe’. If you look at this clip by Dan Heath you’ll understand why I like this vision so much.
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Click to see larger version 800 wide