Tribute: What My Dad Taught Me About Storytelling

I wiped the tears away and tried to catch my breath, as the laughter racked my whole body and doubled me over.

I cannot believe she is telling this story.

Twenty plus of my dad’s family members and closest friends were also doubled over in laughter. How could they not be? She was literally the embodiment of all of my dad’s best storytelling skills.

The Hook:

“So, I was in the bathroom yesterday, on my gramma’s special toilet. You know, the type that does all the work for you. And I pressed the wrong button…”

The whole room leaned forward in anticipation.

This is gonna be good.

The Visual Imagery + Expression:

“It hit me so hard, I jumped off the toilet…” (She literally jumped up from her chair as she told the story.) “And the stream of water hit the back of my head. I collapsed to the floor in a heap of laughter…and then tears…” (She grabbed the back of her head and fell to the ground just like she’d done the moment it happened.)

The room erupted in laughter.

Important Details:

“Now, you have to know that we had literally just spent the last 90 minutes in deep grief as a family, just after telling Gramma that he had died. And there I was, lying on the floor, laughing and crying…” The contrast she created with this setup added even more power to what she was setting up for…

The Internal Dialogue:

“I looked up and said, I know you saw that. I could almost hear his laughter ringing through the marbled bathroom.”

I was watching her share these details from the floor of the room, thinking, OMG, where is this going? Is she going to regret telling this story and putting all of these images in all of these people’s minds?

And then she took a completely masterful
storytelling turn…

The Profound Lesson:

“And then it hit me, Damn, he is going to see every one of these moments forever. You see, my dad could only see so much of his kids’ lives because he was locked in that bedroom in pain for the last several years of his life. And yesterday, when I was lying on the floor laughing, and I realized that he was up there, probably laughing at me twice as hard as I was laughing at myself, I thought, You know what? He is going to be watching every moment from now on. The funny ones. The horrible ones. And the ones that make him so proud. It gave me such peace to realize that he’s going to walk alongside me every day while I work hard to bless others when I’m working. He’s going to see how I hand out dollar bills to the homeless because he taught me to do that. He’s going to be able to see all of those moments. And…I’m just so grateful for that.

Wiping the tears away, I marveled at how she and all of my siblings were able to spin a story just like the dude who taught us by telling great stories whenever he had the chance.

When I close my eyes, I can still see and hear him telling his stories…

I can see his face, animated with such intense emotion, whether it was excitement, surprise, curiosity, anger, pride, or something else.

I can hear his voice rising with the excitement of juicy details, and falling to the whisper that communicated the sober importance of the words shared in that moment.

I can see his hands talking as much as his lips, and his body demonstrating everything it could to show the story.

I can even see and hear the pictures his words painted on my mind forever – the golf holes with sand traps on one side and trees on the other, the dark pool halls with people standing around with their jaws on the floor, the hospital room with the monitors and the sound of murmured prayers and their answers written in blood on white sheets.

He was a masterful storyteller who set the bar pretty damn high for his kids, and for every speaker, author, and trainer I will ever engage as a student or a coach.

Because I was raised by a master storyteller,
I know that stories can be powerful in and of themselves,
and that if they are missing any of these elements,
they fall flat on the hearts of their audiences
and short of their true power and intention in the world.

Your story doesn’t just matter.
Your story is EVERYTHING.

Your power.
Your compass.
Your truth.
Your gold mine.
And, most importantly,
THE KEY to tapping your audience into their own story…and forgotten power.

So don’t just tell it.

Hook them with something that requires their attention.

Do the work to set it up properly, so the audience understands how big this was for you.

Juice it up with so many sensory details that your audience joins you IN the story.

Let them into your heart and mind and body. What were you thinking and feeling?

And then deliver the goods (the lessons) with power.

You might be surprised at how very little you have to say about the lesson
once you’ve delivered the story powerfully.

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