4 myths most people believe about storytelling

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Effec­tive, well-framed sto­ry­telling is a pow­er­ful force for busi­ness­es and orga­ni­za­tions. How­ev­er, in school, they don’t tell you every­thing you need to know about sto­ries.

What they don’t tell you in grade school

In school, they don’t tell you how impor­tant sto­ries will become in your per­son­al and pro­fes­sion­al life.

Grow­ing up, my def­i­n­i­tion of “sto­ry” was shaped by books I was forced to read. You prob­a­bly have a list of the books you loved—and hated—from years ago. Here’s mine…

(I kind of love all of these.) But I’ve learned in the “adult world” no one sits around all day and ana­lyzes lit­er­ary fic­tion. But they do talk about STORY a lot.

Business are always storytelling

Every busi­ness is telling some kind of sto­ry. Whether on social media, in a cor­po­rate video, or through their email mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy, an entire brand can be summed up as a STORY. The sto­ry might be hap­pen­ing on pur­pose or by acci­dent. It includes the his­to­ry, mis­takes, suc­cess, and mile­stones that make the com­pa­ny who they are. There are char­ac­ters, con­flict, mys­ter­ies, and adven­tures.

[share­able cite=“Josh Mitchell”]An entire brand can be summed up as a STORY.[/shareable]

Taking control of your story


I’d argue busi­ness­es aren’t more pur­pose­ful in their brand sto­ry­telling is because they weren’t taught the right way to think about sto­ry. (If we have to blame some­one, let’s blame grade-school.)

The four myths people believe about storytelling

If you can learn to shift your think­ing away from the grade-school under­stand­ing of STORY, you’ll dis­cov­er how your sto­ry can be a pow­er­ful force in help­ing your reach your goals.

Here are four com­mon myths peo­ple believe when they think about sto­ries. See if you’ve ever thought any of these:

1. Stories are storybooks.


When peo­ple hear “sto­ry,” the image of a big leather book with col­or­ful pic­tures may come to mind. It turns out that a sto­ry doesn’t need a book to be a sto­ry. That IS one pop­u­lar medi­um, but it’s not the only one. Sto­ries have exist­ed before the inven­tion of paper and before books. (Per­son­al­ly I love the phys­i­cal object of a book—but the pow­er of Sto­ry is big­ger than the device used to trans­fer its infor­ma­tion!)

2. Stories are fiction.


Some folks believe a sto­ry is “a false state­ment or expla­na­tion; a lie.” They might say, “I’m not telling you a story—this is the truth!!” If we only under­stand sto­ries as some­thing untrue or make-believe, it becomes dif­fi­cult to use the pow­er of true sto­ries in your life and busi­ness.

3. Stories have to be long and have lots of details.


Ama­teur sto­ry­tellers the mis­take of includ­ing too many details and giv­ing away too much. The best sto­ries omit details to increase imag­i­na­tion. Some of the longest last­ing fairy tales are a page or less long. The Great Gats­by isn’t that long, either. Short can be good. Let your reader’s brain do some work.

4. Stories need an ending.


Lots of peo­ple are always look­ing for the hap­py end­ing or a tri­umphant con­clu­sion. But have you ever thought of shar­ing a sto­ry piece-by-piece? Some­times a sto­ry with­out a clear end­ing can be entic­ing. “The end­ing isn’t writ­ten yet” can make a sto­ry com­pelling.

[share­able cite=“Josh Mitchell”]Share your sto­ry piece-by-piece. That’s OK.[/shareable]

[reminder]Do you think about your company’s sto­ry often?[/reminder]

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