Tell a compelling story. This has been the most consistent and often repeated advice I have received over the last few months. As an anthropologist, I am fascinated by this one common denominator that defines us as humans. We all appreciate a good yarn. A clever tale can draw us in, create intrigue, connect us to a group, call us to action, entertain us, educate us, lead us to a compassionate response, or embolden and inspire us to tell our own stories.
The MOTH Radio hour on PRX (http://themoth.org/radio) is a fine example of this characteristic. Every week regular folks get up in front of an audience and speak their truths. It makes for compelling radio, but it also underlines our need for the human connection that we all aspire to. We all want to be seen and to be heard.
And, what about the phenomenal success of the TEDX talks or YouTube videos?
Sometimes our audience consists of one person, other times it is a roomful, or even a packed auditorium. Fear of public speaking is another universal human condition, but so many of us are able to overcome the paralysis it induces, to tell our stories. As an extremely shy person who nearly throws-up every time I am called on to speak publicly, I often ponder what source of strength or inspiration allows me to stand tall and speak with authority, instead of hiding in a corner, cowering in fear.
I believe the answer is my passion and the belief that what I have to say is important to those who are listening. When I relate to students in an educational setting, my form of teaching usually revolves around a story, and often starts out with, “have I told you about the time...” When I explain living off-grid, I tell the tale of moving from a 2500 sq foot house to a trailer or the day the trailer was moved off the land (that is a nail-biter for sure.) Or, last year when I gave my father's eulogy to a church full of people who knew and loved him dearly. When I talk to people about Deep Root Center, I speak about the kids who have been changed by this place. In each of those instances, I am completely passionate about the subject and know in my heart it is more important to tell the story than to hide in the back of the room, under the bed, or behind someone else.
I aspire to be a great story-teller, to be a speaker of truths, to inspire others to stand-up and tell their sagas. Listen closely to the tales being told today, because in the end, we are all human and each have our own stories that are just waiting for an audience.