January, 2009

What's in a Story?

By Persuasion Fundamentals, Using Stories 4 Comments

Hi Persuader,

I’m so excited to be beginning a new chapter with my students. In the last month we’ve embarked on an amazing, transformative, and very practical journey together that starts with a pen and piece of paper (or for those of you who don’t know how to use a pen and piece of paper anymore in this world of iPhones and laptops — all you need is a blank Word document to get started).

I am basing this teaching on a multitude of research I’ve done over the last 30 years and some of the luminaries in the power of story such as Joseph Campbell and his work on the Hero’s Journey, and Dr. Jim Loehr (the chairman and CEO of The Human Performance Institute) in his book “The Power of Story”.

Our stories are unique tools in which we can harness our power of to affect those around us. This can be in business, sales, with employees, in seduction or with our spouses, with our children, and even with people we come into contact with in life either on the phone or in person — bank representatives, grocery store clerks, mechanics, police officers, our kid’s teachers.

All great speakers use stories. One of the main differences in the last election was Barack Obama’s ability to persuade (I’ve been saying for over a year that if the race were all about persuasion, Obama would win hands down). Another big difference was Obama’s knack for storytelling and how he was able maintain a narrative that was compelling. It’s a classic ‘rags to riches’ story and it resonated very deeply with many people who would not have otherwise voted for a democrat or who would not have otherwise been of the mind to vote for an African-American (for whatever reason).

Tony Robbins also has a ‘rags to riches’ story which he tells during his talks. (On a side note, when I entered ‘rags to riches‘ into Wikipedia, I found a fascinating list of celebrities and politicians who have the same basis for their stories.)

But even if you grew up middle class and haven’t struggled financially in life, you have a story and likely, a fascinating story. If you’re not where you want to be in life, if there’s something you haven’t achieved, then there is work to be done on your story.

In “The Power of Story” Dr. Loehr talks about how the stories we tell ourselves and others are oftentimes flawed and keep us locked into situations that are unsatisfying. By simply rewriting our stories, we can transform our lives. It’s a simple process, but by no means easy. It is deep work that has the potential to create a bit of upheaval in your life and the benefits will be immeasurable.

It’s time to evolve that story. So take that pen and paper and start with “you” and ask yourself these questions: Where am I going? How did it come to this? What do I want? What’s the meaning of my life?

This is the jumping off point. I’m right here with you. I’ve begun my journey and my students are beginning their journeys. If you have an interest in joining us in this learning, contact Kim at Maxpersuasion.

Until Next Time,

Kenrick E. Cleveland

Reaching the Summit with Baby Steps

By Persuasion Fundamentals, Using Stories 4 Comments

Hi Persuader,

Lately I’ve been really exploring the power of stories in both my own learning and in my teaching. We all have a story with many story lines, interwoven throughout our lifetimes. This has been an incredible journey bringing up memories I thought were long gone. My story today has to do with setting little markers for yourself. When you have a goal, parsing off the route to this goal, helps make the steps manageable.

When I was a kid, my father and I went hiking on the Pacific Crest National Trail. We had big backpacks, food for two weeks, a topographical map (though we didn’t need it, but dad brought it for teaching purposes, I think), canteens, sleeping bags, a tent, and most importantly for me, blister pads. My dad carried with him a folding chair so that when we stopped at night, he’d have a comfortable place to sit. He dropped off our car quite some distance away and had somebody drive us to the trailhead and drop us off. We drove for half a day to be able to then hike this far over two weeks.

We started off at the top of a summit. As I stared off into the distance, I couldn’t believe how long it was going to take us to get back to our car. I remember thinking to myself, there’s no way we’re ever going to reach it. No human has ever walked so much. (We hadn’t gotten to the Lewis and Clark part of school by that point.)

The first day, every step hurt, I was miserable and couldn’t experience the beauty. After that we got into a rhythm. We would make little markers for ourselves, when I make it up that hill or to that tree, I get a sip of water.

Before I knew it, I was standing at the summit of one of the major hills that I had seen from our trailhead starting point. As I looked back at all the ground we had covered and I thought, I can do this. I looked at the map and thought, hey, we’re more than half way there. I can most definitely do this.

Another thing I strongly remember from this very long hike with my dad was that he entertained and probably distracted me with the storylines and a little bit of dialogue from the James Bond movies that had come out over the past few years, the mid to late-60s, of which we were both fans. So really, when I think back, I’m reliving multiple stories within the story of this special time with my dad and the wonderful life experience he gave me for those many miles.

These kinds of realizations started to sink in. I continue to use this process to look at how I can see things that seem insurmountable as merely stepping stones instead of a brick walls, and I realized, at that moment, the brick wall had become a summit.

Until Next Time,

Kenrick E. Cleveland