Tag Archives: stories

Want Job–Tell A Story

job interview

job interview

Liz Ryan writes a column in the Daily Camera, my local newspaper, about keeping your career on track. On August 24, 2009 it was all about the power of story, especially in a job interview.

She writes:

A story answer to an interview question has three benefits over a stock “Yes, I’ve done {x} in spades” answer:

job interview

job interview

1. It’s more memorable to the interviewer.

2. It brings out more of you–not just your skills. It shows the interviewer how you think or how you handle situations.

3. It puts a picture in the interviewers mind . . .

Her example is someone who learned Adobe Illustrator over the weekend using “Illustrator for Dummies” in order to meet an unexpected set of circumstances. That person could have said, “Yes, I know Illustrator” and missed the opportunity to fill-in how she learned it on the fly, solved a crisis, etc

Ryan tells her readers that stories are the essential edge to getting the job.

job interview

job interview

We need a story about a time when we surmounted an obstacle, and a story about a time when we had to change our plans on a dime. We need a difficult-customer or difficult-coworker story and another story about learning from a mistake. I teach people to tell these stories on interviews, and even (in a very condensed) fashion in resumes and cover letters.

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Filed under Personal Narrative, Sales Stories, Story Quote, Uncategorized, Why Stories?

A Good Slogan Is A Story

M&MsWhat makes a good slogan, like “Melts in your mouth, not in your hand,” memorable?

It suggests a story. By the time we’re four, every one of us knows how good things can turn messy. M&Ms promises us chocolate without the anxiety.

Sears SloganSears launched their Christmas 2008 campaign with “Don’t just give a gift. Grant a wish.” Then they linked that slogan with real stories of Ty Pennington receiving his first toolbox and LL Cool J getting a turntable from his grandfather.

When Best Buy started using “You, happier,” they wanted their customers to see themselves leaving the store satisfied. Like the M&Ms slogan, “You, happier” plays off the idea that in other times and other places we haven’t felt confident about our purchases. Don’t repeat those bad experiences, Best Buy tells us. Shop here. They don’t have to fill in the story. We know.

What stories come to mind with these famous slogans?

“Reach out and touch someone,” AT&T
“He keeps going and going and going . . .” Energizer batteries

“We’re #2. We try harder,” Avis

“A mind is a terrible thing to waste,” United Negro College Fund

Why pay attention to slogans? Because they’re little stories and stories sell, especially when they’re clever enough to touch on our own experiences.

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Filed under Sales Stories, stories, Why Stories?

TV Cowboys and Me

The car in front of me had an agenda–a bumper sticker I had to read because the light was red: KILL YOUR TELEVISION

220px-Gabby_Hayes_&_Roy_RogersI don’t have a problem with television. Or I don’t have the same problem with television as most people do–a waste of time or too much sex or violence. My concern is that television is such a powerful storytelling medium it can replace the real storytellers–our own families.

I was in the third grade when television made it to my part of rural Idaho. My grandparents bought a set as soon as we knew TV was coming. For weeks I watched the screen with fascinated anticipation when the only thing being broadcast was a test pattern for three hours a day.

200px-GeneAutryOf course, as soon as the local station was up and running, I did what everyone my age did. I ran in from school, flopped down on the floor and watched TV westerns. The power of that visual medium was such that I began to think of the American West the way it was being presented on TV—a place of strong men and few women. Never mind that I was growing up on a working ranch that included horses, dogs, sheep, cattle, and three generations of women who had run that place from its beginning. What’s more, this wasn’t ancient history for me. I knew all these women, even my great-grandmother, but the reality, outside my back door, was so different from what was coming in on the television set that I didn’t connect the two. I didn’t assume that they were supposed to be the same.

Our stories are important because they’re “ours.” If we don’t keep telling them, we might find ourselves without stories, just television.

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Filed under cowboy story, Family Stories, History, Television, Uncategorized

Story Quote #10 (Joseph Campbell, Give Me A Break!!)

Jcflogo“All of the great mythologies and much of the mythic story-telling of the world are from the male point of view. When I was writing The Hero with a Thousand Faces and wanted to bring female heroes in, I had to go to the fairy tales. These were told by women to children, you know, and you get a different perspective. It was the men who got involved in spinning most of the great myths. The women were too busy; they had too damn much to do to sit around thinking about stories.” —Joseph Campbell

This is also the excuse that is often given for why there are few great women painters or composers before the 20th Century. We were too busy fixing dinner!

Fairy tales? I assume Mr. Campbell never thought to ask his mother, aunts, grandmother, etc. about his own family stories. Most families have a foundation myth, a story about how they came to be where they are, and those stories are largely preserved /retold by women.

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Filed under fairytale, Family Stories, History, Old Storytelling Traditions, Story Quote, Uncategorized

Story Quote #8

Kitchen Table Wisdom“We carry with us every story we have ever heard and every story we have ever lived, filed away at some deep place in our memory. We carry most of those stories unread, as it were, until we have grown the capacity or the readiness to read them. When that happens they may come back to us filled with a previously unsuspected meaning. It is almost as if we have been collecting pieces of a greater wisdom, sometimes over many years without knowing.”  –Introduction to Kitchen Table Wisdom by Rachel Naomi Remen M.D.

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Filed under Family Stories, stories, Story Quote, Uncategorized

Aesop’s Fiddling Grasshopper–Yeah!!

How we tell our stories makes all the difference. For example, my grandma Melba had an original spin on Aesop’s famous fable of the ants and the grasshopper.

grasshopperAccording to Aesop, (620-560 B.C. Greek slave and famed storyteller) the ants were busy, as ants usually are, putting food away for the coming cold. The grasshopper preferred to sun himself and fiddle. Of course, when the seasons changed, the grasshopper found himself hungry and without food. He had to beg from the ants. Aesop’s moral is a warning about what happens when you fiddle the summer away.

My grandma Melba ended that same story with a question: “And who do you think kept those ants from dying of boredom all winter long, if not that fiddling grasshopper?”

She was right, of course. 

Same story.

Different truth.

Better yet, telling the story her way allowed her grandchildren to have fun and toil at art without apology–as well as the so-called serious stuff. 

Do you have a different take on an old story? Share it in the comment section.

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Filed under Animal Stories, fairytale, Funny story, stories, The Little Folk, Uncategorized

Why Stories?

We tell stories to share what matters, to try to make sense of what doesn’t, and to connect to others.  

Here’s the problem: stories have the power to shape the way we see the world. So unless we pause, once in awhile, and ask “why that story” or “why that story told that way,” we may find ourselves living someone else’s version of who we are.

storytellerBecause stories look different from different angles, we need to make sure we pick our viewpoint, not let some institution or person tell us what’s right.

Stories can have serious practical applications. In some Native American cultures, children are disciplined by story. The elders sit the child down and tell him or her a story about the consequences of bad behavior or the dangers of unthinking actions. “The dog ate my homework,” is also a story with a practical application. How often do we think about that?

Stories get better with time. Why? Most of us don’t think of ourselves as liars, but we want to be heard. Most often we exaggerate because we want our stories to be remembered. For that reason, it’s often worthwhile to pay attention to the stories that get repeated. They’re not so much whoppers as clues to what’s important to that person or family or nation. George Washington never chopped down a cherry tree. Never said, “I cannot tell a lie.” Why, as Americans, do we keep telling that story? And when we stop telling it, what has changed?

Stories have voices. If all our stories are tales of hardship and persecutions, we may not be able to hear anything but bad news. Old hatreds are passed on the same way. 

storytellerStories are philosophical. “Things go better with Coke” is as much a philosophical statement as an advertising slogan. Families do the same thing. “In our family we ______”  fill in that blank. Question is, who decides how to fill in the blank? 

For example, in my family we tell love stories.

  • One is about a grandmother who stopped a railroad for the sake of love—not one or two trains, a whole railroad. 
  • We also have a story of a young girl who waited by the gate for the guy on the white horse. One day, he showed up, white horse and all. 
  • We also have a World War II romance, complete with love letters
  • A Ninteenth Century shipboard romance
  • An even more distance tale of lost love and Viking pirates.  

Listen to those stories long enough and you can spend your whole life waiting to be swept off your feet. The stories we tell can become the scripts we live or try to live. 

Have I made the case for examining our stories?

storytellerAh, yes, but at the same time, we love our stories and our storytellers. Forget the fuss and tell a good one! 

This blog is a place to share as well as ask questions about stories. Got a good one? Post it in the comments.

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Filed under Family Stories, Personal Narrative, stories, Why Stories?