Monday, September 28, 2009

The Moral of the Story

As I mentioned in my storytelling post last week, many people fear telling stories about their own life because they aren't interesting enough, or they can't see how they matter to the audience. Today, I'll walk you through a simple process of finding The Moral of the Story.

"Dead Man's Hill" recounts one of my many bicycle trips to a Plaid Pantry (7-11 type store) in Troutdale, Oregon, when I was 9 years old. I had gotten my allowance, and immediately headed out to pick up my baseball cards and Snickers bar. The shortest route to get there was heading down Dead Man's Hill, which, to be accurate, was more of a valley. A steep, narrow, downhill, two-lane road that then went up again once you reached the bottom in just as steep a fashion.

With a gimpy left leg to go along with my undersized frame, my challenge was to ride as fast downhill as possible so I would get as far up the other side as possible before having to get off the bike and walk it the rest of the way.

On the trip to the store, I made it halfway up the hill, then walked. Coming back, I was more determined than ever to defeat my long-time nemesis. I wrapped the brown paper bag around my handlebar, made sure I had no traffic behind or ahead of me, and launched myself down the hill, peddling with speed and intensity of a Tasmanian Devil.

I hit the hill bottom at top speed, and hit a small rock in just the right part of my faux dirt-bike studded tires to send the bike and me skyward. The next thing I knew I was being dragged out of the raspberry bushes on to the side of the road, several adults hovering over me. My face was bloodied, and I was just barely regaining my senses. Naturally, they asked me if I was OK - my first thought, and my quick reply, was "Where's my candy?"

That's the story, told without spin, in its entirety. Would you believe I can use this story in at least 9 different ways?

1. Bike Safety Then vs. Now (In 1977, I had no clue what a bike helmet was)
2. Determination
3. Ups and Downs of Life
4. Focusing on What's Important (candy)
5. Focusing on What is Trivial (again, the candy, depending on perspective)
6. Getting Back in the Saddle
7. Good Samaritans
8. Healing from Scars
9. Taking Short Cuts

Can you come up with more?

A simple story that likely parallels stories in any speakers, and any audience members life, told enthusiastically and connected with a point, is amazingly effective.

Try this exercise right now. Think of a story from your life - just one. Then find as many morals the story can be used to illustrate. Which one is closest to what you want to speak about? Which ones could add new vision to what you've always thought? Each time you find something new in your stories, you find something new to teach to your listeners.

Find the moral of your stories, and you will do more than Speak - you'll Speak & Deliver!

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