When shopping for the perfect gift for her classmate, my daughter and I decided that the Yoda lightsaber was the ultimate recognition of cool. As we were paying for it, the assistant confirmed our choice, and I quipped “I was there when it all started!” (I confess, I laughed at my own joke.)
George Lucas attributes the work of Joseph Campbell in his work: The Hero With A Thousand Faces as THE framework for his Star Wars. It’s the same pattern Disney have used to tell stories for years and years. Now firmly established as a framework for storytelling. In his own study of the “monomyth,” Campbell outlined the key components to a story, and the flow and connection to the overall story process. It is captured in detail below.
Your story telling blueprint – a four step summary.
- Introduce the people, the place, and the adventure.
- Address issues of challenge, stress, and testing.
- Bring to a climax (via test) in relationships and circumstances.
- Begin to resolve through restoration, maturity and return. Conclude.
In practical terms leaders who speak can do these three things to tell even more powerful stories:
Prepare your story in line with the framework.
Often we think stories need to be linear. They don’t. They need to be consistent. When you think through your story and prepare it to be told, you can use the stages laid out by Joseph Campbell. It’s important to note that the early stages of this process feel quite unnatural and forced. This changes over time and the twelve (or if you use the summary, four) stages become a more natural way of preparing your narrative.
When you think in terms of the story arc, you begin to think and prepare in terms of where to lead off, what part of the narrative to launch from, and how that will engage your listeners the most. I tell a story of being swept out to sea as a twelve year old, and this process helped me briefly set the scene of our annual family adventure to the coast and the things we would get up to. This sets the scene of adventure. This process helped me quickly move to the “Finding myself swept out to sea and 150 metres away from where the sand bank had collapsed, left me considering my options for the rest of my life, and hopefully a safe return.” This process helped me set up the challenge, the ordeal, the need in the context of summer holidays and then allowed me to tell the rest of the story in the context of what else happened, who was introduced to my salvation and both the back story and the lessons along the way.
All this is unpacked as a result of using this process for thinking and preparation. Often mapping out the story on paper helps this process. I use a mind map style of thinking, and preparation to make this process as effective as possible. You will no doubt find it beneficial as well.
Learn your story in line with the framework.
When the thinking and preparation is complete, leaders who speak, then learn (or relearn) the steps used in telling the story, and learn the narrative in that order. Again, at first, this feels unnatural and forced. Over time, you will notice you train yourself to learn inside the lines of this process. What you will enjoy is as it become second nature your whole way of delivering narrative becomes this. To summarise even further, try this outline to learn all the stories you tell.
- Adventure – Set the scene for the narrative to take place.
- Ordeal – describe the challenge, the problem of the test.
- Transformation – share how the characters faced the circumstances.
- Return – Show how the characters have matured and been restored.
When you prepare a story within this framework it becomes easier and easier to learn it and ultimately tell it and retell it with the same level of authenticity and impact.
Tell your story in line with the framework.
Recently I was speaking about the importance of having a dream, and how children seem to dream better than adults because they haven’t learnt not to. Using this framework, I started the story by setting the scene in Mrs Gardener’s art class, and how I concluded that pottery clay would look better on my forehead than on the table in front of me. I told this story from the point of view of having a lump of clay stuck to my head because it set up the ability to share that I covered it with my Fireman’s helmet which set up the line “And what little boy DIDN’T want to be a fireman when they grew up.”
- Adventure – What is the context for the story?
- Ordeal – What test or challenge got faced by who?
- Transformation – How did relationships get formed and lessons learned?
- Return – What conclusions got made and relationships shaped?
Telling the story the same way helps your listeners follow the adventure, the challenge, the lessons and the resolution. It also helps you remember it with much greater ease and confidence. Think, prepare, learn and tell your stories through this framework and you’ll have a winning formula for influential narrative every time.
Structuring your story like this will give it more flow, more consistency and allow you to present it over and over with the same level of authenticity and energy that your listeners need. Even as a nearly seven-year old, I was able to remember the opening scenes of Tatooine, Luke being introduced to C3PO, R2D2 and then meeting Obi Wan Kenobi and later losing his family, make this story arc even more compelling, even more powerful and even more helpful now as I tell stories for a living. And you’d be right in believing that Josh loved his lightsaber!
#TheTopFifteenPercent | Going Further Faster