Telling the Best Story
Annette Simmons, author of numerous books on story and connection, including, Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins (which I am reading right now), shares a few stories of her own in this Smart Conversation.
This glimpse into the power of story is just that, a glimpse, because we barely brushed the surface of all there is to talk about when it comes to story.
What is story? That's a question I should have asked and will ask on our next conversation, but for now, let us accept that story is everything about us and about the world around us. Story is who we are and how we share that with the world. It's about how we define and understand our place in the Universe.
Is a picture worth a thousand words? you might ask. And I answer, yes. But, never forget - the words are there. The picture in and of itself must be appreciated by using our words. And, each story, while unique to its creator, is taken and defined and changed by the reader, listener, or watcher.
We, each of us, create the story we see in a painting, a sculpture, a novel.
The Psychology of Teenagers and Storytelling by Women
For Annette, she turned to psychology in high school in a failed attempt to understand popularity and be popular herself. What crazy things did we all do, back in high school, to try and 'fit in'? Hmmmm.... Never mind. This was after reading psychology books at fourteen because her father gave her books like Transactional Analysis and Rational Emotive Therapy to read. Oh, Dad. Really?
One of the beauties of this conversation is how it helps define the storytelling women do, and how that's different that the stories men tell. We talk just a bit about how the Cassandra Myth and how women's ideas and stories are too often brushed aside as too feminine - read: not worth listening to. To accept them, to listen to them, would - HORORS OF HORRORS! - emasculate the men. (she said, rolling her eyes)
A good bit of conversation is around the paradox of story. Of how we learn the story of man vs nature and who will win. When the question is, why does either one have to 'win'? Why can't both gain and collaborate and learn to live in harmony? It's the self vs the collective good. Annette tells us how we need to accept there is no happiness without suffering.
Instead of a constant struggle to predict long term harm, why can't we invest in long term good? Women are more suited to the long term good idea than men. We pay attention to a wider pool of people and things.
Peeing Over the Side of a Boat! Oh, Dad.
At only 10 minutes into this conversation Annette shares a personal story from her childhood. About fishing. And fun. And peeing over the side of a boat. And, ultimately, being sold a bill of goods. Like many of us.
Annette and I talked about the stories we tell ourselves and those we tell our children. To the stories handed down through the ages passing on an entire community's culture and world-view. Stories we women teach our children - of sharing, kindness, and the golden rule. How I do remember the coffee klatches of my younger years, when our eldest was in school but there were two at home and I would meet with the neighbor women to chat, laugh, exchange stories and ideas. A community brought together by shared values, and shares stories. (And still, the stories were not quite as authentic, now that I look back on them, as they could have been. They were just 'stories' we told each other, to fit in, to help our children fit in, to create a place for ourselves and our family in the picture of domestic bliss we all hoped to display.)
"I am not a natural 'feeler'," Annette's bio says. "So my understanding of human behavior and the art of communication includes all of the small details a 'natural' might miss."
All in all, there is more in this short conversation than one can try to share in a short blog post. At 25:45 minutes in, there is a short mention of baseball. Of why kids today are not into baseball. Which flows from a worry I have that too much social media time is harming our children by robbing them of the joy found in a book. In the real, solid, deeply told story flowing from word to word and paragraph to paragraph and page to page, allowing the reader to create whole new universes, beyond the sky out her window.
"From the beginning of time, humans have recorded organic wisdom with stories to guide real-life personal choices. Today it seems that a search for organic wisdom, or even a road less traveled, is blocked by increasing arrays of algorithmic chutes and ladders designed to lead us to travel only the roads that are profitable to the road builders."
The DNA of All Meaning
Daniel Pink, Author of A Whole New Mind, says this about Annette, "Once upon a time, story was banished from business. Then Annette Simmons came along to show us the error of our ways."
And so, from all her travels around the globe, back to the U.S. and to taking time to talk to me, Annette Simmons shares a bit of insight into the idea of story and how...it's the DNA of all meaning. Stay tuned for more Annette when her newest book, Drinking from a Different Well - How Women's Stories Change the Meaning of Power and Action comes out in October!