“I wanna tell you a story” – was one of Max Bygraves’ signature lines (if you’re old enough to remember!).
You and I are ‘always’ hearing stories, often telling stories.
Stories are one of the things that identify us as humans. Other animals can appreciate music and art, but unless dolphin language actually recounts stories, we are the only story-telling species.
Stories are really important.
Most of what we learn and most of the decisions we make are based, one way or another, on stories.
Stories we tell and stories we hear.
But what is a ‘story’?
There are lots of definitions –
The first is usually “an account of imaginary or real people and events told for entertainment”
Then there’s –
“An account of past events in someone’s life or in the development of something”
“A report of an item of news in a newspaper, magazine, or broadcast.”
And I would say somewhat allied to that,
“A piece of gossip, a rumour, a false statement, a lie”.
And there are more
But that’s not the whole story!
In general, a story is some sort of narrative, maybe chronological, sometimes not, describing things that happened.
According to the writer.
Our dreams are like stories as well, and they are definitely not in any sort of order, jumping from time and place and back again as if we were switching between parallel universes – but they still usually present as some sort of story!
Also, as can be seen from the above, stories are not necessarily ‘true’. In fact, they are very rarely, if ever, “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth”.
Some stories are pure fiction, some are the ‘truth’ embellished, some are the ‘facts’ with a few left out and maybe a few added.
Stories cannot be relied upon as a historical record – even the word ‘his-story’ gives it away; ‘history’ is someone’s story about what happened, someone’s opinion often coloured by political bias.
Shakespeare’s ‘histories’ are a prime example of this, written in the light of the politics of the Tudor dynasty – telling the ‘story’ that they wanted the people to hear.
The phenomenon of ‘fake news’ is not much different other than that it deals with the present rather than the past.
People with different views create stories to illustrate or emphasise their stance on any particular matter.
The thing is that we as a species just love stories.
We thrive on them.
We can’t live without them.
And that includes the people like you and I who are not addicted to the TV ‘soaps’ or ‘reality’ shows which attempt to create a ‘live’ story unfolding as you watch.
You and I use stories all the time.
We use them to promote what we do, we tell the stories of our successes and even sometimes our failures – all to make a point.
The Bible writers were expert at this, they wrote down stories or ‘parables’ to make a point, as Aesop did with his ‘fables’ before that.
We learn from stories, we form our opinions from stories, we grow and develop from listening to and telling stories.
From my work as a tutor with Warwick Business School I accumulated several very thick academic textbooks and, especially with Marketing and Organisational Behaviour, but also even with Accounting, all of these books are peppered with ‘case studies’ – stories of how particular companies resolved an issue or developed something new.
Without all those stories the books would have been very inefficient learning tools!
Without stories, you and I would probably by unable to function efficiently either.
You and I want to hear peoples’ stories and you and I want to tell our stories.
We want to tell our stories so that people know who we are, and we want to hear others’ stories so we can get an idea of who they are.
And, you know what, as we tell our stories and listen to others’ stories we get a better understanding of Who We Really Are.
But there’s something else – something really clever, and really important.
Stories are not always about the past.
We can create stories about the future – but that doesn’t have to just be ‘science-fiction’.
Although ‘SF’ has occasionally been very accurate at predicting things that have happened in reality.
You see, if you write your ‘future story’ and if you write it clearly and in detail then there is a high probability that it, or something quite close to it, will actually come to pass.
You don’t even have to write it down (although that helps) just visualise it clearly.
Be careful though what you visualise or ‘think through’ because if you’re not clear then things you don’t want might happen or you may realise your vision in an unexpected, and not necessarily ‘good’ way.
As Oasis put it in 1995 – “(What’s the Story) Morning Glory”
And in no particular order :
Where or who are you now, how did you get here, where are you going, who do you want to be?
What’s YOUR story?
Go on, I dare you, write it down!
All of it.
You never know, it might come true.