On Story

Erika Petrelli
Erika Petrelli

I love stories. The power of stories. The idea of stories. The belief that stories are what connect and bind us.

Many years ago I shared a "ghost story" from my past, and in that also shared the following:

"...as Tim O'Brien says in The Things They Carried,"story-truth is truer sometimes than happening-truth." Or as Daniel Pink paraphrased EM Forester in A Whole New Mind, "a fact is:  the queen died and the king died.  A story is:  the queen died and the king died of a broken heart."

The stories we tell, the stories we share--Well, they are everything, aren't they?

Last week my friend and colleague Ali and I traveled to Nashville, TN for a STORY Gathering; an annual conference put together by the organization STORY, led by master illusionist and storyteller Harris III, that works to find storytellers and weave together a community of stories that make us better workers/partners/humans. Here is a "I cant-even-begin-to-do-it-justice" video highlighting the event: https://storygatherings.com/story2017/

It was magical, I tell you. Maybe because the man behind it is, in fact, a magician. I think that's a pretty important part of it. Thank you, Harris.

But maybe also because stories are really, REALLY important.

Harris kicked off the session by asking us to challenge the recent business "ism" to "punch your fears or monsters in the face'; instead inviting us to "dance with our monsters," encouraging us to think about the idea that "worry is a misuse of our imagination."

And then he put person after person on the stage to remind us of just that.

Brad Montague reminded us that all of life is a symphony and EVERY NOTE belongs in it.

Matthew Luhn reminded us that we need to take chances, because "only by exploring do we get to the good stuff."

John Bucher told us that "when our lives lose meaning we begin to ache for something that we can't articulate" and that "almost every great tale begins with a character wandering."

Amber Rae told us to choose "wonder over worry."

Gillian Ferrabee shared her belief that "fear lives and grows in the vacuum of un-intentionality (aka limbo)" and that we need to go from "un-tentionality to fun-tentionality".

Laura Youngkin shared that "you don't have to stay in a story that isn't right for you."

Mackenzie Huyhn urged us to use the question "What If?" as an anthem for our lives.

Amena Brown beautifully told us that "the magic is in the love" and that we can "write well the story we are in now--the story that will become history long after we're gone".

Bethany Haley taught us an exercise in redemption, reminding us that the story of right now is not the story of forever.

And on. And then a magician. And on.  And on. And then musicians.

And Paul. PAUL!  From Spain.  Stop right now and watch just this very small snippet of what he did for us. I'm linking it out here, to emphasize your need to stop and watch his magic:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ss43PUO08Wc.  This video doesn't even show the moment he walked through our aisles juggling like eight hats and ultimately putting his jacket back on, in the crowd, while still juggling the hats. I need more Paul in my life, and so do you. Paul seems to embody what it is to live out your true story.

So... on and on it went.

Every beautiful soul that set foot on the STORY stage, that set foot in the STORY space, shared a story of their own, and in doing so reminded us of the power of each of our individual stories; to shape, guide, and connect us.

As one speaker pointed out, "Even finding the story is a story; and you can't be afraid of where the story is going to go."

And since that message was ringing in my ears since I left Nashville, I'm hearing it everywhere, including when Jennifer Hudson just pointed out on "The Voice" last week: "If you can think the note, you can hit the note."

If you can think the note, you can hit the note.

If you can share that note, you can connect it to another.

When we understand our stories, we can take ownership of them. When we share our stories, we may help shed light for another, to find their way home to the story of their own.

It's time to rise up.

What's your story? And how will you shape it today?



Erika Petrelli

By Erika Petrelli

Erika Petrelli is the Senior Vice President of Leadership Development (and self-declared Minister of Mischief) for The Leadership Program, a New York City-based organization. With a Masters degree in Secondary Education, Erika has been in the field of teaching and training for decades, and has been with The Leadership Program since 1999. There she has the opportunity to nurture the individual leadership spirit in both students and adults across the country, through training, coaching, keynotes, and writing. The legacy Erika strives daily to create is to be the runway upon which others take flight. If you enjoy these blogs, you should check out her interactive journal, On Wings & Whimsy: Finding the Extraordinary Within the Ordinary, now available for sale on Amazon. While her work takes her all around the country, Erika calls Indiana home.