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Stories are the connective tissue

In physiological terms, connective tissue is found in between the other tissues in the body. As its name implies, it literally holds other tissues – muscle tissue, nervous tissue, and organ tissue together – together.

I know all this because I looked it up on Wikipedia.

It’s more complicated than that, but I’ll let any medical professionals chime in about what connective tissue really does. But for purposes of this podcast, it holds us together.

I think, in terms of the human experience, in business, in relationships, and in simply understanding each other, stories are our connective tissue.

I came to this conclusion when I read a blog from Seth Godin. It’s a short blog, but I’ll read it here…

It’s titled Awkward Memorization…

The spread of TED talks means that more and more people are being put on stage and told to memorize their talk.

This almost always leads to failure.

It’s not because people memorize too much, it’s because they don’t memorize enough.

Watch a great performance and you’ll see no artifacts of memorization. Instead, you will see someone speaking from the heart.

This is what it means to know something by heart.

Memorizing the words is half of it.

And woefully insufficient.

My suggestion: Don’t memorize your talk. Memorize your stories. Ten stories make a talk. Write yourself a simple cue card to remember each story’s name. Then tell us ten stories.

Be you.

We didn’t come to hear your words. If that’s all we wanted, we could have read the memo and saved a ton of time.

Bring your heart.

Seth, as always, packs a lot of wisdom into a short blog post.

What he’s talking about here is what makes a great speech or a moving presentation. If you’ve spent any time watching TED talks, you know what he’s talking about.

The demand for content has led to people who have done remarkable things, or who have interesting points of view, but who are nonetheless not great speakers, taking the stage at TED events.

One that comes to mind for me is Alex Honnold, the climber who scaled ElCapitan in Yosemite National Park, and who was the subject of the Oscar-winning documentary, Free Solo.

Honnold did something breathtakingly amazing. He climbed a 3000 foot slab of granite with no rope or protective equipment.

In addition to a film, that also makes for an inspiring TED talk. You could learn a lot about perseverance, effort and achievement from Honnold’s story.

But when you watch his TED talk, you can see that he’s very clearly reading from a prompter. Being on a stage is not Honnold’s strong suit. He’s much more comfortable dangling off a cliff, thousands of feet off the ground.

In Honnold’s case, his talk was more reading, but what Godin is talking about in his blog is memorization. In my view, they’re pretty much the same thing.

But what got my attention is toward the end of his article…

Don’t memorize your talk. Memorize your stories. Ten stories make a talk.

As we go through life, things happen to us. Or we make things happen.

It happens every day. Some small things, some monumental events, and lot of in-betweens.

The things that happen to us shape us, make us who we are, and influence our decisions and actions and beliefs and opinions.

Those actions, occurrences, and events are the cells and tissues that make us who we are.

When we want others to understand us. When we want to persuade them or influence them, or share our ideas, we have a choice.

We can tell them our thoughts and ideas. We can give them the facts we know. We can share our opinions directly.

But that won’t do.

If we want others to understand us, and where we’re coming from, we need to tell stories.

Seth Godin said that ten stories make a talk. And that’s really what we’re talking about here.

Whether we’re on a TED talk stage, or in a meeting, or talking with friends and colleagues, by using stories, we are better able to gain the understanding of the people we’re communicating with.

It’s the same for companies, nonprofits, institutions and other organizations.

Their stories make up who they are and what they do. If you want people to buy your products and services, support your cause, or join your community, you need to get them to understand who you are.

You do that with stories.

Stories are the connective tissue between who you are as an individual or as an organization, and the people you need to reach.

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