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10 Tips for Tapping Your Inner Storyteller

Heed these secrets from master storytellers, and you too can learn how to prosper from this life-changing craft.

Thomas Jackson/Getty Images
Thomas Jackson/Getty Images,

by Logan Ward

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Storytelling is a fun, effective way to envision a future of fulfillment—and then make it happen. We are all storytellers by nature, but not all storytellers are created equal. Heed these secrets from master storytellers, and you too can learn how to prosper from this life-changing craft.

1. INVITE SERENDIPITY

When as a boy Mandalay Entertainment Group Chairman and CEO Peter Guber, author of Tell to Win: Connect, Persuade, and Triumph with the Hidden Power of Story, built a ham radio, the world opened up to him, and he began to dream of travel. He could have told himself one narrative story —that travel was an unattainable dream for him because his family didn’t have the money—but instead he used creative visualization and told himself an aspirational story, imagining that he’d find a solution to his family’s lack of resources. When the idea of global tours for students crossed his peripheral vision, the idea of organizing the trips in exchange for travel vouchers leapt out at him.

2. BE YOURSELF

Your story should be a touchstone for your beliefs and actions, not something driven by the more fleeting aspects of your life, such as fear or joy. “Your story has to connect your heart, tongue, feet and wallet,” Guber says. “They all have to be going the same direction. Authenticity must shine through.”

3. RE-EXAMINE THE PAST

Identity is not just about who you are now and your goals for the future. It’s also about how you view your past. “The past is up for grabs. It’s like history,” says Northwestern University psychologist and personal narrative expert Dan McAdams. “People talk about the ‘Ronald Reagan years’ and ask if they were good or bad. But how we view that period in history changes over time. Ditto with your life story.” For example, during your 20s you might look back on your teen years as a wasteland of parties and procrastination. But by the time you’re 35, you might judge your teen years less harshly. Maybe that’s when you first picked up the guitar, which now gives you joy and fulfillment. Or maybe that’s when you met the girl who became your wife. In other words, as you take authorship over your life, don’t let your past define you.  In essence, it's narrative therapy.“You don’t have to be locked in to the story you’ve been telling yourself for 10 or 20 years,” McAdams says. “You can re-author the past, come up with a different meaning and move forward.”

You don’t have to be locked in to the story you’ve been telling yourself for 10 or 20 years. You can re-author the past, come up with a different meaning and move forward.

Dan McAdams, Psychologist and personal narrative expert