Recently I was in Germany working for a large corporate client on storytelling and presence for senior leaders. Unusually, the group was all men and all of them had a strong scientific background. We worked hard, there were good questions and sometimes tough feedback on their personal presence and what they brought into the room with them. There was no jostling for position, speaking over each other or other power plays and it was a pleasure to be engaged with such enquiring minds, all of whom wanted to improve themselves and become better leaders.
On our last evening we all ate together on one long table. The food was good, the wine was excellent (apparently!) and the conversation wide ranging.: skiing holidays, who had studied chemistry, the corporate social ethic at the organisation. At one point, the most senior person present, Andreas, turned to me and began a conversation about storytelling. He asked how I trained, what did I like about stories, what did I mean that I performed stories? Gradually everyone at my end of the table leaned in and started listening and I spoke freely as I could see he was genuinely interested. Suddenly there was a pause. Andreas looked at me with a far away look in his eyes and then said, “Could you tell us a fairy tale?”
For a moment I was so surprised I couldn’t answer, so I just said, “What would you like to hear?”
The men starting calling out, “Cinderella!”, “Snow White!”, “No, Little Red Riding Hood!”
Later that evening, after everyone had left, I reflected that all these high powered, scientific men had really wanted at the end of the evening was basically a bed time story. No matter what the outer wrapping, underneath it all, we all long for a story that will enchant us, give us meaning and a sense of wonder. With their magical objects, talking animals and kings and queens of a bygone era, the fairy or wonder tales have it all. What if the story of your own life could ultimately be the most enchanting, meaningful and wonder-filled story you could ever hear? Imagine living your life like that. Imagine being able to speak publicly about it. Imagine the difference it would make.