I had the pleasure of meeting John Livesay when he joined the Speaker Adventure storytelling program that I hosted with hall-of-fame speaker Jeff Salz, and we’ve been friends ever since. John’s podcast, The Successful Pitch, which is a must listen for entrepreneurs and business leaders, focuses on how to make your pitch compelling, clear and concise.
John is a renowned keynote speaker who shares the lessons learned from his award-winning sales career while at Conde Nast. In his keynote Better Selling Through Storytelling he shows companies’ sales teams how to become irresistible so they are magnetic to their ideal clients.
I’ve always believed that there’s an opportunity to reach inside and search for the beauty and joy which exists within the pain and sorrow of any tragic experience. It’s not always easy, and the gifts can be elusive to say the least, but they are there nonetheless.
Spoken word artist Gill Sotu is one of those rare individuals who can help us discover and celebrate that beauty and joy. In this talk at TEDxSanDiego Gill weaves a tapestry of profound human connections that form the essence of our humanity. That speaks to the power of us. To the salvation and redemption of us. Watch and Share.
Us CAN Do This by Gill Sotu
a part of me was scared to write this a part of me was ready to analyze each and every phrase that i uttered so that the perfect word concoction connected us covering every bit of our anxieties like a weighted blanket what we are all under right now is heavy we are isolated in ways that we never wanted the interest of this virus is compounding in every country they say to stay six feet apart but this disease has no respect for borders, boundaries, bodies, or economic wellbeing if bread, a safe bed, being confined to a prison or the lack of basic necessities isn’t your primary concern right now consider yourself really, really blessed tonight, hold on to your loved ones like they were your last bit of oxygen and give thanks to whatever form of spirit you do or do not believe in realizing that happiness does not make us grateful it is gratefulness that makes us happy for instance i am truly grateful for those on the front line working beyond overtime pulling themselves out of a half sleep to selflessly shepherd us through this terror who knew that you are so good at hiding your wings i want to contribute all of my gifts and a part of me is still scared to write this but right now is not the time to be perfect no one cares if you help them awkwardly just don’t touch them your job may have stopped momentarily but the demand to add value to this world has not we all have work to do they say if you ask yourself the right question you will be rewarded with the right answer right now we all have the same concern how are we going to get through this and since words are my stock and trade i’m going to ask you to change your approach slightly instead ask what can i do to get us through this? understanding that in the beginning us is going to share your same walls and be merely an elbow cough away but once that is settled the definition of us must spread faster than this virus must be able to leap social, political, religious or cultural differences in a single bound carry more aid and support than a locomotive in this immensely scary time in our world our definition of us cannot afford to believe in the word them anymore what can i do to get us through this? they say the mind cannot hear an inquiry without at least attempting an answer so i’m going to say this one more time so that my people in london, in atlanta mozambique and memphis and any living in between can hear me and repeat to themselves what can i do to get us through this? we are six feet apart but this crisis is brought us even closer together what can i do to get us through this tree’s gift breath, the sun and the wind gift energy nature does not give life without also giving gifts it is what makes you so valuable to humankind even if right now all you can give is kindness with some, for some their greatest burden is the constant pressure upon their spirit you may be one phone call, one grocery run one corny dad joke away from relieving some of it i know us can do this i know us can not be the same us once we overcome this it is up to each and every one of us to help where we can while we’re still all socially cocooned and when we are finally free from this us can’t wait to hug you and marvel at the butterfly you’ve become
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Over the years I’ve talked to thousands of people about storytelling, especially the impactful niche of personal storytelling, and the most common reason many folks are reluctant to tell their story is that they don’t feel their story matters much, that their experiences and lessons learned over the years wouldn’t be of interest to others. When I hear such explanations it can sound as though they’re saying they don’t matter, so why would anyone listen to them.
When I mention this view they quickly counter that they do, in fact, matter to their inner circle of family and friends, that they are loved and listened to. But in the grand scheme of things, to society as a whole, they don’t feel they have much wisdom to offer. That’s a belief I have never subscribed to, which is why I enjoy the process of working with these individuals to uncover the pearls of wisdom they have to share, and to build a narrative around them.
Working with entrepreneurs and business leaders, students and academics, immigrants and refugees, inmates and military personnel, I’ve seen how powerful these personal stories can be once they understand and believe that their story can positively affect the lives of others.
Which brings me to an insightful book that preaches the gospel of recognizing how much we matter and the benefits which can be derived at the individual level, and within our society. You Matter: Learning to Love Who You Really Are by Matthew Emerzian offers insights into the topic of why each of us matters, how acknowledging that fact empowers us, and why that newfound understanding and perspective ultimately benefits the world around us.
I had the pleasure of meeting Matt in 2012 after he gave his TEDxSanDiego Talk. It was hard to square up the man with a smile that exuded such happiness, positivity and charm, with the narrative he had just shared on stage.
From his perch atop the entertainment world as a senior vice president working on projects for artists such as U2, Coldplay, and Black Eyed Peas, Matt’s world crumbled around him as he fell into a deep abyss of depression and chronic anxiety disorder. A place of darkness and despair that could cripple the best of us.
I believe that self-and social transformation are first cousins and they happen interchangeably at the same time.
But thankfully Matt’s story is one of personal transformation and revelation as he came to understand the principles of living a life that recognizes the value each of us possesses, and the inherent value of service to others. Coming out of his ordeal Matt founded a non-profit, Every Monday Matters, committed to helping individuals and organizations understand how much and why they matter – to themselves, the community, and the world.
If you read his book (please do, it will transform you) you’ll experience a degree of openness and vulnerability that few storytellers dare to share. In doing so he illustrates the fact that the only way a story of change can have impact is for the audience to understand the full extent of the highs and lows, the doubts and rebirth. Such stories can’t be sugar coated, or stay on the surface. Authenticity must be front and center. They need to spend time in your shoes.
Judging is much easier to do than taking the time to invest in others, to learn their stories, and to understand why they might be different from us.
Along the way Matt also came to embrace the need for empathy and compassion, to hear the stories of strangers, as well as his friends and family. To ask questions. To see the value in experiences different than his own. I’m a big proponent of storylistening for just this reason, as our stories become more impactful when we listen to and respect the journey that people we meet have endured. Storytelling wisdom is gained when we listen more than we speak.
We cannot let anything get in the way of serving one another. So always be ready to serve – every day, in every way. Remember, you matter, but it’s not always about you.
The most impactful stories are those crafted with the audience in mind and formulated to resonate in a way that will alter their perception of an important issue. To that end I always tell speakers, It’s your story, but it’s not about you. When change is what matters most, the essence of your story should take the audience on a journey, leading to a new place of understanding, but do so with a sense of service, not with an objective of accomplishment.
When we all show up in a grateful and giving way, we help dreams come true for one another, and that’s a life well lived and a world well served.
As you come to embrace how much you matter, how much we all matter, and how much more we matter when thinking of each other, take a moment to consider how your personal story can exemplify this impactful paradigm of humanity. How it can reveal more of who you are, and create more profound connections. Remember. You Matter. Your Stories Matter.
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Some people come to Speaker Adventure in order to develop their skills in hopes of one day being on a TEDx stage. They’re not currently a public speaker, but have the desire to share their wisdom with others and know that crafting a compelling story takes a lot of effort.
Other participants are accomplished speakers who have been in front of a wide variety of audiences, from keynotes to technical conferences, but want to master the shorter format TED/TEDx style of presentation, and they come to Speaker Adventure to learn the ropes of just how that’s done.
On occasion, one of these accomplished speakers has already been invited to speak at a TEDx event and seeks out Speaker Adventure to fine tune their talk. This was the case with Lisa Haisha. Having mastered speaking in business environments, keynote stages, and motivational speaking venues, Lisa was a pro who was about to speak at TEDxNewBedford.
With idea and draft script in hand, Jeff Salz and I began working with Lisa to refine her narrative and ensure the transitions kept the story flowing smoothly for the audience.
The idea itself was rather compelling, that we’re too often subject to the whims of inner imposters that seek to sabotage our best efforts. But according to Lisa, we have the ability to train these imposters to work for us, instead of against us. How, you may ask? Watch and learn.
Storytelling encompasses a variety of styles, from the personal, to the historical and investigative. There’s another style that I’m calling analytical, in which a situation or paradigm is broken down and examined in order to find the underlying truth. This is not an easy fete to pull off, but Simon Sinek has become a master at doing it in a way that resonates with the audience.
Simon’s talk at CreativeMornings San Diego was titled Understanding the Game We’re Playing, which focused on the current state of the millennial generation, and why they are often misunderstood by previous generations.
Whenever he’s asked to describe what’s going on with the millennial generation, Simon replies with four observations – parenting, technology, impatience and environment. In Simon’s view, millennials are not entitled, narcissistic, or lazy, but instead were simply dealt a bad hand, by their parents, and by society.
Could it be that engaging with social media is, in the end, a dopamine addiction, similar to the desire for drugs or alcohol? Are they turning to technology, instead of turning to real people in their life? Are social skills being diminished due to the ease of avoiding interaction?
The generation of hard work and long journeys – life, career, relationships – has , for some, shifted to an environment of impatience and the need for instant gratification. Compounding the problem is the move by corporations away from people and toward the bottom line.
Simon offers the view that life is not a scavenger hunt, jumping from job to job, and relationship to relationship. Instead the challenge is in finding a sense of purpose, fulfillment and joy, and that will only occur when the current generation undertakes the hard work of repairing the world around us. And it will only occur when we realize that our true competition, is us, not someone else.
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