Why Stories Matter

During my summer sabbatical, I would frequently take my dog Lucy for walks to a beautiful cemetery in Salem, Oregon, just three blocks from the street where I grew up. But one day we discovered something I’d never seen before, a memorial to veterans of the Civil War – a circle of almost 100 graves marked by tombstones with inscriptions revealing the names, birth and death dates, and the regiments they belonged to (2nd Wisconsin Infantry, Montana Artillery, etc.).

The dates extended well beyond 1865, and I began imagining that after the war, these men and women must have moved to Oregon to start new lives in the same city where, decades after they were gone, I was born and raised.

In other words, I was creating stories about what might have happened to these long dead people whom I’d never heard of, but with whom I now felt some connection.

And as Lucy and I wandered around, I realized the place was filled with plots. Cemetery plots, of course, but also stories that visitors would remember or imagine from the headstones, photos, inscriptions, gifts and mementos that adorned the graves.

Final resting place stories like these repeatedly engender some kind of emotion in us as we feel a connection to the people buried there – people we knew and loved, or sometimes people that we’d never met before.

So once again I was reminded why stories are so important: they create connections.

When we see, hear, read or imagine emotionally involving stories, we are connected first to the heroes of those stories. We become those characters psychologically as we empathize with them and subconsciously experience what happens to them.

But stories also connect us to our own humanity. We once again discover what it means to be alive, what it’s like to experience the world in ways we might never experience in “real” life. Stories remind us of our weaknesses, failures, and the pain we all must endure, but also of our potential for strength, courage, wisdom and love.

When audiences first arrive, tune in or open a book to experience a story from the stage or page or studio, they possess different – sometimes profoundly opposite – feelings and beliefs. But as these audiences and readers begin to lean in, captivated by that story, they become connected – bound together by laughter, sadness, fear, courage, or simply a common hope that the hero of the story will win the day.

This, to me, is why it’s so important that you share yourself with others through your storytelling. Because when you connect with the world this way, you help unite us.

– Michael

PS. I know this is my first article in a long time, and I deeply appreciate your patience and support as I took a much needed break. But now I’m back, eager to work with you on your own story.

I am, however, limiting my coaching time to just a few sessions a week as I develop a number of new projects for the coming year. So if you’ve been waiting for my guidance on your story, go to https://storymastery.com/coaching/ pick the package that works best for you, and schedule your session.

See you soon!