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Storytelling Is Like Exercise - The More You Do, the More You Like It
By Chris King

A recent copy of Information Week included a series of Business-Technologist Visions given by industry leaders. All were interesting and insightful, but being a fitness enthusiast and class instructor, I was drawn to the statement by Janet Weiman, at that time Senior VP and CIO of Continental Airlines, Inc. She started her article by writing, "Change is like exercise - the more you do, the more you like it."

How true! And how true it is that the more storytelling we do - and experience - the more we like it. After thinking about that idea, I realized that there are a number of similarities between storytelling and exercise which would be fun to discuss. So, here goes in this article. As always, I would love to read your thoughts on the topic.

Starting is the first hurdle, and is far from being comfortable. Making the decision to start an exercise program or to start telling stories to others is easier than actually starting. When we start something new, we feel that everyone is watching us and judging how we are doing. We don't have the ease of experience or mastery of the skills yet. We feel the pain of using muscles we haven't worked hard before and the lack of confidence in our performance skills when sharing a story. I have found that most people involved in exercise and/or storytelling tend to be enthusiastic proponents and cheerleaders. They remember what it was like when they started, so they will encourage you to "stick with it." And, I guarantee that when you stick with it, you will start overcoming the discomfort.

Finding the style that is best for us is an important factor for sticking with it. When I write or speak about exercise, I always stress the importance of finding the type of exercise that you enjoy - otherwise, you will be more apt to quit. I am a group type, so taking part in a fitness class serves me better, but there are many who prefer to jog alone, or work out on machines. It is the same with storytelling. Never tell a story you don't love. Just because ghost stories are popular, don't start telling them unless you find one that resonates with you. As far as performance style, be sure to embrace the style with which you are comfortable. There are tellers who prefer to remain seated, achieving emphasis through their words and voice inflections, while there are others who move around the stage flamboyantly. Especially when beginning, I suggest that you work in the style that is "you." You can try others as you progress.

Not everyone will enjoy it as much as we do. Whether it is exercise and/or storytelling, once we have become "hooked" we may be surprised to discover that others don't hold the same excitement we do. We, of course, will start realizing the many benefits of maintaining a regular exercise program and routine. We, as storytellers, will also discover the power of sharing stories. Stories may be used to heal, to teach, to inspire, to establish rapport, to entertain, to empower and even more. Need I say anything else? I have discovered that there are people who will never become convinced - no matter how many health and wellness studies and reports are made and published - that taking the time and energy to exercise is worth it. There are also those - and it is hard for me to believe and accept - who will not care to listen to or tell stories. In both instances, my only advice is to accept this and move on. Just don't let the negative attitudes of people around us color our world.

Certain tools will work more effectively for us than others. Just like picking the type of exercise that suits us, we need to work with the tools that work best for us. For example, I am not turned on by the huge variety of exercise machines on the market, but I love working with the large stability balls and free weights. As a storyteller, I use few props except when I bring out a drum for particular stories - to add a certain extra rhythm and beat. I do feel, however, that we should try many different approaches to find what works best for us - as long as it doesn't distract from the story. Whether it is exercise or storytelling we are considering, it is always a good idea to test different tools. You may be surprised how a new piece of equipment or a prop will add an extra dimension to and improve your performance in either area.

When we hit a plateau, we must accept the fact that it is time for a change not time to give up. Plateaus are common whether we are exercising or storytelling. And, they are discouraging and even devastating, besides. Look at plateaus as your friends. They indicate that your exercise routine and/or storytelling performance is begging for a change. If your weight and/or lean muscle mass hasn't changed for weeks, it is time to start cross-training, taking a different class, using a different tool. As a storyteller, if you haven't added new stories to you repertoire for months, taken a workshop, attended a conference, or gone on a storytelling retreat, it is time. Even if you aren't aware of it, you are probably on a plateau. Many people tend to give up at this point. Just think of what you are losing by giving in as compared with the enjoyment of starting something new - making a change.

Once it becomes a regular part of our lives, we will feel lost without it. If I don't exercise or tell a story (and this isn't always a story for a performance) for more than two days in a row, I begin feeling physically and mentally deprived. Both exercise and storytelling infuse my days with extra energy, love and enjoyment. Both tend to solve any nagging problems and doubts I may be harboring. Both sharpen my thinking and my creativity. I feel better. I look better. And I am much happier. Why would I give up either one? Never!

After ten tellings, we start feeling comfortable; after twenty, we notice the difference; and after thirty others notice the difference. Joseph Pilates, the creator of the Pilates method, answered when asked, "How long does it take to reach my goal?" that after ten intense sessions, participants would feel the difference. Then, after twenty sessions, they would see the difference. After thirty sessions, others would start noticing the difference. I submit to you that it is the same with all exercising and storytelling. By the time you have completed your first ten exercise sessions and/or storytelling performances, you will start feeling comfortable enough that it won't be easy, but it will be fun. After twenty, you will really start noticing the change in your demeanor and skills - you will start looking forward to every session. And, by thirty, others will be saying, "Wow, you look wonderful. What have you been doing?" Or "Wow, your storytelling is superb. How do we hire you for our event?"

Remember, send me your FEEDBACK. Let me know how the exercise and storytelling are working together.

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