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The Storyteller in the Mirror

by Joel Machak

You are a storyteller. Maybe a damn good one. If you’ve experienced a modicum of success in life, then in fact you are a powerfully good storyteller. The truth is, the stories that you tell yourself, your internal narratives, have proven motivational force. You are the proof. If you listen close, those stories might teach you a thing or two about the craft.

Psychologists know that the human mind does little better than tell itself stories. Stories are the hallmark of our private mind’s existence. Throughout the day, we each relive the stories of many things that have happened. And we weave endless “if-so’s” about what might happen in the future. And we edit, rewrite, and retell. It’s how the conscious mind paints reality. It’s how it turns experience into memory. And how it identifies meaningful patterns and cooks up promising strategies for tomorrow. It never stops, even when we sleep.

As humans, we all enjoy hearing the stories of others. Their stories allow us to see into their lives, to see how they think. And to affirm how we think. Stories help us bring order to the chaos and random events of our lives. They help us solve problems and confirm our own ideas about things. Stories allow us to experience life’s most powerful emotions without the costs or risks that accompany those emotions in real life. And nothing implants a memory better than a good tale well told. Studies tell us that the mind remembers information from a story up to 22 times better than from a presentation of the data alone.

So try and listen a little more closely to the tales you tell yourself. Use them as teaching tools – your private master class in storytelling. I’m betting you’ll find them to be mostly excellent, with good structure, even novelty and humor. There’s always a good hero. A beginning, middle, and end. Numerous larger-than-life characters. A good dash of tension, intrigue, and mystery. And a dénouement that bestows a sense of order, satisfying importance, and poetic justice.

Since the dawn of mankind, storytelling has been our most powerful way to deliver information and motivate behavior – among individuals, communities, and entire societies. And it all starts with that little voice we all know so well, our storyteller inside. Keep listening. And learning.

Joel Machak

EVP, Executive Creative Director

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