Where’s the humanity?

whatsyourreadThis past weekend, I attended The Fillet of Solo, Chicago’s premier solo performance festival in its 16th year. Lifeline Theater partnered with a host of local performance groups in a vibrant celebration of Chicago’s long-lived storytelling and live literary scene. All performances took place in the Glenwood Avenue Arts District in Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood.

I watched four performances by Story Club. They mixed the spontaneity of an open mic with the experience and nuance of live theater. The storytellers were very entertaining and skillfully conveyed emotions without talking about their feelings. The experience reminded me why stories are so essential but are still taken for granted in our day-to-day world where we try to sell our worth, hoping enough people — or anyone at all — will listen to our pitch and actually get it.

“The missing ingredient in most failed communication is humanity” — Annette Simmons, The Story Factor

A story is personal. It’s an opportunity to connect with others on a basic yet deeper human level. Without it, our existence becomes void of meaning. Choosing to tell your story can be the next most important thing you will do. It could mean the transformation you’ve been hoping for in a long time.

Join us on March 7 for our nonprofit storytelling jam session: https://barkadacircle.com/jam-session

WHAT’S YOUR READ is Barkada Circle’s storytelling jam session — where you can share the story of your mission with your peers in a safe and supportive setting, and get immediate feedback from the audience so you can take your new material to the next level. You can present a new pitch, rough narrative, campaign idea, or raw video.

Imperfect Outcome: Happiness

whatsyourread_bkgdI recently had brunch with a friend who just returned from a tour of Scandinavia where he visited friends in Oslo. A few months before, he was on a Mediterranean cruise with his siblings. Vic had been employed in the travel industry for decades, and is now looking to venture into the world of entrepreneurship. His recent globetrotting was time away for some much needed soul-searching and field research.

“I want to remain in travel, ” Vic said decisively, “but I don’t know how to carve my own niche.”

“Who do you want to make happy,” were the first words I uttered,”and to whom would you love giving a delightful experience that becomes a story they will tell and retell for years to come?”

Vic stared at me as if to say, “The road to success I imagined suddenly turned into a maze.”

We’ve all encountered the question “What does success look like?” in strategic planning conversations. The typical answer is a set of definitive, measurable and visible outcomes — the value of which I cannot overstate. But are we shortchanging ourselves by stopping there?

Do we keep going and ask the question, “Who do I want to make happy? Who should my organization strive to keep (fill in blank with specific positive emotion)?”

Is it worth investing time and resources to be clear about everyone whose emotions we should care about and how we should make them feel? Does it matter? Does that make our work more difficult? Or does it add more value and impact for the outcome?

A study conducted by Barbara L. Fredrickson, Director of the Positive Emotions and Psychophysiology Laboratory at the University of Michigan, was published by American Scientist in 2003. It showed that positive emotions don’t just transform individuals.

“I’ve argued that they may also transform groups of people, within communities and organizations. Community transformation becomes possible because each person’s positive emotion can resound through others. Take helpful, compassionate acts as an example. Isen demonstrated that people who experience positive emotions become more helpful to others. Yet being helpful not only springs from positive emotions, it also produces positive emotions. People who give help, for instance, can feel proud of their good deeds and so experience continued good feelings. Plus, people who receive help can feel grateful, and those who merely witness good deeds can feel elevated. Each of these positive emotions—pride, gratitude and elevation—can in turn broaden people’s mindsets and inspire further compassionate acts. So, by creating chains of events that carry positive meaning for others, positive emotions can trigger upward spirals that transform communities into more cohesive, moral and harmonious social organizations.” — Barbara L. Fredrickson, The Value of Positive Emotions

What I’m saying here may seem ridiculously obvious. But can we honestly say that we are always mindful and intentional about this? Or have we evolved to care more about proving our successes through numbers?

Measuring success requires that we break it down into quantifiable components. On the other hand, an emotion cannot be defined by its fragments. We feel because of how layers of experiences weave themselves into one memorable story. Emotions are our window to what will always be the bigger picture.

I’m very excited for my friend, Vic as he begins his new journey — destination: happy.

Nonprofit Boards and Storytelling

Have you ever considered a whatsyourread_bkgdstorytelling approach to your strategy meetings?

Better yet, will your board be open to a facilitated session where they are able to share their own stories about how their path led them to your organization, why they joined the board, why they stay, they’re personal challenges, and individually what they see on the horizon?

A story takes us from where we are to where we want to go. And it does that with clarity and meaning. Stories weave facts and emotions, tangibles and invisibles — what can be proven and empirical truths that are beyond measure — into a layered whole that we, as human beings can understand. Our stories reveal how we are more alike than different through the joys, fears, frustrations and hopes we all share. Only then can we connect with each other in every aspect of being human and do the work that matters to deliver on our mission.

Before strategic planning, should come storytelling. It is the marinade that prepares us for open dialog and true collaboration.

Join us on March 7, 2013 for What’s Your Read, Barkada Circle’s Storytelling Jam Session.

Storytelling Jam Session: The Perfect Pitch

Today and every day until March 7, 2013, I will share with you an article on whatsyourread_bkgdstorytelling, a remarkable video or my own thoughts on the subject. I believe this will help us calibrate our minds toward the possibilities for creative expression. I’m also hoping it will get everyone excited about coming to What’s Your Read — Barkada Circle’s storytelling jam session.

So my first honest attempt to make that happen is by sharing with you this article from Andy Goodman’s Free-Range Thinking newsletter. It’s called The 5 Parts of the Perfect Pitch. In it, Goodman gives his assessment on the components that are common between winning pitches based on his observations of LA’s Social Innovation Fast Pitch Competition.

According to Goodman, your pitch must answer the following questions in order for your audience (or potential donor) to get the whole story:

  1. Who are you?
  2. What problem does your organization solve?
  3. What is distinctive about your solution?
  4. What evidence can you offer of impact and sustainability?
  5. What do you need now, and how will it help?

Click here to download the article’s pdf. Once you’ve got something going, we’d love to showcase your pitch at the March 7 Jam Session.