Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Importance of Story Telling

Every individual has lot of things to speak about and every individual is actually a story teller. My first book is based on lot of things I’ve heard from one of my aunts who had a lot of interesting stories about the partition. Our family had moved from Bangladesh to India after the Indian partition. You would have seen lot of movies and heard lot of stories [of partition]. [Later] I realized that the stories I had heard from my aunt, when I was ten or fifteen years old, if those are accumulated, if those are curated, and presented to others, they will actually make for interesting read, which talks about humanity. It talks about human feelings, about pains and everything. And that’s where I realized, though my aunt was almost an illiterate person, who during those days somehow didn’t get a chance to go to school, she had such trove of stories, which inspired me as a kid when I was ten years old. That told me, to tell a story, you don’t have to be highly educated, you don’t have to have any degree. Anyone within this room would have a lot of things to share.

And many of these stories would be actually interesting.

That’s where I realized that story telling is not anything unique about any writer. It’s just your mindset, that, if you want to tell a story, you can always do. And, every story will have somebody, who would be interested to hear [it], and who would be inspired about [it].

I’ll give you few examples of how story telling actually helps.

I’ll [first] tell you a story about somebody, about some individual. I’ll not tell who the individual is, but after hearing the story you can realize the uniqueness [of it].

One American kid – his biological parents were not in a position to raise the kid, and that small kid was given for adoption. And then a not so rich couple in California decided to adopt this kid. The only condition for the adoption was that the kid had to be sent to college, because the biological mother… she wanted the kid to be sent to college. But then the couple, a lower middle-class couple, who wanted to adopt the child…, they themselves hadn’t been to college. But [they] somehow convinced the biological mother, ‘Come what may, we will send the kid to college.”

This kid – he was actually sent to a school, and then, when he grew up, when he was around your age, the age for going to college, he realized that his foster parents had been struggling so much to pursue his education, to pay the bills.

So, one fine he decided, he wouldn’t continue with the college - he would attend only the free classes. And he figured out there was only one course in the entre college which was free - it was on calligraphy.

You know what calligraphy is. It’s the art of handwriting.

Many years later, when he had become one of the most famous entrepreneurs, one of the most revolutionary persons in the last hundred years, Steve Jobs, [and] when he was, before his death, invited for [a] convocation in Stanford university, speaking to the audience, he told, “My entire journey as an entrepreneur, owes to that class, that course in calligraphy, because there I realized that it’s not important what I do.”

The same thing I can write, you can also write, but then what makes calligraphy unique is how you present the thing. The same thing that I can write, you can write [too], but when it’s written by an artist, in a proper calligraphic way, that makes the difference.

He attributed his entire success, in his entire life, to that course, and the lesson he learned from that course is that it’s not what you do, but it’s always how you do [that makes the difference].
Let’s move to the business part of it. There has to be a story, and how you narrate your story, is actually the crux of the success of anything, whether it’s a product, or whether it’s an entrepreneurship. Every time there has to be a story. When you buy Apple, you are not buying just the phone – it’s the story of Steve Jobs, the story what he had in mind.

[The brand “Apple” is all about the narrative – that it’s the most beautifully created and artistically calligraphed thing in the world, not just the technology or the electronics that go within it. It’s not that Apple sells the most superior and technologically advanced products in the world, but we have been made to believe, through Jobs’ story, that Apple products are indeed the most beautiful ones.]
That’s why story telling is very very important because, everything you do in life, it’s [always] about how you tell your story. When you sell a product, you are not [really] selling the product – you’re selling a story.

You would have seen the movie MS Dhoni, which came a few years back. A very small scene was there - lot of people might have forgotten that. Dhoni was a struggling cricketer. At that time, he was playing for the Ranji team for Bihar, and he had gone to Jalpaiguri to play a Ranji match, against Punjab. And the Punjab team – the captain was Yuvaraj Singh, who had already become quite famous by then. Dhoni was still a struggling player. Bihar lost to Punjab very badly. And then Dhoni had come back to Ranchi, and he was having this small adda with his gang. In his gang was that guy who [had] taught him the [famous] helicopter shot, if you remember that scene. There, his friends asked Dhoni, “Ya, Dhoni, why did we lose?”

Dhoni told, “We lost the match even before the Match [had] started.”

“What is that?”

He told, “One day before the match, Punjab was practicing, [in fact] they were coming back from the field, and it was Bihar teams turn to go to the field and practice, and everybody saw Yuvaraj Sing – he was coming from the field, very confident. The narrative, the story that we got for from his facial expression, from his body language - that made us lose immediately, because, we didn’t have that story. But the Punjab team, at that particular time, [and] Yuvaraj Singh had the story, which made them win, and we lost even before the game [had] started.”

Body language is the story [through which] you want to say, “I’m confident. It’s my story.”
It’s again, it’s another example, where a cricketer is also saying the same thing. It’s all what you speak about, what you express. Story telling doesn’t have to be always through words. Stephen Hawkins – you place him here in front of you, and his body language, his facial expressions, that also tell stories. Million words may not say a story which a silence of five minutes can say. Story telling is not only about what you write, what you say. The body language of Yuvaraj Singh – that also told a story.

In 2014, when [Narendra] Modi came to power, what was that which [had] brought him to power? Any idea? Suddenly, what had happened that the person, who, just twelve years back, was being hounded by the press as the butcher of India, who had killed so many people in Gujarat, came to power in a big way? What was that which brought Modi to power?

Social media? What about social media?

What brought him into power is again the story. His narrative was much stronger than everybody else’s. Social media, PR - obviously they helped him to express his story. But then the same social media, the same PR agencies were there for [the] other parties also. It’s again, when he told the story, about conviction, about hopes, the entire country was almost won by one person, just by the way he speaks, the way he narrates the story.

So, be it politics, be it cricket, be it business, like Steve Jobs’, it’s always [that] you have to sell [your story]. When you go for an interview, you’ve to sell yourself. But then what do you sell about yourself? It’s again [that] you’ve to tell your [own] story. 

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