true. real. current.
If you’ve been around here… pretty much at all, you know that my love for podcasts flows far and wide (Wondering what I’m talking about? Check it out here and here).
More than just audio content, they’re my go-to commute companions. While I’ve whittled them down and then (oops!) subscribed to a few more over the past few months, there are a few that I’m can’t-miss-gotta-listen religious about. They never fail to leave me curious and impatiently waiting for more.
A few months ago, driving through the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle, I found myself listening to Danielle LaPorte and Linda Sivertsen’s podcast, The Beautiful Writer’s Podcast (chronicled here if you’re curious!).
Each month on The Beautiful Writer’s Podcast, we get to meet - interview-style - creatives, writers, and major players in the publishing industry. These ladies know some heavy hitters. Previous guests include Steven Pressfield, Elizabeth Gilbert, Marianne Williamson, Seth Godin, and many, many more.
That month, Danielle and Linda were interviewing one of my favorite authors and academics, the storyteller who slays the shame, Brene Brown. At one point in the interview, Danielle asks Brene about how she prepares for a public speaking gig. Does she have a script? A 5-point, bullet-point outline? A set of notecards or slides at the ready?
Slowing down just a bit, Brene reveals her process.
Improv, no notes, with an arc in mind, and always, always, always beginning with an opening story. She shares that she never knows where the talk would go - that is based on the energy and vulnerability of the audience - but each talk starts with a story that must be three things:
True. Real. Current.
True. Real. Current. When I heard her say those words, I felt like I had just heard my personal writing philosophy spoken aloud. Yes, yes, yes, my soul whispered in response. True. Real. Current. Start with a story.
Story is where it all starts.
It’s how we make meaning of the world, how we pass down wisdom, and how we learn to make sense of our experiences. Stories pass through our egos straight to our hearts, allowing us to shift and engage on a deeper level.
Some stories are subconscious, like the ones we tell ourselves when we come face to face with shame or fear or heartbreak. Some stories are cultural or familial, born of oral tradition and generational transmission. And some stories are given a life and a voice in a more explicit sense, through books and blogs, movies and speeches, personal writing and intimate moments of vulnerability and openness.
Needless to say, stories are powerful beyond measure. And - when given a voice and a wholehearted purpose - they become intentional and transformative.
Long ago (well, maybe not so long ago, but 6 years feels like a long time in the life of a 30 year old), I worked as a youth minister at a church. Despite the fact that I am no longer religious, I hold that position near and dear to my heart. To this day, it remains one of my all-time favorite jobs.
As a part of the position, each week, I or one of my volunteers would give a talk about the topic of the week to a room of a few dozen high school students.
I’ll tell you... a room full of high school students?
It’s both the best and worst place to practice your public speaking skills. It’s - without a doubt - one of the toughest audiences that you’ll ever come across. You’ve got to be an expert at holding attention and engaging with curiosity. To do that, you have to start with a story.
That room taught me so much.
It’s in that room that I learned how to use my creative voice to carve an arc that captivates and teaches. It’s in that room that I learned how to give a dry subject life, how to honor what’s in the room, and how to speak with confidence and clarity.