The Power of Storytelling

An ancient parable remains close to my heart: a Jewish man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho when he was attacked by robbers, leaving him half dead. A priest and a Levite saw him, yet passed by. But a Samaritan came to where the man was and bandaged his wounds. Then, put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn, and cared for him until he healed. Today, this beautiful story is the etymology of the phrase “good Samaritan”, a person who is a “neighbor” not just to people of their own group (at the time, intense hostility existed between Samaritans and Jews). We understand it, remember it, and retell it later because the idea of love, compassion, and a man crossing a tremendous social gulf to help a wounded man sticks with us. The story may even change behaviors as we remember to help others in times of distress. Legendary stories like these encapsulate: stories hold a miraculous power.

Made to Stick is a book I read written by two brothers, Chip Heath, a professor of organizational behavior at Stanford University and Dan Heath, a senior member for Social Entrepreneurship at Duke University. The brothers explain, “stories are told and retold because they contain wisdom. A story’s power is that it provides simulation (knowledge about how to act) and inspiration (motivation to act).” Being a health and fitness freak, the key example highlighted in the book sticks with me: the Jared Campaign for Subway. In the late 1990’s, Subway launched a campaign to tout the healthiness of a new line of sandwiches. This campaign was based on the statistics: seven subs under six grams of fat. Sounds pretty good yeah? But this 7 under 6 idea didn’t stick quite like Subway’s next campaign which focused on the remarkable story of Jared. Jared, a college student, was seriously overweight, ballooning up to 425 pounds. But by spring, Jared decided to slim down. He had his first Turkey sub. He eventually developed his own all-Subway diet: a foot long veggie sub for lunch and a six-inch turkey sub for dinner. After 3 months of this diet, he dropped almost 100 pounds. Coad and Barry, president of the advertising agency Hal Riney, found out about this and thought, “we’ve got a great story on our hands”. They decided to run an advertisement for regional Subway franchisees. The idea blew the internet. Unlike the 7 under 6 idea which only held logos, the tale of Jared holds a simulation value as well as pathos, the emotional resonance. Perhaps we’re not all looking to lose weight. But ‘fighting big odds and prevailing through perseverance’ rings inspiration to any ear. And inspiration drives action.

That being said, not all stories stick. Chip and Dan hence came up with 3 types of plots if our goal is to inspire others through stories. First, the challenge plot. We all recognize this one, where a protagonist overcomes a formidable challenge yet succeeds in the end, attracting triumph and glory. As someone obsessed with Disney princesses, my personal favorite, much similar to the Jared story, is the story of Princess Mulan. Mulan is a loving and determined daughter. Desperate to prevent her ailing father from being drafted by the army, she disguises herself as a man and enlists in his place. In the army, she must try to hide her true identity while battling the enemies. With determination and bravery, Mulan ends up saving both her father and her country. Seems like the quintessential challenge plot, right?

Second, the connection plot. The story of the good Samaritan fits well here. We live in a world where we are constantly surrounded by people. Connection plots are all about the relationships we make with these people. In the business world, connection plots create an emotional connection between a company, its products and its customers. Always is a company that produces period products. As a girl, watching the advert from Always titled ‘Like a girl’ made me feel proud being one. It showed a group of teens acting out certain actions such as “Can you throw like a girl?” or “Can you fight like a girl?”. Girls were illustrated as soft, wimpy, and sloppy. The ad then contrasted this by asking the same questions to little girls. These girls this time ran, threw, and fought normally. “When did doing something “like a girl” become an insult?” was the food for thought. All over the nation, this advert empowered women. Our power was unleashed!

Third, the creativity plot. As a frequent flyer, I often observe how on-flight safety instructions are given little attention by passengers. One of my favorite examples of the creativity plot is hence the one about flight attendant, Karen Wood. Karen wanted to make people care about the safety instructions on-flight. “And as the song goes, there may be fifty ways to leave your lover, but there are only six ways to leave this aircraft:…”, she spoke. It didn’t take long for passengers to tune into her comic spiel. We can’t demand attention, we must attract it. Creativity plots help us achieve this as we experiment with new approaches (within certain regulations, of course).

The power of storytelling fascinates me. Thousands of years ago, myths and legends were told through oral cultures. These developed profound ways of communicating so that cultures were kept alive. Think also about the way we get lost in fictitious worlds from books and movies. I often marvel over how the horror movies I watch haunt me in my sleep, or how tales of adventure like Princess Moana’s venture into the sea drive me to go set out on my own, or how romance novels set expectations in love I’d possibly carry with me throughout my life. In the marketing world, too, it is through storytelling that the audience is able to connect, engage, and most importantly remember messages. As Steve Jobs exceptionally summarizes, “the most powerful person in the world is the storyteller who sets the vision, values and agenda of an entire generation that is to come.”

– SaaniaSparkle 🧚‍♀️

47 thoughts on “The Power of Storytelling

  1. That being said, not all stories stick.

    Indeed.

    Jared Fogle is currently serving 15 years on child sex abuse charges.
    Subway is no longer running the “Take Jared’s Tour de Pants” ad campaign.

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  2. In Spanish they are called “Canatadoro” Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Mother Night, is available from SoundsTrue.com. She is a wonderful story teller. Also, the classic on the subject is of course “Hero with 1000 Faces” by Joseph Campbell. Thanks for sharing … very thought provoking !

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “The mightiest thing in us is the soul, in the drama of the soul where we are not the author ourselves; we only have a supporting role to play in the dream. To interpret the dream daily so that I can re-engage with the reality of the world, with the environment, with new insight.”

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great article on the power of storytelling! I particularly liked the examples you provided, both the Jared campaign for Subway and the story of Mulan. I agree that stories have the ability to not only provide knowledge and information, but also inspiration and motivation. It’s interesting to see how the Heath brothers categorize stories into different plots, it definitely helps to understand how to craft a story that will resonate with people.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. SMiles SaaniaSparkle
    Key is Writing Directing
    Playing Your Own

    Story

    Escaping
    From Only
    A Spectator
    Or Actor of

    Someone Else’s
    Play Fortunately
    Some Countries

    Are

    Free Enough
    To Allow Individual

    Souls

    Away From

    Forced Covers

    Of
    Other
    Stories
    Slammed
    Shut With

    Books
    Limiting

    To
    Only Pages
    Of A “Matter With Things”

    Suffering
    From NDD
    Nature Deficit
    Disorder Away
    From Naked Enough

    Whole
    Complete iN Play 🌲

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Further thought. Your writing is delightful. You have a very broad span of observation and the ability to make comingling of wisdom sources. You are smart and athletic in the sense of travel and vigor of going place to place. I think you inspire girls to be everything they can be. You do, in fact, Sparkle!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Story telling is also recognized as Knowledge Management (in government and library circles) because people have realized the staying power of stories and it helps people remember more than mere facts. Good post.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Very nicely done! I really enjoyed that. Storytelling is what helps keep me sane and connected to me & to any readers.

    Now as to romance novels, I avoid them specifically because of any possible expectations that I KNOW I can’t reach but with the comedic pieces? Hell, I’m fondly quoting cheesy stuff all the time. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  9. The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side.
    And great multitudes were gathered together unto him, so that he went into a ship, and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore.

    All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them:
    That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world.
    Matthew 13:1,2;34,35

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Story telling has always been part of the human experience. However, in ancient times, it was much more vital than Aesop’s Fables. The error often is made that prewritten history such as the Bible presents is unreliable because it was oral. Comparing it to The Telephone Game, people assume the stories became embellished and changed to assume heroic proportions. Check out: https://capost2k.wordpress.com/2015/05/17/the-reliability-of-the-bible-part-1/ to debunk this idea.
    Keep telling the story, Saania!
    ❤️&🙏, c.a.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Jewish avoda zarah during the Middle Ages

      The distinction between the Book of Commandments, published by the earliest Reshonim scholars to how modern scholarship understands Torah precedents, which establish Torah Common Law. The Books of Torah commandments made by Jewish scholars after Rav Ashi and Rav Ravina sealed the Talmud, beginning with a code published by Rabbi Saadia Gaon, and further developed by the B’hag and followed by the Rambam’s code of the commandments impacted and shaped lesser rabbinic authorities something like a ירידות הדורות “domino effect”.

      Rabbi Saadia Gaon organized his theory of commandments something like the concentric cone made by water going down a tub drain. His theory prioritized the 10 commandments as the Av commandments. All other Torah commandments function as toldot/off spring\ commandments to the 10 commandments of Sinai.

      The difficulty with this legal theory, the Talmud teaches that Israel in hysteria and panic following the revelation of the opening first two revelation Commandments at Sinai, that our forefathers thereafter, in fear of their lives, demanded from Moshe that he make aliya upon Sinai and receive the rest of the Torah.

      Another apparent flaw in this early Gaonic commandment Biblical codification, the failure to identify T’NaCH prophesy “Commandments” as mussar. Mussar, by definition does not exist as some ossified or petrified fossils, turned unto stone box thinking or pigeon-holed classifications. The Written Torah like the Talmud exists, at least to some Talmudic and Reshonim opinions argue that both exist as highly edited texts. A dispute within the Talmud itself, concerning the authorship of the concluding verses of the Book of דברים\משנה תורה. It appears to me that Rabbi Yechuda Ha’Nasi favours the opinion that Moshe did not write the Book of דברים, but rather taught this Book baal peh/orally to Israel. That Rabbi Yechuda Ha’Nasi based his common law codification, the Mishneh, upon the Oral Torah משנה תורה Book דברים.

      The later assimilated Books of Commandments codifications, published in the early Middle Ages, they all fundamentally erred. Their failure to grasp, that all T’NaCH prophets command mussar. That the vision of T’NaCH prophesy applies equally, across the board, to all generations of Israel. The division of the Talmud into two main branches: Halacha & Aggadita supports this thesis. That the sages both Tannaim and Amoraim viewed the T’NaCH prophets as teachers of mussar aggadita. Rather than physical historical predictions of future events, as the New Testament claims.

      The rabbis of the early Middle Ages, like as do all g’lut generations of exiled Jewish refugee populations, who to the present-day dwell among foreign cultures and customs. That all generations of g’lut Jewry, by definition, struggle with foreign assimilation. Specifically, the assimilation wherein Goyim scholars view the T’NaCH Books as historical history rather than aggadic mussar. The New Testament promotes the narrative of a physical virgin birth Jesus, as opposed to an imaginary man mussar about a messiah.

      The church views as utter heresy the idea that the Jesus gospel stories, restricted to only tell a glorified tale of a mystic mythical, fictional character. Such a possibility shatters the church ethical containment force, established early on, based upon their classic Creeds, Doctrines, and Dogmatism.

      The early assimilated rabbinic authorities, influenced by how the church organized its ethical containment force religion, the power exerted by these foreign influences, they equally persuaded the Reshonim rabbis to write their rigid books of statute law Torah commandments. This statute law perversion divided the תרי”ג Commandments into a positive/negative statute code of Torah commandments.

      All the later Reshon Books of Commandments, such as the ספר החינוך or how the Smag, a pro-Rambam Baali Tosafot scholar who attempted to organize Talmudic halachot around the order of the Rambam’s book of commandments. Both latter examples, highly influenced by the Rambam’s sefer ha’mitzvot, they failed to consider how aggadita interprets the T’NaCH as mussar. This tremendous error aroused the late 19th Century mussar movement lead by rabbi Israel Salanter. Most essentially that mussar serves as the common denominator which connects the Torah commandments together with all the Books of the NaCH prophets! That mussar likewise merges together with the narrative stories of Talmudic aggadah and later Midrashic sources of scholarship as a unified whole mussar instruction. That mussar simply does not compare to a rigid shaped ice-cube tray, as expressed through Roman statute law.

      This channeling of the Torah into rigid religious frames of reference, it appears to me, introduced: comparable to the error made by king Shlomo, and his decision to build a catholic like cathedral Temple. This gross error, it ignored the direct mussar by which the prophet Natan instructed king David not to build a house of Cedar. Shlomo, none the less chose to build the Temple rather than establish Federal Sanhedrin lateral common law courts across the States/Tribes of the Republic; the basis by which to rule the Republic through judicial justice as the Temple commanded by king David. This decision triggered a ירידות הדורות domino effect, as seen by Ezra’s efforts to build a Temple, based upon the visions of Ezekiel.

      Both this and that, they triggered a tremendous error, a ירידת הדורות upon the following generations, and most especially upon g’lut Jewry. The codification of the Torah into frozen brittle commandments effectively collapsed the vision of משנה תורה common law precedents! The latter makes a fundamental distinction between Torah precedents and Torah Common Law. All the commentaries made upon the classic halachic codifications learn by statute law rather than common law which learns the halachot of the Gemara as precedents to understand the k’vanna of a given Mishna.

      The writings of the New Testament apostle Paul, its impact compares to the meteor that struck the Earth and caused the dinosaurs total extinction! Paul, as a self declared agent of God, he preached to the Goyim – the freedom of Goyim from under “the Law”. Paul qualifies as an anarchist revolutionary. His religious rhetoric propaganda conveniently failed to validate the day and night distinction which separates Jewish Common Law from Roman Statute Law! All the later commentaries, as just previously mentioned above, written upon the halachic Reshon codifications, these assimilated rabbis, they too failed to make this distinct about absolutely fundamental separation between shabbat and chol … common law from statute law.

      The early Middle Ages Books of Torah commandments prioritizes Commandments over Torah Oral Torah Book of דברים precedents. Therein they assimilate to the error viewpoint which perverts Torah commandments into Statute Laws. Based upon the assumption that Torah Commandments stand upon their own legs, totally independent from Oral Torah common law. This error fails to learn Oral Torah legal precedents, created with a purpose to compare Oral Torah Book of דברים middot precedent to Written Torah sugiot, based upon shared פרדס middot – as taught through the kabbalah of Rabbi Akiva, with the intention to learn prophetic mussar interpretations of the k’vanna of legal Common Law halachot!

      Assimilation to Goyim cultures and customs, Jewish rabbinic authorities erred and perverted the Torah into a Plato/Aristotle logic & statute law avoda zarah; a direct violation of the 2nd Sinai commandment. The Rambam, for example, failed to discern that monotheism violates the 2nd Sinai Commandment. He erroneously thought that praying to Allah did not violate the 1st Sinai commandment! As such his avoda zarah error duplicated Aaron’s translation of the Name of HaShem unto אלהים – the sin of the Golden Calf.

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  11. I used to be a member of the Samaritans in Britain many years ago! Even though I’m no longer a member I hope I still maintain their values and philosophy.
    Interesting post Saania 🙂

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  12. An excellent post, Saania. The story of the Good Samaritan has remained with me all my life. The first time I read it as a child and then heard it told, made a big impact on me. Steve Jobs was also spot on the money. Even with the training I have conducted over the years, I know it’s most effective when I weave in my stories (my experiences).

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  13. Je t’envoie cette petite poésie SAANIA

    Pour te souhaiter une bonne journée ou soirée
    Avec beaucoup de délicatesse et de tendresse
    Que chacune des secondes de cette journée ou soirée
    Soit un poème dont la poésie embellit toute chose
    Que ce petit message , vous porte bonheur et vous ouvre les portes
    D’une belle journée. Ensoleillée ou d’une belle soirée toute étoilée

    Bisous Bernard

    Like

  14. Ah, what a lovely post! Indeed, mastering the art of storytelling holds powerful implications. Wonderfully written, great examples. Especially loved the creativity plot bit – brilliant!

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  15. Thank you for sharing this with me. I will say that Jared went to jail for being a pedophile, so I don’t know if you should highlight him. Anyway, I want to major in creative writing so that I can go to hospitals and other places and inspire the creativity that many have forgotten. Everyone just has to tap into their potential. I will then probably work at a fast place or a retail shop. It’s difficult to have just one job in the US, especially now.

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  16. Very interesting thoughts! I only knew about Chip and Dan Heath’s book called “Decisive” (a guide on how to make better decisions basically), but this one seems really interesting too!

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  17. Wonderful post. Absolutely true. In getting a message across powerfully weave it into a story. Creatively. For both adults and children. In fact the best way to inspire values in kids is to not instruct them to be kind or loving etc but tell them indirectly through a story!

    Like

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