Stories are everywhere around us. In every part and place of our lives.
Only: we are often much too busy to see them. Too blinkered by life’s challenges, the haste of getting from A to B, the illusion that life is a to-do list, and idleness evil.
Open senses are all it takes to escape this gridlock that makes so many of us unhappy; open eyes open up new perspectives.
Here’s a story (or rather a couple of possible plots) I literally stumbled upon while running in a close-by park – not away from anything, not towards anything, actually in circles, letting my thoughts do the same.
It’s the story of this deserted park bench jacket.
*Disclaimer: I didn’t put it there for this post.;)
My circling mind started asking: How did it get there? Where does it comes from? Who and where is the man (was it a man, just because it’s a man’s jacket?) who left it there? And why did he do it?
The jacket belonged to a homeless man. Lying there, taking a rest from life’s endless atrocities and perpetual failed hopes. Fell asleep in the first rays of warm sunlight surrounded by the colour of hope after yet another night in the rainy cold, looking for shelter, in vain. Hungry, thirsty, desperate, and so terribly tired, tired of life. When, after many hours of peaceful slumber, he was approached by strollers checking on him, he didn’t move. An ambulance was called, but arrived only to find out that the nameless man had passed away, covered by death’s cold hand in the late morning sun. Who was this man? What was his story? Which conflicts and pitfalls in his life brought him to this lonely park bench? And why was the jacket still there?
The jacket belonged to a man in his mid-forties who had been sitting there, trying to collect his thoughts, agonizing over the best way (if there was one) to avert the imminent drama in his life. The U-turn it was about to take, inflicted only by his own stupidity of cheating on his wife. After all that they had been through, one single moment of vain joy now thwarted it all. Would he ever see her again, his son? After his confession and pleas for forgiveness, honest, but (to her) lame promises, she had thrown him out of their house. Marital silence ever since, he was sleeping at a friend’s place. Suddenly, on his walk through the park, mixing fresh air with chain smoke, his phone rang. It was her. Asking if they could meet. Right away. He jumped up in incredulous joy, already on his way while she was still on the phone, completely forgetting his jacket. A happy ending?
The jacket belonged to a business man who had messed with the wrong people. Pushing his luck for the deal of his life with different parties, closing the bargain with the one side, pissing off the other, like real. And the other party was not the one to piss off. A thing he didn’t know, but was soon to find out on his daily walk in the park to work. The three thugs came out of nowhere, dashing from a blind spot … and then his world went black. Who was / is this man? Is he still alive? Does he have a family? What was the deal about, and what was really behind this ambush? And why did the jacket stay there while its owner has gone missing ever since?
Sounds like fiction? Sure it does, I just made it up. But .. only maybe. Do we know? Do we know ANYTHING about the world around us, our neighbours, every-day passers-by on our way to work?
Maybe the deserted bench jacket story was much more prosaic than this, maybe someone just accidentally left it there while taking his lunch break in the sunny park, fiddling around with his smart phone, then running off in a hurry to get back to work on time. Maybe just someone who didn’t want this shabby jacket anymore, too lazy to throw it into the used-clothes container?
Maybe, maybe, maybe.
There a story behind everything. And everyone’s story has its intriguing moments, twists and surprises. It’s just a question of taking a closer look, a question of perspective, of attitude.
And there is definitely some story up this jacket’s sleeve, behind its former owner for sure. Oh and: next morning the jacket was gone … Woohaah!
After all: Life is stranger than fiction.
Sometimes you don’t need many words to make your point.
And sometimes (or as it comes, quite frequently) others have already found better words anyway.
So why not purposefully quote them every now and again?
As in the case of the following “Six Classic Errors of Business Story” which my esteemed and valued storytelling friend and sparring partner James McCabe sent to me the other day. So, allow me to just quote and let the words speak for themselves. There’s more than just a grain of truth to them, as I could tell stories galore about from own experiences as witness and consumer of business wanna-be-story communication pieces, from sweet beginning to bitter end.
So here we go:
- Telling your story from the company’s view.
- Talking to the customer in the third person.
- Avoiding reality as way too “heavy”.
- Creating gratuitous feel-good factor.
- Avoiding exact detail in the search for universality.
- Calling rhetorical exercises “stories” when they are only directed at the mental processes.
What are your experiences? Do you agree with James? Disagree? Why?
Let me know!