If you can tell a better story about yourself, you will live a better life. I’m living proof of that. Seven years into my marriage, I felt stuck in reverse. My husband and I were living a safe, status quo, all-American story – decent jobs, good kids and a roof overhead. But it failed to satisfy. Deep down we wanted so much more. And that “so much more” had nothing to do with a fat paycheck or a big home in the suburbs – we wanted our lives to be an unfolding adventure in pursuit of things we loved. So we decided to rewrite the script of our lives and invite some adventure in.
It came at a high cost – we quit our jobs, put our house on the market and sold everything in it. We also moved 4,000 miles apart to gain clarity. But the reward has been great – my husband is back in school at the age of 42 while I reinvent myself and my career. We feel fully alive as we live out a story that’s 100 percent authentically our own.
There is so much power in story. If you need help reframing the story of your life but don’t know where to begin, take your cue from The Moth. When it comes to storytelling, they do it best. Here’s why incorporating their techniques will help you gain the guidance you need to walk in your truth.
1. You may not have an epic story but no matter how small, it’s significant.
When The Moth storytellers step up to the mic, they assume the air of quiet confidence that everyone has a story worth telling. Yes, there’s the writer who moved to Jerusalem to be a part of the peace process but there’s also the daughter of a stripper who learned some cool life lessons from her free-spirited mother. Every story is worth listening to.
2. You’ll be tempted to give an intro but start with the hook instead.
If your beginning is bad, no one will listen to the end. So make your beginning bold. In my seven years as a radio broadcaster, how I framed my stories changed one day when consultant Tracy Johnson shared, “If you don’t start a story with a good hook, 50 percent of your audience will tune out immediately.” It’s true.
3. You might want to get stuck in the conflict zone but a good story ends with overcoming.
Storyteller extraordinaire Donald Miller says the premise of any good story involves conflict you must overcome, but it’s the end of the story, the overcoming, that truly inspires. Only you have the power to craft that ending. Think through how you want your story to end. The Moth states, “Your last line should be clear in your head before you start.”
4. Consider this: What would your story sound like if you spoke from an authentic place, forgetting about pleasing your listening audience?
I think you’ll find as you share honestly from the heart, you’ll connect authentically with other people. Storytelling Tip #6 from The Moth is: No standup routines. The world isn’t a stage where you get to be a funnyman sharing your best zingers. The world is a place hungry for people who desire deep connection.
5. Your life is far from perfect but that just means it’s more interesting in scope and depth.
As you rehearse your story “Moth-style,” you’ll hold your own life right up to the light and realize it’s beautiful because of its fractures – not in spite of them. The illusion of perfection is not “Moth-worthy.” Case in point: the story of road rage that landed a new mom in jail. Totally imperfect. But crazy interesting.
6. You need to save your preaching because there’s no “moral of the story.”
The quickest way to make your audience snooze is by talking down to them. It’s insulting and fails to ring with truth. No one has the monopoly on truth. The Moth recently featured a tour guide who confronted racism at work and a man addicted to cookies! They each tell equally compelling stories because we’re all a work in progress on a journey towards wholeness.
7. You might want to stage your life but you’ve got to go with the flow.
Whether you’re at a networking event or giving a presentation in the boardroom, it helps to have bullet points in your mind to keep you on track, but you need to flex and switch gears if need be. The Moth instructs people to imagine they’re “at a dinner party, not a deposition.” No scripts are allowed at “the Moth.” No papers. No props.
8. You know what you have to gain but what do you have to lose?
A good story comes at a cost. The Moth believes unless your story has some stakes, it’s not worth telling.The most memorable stories involve great risk and the potential for great reward. They involve transformation. Deep emotional truth. Vulnerability. Risking a broken heart. Going for broken to chase a dream.
9. Lighten up a little – life isn’t all rainbows and butterflies but it sure isn’t all bad, either.
Practice gratitude in the little things. Once you pay attention to details you ordinarily overlook in the course of your day, it might wake you up to a full-on flow of a thousand things to be grateful for. Even the darkest story shared on The Moth weaves in humor and moments of levity.
10. Practice does not make perfect – it makes for perfectly imperfect.
The temptation is always there to memorize line for line to recite a script with a steel-trap memory. But that’s not real, is it? And if something isn’t real, it won’t resonate. I’ve stood onstage after sweating out a speech word-for-word…only to have it fall flat. Why? Because it’s contrived. Should you practice? Absolutely. But don’t spend the bulk of your time manufacturing an image that’s dishonest.
11. Venting is not fuel for a great story – leave your anger out of it.
You’ve got anger issues? So does 99 percent of the population. This fails to intrigue or inspire. If you need to let off steam, call a shrink. Then get back to work on telling a story worth listening to. No one wants to hear a monologue spewing hatred. Most of us can get that by walking down the street. Aim higher for your sake – and everyone else’s.
12. It’s your story – not your friend’s story.
This is Rule #4 for everyone who submits a pitch to The Moth. You don’t get to hijack the stories of your loved ones and pass it off as your own. Have the courage to live your own story and tell it with heart. The greatest weapon you have against self-doubt lies in the narrative you’ll create to communicate your truth. The most powerful story you’ll ever tell is yours and yours alone.
Featured photo credit: El Nariz via shutterstock.com