Storyworthy: Engage, Teach, Persuade, and Change Your Life through the Power of Storytelling by Matthew Dicks

Matthew Dicks is an elementary school teacher from Connecticut. His friends challenged him to tell a story at a Moth StorySLAM. After two years of delaying, he finally put his name in the hat for an opportunity to tell a story on the stage in front of an audience. His got picked. He finally told his story and won the competition that night. The experience changed his life. He started telling more stories. Six years later, he had won 34 of 53 StorySLAM competitions and is a five-time GrandSLAM champion.

After his interview on the Art of Manliness podcast #462: How to Tell Better Stories, I decided to get his book and see if I could be a better storyteller.

Why be a better storyteller?

We all have moments where the spotlight is on us. Maybe we are asked to give a toast at a wedding or a presentation at work. it could even be amongst friends around the dinner table. Too many times I have been in that situation. My nerves would get the better of me. My train of thought would fall of the cliff into the chasm of awkward silence. The points I wanted to make would never make it to its intended destination. I’m sure you have been in similar situations. It is embarrassing and uncomfortable. It can also be prevented. Learning to tell a great story is a craft. And if told well, it could leave a lasting impression on those who hear it. Therefore, we should all become better storytellers.

The Highlights

  • The purpose of a story is to reflect how you changed. It is not just anecdotes or memorable moments. It is transformational. As the author states, “You must start out as one version of yourself and end as something new.”
  • Homework for Life. This is a storytelling collection system employed by the author. At the end of each day, he writes down five possible stories from the day. This can be either events that happened or meaningful memories from the past. Not all of them might become stories, but it is a way to collect and generate new ideas. His best practice is to place them in an Excel spreadsheet. I tried this. At first, I was a miserable failure. I started out strong for a couple of days, and then I dropped off. Getting on my computer before bed was the last thing I wanted to do. When I did, the blue lights would charge my system and get my mind working. Even when I tried this in night mode, my sleep was affected. As an alternative, I added this to my daily evening journal practice done handwritten in a notebook and by the light of a lamp. Reviewing and sorting is not as easy as it is in a spreadsheet, but at least I am getting in the daily practice.
  • “Every great story ever told is essentially about a five second moment in the life of a human being, and the purpose of that story is to bring that moment to the greatest clarity possible.” If it is not bringing clarity, get rid of it or at least minimize it in the story. Highlight the moments that bring greater clarity.
  • The start is the most important element. Add forward movement, go into the present tense as much as possible, use physical locations. Tell it like a movie.
  • People love the underdog. If you are the hero in the story, show how you were supposed to lose and pulled off the unexpected. Too much arrogance in your abilities is a turn off for the listener.

Final Thoughts

This has been a fantastic read and should help me become a better storyteller. By employing some of the techniques and practices in this book, I have already made some positive improvements. I can’t wait to see how I evolve as a storyteller and plan to review this book on an annual basis to measure progress.

One Take from the Week #4: Harder-than-I-Thought New Habit

Art of Manliness #462: How to Tell Better Stories

A few weeks ago, I listened to the above podcast episode interviewing Matthew Dicks, the author of Storyworthy. He is a professional storyteller and gives his advice on how we can learn to tell better stories. This seemed right up my alley of interests, and I was eager to learn what I could.

It all starts with homework. Okay, homework. I can do that. It sounds simple enough. So, what exactly do I need to do? Every night before I go to bed, I need to spend five minutes recapping the most interesting part of my day. This information will go into an Excel file. There is no need for a lot of details, just a few bullet points. Then, on a weekly basis, I can go back pick one and come up with a worthy story. This is the first step and the inspiration behind my new weekend series of posts, “One Take from the Week.”

A new habit that takes five minutes. This is so simple that anybody can do it! Except me. The first week, I completed it a couple of nights, skipped a night, did another night, and skipped a few more. That didn’t go so well. Why? Well, at the end of the night, I am ready to shut down. After a day of working out, reading, writing, coaching, and going to the job that pays the bills, the last thing I want is to do the homework. And it is not about wanting to do the homework, so much as it is about forgetting.

What went wrong? I never set the alarm. Now I have a ton of alarms on my phone for just about everything that needs a reminder. Some of these alarms go off, and I immediately dismiss it. Yes, I know I need to take the dog for walk, coach in an hour, and even get out of the car and start walking to work when it is time to clock-in. Often, another alarm gets lost in the multitude and gets silenced.

But I set the new alarm anyway. Why? Because I must do better. I believe this habit is important, and I really want it in my life.

The successful person makes a habit of doing what the failing person doesn’t like to do.

Thomas Edison

Now, what I am not saying is that this will make me successful and you, for not doing this homework, will be a failure. But if this something I want to do and cannot get it done, then I have failed (in this instance). Nathanael Emmons said, “Habit is either the best of servants or the worst of masters.” This is a new habit that will serve me well in the future. If, I can develop the discipline to see it through. Five minutes is all it takes to turn off the alarm, stop what I am doing, and think and record something that was impactful during my day. Just five minutes. We need our habit to serve us. We need them to help us optimize our lives. Is there a new habit you are wanting to begin or have recently started? I would love to hear about it and any tricks you used to make it stick.