Learning Through Storytelling

Stories are not only a great way to communicate information, they are also a powerful tool for learning it. People remember information better when it comes in the form of a story. In fact, we are so good at putting stuff together into stories that we often get things wrong with it. Fortunately, you can take advantage of our natural tendencies to learn better. Besides making your process more fun, there are three main ways stories can help you learn: forcing careful thought, assisting recall, and providing deliberate practice.

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Journaling as Thinking

Journaling doesn’t just mean recording your life for when you become super famous, you can accomplish a lot of different things by journaling. Sure, you absolutely can create a record for yourself and your family (and future biographers). You might instead want to get the neurotic and depressed thoughts out of your head and onto paper so that you can get on with business. Or perhaps you want to reinforce habits, like being grateful or generating ideas. These are great things to do, and I regularly practice all of them, but today I want to focus on journaling to understand and internalize complex material. In other words, using journaling as a tool for thinking and learning. For these purposes, journaling helps in three main ways: improving recall, figuring stuff out, and improving your chances of making connections.

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Storytelling Part 5: Resources for Digging Deeper

I’ve done my best to share a fantastic beginner’s guide to storytelling with this series, but there is a lot of depth to all of the topics that I’ve touched on. Below, I provide my recommendations on resources for digging into Story Structure, Effective Practice, Public Speaking, Oral Storytelling, Writing, and Visual Storytelling. In each section, I’ve provided a handful of my favorite “how to” resources, whether books, blogs, videos, or courses along with a section of illustrative examples applying the lessons you’ll learn from the how to books. These lists are by no means exhaustive, and if I’ve missed any of your favorite works on storytelling, please let me know, as I am always hungry for new insights on the topic.

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Storytelling Part 4: Delivery

Now that your story has a great structure and you know what good practice looks like, let’s focus on what you’re actually trying to improve with your practice: the delivery of your story. I’ve gotta tell you, this was the hardest post for me to write in this series because delivery is so dependent on your medium - public speakers care vary much about maintaining their posture and projecting their voice, comic book artists not so much. As I reflected, though, I realized that their are three principles underlying good execution in storytelling regardless of medium: clarity, pacing, and emotion. 

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Storytelling Part 3: Practice, Practice, Practice

However you choose to share your stories with the world, you’ll have to practice to make them look effortless and beautiful. You’ll need to tell more stories and tell each of your stories more times to improve your craft and your tales. To make those repetitions useful, you’ll need feedback as fast as possible, and the best feedback comes from a caring but objective partner. After I dig into each of these topics, I’ll give you a specific playbook for preparing for a speech.

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Make Decisions Like a Boss

Making good decisions is an essential life skill, and you can improve it with practice. We have some fundamental handicaps to overcome, but if we make it a habit to practice decisiveness in low-impact environments and avoid worthless decisions when it matters, we can dramatically improve our ability to make high quality decisions. By committing to better decision making, recognizing when to make decisions and when not to, improving our ability to do one thing at a time, and clarifying what we are deciding, we can improve not only the quantity but the quality of the decisions we make. 

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Habits for a Happier Life

Recently, I found myself in a funk for a month or two. I don’t want to go all James Altucher and turn this blog into a parade of failures and fears, but I think it’s important to take a look behind the curtain of the generally positive tone I keep here. So, as you read the tips below, keep in mind that they’re coming from someone who needs them.

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What I Learned at Forefront 2017

Last weekend I attended a conference called Forefront in Chicago, and I had a great time. I met a ton of great people and learned a lot. So, I wanted to record what I learned here, both so that I could keep it fresh, and also to share some of the great material with a wider audience. I learned how great it is to connect with people that are weird the same way you are, how to be happier, how better to hold myself and my clients accountable, and the value of belonging to a supportive community when trying to accomplish anything challenging. If anything I mention below sparks an interest, please follow some of the links and learn more about it, or even better, reach out so we can discuss. 

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Depth Before Breadth - Why You Should Learn One Thing at a Time

Many of us have a hard time limiting our effort to one field at a time - there’s so much interesting stuff out there and it’s more available than ever. All of this stuff can lure us into paying hidden costs when we try to learn everything all at once - costs that prevent us from getting the benefits breadth is supposed to bring. On the other hand, if you pursue depth, while you will only focus on one field at a time before moving onto the next, you will get much more out of each field, with a more robust breadth down the road. 

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Virtual Mentors

High performers frequently emphasize the importance of quality mentors, and we’ve all experienced the value of learning from people who have been there and done that. Finding a great mentor can be a big challenge, though. Luckily, you can benefit from the wisdom of impressive people you with  “virtual mentors”.

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Maximize the Value of Your Creative Inputs - Creativity Part 5

In the previous posts on creativity, I’ve mentioned “inputs” pretty frequently, but I haven’t gone into much detail about them. Today, I’ll talk about what I mean by inputs, why they’re important, and share some rules for maximizing their usefulness. I’m very excited to be sharing this with you, because I think it’s an often overlooked aspect of creativity that can have huge effects on your work with very little effort.

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Two Creativity Frameworks - Creativity Part 4

In our last installment in this series, we talked about divergent and convergent thinking. Keep that in mind, as it will be central to everything we discuss below. Today, we’re going to talk about frameworks you can use to structure your creative efforts - one for teams and one for individuals. You can use either framework in the other situation, but I find them better suited to different applications.

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Practicing Divergent & Convergent Thinking - Creativity Part 3

Okay, so I had planned on covering all of the exercises in one post, but when I broke them out, I realized I would be delivering a gigantic, hard to digest mess. So I broke it up. Our next few posts will cover all of the exercises associated with the building blocks we covered last time, starting with Divergent and Convergent thinking today. It’s a great place to start, because if you develop your ability to separate these two ways of thinking, everything else will flow naturally.

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The Building Blocks of Creativity - Creativity Part 2

Last time we came up with a definition of creativity, and today we’re going to talk about some of its core building blocks, from deferring judgment to the inputs you take in. These fundamental concepts will give you the raw materials you need to understand and undertake specific exercises to be more creative yourself - some of which we’ll detail in our next installment of the series. 

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Creativity Part 1: Defining Creativity

When I sat down to write a post about innovation, I quickly realized we had an unwieldy topic on our hands. So, instead of a single post on innovation and the future, I’ve decided to kick off a short series on creativity. To begin with, I’ll provide my favorite definition of creativity and step through each piece of it and what it implies for applications down the road. 

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The Gleeful Iconoclasm of Zhuangzi

I decided to take advantage of my vacation in China to read some Chinese philosophy in the land that gave it birth. Looking over my bookshelf, I noticed a book I had purchased for a college class - Zhuangzi. In the class we only read a tiny excerpt, and ever since it’s been on my “meaning to read” list. So I ended up pulling it out of my bag and digging in while floating through a landscape that looks exactly like a Chinese landscape painting. 

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On the Usefulness of Fiction

We've talked before about the non-fiction books that have shaped my worldview, but today I want to talk to you about fiction. A lot of my high performing, hard charging friends find it challenging to “waste” time with fiction, but you’re doing yourself a huge disservice if you agree with them. You need fiction in your life. Since I’m wrapping up a vacation where I’ve been able to read some great books, I want to share a few reasons why I think so.

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