…so wrote Italian Poet Cesare Pavese. We may think that our minds are sharp and that we commit to memory everything that our senses detect, but when it comes to remembering, only certain moments appear.
Only moments which matter to us remain vivid. The first day I went to school sticks out for me, yet I can remember nothing of the second. Others include the first time I armed myself with a compass and led my mum and dad across Kinder Scout. Another the fateful moment I was airlifted off Mt. McKinley. What makes a moment special..? I think it’s because you are experiencing a defining instant in your life with heightened senses, such as tingling nerves, open eyes, and a pounding heart. These memories often bring with them stories which you will tell over and over again, throughout your life. If you’re lucky, every time you recount them, your mind and body will still be in the moment, whether it be good or bad. As we get older, some stories stay and some wane. I wonder how many times you have sat with your parents and thought that you’d heard the same story before, perhaps many times..? It’s because that moment, that story is locked into your parent’s mind and embarrassing or not, you’re going to hear it again. I wonder how many times you’ve thought ‘not that old tale again dad..!’
As a keynote speaker, I find these moments bring to life some of the most vivid stories that I can tell. I sat down recently and made a list of the more relevant ones, and with a single sentence, created a library of useful tales. All have a relevance in life and perhaps a moral, but more importantly, they deliver a message. Often as a speaker, I get asked to fill in for a few minutes, due to a pause in the day. I can quickly provide tales of adventure, fear, life and learning which are short and to the point. If you can do this within a few minutes of being asked, you will please both your audience and organisers. The secret is to speak about moments that you experienced personally, as your emotional attachment will make them all the more vivid. Never borrow stories from someone else. You’ll soon be seen through.
You don’t just tell stories when you deliver a keynote. Around the camp fire, on a walk, even whilst stuck in a storm on a glacier, these stories will provide an insight into you and your life. The secret is to deliver them with direction and grace. Too many times, I’ve heard people butting in, demanding to be heard, because they want to relate with what you’re saying. The world is full of such folk and many people find them hard work. The problem is that many people are also too polite to interject themselves. I’ve seen people physically pushed away by others who feel they need to spin a better yarn. We all are very different, but we should all display manners.
I’ve held storytelling workshops sat around a camp fire, beginning with a simple tale, but then opening the floor. Some, like my first day at school will resonate with an audience, as many people share such memories. Here we see people sharing their special moments, and evenings filled with emotion and wonder take place. What I often see are people losing their inhibitions because they are speaking about something relevant to them. The flickering flames bring a comforting, almost primeval light, which is much kinder than the stark electrical lights of the 21st century. Suddenly we can be transported back to an era where storytelling was king. Of course, stories change, but many cultures evolved around story telling. My grandfather used to sit me down and recount his appalling experiences in Burma, but as a child, all I wanted to do was listen. I can still remember the light of the flickering coal fire, the smell of Woodbine Cigarettes and the gentle voice which spoke of mud, stench and violence. I could never tell his stories, but I wonder how many of you sat down with your grandparents at some time, and listened intently to theirs..?
We need to make sure that this tradition is not lost. The digital world can record everything, but relate to nothing. It creates huge amounts of data, too much in fact, and doesn’t allow those precious moments to rise. As human beings, we will remember moments that hold a special place or emotion to us. What we must do is never forget them, share them if we wish, and pass this wonderful tradition onward into society.
I wonder what are your moments are..? Do you treasure them..? Do you speak about them..? Perhaps you should…