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The Power of Story

September 2, 2014

It was a dark and stormy night in the Catskill mountains, and a band of robbers sat around their daily spoils.

“Boys, let’s have a story,” the captain said. And this is the way the story went.

“It was a dark and stormy night in the Catskill mountains and a band of robbers sat around their daily spoils.”

“”Boys, let’s have a story,” the captain said. And this is the way the story went.”

“”It was a dark and stormy night in the Catskill mountains, and a band. . .””

That is my mother-in-law’s favorite joke. she can keep some of her younger grandkids strung along for 4 or 5 iterations before they figured out it is just the same story with the end tied into the beginning.

Stories are an important part of your business. People are going to tell stories regardless. You have the opportunity to define the story, if you choose to.

In marketing they call it “controlling the message.” I’m not in marketing. I call it “telling stories.” We had an intern one time who said to me,

Rodney, when people ask me what my boss is like, I tell them you’re the old guy who sits around telling ancient computer stories.

Well, maybe I am. But, I believe strongly in the power of story.


Last weekend, my family and I attended the 25th Annual Timpanogos Storytelling Festival. The point of the three day festival is simple: telling stories. We gathered at the Timpanogos Storytelling park in Provo Canyon. And under large white tents designed to keep off the rain or the sun, we sat for hours listening to stories.


There was Antonio from Brazil who took my kids to a magical animal party in the sky.

Douglas took us back to a one room schoolhouse in the West Virginia mountains where as a second grader he learned about paddling.

I’ll admit, to someone who’s never been, a Storytelling festival seems. . .odd. Maybe slightly eccentric, like a writer who insists on using a manual typewriter.

But, to those who attend, it’s a wonderful experience. My children don’t know they are witnessing an art form that predates the written word. All they know is that Bill Lepp is one funny guy.

Storytelling is important in business as well. We don’t call it that. We call it “lessons learned” or “best practices.” But each line in a best practices document is there because someone was doing something and they figured out a new way of doing part of it, and now they want to tell you about it.

Stories do another thing. They bind people together. Reliving our shared experiences draws a team closer together. Sharing personal stories is an even stronger bond.

In the movie “Saints and Soldiers,” five allied soldiers are trapped behind enemy lines and desperately trying to get back to their units. The British pilot suggests they share some personal information with each other so that they can feel more connected.

“The first time I kissed my wife was the day we were married,” offers one soldier. “I used a car engine vacuum tube to give myself hickies so people would think I had a girlfriend,” added another. Finally, they turn to the Brit and ask, “How about you? What’s your secret?”

“I couldn’t possibly share that with you fellas. I barely know you.”

Give your teams the opportunity to have shared experiences, but most importantly give them an opportunity to share stories.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and one grandchild.

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