The Fourth Wall

I’m flat out writing a book about Untold Stories- The Power of Authentic Narrative in Leadership.

I’m just loving researching it, and every day strike a rich vein through searching on Google or browsing in my local library.( I love both hard and soft copies of stuff!)
So this morning I was trawling around stories online about a favourite TV Show of mine, Boston Legal. It’s ended now, but I loved its stories, and I really liked how one of the main characters, Denny, the actor William Shatner, had lines that referred to his old character in Star Trek, Captain Kirk. In one episode his cellphone rang, it had the same ring tone as his phone in Star Trek, which was very futuristic in its time, and long before we even had cellphones.
What I like about this is not simply is it funny, but it is honest in the way it reminds us in what you might call a ‘post modern’ way that fact and fiction blur all over the place, and that Shatner is simply playing a character in a drama and none of it is real.
In theatre this is called breaking the fourth wall. In other words, the drama is not totally enclosed in four walls of fiction, one wall is open to the audience, and for interaction between the players and the audience.
I think this allows for real authenticity and interaction. We all know its a story and fiction is fun, but we also know that we are really all playing around and it allows performers to be real and interact in a real way with audiences.
This is where the true power of great story lies. They take us some place else, but well told they allow us to reflect back on our own realities and lives. Fact and fiction merge to increase our understanding.

Breaking Through Story Fear

Mastering storytelling demands giving up fear that your story is not good enough.

Presentations and conversations that start with “I’m going to tell you a story…..” immediately warm an audience but also instantly create an expectation.

In the face of this expectation, the storyteller can often experience fear about how good their story is.

This is primal and goes way back. We have always placed great value on the ability in leadership to tell great stories; ones that transform, and come from courageous experience where an immense mountain has been climbed, a great adversary slain, a tumultuous ocean crossed. We constantly compare ourselves and our stories to others. Am I more brave, smarter, more captivating than the next guy?

Standing in the power of your own story allows you to give up the need to compete or compare through story.

There will always be someone who has climbed a higher mountain, or faced a greater hurdle.

In journalism, it was the quirky, unique and authentic stories I wrote that people remembered the most, not the ones about politics and crime. Great feats are remembered, but equally so too do human stories, no matter how great or small. Stand in the power of your delight and wonder in being alive, of observing, of loving the transformations and the little things you see in the world around you, and trust that your own story and those you choose to share can always strike a chord.

Thought Puppetry

Thought Puppetry

As sure as day follows night, we will always have thousands of thoughts everyday, get thou, thou-sands, thou- ghts.

When we dream, a complex story unravels in microseconds that on waking occurs to us like an entire novel.

If we pause to think on thoughts, it is the same deal.

Think about it. Think thought. Think thousands.

We create many novels, major dramas, great feature movies, hour by hour.

It’s 7.40 am. I’ve been awake for an hour and I know if I wrote down every thought I had in the past hour it would fill a book.

Now, so what?

The trick is out of all these thoughts, which are we giving the headline to? What story line are we making to guide our day, and guide our life?

Are we really conscious?

My old habit was to grab the negative ones. No coincidence, that’s what happens in the news media. No wonder negative stories rate. They’re running at the same rate as our internal bulletins.

There is a comfort and justification and familiarity around living these ego based negatives. And then on the flipside, if we are attempting some correction of negative thoughts, we might tell ourselves we are bad for thinking them and should try to erase them.

Religion and many disciplines teach us that, we are wrong to think badly.

Well here’s a new deal.

There will always be a percentage of our thoughts that are crap, negative, boring, mundane. But we have a choice about how we weight them, how we cast them in our daily life/story/future. ( Story, stored up, store of knowledge, collected, planned calculated, saved up, regurgitated.)

We are Thought Puppeteers.

Now, who gets the lead role?

The company of thoughts are jostling for position every moment.

There is doubt, fear, worry, excitement, inspiration, creativity, happiness, playfulness, fun.

Cartoons love those little voices; the devil on the shoulder. There should be a whole cast up there.

So the practice is:

  • Take the directors chair.
  • Grasp the puppeteer’s strings, and have the thoughts you want dance, play, and weave a story.

Life would be flatline death if there was no light and shade. Cast your thoughts in the story you want to create.

Have them dance to your tune. There is a magic in us to cast a divine play for ourselves and others, a divine story.

We are the thought puppetry masters.

If the dark thoughts have a dominant role, release them.

Inject them with humour.

Funny how the best comedy is dark.

Naturally, there are ancient reasons we are moved by darkness and fear in stories.

Back before we separated out our intellects, when were so called ‘primitive’,

Stories were about survival. Dark stories were to teach of danger. To set guidelines for survival.

Humour was connection too. And to laugh at fear, and in the face of adversity, was also for survival.

Laughter and tears are so close, master storytellers are master thought puppeteers. Love your thoughts!


Wells, the sort you get water from, are a great metaphor for great storytelling. Imagine you are dunking a bucket into a deep dark well, wanting to get some cool fresh water.

Our unconscious works like that. It seems dark and unseen but has some cool and fresh ideas floating around in there. It’s great when we let that rise to the surface, allow our untold stories to be voiced. They are the most powerful and the most compelling.
When you stop and think about it, when we speak we do this all the time. We don’t really spend a lot of time reciting things verbatim from memory. Sure this is a skill and one that can be honed. But in conversation, we basically wing it.
Eloquence comes from a freedom to associate story elements juxtaposed in a fresh, cool way.
Eloquence comes from a wellspring, where a beautiful combination of mineral content and context is organically smooth.
Eloquence comes from a wish to serve, to give and to provide clear, fresh sweet stories to make a difference to another.

Stories that Tip

I just spent an amazing ten days on a silent meditation retreat, Vipassana. It rates as one of the most valuable experiences of my life. But that is another story. What I wanted to write about today is the story that had me go there, to do something I had never done before, have me head off way out of the useful comfort zones.
I had been told about the course many times over the years by friends, but their stories put me off more than inspired me to go. It sounded confronting, challenging, something I might do one day, but I wasn’t compelled to go.
It was a story from my barber, a young fully creatively tattooed guy, who said he was going, wouldn’t drink and party for New Year, and he was keen because his Dad went. His Dad had been an army man, and the barber told me his dad came back from Vipassana and hugged him for the first time and has never been angry ever again.
That tipped the balance for me and I enrolled. It wasn’t the young guy’s intention to get me to go at all. It is the sharing of heart felt stories without an attachment to a forced outcome that are the most compelling and that lead to action. It ‘s also when something is unusual that it strikes you. Likewise the story I tell about being at Vipassana that people like most is not about the strings of benefits I got, or the routines and what happens in silence. But the story about my neighbour there, a man with a purple goatee beard, bald head, a biker, from Somerset in England, there getting over the grief of losing a daughter in a road accident. He was not typical of who you would expect to go to a silent meditation retreat. He got all he needed out of it, couldn’t wait to go home have a big meat fry up after ten days of vegetables. But his story sticks, because its real, its honest, its a bit unusual, and ultimately strikes a chord.