All Things Bright and Beautiful

“ Storytelling reveals meaning without commiting the error of defining it.” ….Hannah Arendt

People, what ever walk of life hold great knowledge. In the western world we have divided people up according to the their education, their intellect and their wealth. Those that have, and those that have not. Those who are bright, and those who are dumb.

When I was growing up in the 60s and 70s, and I imagine still today, parents put a great deal of stock in a child being bright. Bright was usually defined as doing well at school, reading a lot, having a good vocabulary and comprehension, or often being ‘ahead of your years’ in numeracy or literacy.

I think this is a rather narrow definition of brightness. Bright is about light, about shining. All human beings can shine given the right environment.

If we see humanity as having endless potential, then all can be bright. The old Christian hymn, went :

“ All Things Bright and Beautiful, All Creatures Great and Small, All Things Bright and Beautiful, the Lord God Loves Them All.”

So when one stops to think of the people of the world as having limitless potential, more and more untold stories emerge.

My great passion as a journalist, and still today, was to find the story in any person I dealt with. There was never ‘no’ story. In fact our training as journalists in the 1970s created a culture where it was completely unacceptable to come back from an assignment with no story.

Not only did you need to turn up with a story, it had to have a fresh angle, one that no one else had. So it had to be an untold story, with facts, and turns of phrase that were new. In radio, one was always hunting for the unique, or ‘telling’ sound bite. I taught myself to scan a conversation or an interview for fresh turns of phrase, that sound bite, that aphorism, that anecdote, that recollection that would sum up a whole story and strike a chord.

I was teaching myself to create an environment to enable anyone to be ‘bright’ about their story; where their conscious and unconscious met, and they spoke unfettered, with honesty and authenticity. This was great fun with politicians and business leaders who went to great lengths to obscure the truth, to control what they said consciously to the degree that there is not depth, validity or authenticity to what they say.

Tellingly, it was the man on the street or eyewitnesses to events that produced the most colourful and authentic interviews and soundbites. They told it like it was.

The art and science of great story encourages all in leadership to give up this control. It is ineffectual. No one believes it. The most effective leaders are ‘comfortable in their own skin’ and so when they speak, when they communicate, there is no separation between conscious and unconscious. They trust and are therefore trusted. They allow themselves to shine, to be bright, they do not obscure, and they achieve the results that they wish for.

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