Bringing your stories to life
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Isabel Allende’s legendary novel, Eva Luna

Yes I know. This is meant to be a blog about corporate story telling. Why, oh why am I telling you about a novel written by the daughter of a Chilean diplomat whose life path was deeply influenced by the military coup that brought Pinochet to power?

It’s simple. No one tells stories, or understands the impact that story telling makes on people and society, quite like Isabel Allende (apart from Gabriel Garcia Marquez, William Shakespeare and the Monty Python team, perhaps…).

Don’t believe me? Listen to her speak about Tales of Passion at a TED Conference last year (be warned though: it’s a highly flammable concoction of comedy, tragedy, passion and truth).

So what can the corporate world learn from Allende’s unique brand of Magical Realism? So much, I could write a thesis on it. I shall not though. Instead, I shall simply quote a short passage from the book in which the heroine of the novel, Eva Luna, uses her great gift for story telling to help the hero recreate his past, bit by bit.

“What happened to Katharina?”

“She died a sad death, alone in a hospital.”

“Alright, she died, but not the way you say. Let’s find a happy ending for her. It was Sunday, the first sunny day of the season. Katharina felt very good when she woke up, and the nurse put her in a canvass chair on the terrace, her legs wrapped in a blanket. Your sister sat looking at the birds beginning to build nests across the eaves, the budding tree branches. She was warm and safe, the way she was when she slept in your arms beneath the kitchen table – in fact, she was dreaming of you at that very moment. She had no real memory, but her instinct retained intact the warmth you gave her, and every time she felt happy, she whispered your name. She was doing just that – happily saying your name – when, without her knowing, her spirit drifted away.

Your mother arrived a little later to visit her, as she did every Sunday, and found her motionless, but smiling. She closed her eyes, kissed her forehead, and bought a bride’s coffin, where she lay wrapped in the white mantle.”

In the current climate, many businesses could benefit from telling their stories in more compelling ways, from finding happy endings. As Jim Loehr explains in The Power of Story, the way we tell stories about ourselves to ourselves impacts our business and personal lives. “We are our stories,” he teaches us.

Isabel teaches us:

“What is truer than the truth?

The story.”

So, what’s your story?