According to my mother, I was a "good boy", meaning that I was a quiet and well-behaved child. According to her, she could tie me to the railing of our front porch and leave me for hours knowing I wouldn't make a peep. Sitting there on the front step of our little home in Hamilton Ontario, I watched the world around me . . . and listened.
Listening became my primary mode of learning about the world. I was always listening. I particularly loved listening to older people, especially my grandparents, aunts and uncles, and their friends. They loved telling stories. Some were whispered, some were spoken aloud. They were about hard times and good times and sometimes I wasn’t quite sure what they were about at all. They laughed, they cried. Listening to their stories told me who they were, what they thought and how they felt.
As I grew older, I became fascinated with story and storytelling. In my early 20s, while hitch-hiking around North America and Europe, I met a group of itinerant ex-soldiers recently returned from Vietnam. We travelled together working wherever manual labourers were needed, mostly on construction sites. These were men whose stories at that time were largely unheard. No one wanted to hear of the horrors of war that these men had endured and inflicted on others. But I did. I was good at listening. I'd had years of practice. As I listened, I began to realise that telling their stories was part of their healing.
Later, I went to college and studied Child Care. I went to work as a counsellor with troubled adolescents. Like me, many of them had untold stories. Yet by providing them with a safe space and a compassionate, non-judgemental ear, I could invite these stories to emerge and together, we could begin to make sense of them.
My call to story . . .
Eventually, my fascination with story brought me to Scotland and to the University of Edinburgh where I immersed myself in the study of story through literature and language. Every page I turned, I heard the voices of men and women who needed to tell a story. Later, as a tutor and teacher I shared my passion for those stories, and heard my inner call to adventure.
With the help of the Scottish Storytelling Centre, I embarked on a seven-year storytelling apprenticeship. With the help of my mentors, I discovered I had a voice, I had an inner storyteller, a storyteller who longed to share his stories with the world and help others do the same.
In 2005, I left my career in teaching and crossed the threshold, beginning a journey into full-time storytelling and StoryCoaching, sharing my passion for story with others, bringing my skills as a listener to the people who came to me with their untold stories.
|Leading a storysharing session|
on the West Bank
In 2006 I co-facilitated a three-year project working with children and young people in schools, helping them to share their stories as a way of creating more peaceful classrooms. At the same time, I began working with teachers helping them create the stories of their professional development in order to earn the distinction of becoming Chartered Teachers.
In 2009 I was invited to travel to the Middle East to work with groups of Arabs and Jews, using story as a way of encouraging dialogue and mutual understanding. Here and elsewhere, I experienced the transformational power of story to change people, to shift paradigms of thinking, to encourage new solutions to old problems.
And in 2010 I was called to Canada to help young people create stories using new digital technology and to speak to teachers about the power of story in restorative justice circles.
In 2012 I teamed up with Norton Bertram-Smith of On Purpose to found the Aberdeen Leadership Forum, a group of corporate and community leaders whom we invited to explore the potential for story to develop them into transformational leaders. Over and over again, we heard how grateful people were to have the time and space to share their stories and to be offered skills and techniques for creating compelling narratives of leadership.
Stories of StoryCoaching success
Over the past 10 years I have been privileged to help a myriad of people share their stories, people from all walks of life-- teachers, students, therapists, nurses, social workers, librarians, ministers, museum curators, musicians, managers, community and corporate leaders and their organisations. Each has unlocked their untold stories and discovered the power of storytelling in their professional and personal lives.
A mother . . . discovers her voice and begins volunteering as a storyteller in her daughter's school.
A storyteller . . . has improved her performance skills and gained greater self-confidence.
A grandfather . . . has connected with his grandchildren through storytelling.
A therapist . . . better understands the relationship between myth and his client's stories.
A writer . . . gains a better grasp on the structure of his historic novel and is inspired to tell parts of it at a nearby storytelling gathering.
A PhD student . . . transforms her complex research with marine crustraceans into an entertaining story for primary school pupils and successfully competes for funding to complete her research.
A film-maker . . . is inspired to develop her first feature-length production from a story she's been nursing for years.
A nurse . . . has developed her listening skills and feels more compassion for her patients and the stories of their illnesses.
A community worker . . . feels empowered to communicate his vision for social justice in his community through a powerful story.
A Parliamentary Education Manager . . . inspires her team to learn storytelling skills to engage the public more effectively.
An retiring oil executive . . . re-discovers his love of storytelling and becomes a valued spokesperson for his company.
An senior investment manager . . . increases her self-confidence and secures a difficult contract and instills confidence in her clients.
A young entrepreneur . . . successfully transforms his fledgling business into a major player in the market with the help of a powerful story of leadership.
These are just some of the stories behind the people I've worked with. Whoever you are, you have a story to share with the rest of the world. StoryCoaching can support you in telling that story, while helping you better understand the stories that you hear and that are played out around us.
. . . and finally . . .
Today, storytelling is recognised as a powerful, transformative art of communication in business, medicine, therapy, media as well as in our personal lives. I've experienced this power in my own life. It has changed me, changed the way I see the world, made me a more effective speaker and listener. It has been both a healing and creative journey.
Now you know my story. What's your story? I’m ready to listen. Are you ready for StoryCoaching?
What’s Next . . .?
For a no-obligation consultation to learn more about how I can help you with the story of your success and happiness, contact me to arrange a short Skype session, phone call or email exchange. Email: iamthestoryteller[at]gmail[dot]com.
Or, click on the links below to learn more about these specific applications of StoryCoaching.
StoryCoaching for Professional Development
StoryCoaching for Personal Development