One story can have many messages
Are you struggling to find story ideas? Sometimes you reach a mental block because you are trying to hard. You are looking for the perfect story to support your important message. It might be easier to start smaller and build up those creative muscles and a stockpile of anecdotes that you can pull out and use as needed.
Here is one example: The cranky knee gets the treatment
I recently went through several months of dealing with a painful knee. It started as just an annoying pain and rather rapidly progressed to the point the pain prevented me from going up stairs. Those of you who have been to my office know that I am on the second floor of an older building. A building built before elevators.
So if I wanted to visit the office again, it was necessary to get to the doctor to find out how to fix this cranky knee. I started at my regular doctor who prescribed rest and pain killers for two weeks. If that didn’t fix it, I was to see the orthopedist.
Of course 2 weeks and 2 aspirins were not enough
Well, two weeks later it was improved but no where near back to normal. So I headed off to the orthopedist who took x-rays. Of course the x-rays were negative.
He gave me two choices: physical therapy or an MRI to see if there was a tear or other tissue problem.
I am a coward. I voted for physical therapy
I had a great therapist who spent a considerable amount of time watching me walk, squat and feel like fool in the office exercise area. He came back with the verdict that though it might be my knees that were hurting, it was my high arches that were the culprit. I was thrilled, I could solve this problem with some shore orthotics and special exercises I could do at home.
But I don’t know when to keep quiet
I made the mistake of asking the therapist if I should have the MRI and his response was, “More information is always better.”
So I went off for the MRI. It obviously wasn’t my lucky day. The results came back that there might be a small tear in the meniscus. But more troubling, there were some suspicious spots on the film that really needed a bone scan to rule out a more serious problem.
Those dark and shadowy spots . . .
The orthopedist felt this was probably nothing as I had no symptoms, but as the MRI report stated an scan was called for, he really couldn’t ignore their advice.
A bone scan involves being injected with a radioactive substance that can be tracked as it moves through the blood stream and into the tissues. By watching where it goes and how fast it gets there, a doctor can tell about the health of the tissue. It also leaves you a tad bit radioactive so you have to avoid children and pets for the rest of the day.
. . . Which turned out to be nothing
The good news is that the scan found nothing and I am fine. The bad news that all of this medical work came with a $5000 bill. Insurance paid most of it but it was a very expensive tango with the orthopedic world.
So what can be done this rather mundane story?
You probably have at least one experience like this. How could you use this for a story? What message could you communicate with this story?
By modifying the story elements, especially reducing different parts depending on the message wanted, the listener and the medium (written or verbal), I could use this story to demonstrate that:
- Two opinions are better than one. The physical therapist gave me valuable insight into a looming issue with my foot problems.
- More information is not necessarily better. Sometimes more information just forces too many decisions.
- The least invasive procedure is always the best. There was no reason to not try physciall therapy before surgery in my case. This may not be true in other situations.
- A specialist will always find something that needs repair. This applies to orthopedists as well as everyone from SEO experts to electricians.
- Sometimes the real answer is not the obvious one. I thought I had a knee problem, but I really had an arch problem.
If you think about this for a bit you may come up with some other possible messages.
A new suit of clothes wouldn’t hurt either
If you decided to use a story like this, it might be a bit boring without a little dressing up. Your audience will determine how far you can take it, but you could add tidbits about the doctor, the stress of going through the claustrophobic MRI tube, the way the technician tried to make you feel comfortable, scaring small dogs after have the bone scan. None of these is essential to the story but added details and drama may make an everyday story more entertaining so people will actually listen to it!
The moral of this story?
Do not focus too hard for the one story that communicates your message. Instead, be more open to situations and how they can be used creatively/
DO THIS TODAY
Think of a personal or business anecdote. Maybe a success. Maybe a failure. Maybe an embarrassing moment. Maybe an ah-ha! moment. The anecdote doesn’t really matter as this is just an exercise.
Now think of several messages you can use with this one anecdote. Don’t just stop with the obvious or businesses-like message. Get outrageous! You want to stretch your creativity to see how many ways you can use this single anecdote.
Keep working to build those storytelling muscles and develop habits that become second nature!