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The Ancient Origins of the FireStory

Throughout my life, I have seen a LOT of speeches. In high school, college, graduate school, the professional world, and Toastmasters, hardly a week goes by that I don't see at least a few presentations. The number that I can accurately recall, however, are few. I may be able to remember that the person was a good or bad speaker, but the details are generally lost in minutes, or days at most.

The clear exceptions always revolve around compelling stories. The details and emotions of well told stories tend to stay with me for years, and the emotions they drive in me are as fresh as the day I first heard them. I began to wonder why that is. Why are stories tied so powerfully to our memory?

According to archaeologists, the rise of storytelling to share information really began around 2 million years ago, when we first learned to control fire. ( Before we learned to control fire, we were at the mercy of the sun. When it went down, the day was OVER. We had to seek shelter for warmth, heat, and protection from night time predators. Communication at that time was very tactical in nature, due to a lack of time or place for many people to gather.

When we controlled fire, everything changed. The day was extended. We now had a place to gather (around the fire) that would provide light, warmth, and protection. Not to mention, we could cook our food! Around the fire, people began to tell stories. They shared knowledge, ideas, and understanding. As people shared their FireStories, human culture really began to develop.

It became clear to me that as a species, we learned how to learn by telling stories. This is why they are so effective at communicating understanding and staying with us longterm. In business today, our communications tend to be very tactical in nature. They simply pass information. As our attention span continues to shorten, the nuggets of information we pass continue to get shorter and more focused. There are so many people trying to be heard, however, that all of the information has blended into a giant noise that is confusing and difficult to comprehend.

Stop trying to be heard. Try for understanding. The more you develop as a storyteller, the more effective you will be as a communicator. Share your FireStory, and light up the world!


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