How To Add Meaning To Events And Things


Monday, 9.07pm

Sheffield, U.K.

When I read a good story, I often start thinking, ‘Should I live my life according to what this character chooses and values?’ – Jenova Chen

Imagine you were in a networking group that met one morning every week and, as part of your agenda, you had to describe what you do to everyone else.

How would you approach this?

Would you wing it? Come out with the first few words that came to mind?

Would you work off some notes and try to get through it as quickly as you could?

Would you have a script – one that you have honed and repeat that every time?

Or would you mix things up – and say something new new?

What a lot of us probably do is try and put together some facts and string together a few sentences.

For example, something like I’m a widget attorney and I help companies like Small Corp make sure that their widget contracts are properly done.

How much of this message do you think gets across to the others in the room – the others waiting nervously for their turn to speak?

My experience of such situations is that I’m only half listening – worrying about what I’m going to say next.

Is there something we can do to help people like us listen and understand better?

The answer may lie in reaching for one of the oldest methods out there.

Telling a story.

You may have heard of the Significant Objects Project. Journalist Rob Walker and writer Joshua Glenn came up with the idea of putting objects on ebay, adding a story and seeing what happened.

The objects were cheap trinkets from thrift stores and the stories fictional ones – with the authors able to write anything they wanted – with no restrictions on genre, style or voice. And the buyers knew that the ebay description was just a fictional story.

And yet they bought – spending over $3,500 on objects “worth” $130.

Which tells you something very interesting.

It tells you that value is linked to meaning.

Our brains are suckers for stories – ever since people huddled around a fire and told each other tales of what happened that day.

You can see this in the wide eyes of children who have to have a story before going to bed – who refuse to sleep without having had their favourite story read to them.

Today I followed a link from someone who posted something that caught my eye.

I’m not especially fond of the person who shared the post in the first place – he seems a bit of a bully online – but I don’t know him enough to judge.

Anyway, I followed this post to a biography page which, unlike the ones that simply list name, rank and serial number, had a long narrative about this person’s struggle against an institution and injustice.

Now, none of this was a particularly good use of time – but the fact is that it was a story and once I started I had to keep going.

That’s what stories do to you – they draw you in and keep you hooked.

So, I wonder, what would it be like if we told a story at that networking event?

Or instead of a bland about me page had a story instead?

It doesn’t need to follow any rules – just be more than the facts.

Would you be more likely to listen, or read that?


Karthik Suresh

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