The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

Universal stories

What makes a hero’s journey so powerful is that it is made of life stories individuals easily connect with. While an individual’s life is unique, it shares common themes with everyone else. As Manfred Kets de Vries lists them, these are for example “coming of age, the circle of life, the loss of innocence, the power of love, the triumph over adversity, the struggle between good and evil and the search for power, freedom, truth and justice.”

These themes have led to myths, legends, and fables that are universal, many of which resemble one another across cultures. They follow a common pattern involving adventure, challenge, self-realization, and transformation. These stories have helped generations of humans to learn and come to terms with the way our life unfolds. They help us find or give meaning and purpose to our life. They also tell us how others dealt with, what feels like adversities. The main characters in these universal stories have to deal with anxiety, disappointment, success, heartache, and tragedy. And when we listen to such stories, we find a connection with our life story, that is, if the storyteller allows us to do so.

When the storyteller finds a way to tell his story in such a way that it appeals to our emotions, we’ll find connections to ourselves and our story. But it’s not only emotions, it also is the situation we are in, and seek guidance with. That’s the main reason we listen to his story. As every human being, we constantly have multiple problems in mind, may it be a heartache, a tragedy that we’ve experienced, our last disappointment, something that makes us anxious, as well as our unaccomplished efforts to succeed. If the story we are being told helps us address one of them, may It be by association, he will have our full attention.

However, we don’t want him to provide us with direct answers to our problems. Human beings are all born with the capacity to think for themselves and want to exercise their originality of mind. By engaging our imagination, a storyteller invites us to think for ourselves as well as to find support to do so in their story. It’s only when this support is available to us, that we’ll let him influence us.

One of the reasons why leaders are in a great position to become storytellers is that we’ve embarked on a mission with them. One that leads to many questions and problems that impact our life stories. Most of these questions are shared within the organization as well as with its stakeholders. And all of them seek meaning and purpose.



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