Exploring Parts Unknown 

Both Out In The World and Inside Ourselves

Learn Through Reading & Doing
Learn Through Reading & Doing

Gael is a waiter at a steak house/Spanish tapas bar in Shoreditch, London. His passion and pride for Spanish food is evident in his work, and because of this, his boss, Florian, put him forward for an award that recognised the good work of people working in hospitality. 

The award is a one-month paid sabbatical programme where each year, ten people will get to ‘Live Their Dream or Give a Dream’ and be given £10,000 to pursue whatever that is. Gael was one of the ten to win the award in its first year.

The idea behind the initiative is to empower people working within hospitality to flourish in and out of the workplace by providing personal and professional growth opportunities. The purpose is to elevate people to new perspectives to cultivate diverse and inclusive environments, and to create great workplaces that work for all.

Florian and the people he worked with to launch the initiative want to create a bright future for hospitality and let people know that now is the time to join. Wanting to raise awareness to the programme, Florian asked his friend, Saoirse, a freelance reporter and journalist who also writes a popular blog about food and drink and how it connects to culture and history, to work with the winners to help them tell their story, which would also be shared in publications and across platforms connected to the industry.

Florian hosted a dinner at his restaurant to recognise Gael’s achievement, during which he shared his story.

As guests were being served, Gael described the food and drink for each course. His pride in describing the food he was introducing prompted Saoirse to ask a simple question as a cue for him to share his story:

“Where does your passion for these dishes come from?”

Gael smiled, and having captured his audience’s attention; he began to tell his story:

Exploring Parts Unknown: Both Out In The World and Inside Ourselves (That was the title and sub-title Saoirse gave Gael’s story when writing it)

“My passion for Spanish food is part of who I am and began as long ago as I can remember. Preparing food and eating together as a family holds great memories for me.”

“My dad is British and has wonderful memories from his childhood of holidaying in Spain with his family. He wanted to explore the country further, and when he was in his 20s, he spent one year driving through Spain on his motorbike. One day he rode up on his motorbike to the village where my mum lived. They met, fell in love, and dad never returned to live in Britain. He says to fall in love with Spain is special. To fall in love in Spain is the kind of special that seeps through every fibre of your being and remains in your heart forever.”

“My dad’s stories of journeying around Spain, the people he met, the places he explored and discovered, and the food and traditions he experienced gave me a great sense of curiosity to learn more about my own country. And so, as a student, I set off on my own motorbike adventure to discover the different foods of Spain. I would set up camp, and at the end of the day, I cooked a meal for myself with the ingredients that were available to me. Those ingredients were pretty extraordinary, even more so as a student, because I was operating on a shoestring budget. The memory of that time and the meals I created remain with me.” 

“I followed my passion in my WorkLife, first working in a restaurant in Barcelona, where I was born, and then working in a restaurant in Madrid. Everyone I worked with at both these restaurants lived and breathed a passion for the food they served. It was in Madrid that I had a chance encounter with Florian, which led me to move to his restaurant here in London. Coming to London was always my dream. Working with the team here makes it easy to keep my passion alive.” 

“I still take culinary road trips through Spain on my motorbike. When I do, I am always looking to discover traditional Spanish cuisine that I haven’t experienced before and new dishes created by chefs who pride themselves on celebrating local seasonal ingredients and close relationships with farmers and food producers from the area. Sons and daughters of Spain looking to honour the traditions they grew up with but with a more modern sensibility. I always share my discoveries on my return to London with Florian and the team. Together we seek to bring our extraordinary discoveries to our guests.”

To help Gael tell his continuing story, Saoirse said, “it’s easy to understand how your passion and pride for Spanish food and culture led you to be a worthy winner of the ‘Live a Dream/Give a Dream’ award. You chose to ‘Live a Dream’. Can you tell us about your dream and how you lived it?”

Gael continued his story.

“My dream has always been to take a bike ride through the Andes to the remote parts of Patagonia in Argentina and Chile. My dream was inspired by my desire to continue my motorbike adventures through South American countries that have a connection to Spanish food and to understand how our cultures are connected through history. My dream was also inspired by Anthony Bourdain’s TV show, Parts Unknown. The stories he uncovered and discovered through the connection of food, culture and history as he travelled to new and different places were so fascinating that I wanted to have my own experience of what that could be.”

Book Wisdom

“In preparing to Live my Dream, I read World Travel: An Irreverent Guide by Anthony Bourdain and Laurie Woolever. I read it not to retrace Bourdain’s steps and visit the places he had visited but to have a better understanding of his ability to go deeper into his experiences to connect to people through the food and stories they shared. He had such a gift for curiosity and connection. These are qualities that I believe I have, and to continue to grow personally and professionally (which is the idea behind the Live a Dream/ Give a dream initiative), I want to learn how I can continue to develop these soft skills.”

“The stories in the book helped me appreciate the reasons Bourdain found a place enchanting and memorable.”

“I loved his stories of off-the-grid places to eat, where menus weren’t available, and ‘diners were greeted and asked how hungry they are, and what they like to eat, and then the dishes are delivered accordingly.’”

“I loved how his first visit to my home country, Spain, was described ‘Tony was riveted by the culinary culture of Spain, where centuries old traditions bump up against some of the most modern techniques and ideas in the world, against a backdrop of exquisite natural beauty and several eras’ worth of stunning architecture.’”

“I loved how he described my home city, Barcelona ‘Outside of Asia, this is it: the best and most exciting place to eat in the world. This is where all the young chefs in the world want to work. This is where all the young apprentices want to do their stages. This is where the innovation is. This is where the creativity has been happening. Along the way, they encounter this sort of everyday food of Spain. The simple, good things of Spain, that most Spaniards see as a birthright.’ ‘Simple things – an anchovy, an olive, a piece of cheese. Really simple things, the little things that you see every day here – that’s what’s cool about Spain.’”

“These words captured the essence of my home city so truthfully and so eloquently. These words enabled me to know how to prepare for my trip. Because these words allowed me to recognise that this is the approach I had always taken on my bike rides through Spain. I had simply appreciated the simple, good things of Spain. I just needed to adapt this approach for my bike ride through the Andes to the remote parts of Patagonia in Argentina and Chile. These words brought me back to Bourdain’s gift for curiosity and connection and reminded me that I already possess these qualities. To continue to develop these soft skills, these words reminded me that I simply need to continue to appreciate the simple, good things in my everyday WorkLife, and on the adventure I was about to embark on.”

“In planning my trip, to get the most out of my bike ride, I decided to join a group for part of the journey. I knew the guide and other riders who knew the terrain would be better than me, which would help me push my limits. Surrounding myself with people who know their terrain better than me, whether on my bike trips or at the restaurants I’ve worked at, has helped me to push my limits to grow personally and professionally. I wanted to continue to learn and develop in this way.”

“ I also knew a guide who knew the area could connect me to the people and culture to help me experience the local style, feeling, and spirit of the place. This was important in helping me make the most of my experience in living my dream.”

For the rest of the journey, I travelled alone. This was important because it allowed me to go off the beaten track. Then I got to decide whether to keep going or stop and stay awhile. 

All of this allowed me to Explore Parts Unknown: Both Out In The World and Inside Myself. Throughout my journey, riding in the company of a group or alone, my shared food and story experiences gave me the understanding I was seeking of how our cultures are connected through history. Camping out under a starlit sky enabled a deep yet simple practice of going inside myself to think. Thinking is a beautiful thing.

As I always do, I shared my discoveries on my return to London with Florian and the team. Together, as we always do, we seek to bring our extraordinary discoveries to our guests. 

These discoveries are the dishes you are about to experience.

Epilogue

As guests were being served, Gael once again described the food and drink for each course. He described them with the same passion and pride he always brought to his work. The passion and pride that made him a worthy winner of the ‘Win a Dream/Give a Dream’ award. The passion and pride that will drive his continuous learning, development and growth to flourish in and out of the workplace, to live a fulfilled and happy WorkLife

Afterword

Remembering Anthony Bourdain, a man from whom I’ve drawn much inspiration in my WorkLife, on the day he would have been 66 years old – the 25th of June 2022, I opened his book, World Travel: An Irreverent Guide to Ireland/Dublin, to read these words: “Ireland: I don’t know of another place in the world where the word, both spoken and written, is so celebrated. Where storytelling, through poetry, prose, or in song, is so integral, so influential, so much part of all English language literature, that we, all of us, regard it as a birthright.”

Being Irish, these following quotes from his upcoming film, Roadrunner, sum up why Anthony Bourdain has been such an inspiration to me:

“Tony had a gift to find the essence of a country or the culture.”

“Tony was very aware of his own ability to promote other people’s voices.”

Thank you, Anthony Bourdain, for being you, and thank you for sharing your beautiful gifts, that enrich so many lives.

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Florian and Saoirse are members of the WorkLife Book Club Volume One Shoreditch. 

Gael’s story was featured in the book.

The title and sub-title for this story were inspired by a post on LinkedIn by Arianna Huffington, written in memory of Anthony Bourdain on 25/6/22, on what would have been his 66th birthday.

This story is part of a series of stories that share insights into the characters in my book WorkLife Book Club Volume One Shoreditch. Stories that share insights that aren’t shared in the book to the main characters, the support characters and the behind the scenes characters. While the characters in the stories are not based on real people, they are representative of the people who are an integral part of Shoreditch life, the neighbourhood I live in, which is full of people with different WorkLife experiences. 

Shoreditch is a special place, and I believe what makes it so is the incredible diversity of life paths that cross here, spanning the whole globe and many walks of life.

You may also like my Learning Through Reading Series: A collection of stories inspired by real WorkLife struggles and successes presented as case studies for group discussion. The case and the recommended book are the required reading for each book club meeting and help frame the subsequent discussion.

6 Tips to Help You Craft Great Opening Lines That Hook Your Audience the Moment You Begin Your Story

Many Stories Grow From a Single Sentence  #Lesson2 … Failure Tells The Story 

Learn Through Writing, Ideas & Speaking
Learn Through Writing, Ideas & Speaking

INTRODUCTION

The opening line to your story can be simple, eloquent, informative, contradictory, startling, thrilling, curious, suspenseful … But it should propose a contract to your audience: If you keep listening, I’ll tell you a certain kind of story.

In this lesson, you will take time to think about an intriguing way to begin your Failure Story.

You will learn to craft the beginning, the middle and the end of your story.

Through Aisling’s story (the protagonist in the story/case study in this lesson), you will learn how to use the 6 Tips to Help You Develop Great Opening Lines That Hook Your Audience the Moment You Begin Your Story. You will also use the #6TIPS as a tool to both structure and test your story.

The #6TIPS:

#TIP1. State your theme at the outset: Consider the central theme of your story idea and brainstorm ways to distil it down to a single sentence;

#TIP2. Begin with a strange/unusual/interesting detail: A great opening line hooks your audience and captures their attention the moment you begin your story;

#TIP3. Establish your character’s voice — that’s your voice: The best stories are truthful, simple and consistent. Those are the three frame words of delivering great storytelling — truthful, simple and consistent. Over time that’s how brands are built — you are your own brand.

#TIP4. Introduce your narrative style: While each story has its own voice, the attitude, the soul, that’s all you. Let your signature style shine through;

#TIP5. Convey the stakes: Demonstrate the impact of a loss or potential loss of something the protagonist believes is crucial in achieving their story’s goal — Remember, everyone’s story is different. Everyone also has different stories — some will have higher or lower stakes. The important thing is that the stakes need to be high enough to give the audience a sense of the impact of the loss or potential loss to the protagonist;

#TIP 6. Set the scene: Setting the scene gives your audience an insight into what is about to unfold. It also helps you craft the beginning, middle and end of your story.

You will learn to write great stories. You will learn to increase the quality of your ideas. You will learn to share your unique stories by speaking them aloud.

That’s important because, as Patrick Winston shared in his:

Words of Wisdom

“Your success in life will be determined largely by your ability to speak, your ability to write, and the quality of your ideas.”

LECTURE

“Perhaps the story you finish is never the one you begin.” Salman Rushdie.

You may have an opening line going into your story, or you may discover it as you discover your story. Mostly you won’t know your entire story (or I don’t). You will write it to find out what happens.

But you need to have something going in. All stories begin with an idea. You need to have a general sense of where your story is going to go. You need to know the theme of your story. And to know that, you need to ask the question:

What is my story about?

END OF LECTURE

Let’s look at this in the context of Aisling’s Story: A Case Study:

A TALE OF THREE FUNDAMENTAL WORKLIFE STORIES #LESSON 2 … FAILURE TELLS THE STORY

Aisling works independently as a WorkLife learning practitioner and writer. She had taken a year out to write her latest book. Turning up at her laptop every day, creating learning resources and writing stories is her happy place. Oftentimes she’ll write from dawn to dusk, stopping only briefly to eat before continuing late into the night.

But as much as she loves the solitude of creating and writing, she’s very aware that so much time alone is not good for her well-being and that she needs more social interaction. She’s also very aware that the other side of working independently as a creator is needing to promote herself and her work, and to do that, she needs to get out and about and mingle more. After all, she has a new book to tell people about.

That’s OK because Aisling loves to meet people. She loves to hear their stories, and she loves to tell her own story. But having been out of circulation for so long, she felt her storytelling techniques needed a little fine-tuning, and so that’s what she set out to do.

THE ART OF INSIGHTFUL QUESTIONS AND EFFECTIVE FEEDBACK

Aisling is a reflective soul and loves pondering on simple yet insightful questions that bring about ideas and enables effective feedback to test the quality of those ideas. 

So, she began by asking herself:

What type of stories do I like to listen to?

I love short stories that draw me in from the very first sentence because they give an insight into the person and what makes them interesting, leaving me curious to want to learn more about their story.

Aisling knew these were the type of stories that she wanted to tell.

But she needed to know more. She felt she needed the bigger picture. So once again, she posed a question to herself:

What type of stories do I want to tell?

She thought about the stories she enjoyed listening to and why:

Success Stories — people talking with a sense of pride about something they consider to be an achievement in their WorkLife.

Failure Stories — people talking about a time when a failure or perceived failure came close to destroying them and how they moved beyond that to pick themselves back up.

Passion Stories — people talking about their passion, the thing that inspires them and keeps them actively engaged and motivated in their WorkLife.

Aisling believed that SuccessFailure and Passion stories were the three fundamental stories in all WorkLife communication and situations. — from everyday conversations (including career and feedback conversations) to interviews and presentations to talks and negotiations to leadership and management to networking and building relationships.

She had her answer to her question:

What type of stories do I want to tell? — her big picture answer — Success, Failure and Passion stories.

She now wanted to get more into the detail about what she wanted to tell in each of her stories. So, once again, she asked herself:

What type of story do I want to tell?

Thinking about the stories she loved to listen to and why she thought the most engaging stories are the personal stories people tell. They’re meaningful simply because it’s clear they have meaning to the storyteller. That makes them unique, which in turn makes them interesting.

These were the type of stories that Aisling wanted to tell.

Aisling now had the answers to knowing the type of stories she wanted to tell — both the big picture and the detailed answers that would help her to craft her stories.

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In lesson, #Lesson1, you learnt the Art of Crafting your Success Story.

In this lesson, #Lesson2, you will learn the Art of Crafting your Failure Story.

In #Lesson3, you will learn the Art of Crafting your Passion Story.

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FAILURE TELLS THE STORY

Aisling set about crafting her Failure Story by pondering the question:

What has been my greatest failure, and what did I learn from it?

Aisling considered the question in a way that demonstrates her thinking – her ideas and the quality of those ideas, in a way that shows her uniqueness and tells her truth.


An Aside: Thoughts are a mental process that keep on going in your mind unbated. Ideas are the formation of a plan or process that occur in your mind in relation to a possible course of action to achieve an objective. 

She took out her notebook and wrote down everything that came into her mind.

She went with the free flow of being in the moment, getting her thoughts out of her head and onto paper.

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CRAFT YOUR FAILURE STORY WRITING ASSIGNMENT

To write your Failure Story, Ponder the question:

What has been my greatest failure, and what did I learn from it?

Consider the question in a way that demonstrates your thinking – your ideas and the quality of those ideas, in a way that shows your uniqueness and tells your truth.

Take out a notebook, or on your device, write down everything that comes into your mind.

Go with the free flow of being in the moment, getting your thoughts out of your head and onto paper.

What You’ve Accomplished: By getting your thoughts out of your head and onto paper, you’ve begun to structure your ideas to help you figure out your story. 

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Aisling then went about her day, letting her mind wander and wonder on the question:

What has been my greatest failure, and what did I learn from it?

She carried her notebook with her to gather her thoughts and ideas and to notice connections.

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LET YOUR MIND WANDER AND WONDER THINKING AND OBSERVATION ASSIGNMENT

As you go about your day, let your mind wander and wonder on the question:

What has been my greatest failure, and what did I learn from it?

This can be both consciously and subconsciously.

For example, by tapping into the Three B’s of Creativity, you can consciously pose the question, and then you can allow your subconscious mind to wander and wonder.

THE THREE B’S OF CREATIVITY

BUS: (Which represents any form of travel and movement, including, for example, walking). Consciously pose the question to yourself, then allow your mind to switch off by focusing on your surroundings, allowing your subconscious mind to wander and wonder.

BATH: Consciously pose the question to yourself before switching your mind off and doing nothing other than soaking in the wonderfully relaxing environment of your bathroom.

BED: Consciously pose the question to yourself before drifting off to sleep, allowing your subconscious mind to wander and wonder.

Remember to have your notebook or device with you. The process of writing is really important because even in the process of writing something simple — words, sentences, thoughts, ideas, your mind starts to notice connections, and connections are what stories are made out of.

What You’ve Accomplished: By adding more ideas to the mix, you’ll see your story take a clearer shape.

Continue to tap into both of these assignments to help build your Failure Story.

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When Aisling was at a place where she was ready to craft her story, to test her opening line and to help structure and test her story, she used the 6 Tips to Help You Craft Great Opening Lines That Hook Your Audience the Moment You Begin Your Story.

Aisling went through her story line by line, section by section, using the Six Tips as a tool to both structure and test her story. This helped her to craft her opening line. It also helped her notice if a section was too busy and needed to be broken up or simplified. Or if it was too dull and needed to be eliminated. It also helped to keep her story short because, after all, that was Aisling’s aim. And it helped to control the pacing of the story.

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AISLING’S FAILURE STORY

The Opening Line — The Beginning

My fear of public speaking was so paralysing I figured I needed a weeklong course to overcome it, but when my time came to speak, I was so incredibly nervous, I burst into tears in front of an auditorium of one hundred people and ran off the stage.

(#TIP2. Begin with a strange/unusual/interesting detail: A great opening line hooks your audience and captures their attention the moment you begin your story — Aisling believed she had accomplished this).

#TIP 6. Set the scene: Setting the scene gives your audience an insight into what is about to unfold. It also helps you to craft the beginning, middle and end of your story. — Aisling believed she had accomplished this).

Those words represent what I consider to be my greatest failure in my life.

(#TIP1. State your theme at the outset: Consider the central theme of your story idea and brainstorm ways to distil it down to a single sentence — Aisling believed she had accomplished this).

The Continuing Story — The Middle

In that moment, I felt I was a complete failure.

But thankfully, my story doesn’t end there.

The facilitator saw how devastated I was and came to talk to me. He asked if I would give my presentation the following morning. He knew how hard I’d worked all week.

I said the only way I could do it was if I could go first because otherwise, I knew I would bottle it again. He agreed. I left saying I would really work on it (I already knew inside out and upside down)), sleep on it and make my final decision in the morning. My decision was yes. I would do it. I’d put so much work into to it, and I knew I would regret it if I didn’t.

So, I was first up that following morning, and it went amazingly. I actually got a standing ovation.

(#TIP5. Convey the stakes: Demonstrate the impact of a loss or potential loss of something the protagonist believes is crucial in achieving their story’s goal — Aisling believed she had accomplished this).

Remember, everyone’s story is different. Everyone also has different stories — some will have higher or lower stakes. The important thing is that the stakes need to be high enough to give the audience a sense of the impact of the loss or potential loss to the protagonist;

She believed that this reminded the audience of what her story was about. It brought them back to the beginning of her story, and it helped her craft her continuing story — the middle and the end.)

Afterwards, one of the guys on the course came over and said well done. I thanked him and said, and I don’t think my voice shook too much. He responded no, and your neck didn’t go red either! I hadn’t realised I’d had a red neck all week.

(#TIP4. Introduce your narrative style: While each story has its own voice, the attitude, the soul, that’s all you, let your signature style shine through — Aisling believed she had accomplished this.)

The Closing Line — The End

In somehow finding the courage to pick myself back up when I failed so publicly, I not only faced my failure head-on, I also overcame my fear of failure. There’s something about an auditorium of one hundred people that does that!

(#TIP3. Establish your character’s voice — that’s your voice: The best stories are truthful, simple and consistent. Those are the three frame words of delivering great storytelling — truthful, simple and consistent. Over time that’s how brands are built — you are your own brand. — Aisling believed she had accomplished this.)

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Aisling then began to speak the words out loud. Slowly at first, and then on fast forward. This helped her to identify words and parts of her story that could potentially trip her up. It helped her to recognise what needed more or less emphasis. It helped her to consider how pacing and pausing could help her tell her story in a more interesting way to draw her audience in.

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Use The 6 Tips to Help You Craft Great Opening Lines That Hook Your Audience the Moment You Begin Your Story To Both Test Your Opening Line and To Structure and Test Your Story Assignment

When you are at a place where you are ready to craft your story, to test your opening line and to help structure and test your story, use The Six Tips to Help You Craft Great Opening Lines That Hook Your Audience the Moment You Begin Your Story.

Go through your story line by line, section by section, using the #6Tips as a tool to both structure and test your story. This will help you to craft your opening line. It will also help you notice if a section is too busy and needs to be broken up or simplified. Or if it is too dull and needs to be eliminated. It will also help you to keep your story short. And it will help you to control the pacing of the story.

The #6TIPS

#TIP1. State your theme at the outset: Consider the central theme of your story idea and brainstorm ways to distil it down to a single sentence;

#TIP2. Begin with a strange/unusual/interesting detail: A great opening line hooks your audience and captures their attention the moment you begin your story;

#TIP3. Establish your character’s voice — that’s your voice: The best stories are truthful, simple and consistent. Those are the three frame words of delivering great storytelling — truthful, simple and consistent. Over time that’s how brands are built — you are your brand;

#TIP4. Introduce your narrative style: While each story has its own voice, the attitude, the soul, that’s all you. Let your signature style shine through;

#TIP5. Convey the stakes: Demonstrate the impact of a loss or potential loss of something the protagonist believes is crucial in achieving their story’s goal — Remember, everyone’s story is different. Everyone also has different stories — some will have higher or lower stakes. The important thing is that the stakes need to be high enough to give the audience a sense of the impact of the loss or potential loss to the protagonist;

#TIP 6. Set the scene: Setting the scene gives your audience an insight into what is about to unfold. It also helps you to craft the beginning, middle and end of your story.

SPEAKING ASSIGNMENT

When you have crafted your story, speak the words out loud. Slowly at first, and then on fast forward. As with Aisling, this will help identify words and parts of your story that could potentially trip you up. It will help you to recognise what needs more or less emphasis. It will help you to consider how pacing and pausing could help tell your story in a more interesting way to draw your audience in.

What You’ve Accomplished: You’ve just structured your entire story, crafted a great opening line and ran your lines.

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YOUR CONTINUOUS LEARNING ASSIGNMENTS

THE ART OF JOURNALING AND THE ART OF THINKING: OBSERVATION AND WRITTEN ASSIGNMENTS

Develop your storytelling ability by making storytelling part of your daily life. After all, storytelling is the best communication tool in all WorkLife situations. Whenever you want to connect to people, tell a story.

Do this by simply connecting with people through conversations. Listen to their stories. Ask insightful questions — remember the old adage: “To be interesting, be interested.” Dale Carnegie.

By being observant, your mind will start noticing connections, and connections are what stories are made out of. Write down your observations. Journaling on your thoughts enables you to increase the quality of your ideas.

This, in turn, will enable you to build a range of stories that you can then tap into to tell the right story at the right time. Your authentic stories because they’re coming from your thoughts and ideas, your feelings and emotions, your beliefs and values, and your learning through your WorkLife experiences. All of which makes you, your voice and your stories unique because they come from your authentic truth — who you are, what you’re about. What’s important to you, what you stand for and what you stand against.

What You’ll Accomplish: Stories will come to you easily and effortlessly. You’ll become an active participant in your own WorkLife story.

COLLECTING LINES ASSIGNMENT

Start collecting lines — something that someone once said to you that has always remained with you. A line overheard. A line in a performance — film, tv, theatre. A line from something you read in a book or article, or blog. A line you heard on the radio or in a podcast. Wonderful lines that draw you in are everywhere. Start paying attention to both remember old lines that have impacted you in your WorkLife, and to notice new lines that you can add to your repertoire of great opening lines.

What You’ll Accomplish: You’ll build that wonderful repertoire of great opening lines.

AFTERWORD

Keep a notebook devoted solely to this course. While the assignments are designed to help you craft your story in line with the topic of each lesson, you will likely want to continue to build on each individual story and to also build a collection of stories. Having a collection of stories that are unique to you that you can tap into to tell the right story at the right time in all WorkLife situations is what The Art of WorkLife Storytelling is all about.

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This story is from my Publication: The Art of WorkLife Storytelling created to help you Learn To Craft Your Unique Stories.

Every Tuesday, I publish a new story. On the last Tuesday of each month, I make the story available to all readers. The stories I publish on the other weeks are available to subscribers only. Subscribers have access to the full archive. The subscription is £5 p.m.

This allows me to honour my commitment to create WorkLife learning resources that are accessible to everyone, that also reflect the value at a fair price to all — individuals who are responsible for their own learning, companies who want to invest in the learning of their people, and me as the creator.

If you think this story would be helpful to someone you know, please feel free to share it.

If you found this lesson helpful and would like to receive all the weekly lessons, just tap below on any of my ‘subscriber only’ stories below.  The sign-up to The Art of WorkLife Storytelling is within each weekly ‘subscriber only’ publication.

The stories featured in my Publication: The Art of WorkLife Storytelling this month are:

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Resources

The Coffee Break Screenwriter by Pilar Alessandra.

The 6 Tips to Help You Craft Great Opening Lines That Hook Your Audience the Moment You Begin Your Story was adapted from: https://www.masterclass.com/articles/tips-for-writing-the-opening-line-of-your-novel#6-tips-for-writing-a-great-opening-line.

Aisling’s learning was inspired by www.masterclass.com, and Neil Gaiman Teaches the Art of Storytelling Class.

Words of Wisdom was inspired by: https://www.inc.com/justin-bariso/emotional-intelligence-mit-patrick-winston-how-to-communicate-effectively-how-to-write.html.

The Case For Reading Fiction

To Develop and Fine-Tune Soft Skills: Case Study 1 #Empathy

Learn Through Reading & Doing
Learn Through Reading & Doing

Aisling has worked for several years as a WorkLife Coach and Learning Practitioner. She has been through many economic downturns, which have always brought about cuts to learning budgets. 

Through this, she learnt the one thing in life that can never be taken away from you in your learning. Through this, she discovered her WorkLife Mission: To help people pursue their WorkLives with greater clarity, purpose, passion and pride by creating continuous WorkLife learning programmes and resources that are accessible to everyone. Through this, she came to value and appreciate the importance of reading to help her learning – well, actually, that wasn’t a new discovery. – That’s because reading has always been her go-to-place for learning. In her WorkLife, reading helps her to understand people and situations. That’s because it draws her into imagining a character’s situation, which helps her relate at a deeper level to people in real life. 

Aisling’s love of reading had prompted her to write stories in which she shared the wisdom she had taken from books and how she had applied this to her WorkLife learning to help her navigate through problems and challenging situations. 

Aisling had an idea that this could be taken further. To clarify her thinking, she pondered two questions:

1. What if people who enjoy learning through reading and who also enjoy discussing books could come together to share their experiences?

2. What if people who enjoy learning through reading and who also enjoy discussing books and interesting stories could come together to share their experiences?

Aisling’s questions led to the formation of two WorkLife Book Clubs.


For the first club, which was in response to Question 1: to help get things started, Aisling compiled questions for the members to ponder while reading the book. These questions could also be used to structure the discussion – if needed.

You will find the questions at the bottom of this story. Titled Questions To Ponder, which are from my book WorkLife Book Club

For the second club, which was in response to Question 2: Aisling, researched and developed a Learning Through Reading series, creating stories inspired by real WorkLife stories and events. The stories are presented as case studies for group discussion, which, together with the accompanying recommended book, would be required reading for each meeting and would help to frame the subsequent discussion.

Both WorkLife Book Club models were successful. The reasons for this were two-fold:

  1. For social interaction and connectivity, people coming together over a shared interest in reading.
  2. To apply learning from literature to everyday WorkLife.

The Book Clubs had validated Aisling’s idea. She was happy about that. 

Aisling wanted to develop her idea of the benefits of learning through reading further.

As a WorkLife Learning Practitioner, her focus of work is on Soft Skills development, which she describes as being a combination of people skills, social skills, communication skills, emotional intelligence, personable attributes and traits – skills that make it easy to get along and work well with other people.

Aisling’s idea was to focus on one important soft skill to begin. That was #Empathy, a key element of emotional intelligence.

She believes this skill, as with many soft skills, is valuable and yet difficult to define. She believes it’s a trait that will serve individuals well in their WorkLife, but it can be challenging to demonstrate in interviews and yet it is a characteristic that organisations are looking for in the people they hope to attract and retain. 

To clarify her thinking, she pondered the question:


What if reading fiction could be used to develop greater empathy?

Aisling’s idea was that fiction books could help develop and fine-tune empathy in a way that non-fiction – How To / Self Help books could not. She thought this because she believed that you can’t explain to someone how to be empathetic or even why they should be empathetic. She believed that people learn to care through stories. Her idea was that reading fictional stories would help people’s ability to understand how others feel. 

Aisling’s question led to the formation of a Workplace based WorkLife Book Club. 

She brought six people who enjoyed reading and who also enjoyed discussing books together – Conor, Amy Sajid, Bella, Mo, and Flor. The idea was that each of the group would take it in turns to suggest a fiction book that interested them as an authentic way of having a shared experience through an engaging text and discussion. That was it. She decided to keep the setup very simple.

WorkLife Book Wisdom

Conor chose the first book: Twelve Angry Men, by Reginald Rose. Having seen the film version of the book, he thought that the story is a classic story of empathy, and he was curious about how the book club group would relate to the group of jurors.

On reading the book, It struck him how difficult it was for the jurors to get from a place of hard, uncaring thinking to a place where they began to soften their minds and hearts to begin to care. While he considered the case that the jury was discussing to be an extreme case and one that people in everyday WorkLife were unlikely to be presented with, he questioned if their behaviours represented the truth of empathy in an everyday WorkLife situation. 

This was the burning question he posed to get the discussion underway.

Does the case in the book represent an everyday WorkLife case or situation?

Here is a sense of the group’s thinking and discussion:


Amy found it interesting that juror Eight, the only juror to vote ‘not guilty’ at the outset, based his decision on the conviction of a feeling that something wasn’t right. She felt that was brave. But she questioned how willing he was to accept defeat and surrender if when he suggested a secret second vote ballot from which he would abstain and concede his doubt and vote guilty if that brought back and unanimous guilty vote.

Sajid likened the secret ballot to the culture of open, honest discussion they’re striving to achieve at their organisation, saying as much as he has opposed anonymous feedback because he believes people should be supported in saying what they want and need to say openly and feel safe in doing so, that as in the secret ballot, anonymous feedback protects the person who is willing to disagree with others and go against the popular vote.

Bella talked about how jurors Three and Seven targeted Juror Five as being the one who changed his vote, because of his age they believed he identified with the accused, and this made him a vulnerable target to their accusatory bullying behaviour. 

Mo believed that what made juror Nine stand out was that he spoke up and said he was the one who changed his vote to protect juror Five from those unsubstantiated attacks. In changing his vote, he also demonstrated solidarity with juror Eight, who was courageous in standing alone. Juror Nine showed not only a generosity of spirit but also, together with juror Eight, an awareness that a life was at stake – something that the other ten jurors did not.

Flor said juror Eleven also stood up for juror Five when he was under attack and said that’s representative of everyday WorkLife in how people will stand up for each other against bullies and how bullies will then stand down. She said the power of one person taking a stand, whether it’s juror Eight willing to vote differently, or its juror Nine owning his vote or juror Eleven standing up for juror Five, that the actions of one person can cause a ripple effect within any group of people. 

Conor mentioned how the jurors’ personalities are demonstrated through their exchanges – from self-absorbed to impatient to aloof to vindictive to rational to level-headed, and that each of the juror’s backgrounds influenced them to either instinctively believe or distrust the accused. 

As with the discussion in the book, the longer the WorkLife Book Club discussion went on, the more it opened up the group’s thinking to Conor’s burning question:

Does the case in the book represent an everyday WorkLife case or situation?

Amy liked how the ‘hot room’ played a role in demonstrating how when strong personalities are in a room together; they struggle to agree over even the most innocent of discussions, such as whether to keep the window open or closed. 

Sajid mentioned how juror Eight had the ability to bring other possibilities to light and how his words played a part in persuading some of the jurors to change their vote because he was presenting a rational argument and raising awareness of there being reasonable doubt.

Bella believed it was the emotion behind the words that some of the jurors were more swayed by, demonstrating some votes were emotional and not rational. 

Mo thought it was interesting when juror Two explained that he changed his mind because juror Eight was calm and confident, and juror Three was angry and insulting—leading juror Four to point out that these considerations do not change the guilt of the accused.

Flor said there were different types of bias at play: Juror Ten is revealed as someone who sees all poor people as inherently untrustworthy. Juror Eight reveals his sympathy for slum kids and sees all poor people as deserving of sympathy because they’ve suffered at the hands of society. 

Conor believed there were also different types of thinking at play: Juror Four thinks each person is responsible for his actions regardless of his situation, but Juror Eleven understands the negative impacts of mistreatment.

And so the discussion continued.

Epilogue

Towards the end, Conor brought the group back to the burning question he had begun the discussion with:

Does the case in the book represent an everyday WorkLife case or situation?

The group unanimously agreed it did. They admitted, as with the jury, at the beginning of their discussion, it wasn’t so clear cut, but as they continued to talk through the case in the book and got to know each of the jurors – their personalities, their motives, their thinking, their backgrounds, that they saw how they were representative of people in everyday WorkLife. And while they may not experience a situation as grave as the case in the book, the discussion allowed them to see the jurors first and foremost as human beings, capable of strengths and flaws, impartiality and prejudices. And that they believed was the same in all WorkLife situations.

This WorkLife Book Club model was also successful. 

Words of Wisdom

The feedback from the group was that the experience of reading and discussing a fiction book had helped develop and fine-tune their empathy. This was because they believed having been able to tap into the feelings of the characters in the book, they felt this would help them be more attuned to their colleague’s feelings in everyday WorkLife situations and have greater empathy because of that.

Aisling was happy about this. 

And, of course, she wanted to develop her idea of the benefits of learning through reading even further. There were, after all, many soft skills she believed reading fiction could cultivate. 

But that’s a story for another day. – Or actually several stories for several other days.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………….

QUESTIONS TO PONDER (From WorkLife Book Club by Carmel O’ Reilly)

What are the main themes of the story? 

What are the underlying themes of the story? 

Can I connect to aspects of the story through my WorkLife story? (my experiences) 

Do I have thoughts and emotions that are consistent with the storyline? Am I having emotional responses and insights into the character’s emotions? 

Are there valid and competing viewpoints that I find interesting?
Was there anything that caused me to look at things differently?
Has anything brought about thoughts or ideas for change?
Has anything brought about thoughts or ideas for remaining constant? Does the reading apply to my WorkLife? If so, how? 

Does the reading apply to my organisation/network? If so, how? 

What did I enjoy about the book? 

What did I enjoy about the case study? 

What was my impression of the protagonist of the story? (sometimes, there can be more than one protagonist) 

What was my impression of the antagonist of the story? (sometimes, there can be more than one antagonist) 

What were the struggles and successes for the protagonist? 

How did the book wisdom help the protagonist? 

Were there support characters? If so, what was my impression of them? 

Who were the heroes in the story? (heroes can sometimes be abstract, e.g. circumstances) 

Who were the villains in the story? (villains can sometimes be abstract, e.g. circumstances) 

What piqued my curiosity?
Where did the reading take my imagination? 

…………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Aisling’s story was featured in my book WorkLife Book Club Volume One Shoreditch. Her continuing story was inspired by the Harvard article: https://hbr.org/2020/03/the-case-for-reading-fiction

The book discussion was inspired by a summary of 12 Angry Men on LitCharts.

This story is part of a series of stories that share insights into the characters in my book, WorkLife Book Club Volume One Shoreditch  Stories that share insights that aren’t shared in the book to the main characters, the support characters and the behind the scenes characters. While the characters in the stories are not based on real people, they are representative of the people who are an integral part of Shoreditch life, the neighbourhood I live in, which is full of people with different WorkLife experiences. 

Shoreditch is a special place, and I believe what makes it so is the incredible diversity of life paths that cross here, spanning the whole globe and many walks of life.

You may also like my Learning Through Reading Series: A collection of stories inspired by real WorkLife struggles and successes presented as case studies for group discussion. The case and the recommended book are the required reading for each book club meeting and help frame the subsequent discussion.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………

Three Tips For Great Six-Word Stories

To Deliver Your Message With Resonance … Six-Word Stories Tell The Story …

Learn Through Writing, Ideas & Speaking
Learn Through Writing, Ideas & Speaking

INTRODUCTION

A six-word story is an entire story which can be crafted to impart a moral lesson, evoke a certain mood, create a sense of intrigue, or capture an important moment.

WORDS OF WISDOM

“Short stories are tiny windows into other worlds and other minds and other dreams.” Neil Gaiman 

LECTURE

“For sale: Baby shoes, never worn” is a six-word story that has widely been attributed to Ernest Hemingway.

In six simple words, a heartbreaking narrative is told—from the six words used but also from what is left out.

END OF LECTURE

Three Tips For Great Six-Word Stories

  1. Write your own story. Find inspiration in your own WorkLife and write a short memoir. Try thinking of a pivotal moment and then boil it down to six words that sum up your experience and convey your emotions.
  2. Choose your six words wisely. Words that have purpose and meaning will help your story resonate. Shorten phrases with contractions to make room for nouns and verbs. Use punctuation marks, colons and dashes to join different phrases without having to use conjunctions.
  3. Entice your audience to fill in the blanks. In just six little words, you can create a powerful story that evokes emotions and curiosity. Use what’s left on the cutting room floor to draw your audience in even further. In other words, part of your story will be in what’s left unsaid. Tease the audience with six words that let their mind fill in the blanks with the bigger narrative and give them a sense of a complete story.

Subscribe to get access

As a subscriber, you get access to The Art of WorkLife Storytelling. A weekly publication created to help you find, develop and tell the right story at the right time in all WorkLife situations. This is in addition to the free WorkLife Book Wisdom story I share weekly and other occasional WorkLife Stories.

I love to help people pursue their WorkLives with greater clarity, purpose, passion and pride, by creating continuous WorkLife learning programmes and resources that are accessible to everyone.

Your contribution allows me to do that and is appreciated.

The publication subscription is £5 p.m.

Three Ways To Create Suspense in Your Storytelling

By Playing The Game of ‘And Then What Happened?’ … Suspense Tells The Story …

Learn Through Writing, Ideas & Speaking
Learn Through Writing, Ideas & Speaking

INTRODUCTION

No matter what type of story you’re telling, Suspense is a valuable tool for keeping your audience’s attention and interest. Suspense involves raising a question that your audience wants answered.

LECTURE

You will need to have multiple subplots to engage your audience throughout your story, but the central storyline question that’s going to keep your audience engaged is: And Then What Happened? There is an implicit promise that you will answer this question (at varying paces), but in order to sustain interest, you must continue to raise this question. And Then What Happened? is a game that will drive your story forward. 

END OF LECTURE

WORDS OF WISDOM

Suspense is often defined as high stakes, but you don’t need a ticking bomb to create high stakes. Whatever the stakes are, they need to be high for your protagonist.

Your job as a storyteller is to get your character from point A to point B. Your character doesn’t have to be saving the world, but you have to get them there in the most interesting way possible. If you get them there by a straight line, that’s a pretty boring story. If you get them there by putting obstacles in the way, that requires going down unknown paths, which requires some bravery, then your story becomes more interesting. It’s not about finding out about that one big explosive moment. It’s about how are you going to make your character move through the difficult moments encountered on those new terrains. 

The Three Ways To Create Suspense in Your Storytelling that will help you in taking your audience on an And Then What Happened journey:

  1. Create a promise at every turning point in your story: When you take your audience on an And Then What Happened journey, any question you’ve raised contains a promise that you’ll answer it.
  2. Use flashbacks to open the turning points along your as new sources of suspense for the And Then What Happened journey you’re taking your audience on.
  3. Use internal monologue to heighten tension. Sharing your worries and concerns will draw your audience in. Their thoughts and feelings can create apprehension and set a mood of anticipation as you take them on an And Then What Happened journey.

In this lesson, you will learn the Art of Crafting your … Suspense Story …

That’s important because, as Dan Browne shared in his:

Words of Wisdom

“Suspense is all about making promises. It’s about telling a reader, “I know something you don’t know. And I promise, if you turn the page, I’m going to tell you.”

Subscribe to get access

As a subscriber, you get access to The Art of WorkLife Storytelling. A weekly publication created to help you find, develop and tell the right story at the right time in all WorkLife situations. This is in addition to the free WorkLife Book Wisdom story I share weekly and other occasional WorkLife Stories.

I love to help people pursue their WorkLives with greater clarity, purpose, passion and pride, by creating continuous WorkLife learning programmes and resources that are accessible to everyone.

Your contribution allows me to do that and is appreciated.

The publication subscription is £5 p.m.

5 Steps to Help You Craft Your Powerful Origin Story

Be The Superhero in Your Own Story … Origin Story Tells The Story …

Learn Through Writing, Ideas & Speaking
Learn Through Writing, Ideas & Speaking

INTRODUCTION

Your origin story is your backstory that reveals how you – the protagonist, became the leading character in your WorkLife story. 

Comic books tell the story of how the characters gained their superpowers and the circumstances under which they became superheroes. 

Like a comic book hero, your story needs a history that tells how you gained your superpowers and became a superhero in your WorkLife story. 

In this lesson, you will learn to recognise the turning point or the moment of transformation in which your character (you) evolves in a significant way or embarks on a mission that must be completed. 

You will learn to identify the events along the way where you recognised and took ownership of your superpowers that turned you into the Superhero of your Origin Story.

Through Jen’s story (the protagonist in the story/case study in this lesson), you will learn how to use The 5 Steps To Help You Craft Your Powerful Origin Story.

The #5Steps:

#Step1. Enduring Hook: Think of an entertaining story or anecdote that ties into how you got started. It needs to be pithy, quick and easy to tell. 

#Step2. Sign of Struggle: To showcase your grit and determination, you need to show the struggle you faced along your path.

#Step3. A Novel, Breakthrough Idea: This is where your values shine through. What were you committed to doing differently?

#Step4. A Bold, Risky Move: This is the part of the story where you show you had a belief that was not yet proven. You step into the unknown because you have faith that you’re right. 

#Step5. The Payoff: Your first triumph is a compelling payoff for your origin story. You stood by your values and beliefs, acted with grit, and took risks. What was the first moment when you knew it was all worth it? 

In this lesson, you will learn the Art of Crafting your Origin Story.

That’s important because, as Superman shared in his:

Words of Wisdom

“I think a hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.”

Subscribe to get access

As a subscriber, you get access to The Art of WorkLife Storytelling. A weekly publication created to help you find, develop and tell the right story at the right time in all WorkLife situations. This is in addition to the free WorkLife Book Wisdom story I share weekly and other occasional WorkLife Stories.

I love to help people pursue their WorkLives with greater clarity, purpose, passion and pride, by creating continuous WorkLife learning programmes and resources that are accessible to everyone.

Your contribution allows me to do that and is appreciated.

The publication subscription is £5 p.m.

Learning Through Graphic Novels and Comics

Paves the Way for a Deeper Understanding of Metaphors, Symbolisms and Point-Of-Views

Learn Through Reading & Doing
Learn Through Reading & Doing

Annie is an information and security analyst and member of the Shoreditch WorkLife Book Club. She is an avid fan of superhero films and graphic novels. She attributes this to her love of comic books, which began as a child. She can still clearly remember eagerly awaiting the new plot twists and turns the characters in her weekly comic book would encounter and how they would navigate through them.

Annie continues to seek out and learn from unfamiliar experiences and loves nothing better than geeking out on superhero films, graphic novels and comic books. She loves that her passions encourage her brain to imagine the unimaginable. Her mind has no limits when she’s geeking out.

Maggie, a police officer and fellow member of the Shoreditch WorkLife Book Club, needed Annie’s graphic novel and comic book expertise to help her mum, Omnira, with a community project she was involved with.

Omnira is a primary school teacher. She also volunteers at a refugee centre, helping people learning to speak English with their vocal clarity. She believes people are misrepresented by how they speak and treated differently because of that.

This is something Omnira experienced when she arrived in the UK from Jamaica as a little girl. The day she started school was the first time in her life she felt different. Her name was different, and her accent was different. She held back from speaking up in class because when she did, the other children would laugh at her, and in the playground, they would mimic her. She had to adjust who she was to fit the classroom and the playground. She did this by listening to how the other children spoke. As she grew up, she became obsessed with perfecting her voice, attending a weekly voice class at a drama school.

Part of her role at the refuge centre is helping people get the jobs they deserve. Omnira drives home the importance of vocal clarity because it’s a hurdle people need to jump before they even get onto to playing field. She strives to do this in a way that people don’t feel they have to change who they are to fit a room, as she did, but in a way that the room fits who they are or that there is a space in that room for them.

Omnira also works with people to help them tell their story in interviews. To help them relax, she’ll suggest baking something or preparing a dish together, talking through the experience in a way that allows everyone to share something about their culture and background. She believes that sharing food is a wonderful device to open up doors to great stories and a greater understanding between people.

Omnira loves to encourage learning by doing through interview and presentation practice and WorkLife conversations. She loves to engage all the senses to support people’s preferred way of taking in information and learning. The voice classes are for people who like to learn by listening. The shared food experiences for people who like to learn through taste, touch and smell. But while she encouraged reading, she felt people weren’t as engaged as much as they could be. Sharing this with Maggie, Omnira said she thought people who liked detail got more out of the English classics that filled the bookshelves. But she felt she needed to do something different with people who liked more big picture thinking and more visual learning.

Maggie, who loved connecting people and ideas, had what she believed was the perfect solution.

Maggie told her mum that Annie had shared with her that when she was young, she was very visual in her learning, and this was what had drawn her to comic books. They engaged her on a plane that extended far beyond the words on the page. A big picture thinker, they allowed her imagination to run wild, and not just in terms of the story, but the art as well.

Maggie suggested to her mum that she ask Annie to bring along some of her wonderful collection of graphic novels and comic books to the centre and have a shared experience with the refugees in the same way Omnira does with her culinary experiences. Omnira loved this idea. And so did Annie.

WorkLife Book Wisdom

Annie’s collection included: The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman, George Orwell’s 1984: The Graphic Novel, and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, along with a range of superhero comic books.

Annie hadn’t structured a class as such. She simply facilitated a conversation with the group. Each of them shared what they loved about graphic novels and comics.

Words of Wisdom

Of how graphic novels and comics can be used as learning tools across a range of subjects, such as languages, science and geography. How they can be used to tell stories of any content, in any style to depict cultural and historical events.

They talked about the many visual cues graphic novels and comics used to convey so much information and how when the text and spatial cues, when all combined, invoked the sense of passage of time, the space of the story, sounds and action, paving the way for a deeper understanding of metaphors, symbolisms and point-of-views.

Epilogue

Annie, Maggie and Omnira (who had joined the group conversation) were blown away by everything that everyone was sharing. The experience evoked a lot of emotions, bringing people back to their childhood and teenage years, sharing their comic book day experiences in the place they had once called home. They shared nostalgic moments that were both happy and sad. It was a wonderfully moving experience, and it was also a wonderful learning experience, and one the group all wanted to share again. It was also a wonderful learning experience that people could engage in alone, lost in the adventures of the mind; the books and comics would take them on.

Annie and Maggie are members of The WorkLife Book Club Volume One Shoreditch. Their stories were adapted from the book. Omnira’s story was also adapted from the book. The continuing story of all three characters through the shared reading experience was inspired by Why Adults Should Read Comic Books Too from Difference Engine.

This story is part of a series of stories that share insights into the characters in my book WorkLife Book Club Volume One Shoreditch. Stories that share insights that aren’t shared in the book to the main characters, the support characters and the behind the scenes characters. While the characters in the stories are not based on real people, they are representative of the people who are an integral part of Shoreditch life, the neighbourhood I live in, which is full of people with different WorkLife experiences.

Shoreditch is a special place, and I believe what makes it so is the incredible diversity of life paths that cross here, spanning the whole globe and many walks of life.

You may also like my Learning Through Reading Series: A collection of stories inspired by real WorkLife struggles and successes presented as case studies for group discussion. The case and the recommended book are the required reading for each book club meeting and help to frame the subsequent discussion.

Do You Believe in Love at First Page? 

February a Valentine’s Month Filled With Blind Dates With a Book

Learn Through Reading & Doing
Learn Through Reading & Doing

Sharp cuts to local authority funding, alongside sharp staff and funding shortfalls, had placed the community library at risk of closure. The decline in spending on stocking the bookshelves, together with the loss of permanent staff, brought about a decline in people visiting the library. 

Pascal, a management consultant who also manages the pro bono management consultancy arm of his company, founded to help businesses in their community survive and thrive, was approached by Fred, the only surviving librarian, asking for help to keep the library open. This was the end of January. The threatened closure would take place at the end of February. They had just four weeks to reverse this decision. 

Pascal drafted in Florian, Saoirse, Benny, Annie and Maggie, his fellow WorkLife Book Club members. He needed their help to somehow stop the library from becoming a closed chapter of Shoreditch’s life.

As they were mulling over ideas, Benny, a creative director of a brand strategy company, asked if any of them had ever gone on a blind date with a book. They hadn’t. 

Words of Wisdom 

Benny said the set-up is simple: just wrap books in paper – hence the “blind date” – and decorate the wrapping with enticing facts, the books’ first lines, hints about the plot line, and fun facts about the book, such as being made into a film starring … He said it’s a perfect premise for Valentine’s Day, that could easily extend for the whole month of February – A month of love filled with book blind dates.

With just days to launch the idea, Annie, an information and security analyst who loves nothing better than exploring ways to use technology to solve problems and explore ways to make a positive impact to the world around her. And Saoirse, a freelance reporter, journalist and blogger, who covers local news and human interests features, joined forces with Benny to launch: Do You Believe in Love at First Page? February a Valentine’s Month Filled With Blind Dates With a Book campaign.

Maggie, a police officer, set to work on the library catalogue of books to select books across a range of genres – both fiction and non-fiction – romance (because of the month that was in it), mysteries (her own favourite genre), biographies, culinary, travel and more. She wrapped the books and prepared the labels for each one – all with a sense of intrigue and mystery (it was her favourite genre, after all), to pique people’s curiosity, to make them want to ‘get to know’ the book better.

She then created “rate your date” cards that readers would fill out when they’d finished their book. The card ratings were: “true love,” “just friends“, and “never again.” The cards would be entered into a draw to win book prize baskets containing food and books. 

Florian, a restauranteur who was involved in lots of initiatives with his fellow restauranteurs to help people within his industry to flourish and grow through professional and personal development opportunities, set to work on getting the food (and drinks) for the baskets, along with signed copies of books by his chef and sommelier friends (Florian is also a sommelier) The project didn’t have a big budget, but that was OK because Florian was always helping other people, he had a lot of goodwill, and that filled many baskets. 

Pascal, who also had a lot of goodwill because how he was always helping people set about getting more prizes. The group had an idea to run a Save Our Library gala fundraising event, selling tickets to local residents and business owners to attend and also raffle tickets for the prizes Pascal was collecting, which included auction items to bring in big bids. 

Fred brought the team of volunteers that had been helping to hold things together since his fellow librarians’ jobs had been made redundant on board to help with everything that was happening with: Do You Believe in Love at First Page? February a Valentine’s Month Filled With Blind Dates With a Book

And if everything they were doing wasn’t already enough, the group had an idea for …


WorkLife Book Wisdom 

Readers would note the most interesting or surprising piece of wisdom they took in each book they read. It could be anything, but it could only be one thing from each book.

There would then be a collective vote on the most interesting or surprising piece of wisdom shared. The winners would receive … one of Florian’s books, food (and drinks) prize baskets.

The Winning WorkLife Book Wisdom …

“Making a company is a great way of improving the world while improving yourself.” From Anything You Want by Derek Sivers.

“Art is what we call it when we’re able to create something new that changes someone. No change, no art.” The Practice: Shipping creative work by Seth Godin.

“Of course, many people experienced the same perilous times as Rockefeller – they all attended the same school of bad times. But few reacted as he did. Not many had trained themselves to see opportunity inside this obstacle, that what befell them was not unsalvageable misfortune but the gift of education – a chance to learn from a rare moment in economic history.” The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday.

“An individual has been described by a neighbour as follows: Steve is very shy and withdrawn, invariably helpful but with little interest in people or in the world of reality. A meek and tidy soul, he has a need for order and structure, and a passion for detail. Is Steve more likely to be a librarian or a farmer?” Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.

This last book won a special prize (a book blind date in Florian’s restaurant with dinner and drinks – as well as the gift basket) because the answer made the librarians laugh out loud. Farmers aren’t so easy to find in Shoreditch. So there weren’t any farmers on a blind date with a book. Had there been, I think they, too, would have laughed out loud at the answer.

The sheaf of librarians (or is the bundle, catalogue, stack or source the collective term for librarians?) agreed that the answer could only be revealed by taking the book on a blind date. Maggie might have had a little input into that decision and was quickly wrapping the stocked copies and writing labels with those very words of wisdom on each one. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman was soon to become the hottest book date in town.

Epilogue


Do You Believe in Love at First Page? February a Valentine’s Month Filled With Blind Dates With a Book was so successful it not only saved the library from closure. It also created permanent jobs for two new librarians to join Fred. That was just as well because they continued to run monthly Blind Date with a Book themed events, which are so successful, that they are continuously running out of covered books and need many hands to add more to the collection. 

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The community library’s story was informed by Britain has closed almost 800 libraries since 2010, figures show Guardian article by Alison Flood, Friday 6 December 2019.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/dec/06/britain-has-closed-almost-800-libraries-since-2010-figures-show

The Blind Date With a Book idea was inspired by https://programminglibrarian.org/articles/our-picks-blind-date-book

The WorkLife Book Wisdom idea was inspired by an email that popped into my inbox from Derek Sivers, in which he shares: “For every book I read, I note its most interesting and surprising ideas.” Here’s link to his list of books: https://sive.rs/book 

The WorkLife Book Club members are the six members featured in my book: WorkLife Book Club Volume One Shoreditch.

This story is part of a series of stories that share insights into the characters in my book WorkLife Book Club Volume One Shoreditch. Stories that share insights that aren’t shared in the book to the main characters, the support characters and the behind the scenes characters. While the characters in the stories are not based on real people, they are representative of the people who are an integral part of Shoreditch life, the neighbourhood I live in, which is full of people with different WorkLife experiences. Shoreditch is a special place, and I believe what makes it so, is the incredible diversity of life paths that cross here, spanning the whole globe and many walks of life.

You may also like my Learning Through Reading Series: A collection of stories inspired by real WorkLife struggles and successes presented as case studies for group discussion. The case and the recommended book are the required reading for each book club meeting and help to frame the subsequent discussion.

I Trust You, Make the Call

These Six Words Saved Charlie and Helped Him Change His WorkLife

Learn Through Reading & Doing
Learn Through Reading & Doing

Charlie’s Story: A Case Study:

Charlie had been an investment banker, but he lost his job, and then he became homeless. He had been living a life outside of his means and had incurred significant debt, partly due to his extravagant lifestyle and partly due to his addiction to gambling. He had hidden all of this both at work and at home from his wife, but when his debtors caught up with him, his home, car and everything he owned was repossessed. Because he worked in banking, his employers were notified because of the credit checks they randomly carried out on all employees, and as a result, he lost his job. His wife had wanted to stand by him, but the shame he felt led him to a downward spiral of constant drinking, which in turn caused him to push her away. Before long, Charlie was sleeping rough.

Over time, with the help of Big Issue, Charlie was slowly beginning to rebuild his life.

Then when Covid-19 struck, Charlie was forced to leave his pitch. He was accommodated in a local hotel, which had opened its doors to both frontline workers and rough sleepers. He had access to health support, daily welfare and food deliveries. Gary, who was in charge of the food deliveries and managed all of the volunteers, asked Charlie if he could help out. Gary demonstrated to Charlie what he needed to do, which was to pack each of the lunch bags, ready for the volunteers delivering to pick up. He, in effect, gave Charlie responsibility and then trusted him to do it.

Gary also asked Charlie to add anyone he knew who would benefit from a nutritious lunch to their list of deliveries. Charlie mentioned a few of the men who slept at the hotel, who he met every afternoon at a churchyard garden, and asked if he could bring them their lunch at the end of his shift. Gary said yes, but it was the six words he said next that saved Charlie and helped him change his WorkLife, “I trust you, make the call.” Having been shown such kindness and then been given the gift of trust made Charlie feel like a human being again. It had been a long time since he felt that. It had been a long time since someone had shown trust in him.

Then Gary invited Charlie to become one of the founding members of an initiative of a group of people coming together to help rebuild their community following the impact of the pandemic on people’s lives and the community businesses. Charlie felt honoured that Gary had asked him to be involved. He felt Gary saw something in him, and while he didn’t know what it was, it gave him a sense of self-belief — after all, if Gary believed in him, well, then there must be something about him to believe in himself.

At first, Charlie was very much behind the scenes, doing whatever was needed to support the various initiatives put forward by other people. He was always on hand to lend a hand. He always brought his friends who he had gotten to know when sleeping rough with him, getting them involved, showing them the ropes and then instilling trust in them to get on with it, in the same way, Gary had done with him.

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Throughout all of this, Charlie had gotten back to his love of books and learning through reading. Gary, who also loved reading, had made books a feature of the hotel. An eclectic collection could be found in each bedroom as well as all the communal areas, thanks to the guests and the hotel team, who both borrowed and lent books when they came to visit and to work.

Book Wisdom

It was on opening The Third Door by Alex Banyan that Charlie’s thinking was awoken by these:

Words of Wisdom

“If your dream of learning under the wings of world-class mentors, achieving your biggest goals, or just transforming yourself into the person you always imagined you could be. The Third Door gives you the tools you need — so you can get what you want.”

You see, Charlie had a BIG DREAM, but he didn’t know how to make it happen.

His BIG DREAM was to train homeless people to become baristas and help get them off the streets. And now, he had discovered a treasure chest of wisdom to help him understand the steps he needed to take to make that happen.

The words that Qi Li, one of Banayan’s interviewees on his quest to tap into the wisdom of his dream university of professors, spoke to Charlie, “Thank you for doing what you’re doing. What’s motivating you to go on your mission is, in some ways similar to what motivates me. Every minute of every day, it’s about empowering people to know more, do more and be more. I think what you’re doing in many ways, is a great example of that.”

These words caused Charlie to have three realisations in a matter of moments:

  1. He had been doing the same thing Banayan had been doing. He, too, had been empowering people to know more, do more and be more.
  2. That was the ‘something’ that Gary had seen in him and was the reason Gary had helped him.
  3. He needed Gary’s help again.

And so Charlie shared his dream with Gary.

Gary immediately saw the potential. Because, in truth, it was already happening. It was something that Gary had realised a long time ago, but he knew Charlie had to have that realisation for himself. Charlie needed to see the potential, both in himself and his idea, as Gary had done.

And now that he had, Gary was ready to help him. He connected Charlie to Florian, a restauranteur and advocate for people who were part of the culinary industry, and Pascal, a management consultant who was actively involved in driving greater social responsibility within the workplace and community (both members of The WorkLife Book Club). Together the four of them developed a plan and strategy to bring Charlie’s dream to life.

Because of Charlie’s strong desire and natural ability to empower people to know more, do more and be more, the foundation was already in place. With the help of Gary, Florian, and Pascal, Charlie built this into a social enterprise project, and soon a fleet of mobile coffee shops were popping up all over Shoreditch and surrounding areas, all staffed by baristas who had learnt their craft at Charlie’s Barista School.

Epilogue

The social enterprise went much further than serving up the best coffees. Learning to create that perfect cup of coffee instilled a sense of pride in every single employee. And the parting words from Charlie as each team took their mobile coffee truck on the road, “I trust you, make the call,” gave them the self-belief that they could do this.

All of this helped improve their mental health, which had been impacted by the situations in their WorkLives that had caused them to be sleeping rough. The social enterprise also helped them to find their own accommodation. And being out and about in their mobile coffee trucks, at both regular pitches and also as pop-ups in new locations, helped them discover, rediscover and connect with people in their neighbourhood, giving them a sense of community.

I first shared Charlie’s story a long, long time ago. You see, Charlie is an integral part of Shoreditch life. He’s also one of the founding members of a Community WorkLife Book Club. In New Years Tales, I tell the stories of chance encounters which led to the formation of the Community WorkLife Book Club.

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Charlie’s story is one of the many behind the scenes stories that make Shoreditch the special place it is. His back story was inspired by https://review.firstround.com/the-30-best-pieces-of-advice-for-entrepreneurs-in-2021 and his continuing story was inspired by stories from real-life social enterprises in London who are helping rough sleepers improve their mental wellbeing through meaningful work, find homes, and to play an integral role within their community by being connected.

This story is part of a series of stories that share insights into the characters in my book WorkLife Book Club Volume One Shoreditch. Stories that share insights that aren’t shared in the book to the main characters, the support characters and the behind the scenes characters. While the characters in the stories are not based on real people, they are representative of the people who are an integral part of Shoreditch life, the neighbourhood I live in, which is full of people with different WorkLife experiences. Shoreditch is a special place, and I believe what makes it so, is the incredible diversity of life paths that cross here, spanning the whole globe and many walks of life.

You may also like my Learning Through Reading Series: A collection of stories inspired by real WorkLife struggles and successes presented as case studies for group discussion. The case and the recommended book are the required reading for each book club meeting and help to frame the subsequent discussion.

6 Tips to Help You Craft Great Opening Lines That Hook Your Audience the Moment You Begin Your Story

Many Stories Grow From a Single Sentence #Lesson1 … Success Tells The Story 

Learn Through Writing, Ideas & Speaking
Learn Through Writing, Ideas & Speaking

INTRODUCTION 

The opening line to your story can be simple, eloquent, informative, contradictory, startling, thrilling, curious, suspenseful … But it should propose a contract to your audience: If you keep listening, I’ll tell you a certain kind of story.

In this lesson, you will take time to think about an intriguing way to begin your Success Story.

You will learn to craft the beginning, the middle and the end of your story.

Through Aisling’s story (the protagonist in the story/case study in this lesson), you will learn how to use the 6 Tips to Help You Develop Great Opening Lines That Hook Your Audience the Moment You Begin Your Story. You will also use the #6TIPS as a tool to both structure and test your story.

The #6TIPS:

#TIP1. State your theme at the outset: Consider the central theme of your story idea and brainstorm ways to distil it down to a single sentence; 

#TIP2. Begin with a strange/unusual/interesting detail: A great opening line hooks your audience and captures their attention the moment you begin your story;

#TIP3. Establish your character’s voice – that’s your voice: The best stories are truthful, simple and consistent. Those are the three frame words of delivering great storytelling – truthful, simple and consistent. Over time that’s how brands are built – you are your own brand.

#TIP4. Introduce your narrative style: While each story has its own voice, the attitude, the soul, that’s all you. Let your signature style shine through;

#TIP5. Convey the stakes: Demonstrate the impact of a loss or potential loss of something the protagonist believes is crucial in achieving their story’s goal – Remember, everyone’s story is different. Everyone also has different stories – some will have higher or lower stakes. The important thing is that the stakes need to be high enough to give the audience a sense of the impact of the loss or potential loss to the protagonist;

#TIP 6. Set the scene: Setting the scene gives your audience an insight into what is about to unfold. It also helps you craft the beginning, middle and end of your story.

You will learn to write great stories. And you will learn to increase the quality of your ideas. You will learn to share your unique stories by speaking them aloud.

That’s important because, as Patrick Winston shared in his:

Words of Wisdom

“Your success in life will be determined largely by your ability to speak, your ability to write, and the quality of your ideas.”

LECTURE

“Perhaps the story you finish is never the one you begin.”  Salman Rushdie. 

You may have an opening line going into your story, or you may discover it as you discover your story. Mostly you won’t know your entire story (or I don’t). You will write it to find out what happens.

But you need to have something going in. All stories begin with an idea. You need to have a general sense of where your story is going to go. You need to know the theme of your story. And to know that, you need to ask the question: 

What is my story about?


END OF LECTURE

Let’s look at this in the context of Aisling’s Story: A Case Study:

A TALE OF THREE FUNDAMENTAL WORKLIFE STORIES #LESSON1: THE SUCCESS STORY:

Aisling works independently as a WorkLife learning practitioner and writer. She had taken a year out to write her latest book. Turning up at her laptop every day, creating learning resources and writing stories is her happy place. Oftentimes she’ll write from dawn to dusk, stopping only briefly to eat before continuing late into the night. 

But as much as she loves the solitude of creating and writing, she’s very aware that so much time alone is not good for her well-being and that she needs more social interaction. She’s also very aware that the other side of working independently as a creator is needing to promote herself and her work, and to do that, she needs to get out and about and mingle more. After all, she has a new book to tell people about.

That’s OK because Aisling loves to meet people. She loves to hear their stories, and she loves to tell her own story. But having been out of circulation for so long, she felt her storytelling techniques needed a little fine-tuning, and so that’s what she set out to do.

THE ART OF INSIGHTFUL QUESTIONS AND EFFECTIVE FEEDBACK

Aisling is a reflective soul and loves pondering on simple yet insightful questions that bring about effective feedback. 

So, she began by asking herself:

What type of stories do I like to listen to?

I love short stories that draw me in from the very first sentence because they give an insight into the person and what makes them interesting, leaving me curious to want to learn more about their story.

Aisling knew these were the type of stories that she wanted to tell.

But she needed to know more. She felt she needed the bigger picture. So once again, she posed a question to herself:

What type of stories do I want to tell?

She thought about the stories she enjoyed listening to and why:

Success Stories – people talking with a sense of pride about something they consider to be an achievement in their WorkLife.

Failure Stories – people talking about a time when a failure or perceived failure came close to destroying them and how they moved beyond that to pick themselves back up. 

Passion Stories – people talking about their passion, the thing that inspires them and keeps them actively engaged and motivated in their WorkLife.

Aisling believed that SuccessFailure and Passion stories were the three fundamental stories in all WorkLife communication and situations. – from everyday conversations (including career and feedback conversations) to interviews and presentations to talks and negotiations to leadership and management to networking and building relationships.

She had the answer to her question: 

What type of stories do I want to tell? – her big picture answer – Success, Failure and Passion stories.

She now wanted to get more into the detail about what she wanted to tell in each of her stories. So, once again, she asked herself:

What type of story do I want to tell?

Thinking about the stories she loved to listen to and why she thought the most engaging stories are the personal stories people tell; they’re meaningful simply because it’s clear they have meaning to the storyteller. That makes them unique, which in turn makes them interesting. 

These were the type of stories that Aisling wanted to tell.

Aisling now had the answers to knowing the type of stories she wanted to tell – both the big picture and the detailed answers that would help her to craft her stories.

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In this lesson, #Lesson1, you will learn the Art of Crafting your Success Story. 

In #Lesson2, you will learn the Art of Crafting your Failure Story. 

In #Lesson3, you will learn the Art of Crafting your Passion Story.

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SUCCESS TELLS THE STORY 

Aisling set about crafting her Success Story by pondering the question:

What am I most proud of in my WorkLife?

Aisling considered the question in a way that demonstrates her thinking – her ideas and the quality of those ideas, in a way that shows her uniqueness and tells her truth.

An Aside: Thoughts are a mental process that keep on going in your mind unbated. Ideas are the formation of a plan or process that occur in your mind in relation to a possible course of action to achieve an objective. 

She took out her notebook and wrote down everything that came into her mind.

She went with the free flow of being in the moment, getting her thoughts out of her head and onto paper.

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CRAFT YOUR SUCCESS STORY WRITING ASSIGNMENT

To write your Success Story, Ponder the question:

What am I most proud of in my WorkLife?

Consider the question in a way that demonstrates your thinking. – your ideas and the quality of those ideas, in a way that shows your uniqueness and tells your truth.

Take out a notebook, or on your device, write down everything that comes into your mind.

Go with the free flow of being in the moment, getting your thoughts out of your head and onto paper. 

What You’ve Accomplished: By getting your thoughts out of your head and onto paper, you’ve begun to structure your ideas to figure out your story. 

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Aisling then went about her day, letting her mind wander and wonder on the question:

What am I most proud of in my WorkLife?

She carried her notebook with her to gather her thoughts and ideas and to notice connections.

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LET YOUR MIND WANDER AND WONDER THINKING AND OBSERVATION ASSIGNMENT

As you go about your day, let your mind wander and wonder on the question:

What am I most proud of in my WorkLife?

This can be both consciously and subconsciously.

For example, by tapping into the Three B’s of Creativity, you can consciously pose the question, and then you can allow your subconscious mind to wander and wonder. 

THE THREE B’S OF CREATIVITY

BUS: (Which represents any form of travel and movement, including, for example, walking). Consciously pose the question to yourself, then allow your mind to switch off by focusing on your surroundings, allowing your subconscious mind to wander and wonder.

BATH:  Consciously pose the question to yourself before switching your mind off and doing nothing other than soaking in the wonderfully relaxing environment of your bathroom.

BED: Consciously pose the question to yourself before drifting off to sleep, allowing your subconscious mind to wander and wonder.

Remember to have your notebook or device with you. The process of writing is really important because even in the process of writing something simple – words, sentences, thoughts, ideas, your mind starts to notice connections, and connections are what stories are made out of.

What You’ve Accomplished: By adding more ideas to the mix, you’ll see your story take a clearer shape.

Continue to tap into both of these assignments to help build your Success Story.

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When Aisling was at a place where she was ready to craft her story, to test her opening line and to help structure and test her story, she used the 6 Tips to Help You Craft Great Opening Lines That Hook Your Audience the Moment You Begin Your Story.

Aisling went through her story line by line, section by section, using the Six Tips as a tool to both structure and test her story. This helped her to craft her opening line. It also helped her notice if a section was too busy and needed to be broken up or simplified. Or if it was too dull and needed to be eliminated. It also helped to keep her story short because, after all, that was Aisling’s aim. And it helped to control the pacing of the story.

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AISLING’S SUCCESS STORY

The Opening Line – The Beginning

You welcomed us into your heart and your life, and there will always be a place in our hearts and our lives for you. 

(#TIP2. Begin with a strange/unusual/interesting detail: A great opening line hooks your audience and captures their attention the moment you begin your story – Aisling believed she had accomplished this).

Those words represent what I consider to be my greatest success in my life. 

(#TIP1. State your theme at the outset: Consider the central theme of your story idea and brainstorm ways to distil it down to a single sentence – Aisling believed she had accomplished this).

The Continuing Story – The Middle 

When my marriage ended, I was concerned about how this would impact my relationship with my stepsons – Patrick, Seán and Liam – who had been an important part of my life for ten years. This was because the boys had busy lives of their own, and I wasn’t sure where I would fit in, or indeed if I would fit in. 

(#TIP5. Convey the stakes: Demonstrate the impact of a loss or potential loss of something the protagonist believes is crucial in achieving their story’s goal – Aisling believed she had accomplished this). 

Remember, everyone’s story is different. Everyone also has different stories – some will have higher or lower stakes. The important thing is that the stakes need to be high enough to give the audience a sense of the impact of the loss or potential loss to the protagonist;

I broached this with the eldest, Patrick, who said to me: “You welcomed us into your heart and your life, and there will always be a place in our hearts and our lives for you.” 

(#TIP 6. Set the scene: Setting the scene gives your audience an insight into what is about to unfold. It also helps you to craft the beginning, middle and end of your story – Aisling believed she had accomplished this.

She believed that this reminded the audience of what her story was about. It brought them back to the beginning of her story, and it helped her craft her continuing story – the middle and the end.)

True to his word, he and his brothers continue to include me in their important life events, as I do them. Patrick now had four boys of his own: Conor, Finn, Tadhg and Cian. The time I spend with them is the most rewarding and brings me so much happiness. 

(#TIP4. Introduce your narrative style: While each story has its own voice, the attitude, the soul, that’s all you, let your signature style shine through – Aisling believed she had accomplished this.)

The Closing Line – The End

Being welcomed into the hearts and lives of the people who mean so much to me truly represents the greatest success in my life. 

(#TIP3. Establish your character’s voice – that’s your voice: The best stories are truthful, simple and consistent. Those are the three frame words of delivering great storytelling – truthful, simple and consistent. Over time that’s how brands are built – you are your own brand. – Aisling believed she had accomplished this.)

Aisling then began to speak the words out loud. Slowly at first, and then on fast forward. This helped her to identify words and parts of her story that could potentially trip her up. It helped her to recognise what needed more or less emphasis. It helped her to consider how pacing and pausing could help her tell her story in a more interesting way to draw her audience in. 

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Use The 6 Tips to Help You Craft Great Opening Lines That Hook Your Audience the Moment You Begin Your Story To Both Test Your Opening Line and To Structure and Test Your Story Assignment

When you are at a place where you are ready to craft your story, to test your opening line and to help structure and test your story, use The Six Tips to Help You Craft Great Opening Lines That Hook Your Audience the Moment You Begin Your Story.

Go through your story line by line, section by section, using the #6Tips as a tool to both structure and test your story. This will help you to craft your opening line. It will also help you notice if a section is too busy and needs to be broken up or simplified. Or if it is too dull and needs to be eliminated. It will also help you to keep your story short. And it will help you to control the pacing of the story.

The #6TIPS

#TIP1. State your theme at the outset: Consider the central theme of your story idea and brainstorm ways to distil it down to a single sentence; 

#TIP2. Begin with a strange/unusual/interesting detail: A great opening line hooks your audience and captures their attention the moment you begin your story;

#TIP3. Establish your character’s voice – that’s your voice: The best stories are truthful, simple and consistent. Those are the three frame words of delivering great storytelling – truthful, simple and consistent. Over time that’s how brands are built – you are your brand;

#TIP4. Introduce your narrative style: While each story has its own voice, the attitude, the soul, that’s all you. Let your signature style shine through;

#TIP5. Convey the stakes: Demonstrate the impact of a loss or potential loss of something the protagonist believes is crucial in achieving their story’s goal – Remember, everyone’s story is different. Everyone also has different stories – some will have higher or lower stakes. The important thing is that the stakes need to be high enough to give the audience a sense of the impact of the loss or potential loss to the protagonist; 

#TIP 6. Set the scene: Setting the scene gives your audience an insight into what is about to unfold. It also helps you to craft the beginning, middle and end of your story.

SPEAKING ASSIGNMENT

When you have crafted your story, speak the words out loud. Slowly at first, and then on fast forward. As with Aisling, this will help identify words and parts of your story that could potentially trip you up. It will help you to recognise what needs more or less emphasis. It will help you to consider how pacing and pausing could help tell your story in a more interesting way to draw your audience in. 

What You’ve Accomplished: You’ve just structured your entire story, crafted a great opening line and ran your lines.

AFTERWORD

Keep a notebook devoted solely to this course. While the assignments are designed to help you craft your story in line with the topic of each lesson, you will likely want to continue to build on each individual story and to also build a collection of stories. Having a collection of stories that are unique to you that you can tap into to tell the right story at the right time in all WorkLife situations is what The Art of WorkLife Storytelling is all about. 

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YOUR CONTINUOUS LEARNING ASSIGNMENTS 

THE ART OF JOURNALING AND THE ART OF THINKING: OBSERVATION AND WRITTEN ASSIGNMENTS 

Develop your storytelling ability by making storytelling part of your daily life. After all, storytelling is the best communication tool in all WorkLife situations. Whenever you want to connect to people, tell a story.

Do this by simply connecting with people through conversations. Listen to their stories. Ask insightful questions – remember the old adage: “To be interesting, be interested.” Dale Carnegie.

By being observant, your mind will start noticing connections, and connections are what stories are made out of. Write down your observations. Journaling on your thoughts enables you to increase the quality of your ideas.

This, in turn, will enable you to build a range of stories that you can then tap into to tell the right story at the right time. Your authentic stories because they’re coming from your thoughts and ideas, your feelings and emotions, your beliefs and values, and your learning through your WorkLife experiences. All of which makes you, your voice and your stories unique because they come from your authentic truth – who you are, what you’re about. What’s important to you, what you stand for and what you stand against. 

What You’ll Accomplish: Stories will come to you easily and effortlessly. You’ll become an active participant in your own WorkLife story.

COLLECTING LINES ASSIGNMENT

Start collecting lines – something that someone once said to you that has always remained with you. A line overheard. A line in a performance – film, tv, theatre. A line from something you read in a book or article, or blog. A line you heard on the radio or in a podcast. Wonderful lines that draw you in are everywhere. Start paying attention to both remember old lines that have impacted you in your WorkLife, and to notice new lines that you can add to your repertoire of great opening lines. 

What You’ll Accomplish: You’ll build that wonderful repertoire of great opening lines.

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This story is from my Substack Publication: The Art of WorkLife Storytelling created to help you Learn To Craft Your Unique Stories. 

Every Tuesday, I publish a new story. On the last Tuesday of each month, I make the story available to all readers. The stories I publish on the other weeks are available to subscribers only. Subscribers have access to the full archive. The subscription is £5 p.m. 

This allows me to honour my commitment to create WorkLife learning resources that are accessible to everyone, that also reflect the value at a fair price to all – individuals who are responsible for their own learning, companies who want to invest in the learning of their people, and me as the creator. 

If you think this story would be helpful to someone you know, please feel free to share it.

If you found this story helpful and would like to receive all the weekly stories, you can sign up within any of my weekly ‘subscriber only’ lessons. The Art of WorkLife Storytelling publication goes out every Tuesday. 

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Resources

The Coffee Break Screenwriter by Pilar Alessandra.

The 6 Tips to Help You Craft Great Opening Lines That Hook Your Audience the Moment You Begin Your Story was adapted from: https://www.masterclass.com/articles/tips-for-writing-the-opening-line-of-your-novel#6-tips-for-writing-a-great-opening-line.

Aisling’s learning was inspired by www.masterclass.com, and Neil Gaiman Teaches the Art of Storytelling Class. 

Words of Wisdom was inspired by: https://www.inc.com/justin-bariso/emotional-intelligence-mit-patrick-winston-how-to-communicate-effectively-how-to-write.html.