Good Storytelling Begins with Figuring out What you Think

In this commencement address for the Weinberg College of Arts & Sciences at Northwestern University, Dan Pink shares a personal story about the wisest advice he ever got on how to live.

A fellow linguistic, he received this advice from a professor (minute 7:36):

Sometimes you need to write to figure it (nda: what you are thinking) out.

That is wise advice indeed — and not just about how to figure out what you are thinking through writing. Pink asks the students to engage in an experiment, to go out into the world and find someone in their mid career stage, someone who they admire, who is doing something that contributes to the world, and ask that person how they got there.

97/100 times, the smartest, most interesting, most dynamic, most impactful people answer will answer that question like this: "it's a long story".

My parents and friends did ask me the same question Pink posits at the beginning of his talk, "what are you going to do with all that?" due to my picking Liberal Arts/linguistics at the University of Bologna. When someone asks me how I got to where I got today, as GapJumpers did in its interview series on Medium, I do answer, "It's a long story".

Good storytelling begins with figuring out what you think and you do that by experiencing, observing, and trying things. How to get motivated to write is often by getting on with the actual writing.

As Pink says:

Sometimes, the only way to discover who you are or what life you should lead is to do less planning and more living — to burst the double bubble of comfort and convention and just do stuff.



Valeria is an experienced listener. She designs service and product experiences to help businesses rediscover the value of promises and its effect on relationships and culture. She is also frequent speaker at conferences and companies on a variety of topics. Book her to speak here.


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