Those who do not have power over the story that dominates their lives, the power to retell it, rethink it, deconstruct it, joke about it, and change it as times change, truly are powerless, because they cannot think new thoughts. —Salman Rushdie

Stories are the creative conversion of life itself into a more powerful, clearer, more meaningful experience. They are the currency of human contact. — Robert McKee

When it comes to communication, the story is everything. Whether it is selling, leading, managing, teaching or preaching, the power of story is the power of change. I would like to tell you one of my all-time favorite stories, a story that represents a change in my perceptions and therefore my reality.
I would like to tell you a story.
In 1996, quite by accident, I found out that my father had adopted me at three years old. I was 51 at the time and it turned my world upside down.
My younger brother, Dave and his two children were helping my parents move out of our family home in Illinois. My nephews were carrying a chest of drawers down the front porch steps when they last their hold. The chest tumbled down and landed on its side.
A drawer had slide out. Under an old tattered piece of cardboard lay a photo of my mother in what looked like a wedding ceremony with a stranger. Thinking that it was some kind of a Halloween joke, my nephew took the picture back in the house and placed it on a chair. My brother, Dave, passing by the chair, picked it up, examined the photo and immediately sought out my father.
Confronting my father, a calm and peaceful soul, Dave held out the photo and demanded, “What does this mean?” With a glance, my father nonchalantly replied, “I adopted James when he was four years old.” Bordering on hysteria, my brother continued, “Does he know?” “No,” my father replied. “Neither of you were ever supposed to know.” “Well, you have to tell him,” my brother shot back.” “I don’t want to tell him, you tell him,” retorted my father. They worked out a plan. I would be speaking in Milwaukee and both my father and brother would meet me at the hotel for dinner.
Over dinner we caught up and shared our most recent happenings. It was a delight to be with them. Following our food consumption, we went up to my suite. I sat in a large overstuffed chair, my father and brother stood. They were staring at me in an odd way. It was a strange moment. My brother suddenly exclaimed, “There are skeletons in our closet.” Knowing my brothers extraordinary sense of humor and seeking a punch line, I asked, “How many.” “Just one,” he replied. There was an awkward silence as I looked from one to the other with what must have been a very stupid expression. Suddenly my father, a man of few words and one who is terribly uncomfortable with intimacy, quietly said, “I adopted you when you were three years old.”
What a bazaar moment. It didn’t register; it did register. My mind became a 20-ring circus. I felt my reality tilt. A wave of conflicting emotions stormed through me. It was then that my father did something he has never done before. He lovingly put his hand on my shoulder, looked me in the eyes and said, “I hope this doesn’t change anything between us.” That was the closest he had ever come to saying, “I love you.” And, that’s exactly what I heard.
It was in that millisecond that I realized saw I had two choices. One was to be angry and resentful; the other to feel honored and loved. I felt tears well up. It was in that moment that I chose to forgive – instantly. Since then, our relationship has soared. The lie and an unspoken barrier no longer existed.
I’ve never forgotten that moment or the lesson of love and forgiveness. That story has affected me in the most positive way all my life.
Consider this. If I wanted to teach a lesson about love and forgiveness, what would create a more powerful result – relating this story or simply saying to someone, “Holding on to resentment and anger is harmful. It will only hurt you.”
There is no contest. It’s the story that makes the difference. Stories captivate; Metaphor illuminates. Stories with lessons shift our thinking because they draw upon the power of the imagination.
The tale I related happens to be about love and forgiveness. But there are limitless stories that can illuminate, entertain and teach and move others to actin in every area of life - personal and business.
You, as a parent, friend, lover, spouse, business person, community organizer have limitless opportunities to tell a story. In fact, your success in life both personally and profession – mentally, spiritually, emotionally or socially - depends on your ability to move other with story. Think about all the stories you tell yourself and others throughout the day. You tell and hear stories of complaint, success, horror or healing all the time. Those stories influence others as stories influence you. Stories that are vivid in detail and charged with emotion impact and influence.
Why are emotional based stories so powerful? As I present in my program - IMAGINE THAT! – stories are impactful because you and I think in pictures and images, because the subconscious mind cannot tell the difference between a real or imagined experience and because it is in our DNA to have empathy and respond to emotion.
The more rounded and full a story, the more impact it has. Human beings have been communicating with each other through storytelling since we lived in caves and sat around campfires exchanging tales. Stories help us make sense of a world that often defies logic. Stories move us to action.
There are long stories like feature films, documentaries and novels. They can not only entertain but teach valuable life lessons. There are television series designed to divert and entertain, channels like Nature, Nova and PBS which educate and the news which is an accumulation of quick stories to hopefully inform but often horrify.
There are the stories called Parables. A parable is a short fictitious narrative of something which might really occur in life by which a moral is drawn. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to turn Dr. Spencer Johnson’s “Peak and Valleys” parable into a live presentation which did both entertain and teach how to ride the ups and downs of life. There are Aesop’s Fables and the brother Grimm fairy tales. The Bible is chock full of parables that teach lessons.
Just think about the stories you tell every day and the impact they have on others. When you complain, talk negatively or gossip you are affecting other peoples’ perceptions in a manner that you may not want to. When you tell stories that are positive and moving, you shape other’s perceptions in a meaningful way. You can make a difference by the way you tell stories. Two books I recommend are The Power of Personal Storytelling by Jack Maguire and The Power of Story: Rewrite You Destiny in Business and in Life by Jim Loehr.
The power of storytelling is being rediscovered because of the study of the brain. Brain science shows that without a doubt the stories we tell ourselves and others have a powerful impact on our perceptions and the choices we me. The power of story can create change for the better. It is a key to education, training, selling, and managing communications and innovation.
If you want to move others to action and/or teach a lesson, help others shift their thinking and gain insight, take the time to craft your story.
Here are a few tips to help you become a good storyteller.
-Study the art of storytelling.
-Choose the lesson you want to teach or be clear on the point you want to make.
-Write your story out to help you clarify it.
-Crate a story that is vivid, rich in color and detail and is super- charged with emotion.
-Tell a story so it appeals to the heart as well as the intellect.
In a world of quick sound bites our connected world, there is still no faster or effective way to make a major difference in your communication than by telling a good story. If you want to live an exceptional life, learn to become and exceptional storyteller.

Author's Bio: 

James Mapes is the founder of Quantum Leap Thinking™, creator of The Transformational Coach™, expert on the psychology of “applied imagination,” best- selling author, highly acclaimed business speaker, consultant, seminar leader and personal excellence coach. For over 30 years, James has been an ardent student of human behavior and dedicated to helping individuals, teams and organizations identify and break through barriers to reach their goals and achieve success. He encourages people to be open to new ways of thinking, and his goal is to help everyone make the "quantum leap" toward more creative, productive and confident lives. For both businesses and individuals, his message promotes an innovative, powerful way of thinking and provides a new-found mastery over their imagination and perceptions so that, in his words, "the invisible becomes visible and the impossible becomes possible." The results have been nothing short of extraordinary, creating key breakthroughs in both organizational and personal excellence.

James Mapes' success as a speaker and highly regarded authority on the imagination, creative thinking, communication, managing change, organizational problem-solving, successful teamwork and coaching is due to his early training as an actor and experience as a theatrical producer. In 1969, he graduated from California State University with a Master of Arts degree in theater and speech. He then worked in repertory theater, off-Broadway and directed two of his own theater companies, amassing dozens of television and movie credits. As a performer, he developed a unique stage presence with a special talent for connecting with his audience. Mapes' work has earned him appearances on CNN, The Today Show, Good Morning America and Fox Family Channel, among other media outlets.

As a recognized business speaker and performance coach, James has spoken to hundreds of public and private companies in more than 70 countries. His clients include financial institutions, software companies, the military, the healthcare industry, financial institutions, training and development divisions of large corporations and major non-profit organizations. Companies, associations, universities and business schools including - IBM Corporate, U.S. Coast Guard, Lockheed Martin and The Princeton Center for Leadership Training - have quoted Mapes in training manuals and textbooks.

James Mapes personal goal of living an exceptional life is reflected in both his business activities as well as his recreational pursuits, which range from scuba-diving, ballooning, racecar driving, Kempo Karate, and world travel, to an avid interest in reading. His two highly regarded books are Quantum Leap Thinking: An Owner's Guide to the Mind and The Workbook: The Magic of Quantum Leap Thinking. His new book The Elephant and the Rider: Living an Exceptional Life is scheduled for publication in 2012.

James Mapes presentations are personal, interactive and humorous. Above all, he creates results and makes a lasting difference in the energy level, commitment and productivity of each individual in his audience.

In the 1970's, James became interested in the power of the subconscious mind. To better understand this intriguing area, he researched psychology, philosophy, neurology and eventually, hypnotherapy Neuro-Linguistic Programming. His expertise quickly earned him recognition as a clinical hypnotist, becoming highly effective in assisting clients in weight reduction, smoking cessation, the elimination of phobias and pain reduction for terminally ill cancer patients. As a skilled practitioner of regression techniques, he helped the New York City Police Department in "memory recovery" with both witnesses to, and victims of, crime and he has worked with professional athletes to help improve their performance in their sport.

James Mapes has created an ongoing series of self-improvement audio recordings and writes a syndicated newspaper column for Hearst newspapers in Connecticut and The Arizona Reporter. James also enjoys presenting his one-man show, Journey Into the Imagination at performing arts centers and universities around the country. He appeared on Broadway in 2003 and presented A Whirlwind Tour of the Mind at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center in Manhattan in 2007. When not touring, James and his wife divide their time between residences in Westport, Connecticut, and St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands.