685x600threvsleepwalkI tell a lot of stories in my public speaking. So many that someone recommended I write a book. So I did. It was cathartic.

Yesterday I went into Manhattan to see a storyteller by the name of Mike Birbiglia (pronounced Ber-Brow-Ski). I first heard him on NPR’s This American Life. The story was called “My girlfriend’s boyfriend” and I had to listen to it twice it was that good. And it’s true. I know this because at the beginning of his stories yesterday he said, “These stories are true.”

SIDEBAR: Why do people always ask that? “Was that a TRUE story?” As if they are reserving their learning from it or loving it until it’s confirmed…..interesting.

Storytelling is such a powerful tool in building relationships.

I went to a stress management seminar back in my twenties (actually my boss MADE me go to it) and at the beginning of the class the instructor asked us to think about our stories. When you are getting to know someone, what STORIES do you pull out? You know the ones, the ones that you feel define you somehow or will make a good (or not so good) impression (whichever is your goal).

At that time my biggest stories were of me being “sentenced” to the Catholic church growing up. It felt like prison at the time. (Only later did I become a born-again Catholic, because it was MY choice.) But anyone who’s grown up Catholic can relate…without saying much more, there’s a certain and immediate bonding that occurs.

According to the Stress Management Teacher, the stories you tell reflect the issues you’re still working on. Things that may be the root of your stress.

My sister always tells the story of not just having four kids, but having four difficult pregnancies and deliveries. Her kids are all grown and out of the house, but she’s still dealing with this. She’ll tell a complete stranger on an airplane the gruesome details of her four C-Sections and subsequent hysterectomy. Word of warning if you ever fly.

Mike Birbiglia’s stories are not only true, but are so randomly told. That’s the best way I can describe it. His A.D.D. allows him (and the audience) to go from one branch to another, swinging along with highs and lows and eventually settling in securely on the starting point – it almost leaves you breathless. Once you’re in the rhythm of it, you can let go and meander with him, knowing he’ll bring you back around safely. And boy did he deliver. The last line of the story still blows me away.

I never thought of a comedian being self-employed until Mike said it. And his tales of life on the road and ego-googling and how email is like a slot machine in Vegas (am I gonna make money?) I realized, I’m kind of a stand-up.

Tomorrow I fly to Reno to speak to a bunch of Agricultural Economists at a luncheon. Why am I speaking at lunch? Because apparently I’m entertaining. And the rest of the seminar is very dry (or so I was told).

So I guess what I’m trying to say – Mike, thanks. This economy has kind of pooped in my punch bowl and I was feeling a bit anxious about my future, and you helped me see that I chose this life. I love traveling and meeting new people and telling my stories and hoping someone will be better for it.

I hope you find this post in your Google Alerts, watching the news, in your sleeping bag, mittens at your side, waiting for that pizza ring pillow to be placed gently around your neck.