“We are all trying to go from an old story to a new story.” says Michael Margolis, founder of StoryU and a consultant to major companies around the world in storytelling. He is also a self-described chocolate addict and collector. Michael recently presented at Vitality, Six Seconds’ online EQ conference.
As a child, Michael Margolis was raised in what he calls “An Exploratorium household.” His parents, a scientist/inventor and an artist/writer encouraged experimentation and intrinsic love of learning. Margolis and his parents went on scavenging expeditions to yard sales and made kinetic sculptures and “world in a box” art pieces for friends on special occasions out of the “superjunk” they’d find. “They taught me how to explore, but not how to fit in.” As a child Michael’s family moved to Switzerland and he spoke no English until they moved when he was 9 to Los Angeles. In response to his quirky and sometimes isolating childhood, Michael became what he calls a “Story anthropologist”, seeking out and uncovering the hidden stories behind people’s lives.
Now he helps individuals and businesses explore how they are telling their own stories and how to make them more authentic and real. “We are experiencing people online before we meet them in person. Someone can learn a great deal about you while you sleep.” While this may sound unsettling, the world of Linked In, Google, Facebook and Twitter provides stories you may or may not want people to know about you. “We are all feeling more vulnerable and exposed and judged. You are being hired because of your story, far more than you are because of your work history.” He urges us to go beyond bragging or apologizing to figuring out what we are genuinely up to in the world and what motivates us. StoryU offers a short program for people wanting to revamp their “about us” or biography profiles to better reflect who they really are and what their higher purpose (noble goal) is in the world. This can unify our actions and seemingly disparate jobs and activities into a powerful narrative that guides decisions large and small.
The news last month that StoryCorps, the nation’s premier story-collecting organization, won the $1 million TEDEX, is testimony to the power of storytelling in our time. This work is also vital for organizations, explains Margolis.
He tells the story of one client in Hawaii, an old and venerable nonprofit serving women, that had lost its direction and was losing supporters. They had a beautiful facility, a pool, and programs that were based on an old model of “rich women helping poor women.” But that didn’t fit the reality that in their state, most women were raising families and working. With the help of StoryU, they decided to revamp their entire structure into a membership organization to fit the needs of their evolving clientele, while holding on to their core values of helping women. Now they are back in a vital, successful operational mode serving more people than ever.
Whether it is gaining a handle on the truth of one’s personal story or expanding that vision to the organizations we lead and foster, Margolis says the time is ripe for an emotional intelligence based on self-knowledge that is articulated outward. In Six Seconds’ world, it is described as “Know Yourself, Choose Yourself, Give Yourself”. Thanks to Michael Margolis for giving his time and insight during Vitality!
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