I love hearing stories. From my grandparents, on the radio, or from the strangers I meet. Stopping to listen to the stories around us allows us to gain a clearer picture of the reality we create.
As I go throughout my day, I am continually met by people who are just waiting to share there experiences. So I offer an ear, a perspective, and a catharsis. It allows those people to open themselves to me, and it gives me an opportunity to learn something I didn't already know. What I take away may be inconsequential to some, but to me, it's crucial in shaping the world around me.
I'm also met by people who think they've sucked all the knowledge out of this world, and toss everyone else's opinions aside. I listen to these people as well, although the courtesy is not reciprocated. I listen to their indelible views as a cautionary tale. The words that are said from a self-righteous man are not near as important as the self-righteousness itself. Socrates said it best when he admitted,
"The only thing I know is that I know nothing."
And so I seek to know, all the while realizing that, in the grand scheme of things, I'll only know nothing.
Find Broad Perspective in Microcosmic Experience
My valentines day gift from my wife this year was a retrospective collection of NPR radio broadcasts. The four disc collections chronicles memorable moments in history, as conveyed by this great organization. I am currently halfway through the 1980's disc, and am not only amazed by the real-time peek into events such as the Vietnam protests in Washington or the Challenger explosion, but also thrilled by the way in which the reporters convey each event from the perspective of the individuals they interview.
Events are made up of actions and reactions. A person takes action, a government reacts. A tragic action occurs, affected people react. The important realization in this is the humanity. Without the people that comprise and create historic events, the events themselves would not exist. National Public Radio gives a face to those people who we hear as statistics in other media outlets. These stories offer an insight into the "why" and "how" rather than simply the "what" of a story.
Successful Selling is Intuitive Listening
I sell things for a living. I do not wear a checkered jacket or a comb-over (although the latter may be genetically inevitable. I am not a salesman.
The part of sales that keeps me going is the opportunity to hear a story. When I can get a business owner started on their business - why it is special, what they do that is unique, or the way they have made the world a better place with their product - it is as if they've brought me into a private part of their life. And they have - their aspirations.
Often a casual conversation with a proprietor about their business will allow them to gain perspective about their own business, taking a step back and looking at the big picture. After a few minutes of chatting, we've both learned about the store and the business owner has virtually sold himself on the product.
I'm obviously oversimplifying it, but without the stories I hear, I'd just be another cheesy car salesman with a fly-by-night deal. And that would be unbearable.
Coming Soon to a Diner Near You
I've been working on a project that I've affectionately titled "DinerCast". It's a documentary-style podcast that takes me and a few hungry associates around to local diners and eateries in an effort to capture the essence of these greasy spoons that are so important to Americana culture. With each project, the food is important, the atmosphere is key, but the conversations we hear and engage in are really what we are after. The waitresses, cooks, and fellow patrons create this sense of connection to the establishment that makes each trip to a new shop unique and memorable. Hopefully you'll find the experience just as engaging when you listen. If all goes well with editing, look for the first published DinerCast next week.
Listen for stories. Everyone's got them, and most are just waiting for someone to lend an ear.