Tag Archives: life coaching

Toxic Tales – The Lemming Lie

lemming-763780_1920This is the third article in a series on Toxic Tales.  Now it’s gonna get messy.

Have you ever heard the phrase – “Don’t be a lemming” or “If you friends jumped off a cliff, would you do it too?”  Up until a few months ago, I thought lemmings were mammals that willingly followed the group and would jump off a cliff just to follow the crowd.  I grew up “knowing” that fact.  A few months ago I was reading an article in Smithsonian Magazine about white owls and stumbled onto a section about lemmings, their major food source.  The journalist threw in a line about a nature documentary that staged the mass lemming death to create a dramatic ending. Huh? What?

I rolled up my sleeves and investigated the mystery of The Lemming Lie.

Here’s what I found. Back in 1957 Disney produced a nature documentary called White Wilderness about the arctic. The producer needed a dramatic ending so he herded a group of lemmings and drove them off a cliff.  Families gathered every Sunday to watch the Wonderful World of Disney, so when the documentary was aired millions saw a group of gerbil like rodents tumbling off a series of rocky cliffs, many falling to their deaths, others being swept away into the ocean.  White Wilderness won the 1958 Oscar for Best Documentary Feature.

Animal Planets lists Lemmings Suicide as the #1 animal myth.

The Lemming Lie really bugged me and I wasn’t sure why.  After all I’m a storyteller, I tell and write lots of fiction.  As a story coach I help lots of folks find and tell their stories. Here’s one of my favorite lines, “know the difference between truth and facts.”  I tell folks to not get hung up on listing every event or even focusing on the right order of things.  But this is different.

Blatantly creating a false fact (and not disclosing its falseness) is toxic.  Today there is an abundant use of story in TED style talks, as a teaching tool, and as a motivational device.  Factual stories are now told everywhere. I heard a local politician tell an emotional story that swayed the audience, but I spotted the fabricated fact.  Some might argue, it’s only a story, and even if it is presented as a true story, we shouldn’t be gullible, but I disagree.

Since stories are sticky causing us to remember them longer than other forms of communication, the false facts embedded in these stories are also remembered.  There is a difference between fiction and non-fiction.  Listeners also recognize simplifications or generalizations in stories, however if the teller, writer, or film documentor is presenting something as fact, which he or she knows is a lie, the story will chisel doubt, skepticism, or false ideas into the audience.

Have you discovered a Lemming Lie…something you accepted as truth in a story, book, or movie, which is false?  I’d love to hear about it.

Here’s a link to the clip about lemmings from White Wilderness https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AOOs8MaR1YM

Do you want to work with Rivka. Check out her Story Coaching page?  http://www.simplyextraordinarytales.com/story-coaching/

 

(note-I read a lot about the lemming myth and found one video that sited a cartoon published a couple years before the documentary was released. Since documentaries take time to create, I’m not sure which came first, but using a cartoon character as source material to justify staging a “true” event, seems like a stretch to me. This illustrates the problem.  Once a lie is embedded into our social consciousness, it’s hard to let it go.)


 

Toxic Tales: “The Worm in the Apple Stories.”

apple-3636023_1920

Toxic Tales come in all shapes and sizes.  I’m going to focus in on a very common type in this post.  I originally thought of calling it the “Oh You’re Gonna Suffer Stories” but decided to be a little poetic and call them “The Worm in the Apple Stories,” because these nasty little tales burrow into listener’s consciousness and often end up spoiling experiences.

These stories are often personal, although not necessarily the teller’s personal experience. They can also be historical or a bit of a tall tale. The story is aimed at a person or persons preparing to go somewhere or do something, and is presented as a warning or a tale of woe.

Pregnant moms and couples often encounter Worm in the Apple Stories, especially at parties or gatherings. The teller will approach the pregnant woman or couple and launch into an account of something difficult, painful, or terrifying that happened to them or someone else.  A bit of drama and emotion is usually part of the mix.  It might go something like “My sister tried natural birth and she screamed for 48 hours… or my friend wanted an epidural but nothing worked then she fell off the bed, ripped out her IV lines…   You might think I’m exaggerating, but I’ve heard both of those stories told in detail with lots more drama and promised pain.

Let’s be clear, I’m not talking about discussing aspects of birth or sharing birth experiences in a caring and authentic way.  These stories are told to get attention, raise emotions or for the enjoyment of the teller. I taught childbirth classes for a couple years and was a doula for decades.  Many parents told me about these stories and how it caused them distress.  Sometimes the distress manifested as nightmares or self-doubt, other times they became nagging memories that accompanied them to labor or early parenting. And just like a worm in an apple, they damage some of the fruit (experience).

Another example of this type of toxic tale is given when a person or people are going into something new.  It might be a planned vacation, starting school, or a new job or adventure.  The enthusiastic listeners will hear stories about tragedy, hardship, or sorrow that happened to someone else.  I once was told about a shark attack when I was headed for a vacation. The attack happened a decade before and not exactly where I swam, but I found myself checking the water and tensing up at the thought each time I went into the water.

These stories are usually not told to purposely ruin your experience; I believe they are usually told to draw attention.  The toxins released by these tales may be minor, although for some, they linger.  If you hear someone starting a wormy tale, you can stop them or walk away.  If you have heard one of these tales and you’re having trouble shaking off the negative images, seek out positive stories and/or information to put things in a proper prospective.

Remembering Mrs. Konningsberg

broken-glassWhen I first moved to New Jersey, I met an elderly woman named Mrs. Konningsberg. She lived in Perth Amboy and every Shabbos (Saturday) afternoon young men from the Yeshiva (Jewish religious college) would come by to visit. She’d put out cookies and drinks in disposable plastic cups and after they left she’d collect all the cookies, saving them for next week and wash out all the plastic cups.  The cookies were very stale and the cups became brittle.  Mrs. Konningsberg was frugal.

Sometimes I’d also come by with my kids for a visit. We’d chat, avoid the cookies, and sometimes she’d tell us about her life.  Mrs. Konningsberg died many years ago, but her story is extraordinary and I’m passing it along.

Anna was born, grew up, and got married in Germany. She and her husband lived a comfortable life, and although the rise of Nazism caused some concerns, their loyal service to the Kaiser during WWI gave them a sense of security.

Then Anna had a dream. Her father, who had died years ago, appeared in the dream and told her to leave.  That was it.  No fireworks or special effect, none the less, the dream disturbed her enough to wake her up.  She woke her husband and told him her dream.  He dismissed it.

The next night she had a similar dream, only this time her dad was angry.  He asked her why they hadn’t left and insisted on them leaving. She again woke her husband.  This time he took her seriously.  After all, things were getting worse, and so he agreed to begin the process of selling the business and home.

On the third day Anna became tired before her husband returned from work.  She fell asleep in her wooden rocking chair.  Her father must have been waiting; shortly after she dozed off he appeared in her dream and began yelling.  “I told you to leave,” he said.  Then he picked up a leather belt and struck her across the face.

Her rocking chair tumbled over causing her to wake up. Just then her husband arrived home.  He picked her up off the floor and discovered a throbbing red welt across her cheek.  Anna made her decision. “You can do what you want, but I’m leaving now, with or without you. Both husband and wife quickly gathered up their valuables and a few personal possessions then boarded the next train out of Germany.

The last train out of Germany.

The last train out of Germany before Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass, November 9, 1938,

Mrs. Konningsberg ended her story with a short silence, and then she said “I don’t know exactly what would have happened if we didn’t follow my dream, but I am sure, my father saved us both.

 

Tell Your Story for Crowd Funding Success

By Rivka Willick

It’s hard to believe that Crowd Funding has only been around for a little over five years.  Kickstarter, the superstar of crowd funding sites launched on April 28, 2009 and set off the internet trend of raising money through online campaigns.  The first crowd-sourcers focused on innovations and artistic projects. Some projects are modest, like a pre-school teacher seeking funds for art materials for Jackson Pollack-like canvases. Others are large and ambitious such as funding for a film or complex video game. Other platforms soon followed offering charities, individuals in need, entrepreneurs, inventors, and just about anybody with a project a place to pitch their need or idea.

Here’s how crowd funding works.  A person posts a project and asks the public for financial support. Some sites, like Kickstarter, require the poster to meet their stated goal, if they don’t raise enough money, they don’t get any.  Other sites like Indiegogo and Rockethub allows you to keep the money you raise (minus their fees) even if you don’t reach your goal.

Sounds great…and it is for some, but many people set up projects and raise little if any money. There are some wildly successful campaigns; The Veronica Mars Movie Project raised $5,702,152 and Star Citizen Video Game raised $68,549,471 on Kickstarter and Ubuntu Edge a “high concept” smartphone raised $12,814,196 on Indiegogo.  Unfortunately most crowdfunding campaigns fail.

Robert Strohmeyer reported in PC World Sept 26, 2013 that only 44 percent of Kickstarter projects and 34 percent of Indiegogo projects meet their goals. Those are sobering statistics, but I haven’t found any stats that examine the success rates of projects that do the ground work and launch with proper preparation and those that don’t.  If you do the ground WORK, and I really do mean work, your chances for success will greatly improve.

Promote your crowdfunding project everywhere you network and speak.

Promote your crowdfunding project everywhere you network and speak.

Improve your chances for Crowd Funding Success.

  1. Research and choose the platform that fits your project. There are dozens of crowdsourcing sites and the biggest is often not the best. Some crowdsources (like Kickstarter) will only give the funds if you meet your goal.  That makes sense if you can’t do the project without the set amount AND you have no other means of getting the balance. Other sites will release the funds raised even if you don’t reach your goal, but they will often take a higher percentage.

Each platform attracts different groups of backers.  If you have an innovative business project you’ll probably want to pass on Kickstarter and Indiegogo because neither have a category for business innovation or ideas.  Rocket Hub does.  There are platforms that appeal to specific groups or causes like Jewcer (Jewish Projects), help individuals and organizations raise money for a cause like FundRazr, and match projects to investors (not supporters) like Onevest.

  1. Tell a Compelling Story – Most projects post a short video and have a brief write up, so you need to connect with possible supporters in less than 3 minutes. As a storycoach I can help you find and form your story and write it up as video script.  Remember, just because you think your product or idea is great doesn’t mean anybody else does. You’ve been developing and dreaming about it for a long time, others haven’t gone through that process.  You must share your enthusiasm and concept in a compelling way—Story is the most powerful and effective means of communicating and connecting on both an intellectual and emotional level.

Your video story can be told with images and music, animation, or verbally.  I’ll be happy to work with you to find a format that will fit your project.

  1. Create Your Own Crowd before the Project Launches – Update your email list and contact friends, family, and fans. Get active on social media and let people know.  Blog about it, pass out flyers at networking events, tack a flyer about it on the company cork board, talk about it when you do presentations, mention it at parties, and talk about the project on your website.  THIS IS ESSENTIAL.  You won’t attract strangers if your friends and fans don’t care.  Early and continual funding keeps projects high up on many platforms.  It also draws attention.  After all, it’s only human nature to be curious in success.
  1. Create an Exciting List of Donor Gift Categories – We all like stuff. It’s fun to be part of art, innovation, or exciting ideas, but it’s even more fun when you get something out of it.  It’s a good idea to set up low, medium, and high price gift categories.  The perks vary each project , try to tie them to your story.  If you are offering products, make sure you have the ability of deliver them In a timely way.  For example, if you’re raising money for a new fashion line and you are offering items from the line as perks, make sure you’ll have the manufacturing capacity and capital to deliver each item in the time frame you post.
  1. Be willing to commit real time and some money to make the campaign a success.

If you’d like to find your story and create a compelling video script for your next crowd sourcing campaign, drop me an email and ask about my crowd sourcing package.  Rivka@simplyextraordinarytales.com