Annie Hart Q&A
I believe it was through Twitter that I learned of Annie Hart, and I was immediately intrigued by her “stories change the world” philosophy. She is likely one of the very last Q&A practitioners who will make it into my upcoming free e-book, Storied Careers: 40+ Story Practitioners Talk About Applied Storytelling. I’m also excited about her upcoming radio show.
Bio: [from her Web site, where she tells about herself with more storytelling verve than is presented here] Annie has brought her work to the fields of business, education, healthcare, non-profit, youth at risk, and community organizations.
Her training and certification includes NLP Trainer, Eriksonian Hypnotherapy Trainer, Expressive Arts Training, non-violent communication, ISVOR Dilts Leadership Training, where she was personally selected as one of the first 32 trainers from around the world and is one of only 50 Book Yourself Solid Certified Marketing Coaches.
Annie has developed several bodies of original work including a Heart-Centered Communication model; DreamBuilders, a group coaching model; Stories From the Heart of the Cosmos, a story performance workshop; and her current work Skills of Excellence, a compilation of skills of the masters.
She has also created several large-scale community events, including a world peace council of 90 indigenous elders from around the world and Artists for the World in which she organized a team to create and display the collective artwork of Philadelphia school children.
Annie’s personal ethic is to embody the principles of human kindness, generosity and collaboration as a basic business model. She believes that relationships are the most important factor of all.
Annie loves knitting, is passionate about yoga, enjoys drinking good tea and reading and studying from the mystics. She lives in beautiful Chestnut Hill, PA, with her little dog Miss Sweetie. Her goal is to live an ordinary life in an extraordinary way and to be a kind, happy and loving person.
Annie is launching a radio show, “Inspiring Change Through Story,” the first week in September 2009, on Fridays at 12:30 PM. Check her Web site for how to find the show.
Q&A with Annie Hart:
Q: You have a section of your Web site called story performance and tell a fascinating story about how you got involved in story performance. In what kinds of contexts are you a story performer, and how does this work relate to the training/consulting work you do with story?
A: My main interest for using story is in the context of training and consulting. I love its power for effecting change quickly. I also enjoy performing for fun, and I use my storytelling around town to help promote local businesses and events. You can inspire people much more easily through carefully chosen stories and what is so much fun is that most of the time people don’t even realize that they are changing. The stories are so entertaining that people are enjoying themselves. They think they’re just having fun but something deeper is happening. It isn’t until later that all of this change surfaces. I receive a lot of great feedback from individuals, groups and businesses describing the many amazing changes that have come about.Q: How did you initially become involved with story/storytelling/narrative? What attracted you to this field? What do you love about it?
A: My mother tells the story of how would take me out to the woods as a little girl and she would put me on a fallen tree stump and listen while I told her stories! This was my first form of theater. I had no idea that I was a storyteller; it was just a natural way of being for me.
Then years ago when I was applying for an apprenticeship in the expressive arts, my mentor told me that I was a storyteller. I had no idea what she was talking about. Later I realized that I thought and spoke in story, very much as indigenous people do. I chose storytelling as the focus for that training and I studied storytellers for a few years to learn about it. I had no idea that I was destined to be a storyteller or that I would end up using story in my career. For me storytelling is more of a worldview and a way of being than a form of speaking. It’s in the being and the bones, not just in the telling.
What do I LOVE about story? Everything! I live for stories. I love story’s power to express that, which is inexpressible. I love its ability to create deep and lasting change. I love seeing how people come alive through story and how it connects us and creates bridges across our human divide. But most of all I love the magic that story creates. When I tell stories I can almost see the magic happening in the room. Stories take us into other beautiful worlds and for a time we can forget about all our cares. I know of no other form of expression that moves us and hits our human bedrock as deeply as story does.
Storytelling is the greatest and oldest power in the world for transmitting wisdom and oral teachings. I am most fortunate that story is my medium for change.
Q: The storytelling movement seems to be growing explosively. Why now? What is it about this moment in human history and culture that makes storytelling so resonant with so many people right now?
A: The indigenous peoples from every tradition, had a prophecy that this would be a time of great change. They literally had that recorded in their stories and their calendars of this time. They are in agreement that this time has finally come and that it is up to us to create a new future. And how else do you create a new future but by using story? Stories create our cultural paradigms, the norms by which we live. If you think about it the world is built on stories. That is why I believe the time is now and that we need stories more than ever. We need a new story to live by.
It’s intriguing to me that storytelling is spreading like wildfire in the area of business, particularly for use in marketing. Storytellers have always known its power, but finally the rest of the world is catching on. Savvy media gurus have come to realize that storytelling is the quickest and most relevant way to share information. Its ability to cross cultures and to spread ideas and information is unparalleled. The time for story has truly come.
The last reason for storytelling being so relevant in today’s world is because everything is speeding up. Everything is quicker, especially communication. Just look at Twitter for example. It’s basically a medium for a 140-character story. In today’s faster paced time, storytelling is essential because captures the listener. It is the deepest and most lasting form of communication known to humankind.Q: You are neuro-linguistic programming trainer. I’ve always felt NLP had some relationship to storytelling. How do the two areas overlap, in your view?
A: NLP has a lot of relationship to story. One of the most important connections is through Milton Erickson, MD. He is one of the main people from whom they modeled NLP. Milton Erickson was a Master Hypnotherapist. He spoke in story to create change in the unconscious mind because the unconscious has a metaphorical orientation already. The stories made it easy for the solution to go right in and endure over time. There are many famous stories about Erickson; he was quite a character. One of my own NLP mentors studied with him directly. He said that when they would go to see Milton he would just sit there and tell stories the whole time and they would think that absolutely nothing was happening. Then three weeks later their lives would change!
Milton Erickson truly knew the therapeutic use of story and since I am trained specifically in his work as well, I tend to use a similar structure for most of my stories. That way the message goes in really easily and people have a lot of fun while listening to my stories. One example of this is of an older woman was attended one of my storytellings. She called me the next day to tell me excitedly that she’d had a dream about love. This might not sound unusual but she was in her 80s, and apparently she hadn’t thought about this in a long time. But through the story something wonderful woke up in her unconscious. I love using story in all my work with clients.Q: How important is it to you and your work to function within the framework of a particular definition of “story?” (I.e., What is a story?) What definition do you espouse?
A: I am dedicated to spreading a new definition of storytelling that includes its deeper powers. My personal mission is to create a context in which story can be known and experienced as the force of change that it is. Stories change us individually, collectively and globally. Storytelling is no longer just a medium of entertainment but a context in which to live our lives and a tool for personal and global change. I want everyone to realize that our lives are built on story and that we can use stories to create a better world.Q: The culture is abuzz about Web 2.0 and social media. To what extent do you participate in social media (such as through LinkedIn, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Second Life, blogs, etc.)? To what extent and in what ways do you feel these venues are storytelling media?
A: Well this question gives me the biggest laugh of all. I am a former technophobe and I thought Twitter was the most ridiculous thing I’d ever heard of. But then through a personal transformation, in which I forced myself to get up to speed on technology, I’ve become a social media queen! One of my mentors recently said to me, “You’re on fire as a web presence!” He couldn’t believe how I have been using blogging, Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and LinkedIn to make my work known in the world.
Now I’m having so much fun using blogging and social media that I’m even teaching it to others! What a riot. A lot of people of my generation have a fear and a distaste of social media. I try to hold their hands while they learn and I make it fun for them. I use a lot of social media now. It’s one of the mainstays of my business. By the way, blogging is the most fantastic medium for storytelling!
Q: What future trends or directions do you foresee for story/storytelling/narrative? What’s next for the discipline? What future aspirations do you personally have for your own story work? What would you like to do in the story world that you haven’t yet done?
A: I foresee an explosion of the use of story for marketing purposes. It has already begun. Years ago you couldn’t find much written on the use of story in business, just a few books. But a few weeks ago I was at the bookstore and I found at least four popular books on marketing that mentioned storytelling. Storytelling is finally becoming known for the force that it is and I am thrilled about that.
What do I aspire to personally? Well like my website says, I want to change the world through story. I want to continue using the power of story to inspire collaboration, innovation and change in business and training. I want to inspire leaders to be more articulate and more able to grab people’s attention through storytelling skills. I like to add to their personal pizzazz. There are too many boring presenters out there! I have created a body of work called, “Stories From the Heart of the Cosmos.” It is story, performance, workshop experience with a cast of inspirational and wacky characters who really wake people up and show us how to love and live right on this planet. So I want to continue to expand that and take it out to bigger audiences. My story performances generate a lot of connection and community amongst audience members and that is the most fun of all. So I am intent on enlarging that as well, getting large groups of people to work well together.
And I’d like to go back to Europe and take some of my work there! I have a few stories in Italian that need to be told.
Q: What’s your favorite story about a transformation that came about through a story or storytelling act?
A: I have so many, but one of my favorites is when I was doing a stage show with seven women and we were performing for 200 nuns. I was really nervous because my piece was very personal and provocative. I had gone to catholic school as a kid and I had this idea that either the nuns or God were going to judge me! I was really scared. But after the performance, the nuns came rushing up to me. They sat me down and fed me lunch while they asked me a million questions about my work including how they could do what I did. That was a very sweet and touching moment in my life in which I found that I could inspire some of the people that used to scare me.
Q: If you could share just one piece of advice or wisdom about story/storytelling/narrative with readers, what would it be?
A: Everyone has a story to tell and the world needs to hear it.