Of all the things that drive men to sea, the most common disaster, I’ve come to learn, is women.
I borrowed that sentence from Charles Johnson, a storyteller who begins his tale, Middle Passage, with that line. I chose not to enclose it in quotation marks because I didn’t want to alert you to the fact that misdirection was about to slap your cheek.
Quotation marks do that, you know. They are animated bookends that wave like semiphore flags, shouting, “These words are special.”
Misdirection is half the storyteller’s art.
“Justice?— You get justice in the next world, in this world you have the law.”1
The other half is resolution: We are surprised to learn that women are a disaster. But after a moment’s reflection, we are not. We are surprised to learn the law is not just. But after a moment’s reflection, we are not.
“Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person.”2
We are surprised to learn that a woman can turn into the wrong person. But after a moment’s reflection, we are not.
Every magician depends on misdirection and resolution.
The comedian is a magician of laughter. The greater his misdirection, the greater the orgasm of laughter at the punch line, that moment of resolution when it all comes together.
The storyteller is a magician whose stage is the page. Words are the top hat from which he extracts his rabbits and the endless handkerchief he pulls from his sleeve. They are the handsaw he uses to cut the pretty girl in half and the wheels he uses to roll those halves together again.
A great communicator says things plainly and brings clarity to the mind. This is difficult. But it is not magic.
A storyteller turns the heart this way and that, showing it things it has never seen, things that have not yet happened, things that never will, using misdirection and resolution over and over, touching you in places you didn’t even know were there.
Every business, every person, has a story to tell. You know this, of course.
But now you face a difficult choice: Will you speak clearly and win the mind? Or will you speak magically and win the heart?
Roy H. Williams
1 William Gaddis, A Frolic of His Own (1994)
2 Anne Tyler, Back When We Were Grownups (2001)
Jan and Sassa Akervall make their money where your mouth is.
Dr. Akervall invented a mouth guard to prevent patients from having their teeth accidentally chipped or broken during surgery. His Sisu mouth guards are so amazing they’ve leaped from the operating room to mainstream America, where they’re all the rage with professional athletes. The Akervalls – both originally from Sweden – are anything but guarded as they share their business success secrets with Dean Rotbart at MondayMorningRadio.com