“Bad decisions make good stories.” I tell my friend Ricky as we tilt our heads back, lift the bottom of our extremely alcoholic drinks up and drain the bottles before we enter a hole-in-the-wall establishment located in a dark, tiny, back alley — Tokyo circa 2015.
There’s something about the prospect of a good story that drives me to take risks and have a ‘f*ck it’ attitude to approaching new things. The fact is that people come and go, but the story, if it’s a great one, lives on and becomes history and legend.
There’s something magical about the phenomenon of a great story. There’s no discrimination when it comes to the ‘importance’ or ‘impact’ regarding the contents of the story and it’s affect on the world at large.
A tale about how the entire western world was prevented from collapsing by an 11 year old orphan girl, will pique as much attention and interest as a story about how a man was inspired to start his craft beer brewery and saved his small town from economic collapse.
The importance of the western world vs. a small town is completely irrelevant to the story. How it’s told, the twists and turns, the problem and resolution is where the impact lies. In Man of Steel, the whole world was at stake, in The Dark Knight it was just Gotham City. Which one was a better story?
A great tale is a great tale regardless of the underlying theme, the message being conveyed, or the note it leaves you on. A great tale doesn’t discriminate against feelings of sorrow or cheer, irritation or shock.
A great tale doesn’t clumsily try to push an agenda but rather try’s to intrigue and leave an impact on the listener.
A great tale in is just empathy in it’s purest form.
When a person is listening with such devout attention, they’re wincing at the pain, can’t control their smile, or anger or sadness. When they’ve let go of any personal biases and feelings, and are just present within the story. That’s when the story is one that’s truly great.
So why is ‘The Story’ everything?
It’s the universal language that breaks down barriers of culture, of values and norms. It’s the closest thing to pure understanding among human beings.
Yes the language has been used to mobilize mass armies, yes it’s been used to trap people in bias and closed mindedness and yes it’s been used for hate.
But it’s potential knows no bounds for the simplest pleasures of making people laugh, to the mass impact of leading revolutions.
The biggest tragedy is that everyone's story isn’t heard. But if it was. If an American patriot knew the story of an Afghani teenager, if a European woman knew the story of a Ugandan mother of five, if you knew the story of someone who you didn’t much care for, how might the world be different?
Like I said earlier, these same people will come and go, but the stories could be there forever — guiding generation after generation.
My challenge for you is to write or tell a short story every few days. Learn and practice the art and be open to as many, if not all forms as much as possible. Watch Jerry Seinfeld or Louis CK performing stand-up. Listen to Cal Fussman tell a story. Watch one of the top 25 movies listed on IMDb, the older the better. Speaking of older — read books that have withstood the test of time.
My hope is that the next article you publish on Medium will be a story. I’ll be right here waiting to read it. Oh and I might just finish writing about what unfolded after Ricky and I went into that hole in the wall establishment in Tokyo…
Keep on living your story,