People may decry watching television as an activity that melts your brain, the same way some people were once skeptical about radio. Even the written word – reading and writing, were once reserved only for those wealthy and worthy enough to learn those important skills.
But it’s a long-engrained habit to be drawn to stories.
Books, radio, film, and TV are only the modern versions of the age-old practice of humans communicating via story.
As hunter gatherers, after a long day hunting and gathering, preparing food, and rearing children everyone would gather round the fire and tell stories for entertainment. Perhaps fictionalised tales of monsters or perhaps real tales of dangerous or humorous experiences that had happened that day.
Over time, without any other way of recording information to be shared with others, stories and songs were passed along from person to person, generation to generation. The better your story, the more likely it was to be remembered. You may, in the process of passing on information, include your own creative flourishes. People developed rather miraculous skills for crafting and sharing stories. It’s a practice which humans have honed over hundreds of thousands of years.
Everything can be made better with a story.
There are many books about how using story in business and presentations can elevate the message you are trying to get across. When we look at art, what is the story the artist is trying to convey, the feeling they are trying to get us to feel? With dance – what is the story? Music – full of stories (usually about love – unrequited, lost love, found love, absence of love, too much love), architecture done beautifully frames its surroundings, telling the story of place and time through materials and structure.
I even love that story about why humans love stories!
I remember being told as a child how much people hated math and that I would probably hate it too, particularly algebra (did you hate algebra?) I remember my math teacher at school teaching me about the magic fairy that lived between the lines of the ‘equals’ sign. “If anything goes over the equals sign then the magic fairy turns it into its opposite.”
Pluses become minuses, division becomes multiplication, squares become square roots. Others in the class complained that this was a babyish way to teach math to 11-year-olds, but I still think about that fairy today!
Such a simple story that was an easy introduction to a higher level of math and meant I didn’t develop a dislike of the subject like so many of my class mates. I always tried to find the “story” for how to tackle math problems.
If you want to get a message across or get people to really listen to you, using a story and humanising the issue will work wonders, compared to lecturing people or making them feel bad or guilty.
Film and TV can tell us an overriding story, but then there’s the second story – what is it really about?
Screenwriting legend, Robert McKee says that “Story isn’t a flight from reality, but a vehicle that carries us on our search for reality, our best effort to make sense out of the anarchy of existence.”
Harry Potter is a story about a boy wizard and his arch-nemesis Voldemort. But it’s also a story about good and evil, that each of us has both inside of us and it’s the choices we make that determine who we are.
Star Wars is about Luke, Leia, Han Solo and Obi Wan-Kenobi fighting against the Empire. But it’s inspiration came from somewhere else – “It was really about the Vietnam War, and that was the period where Nixon was trying to run for a [second] term, which got me to thinking historically about how do democracies get turned into dictatorships? Because the democracies aren’t overthrown; they’re given away.” George Lucas to the Chicago Tribune.
Gladiator is the story of Maximus seeking revenge for the murder of his wife and son as well as his betrayal by the Emperor’s son. But it’s really about honour and dishonour. How true leadership is more than a title and cowardice and jealousy are not the required traits of a leader. Maximus shows that he is a true leader, even when he’s at his lowest point, facing near death as a Gladiator.
I continue to be fascinated by stories and at the end of my day I love nothing more than to hear a good story – even better if I can learn something along the way. Something about the world, about people, about how we see the world, how we relate to each other, how to live better and better together.
The ins and outs of what makes us human – the ups, the downs, what makes us who we are. The endless ability of people to tell exciting, intriguing, thought-provoking and enjoyable stories and to seek these out feels primordial and ingrained. I think that in the right hands, TV and film are masterful artforms.
I love people’s stories.
In financial planning there are many questions, and we do our best to help answer.
But everyone’s personal story is unique. The story of where you came from, both in a literal sense and a family sense.
- What made you and makes you who you are?
- How did you get to this place in time?
- What have been your ups and downs, your highs your lows, your successes, and your failures?
These nuances can make a difference to your experience of financial planning and what works best for you – not everything is ‘one size fits all.’
Yes, financial planning is a story about ISAs, and pensions and returns and cash flow planning and risk and reward and income and expenditure.
But, in a world where money is what we use to pay for goods and services, it’s really a story about you and your family using the resources available to you, to live as good a life as possible. Good as defined only by you.
It’s about taking on money and winning. Money is often the number one thing that people worry about, argue about, obsess about. If you let it, it will control you, but if you master it then you manipulate it to do your bidding.
Financial planning is about painting the picture of the life you want to lead and enjoy, using the tools available. It’s about trying not to worry about things outside your control and helping you to get to your destination – a full life, well lived, on your terms.
Keep writing your best story!
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