Story by

Wil Rickards

September 27th, 2016

"Great stories happen to those who tell them." Ira Glass

What makes someone likable?

I ask this because as a teacher I always knew I would love my child, but I did not know if I would like him.

I gravitate towards people with kind faces. Folks with eyes that sparkle with the merest excuse and mouths that swiftly revert to a grin. I am lured by a good story, one that sucks me in and leads me on an emotional odyssey. If you are like me, then the art of storytelling is an essential life-skill.

Now Cai is 12. It is his stories that make him interesting (or not). Modeling and teaching him to tell good stories will set him up for success whatever he chooses to do with his life. Storytelling excites me because if a person can create and tell a story, then it makes sense that they will be able to author their own. When I look at the best moments in my life, the ones when I am feeling fulfilled, those are the moments I am authoring my biography. Conversely, when I am spinning wheels and feeling stuck, I have given the authorship up. This is true regardless of the excuses I create at the time; it is due to the circumstances, the people around me, the environment.

One of my biggest struggles as a parent is relinquishing the ghost authoring of Cai's story. When I trust him, he will share a great story with the world.

Climbing inspires me. Beyond the movement, environment and experiences, are the stories of passionate people. Climbing literature is a fantastic genre of gripping yarns and the warty reality of the human condition. During my youth, the climbing tribe was small. I lived in a climber's Mecca, and was able to climb, chat and drink with authors and raconteurs, hearing their tales firsthand. Listening to these stories motivated me to have similar adventures that became my story. This, in turn, inspired me to go out more and so it went. Making more stories makes more stories.

What I love about these stories is that they compel you to share them. Stories from my life shape my career as a teacher, and no doubt influence my students to create their own. Adventure stories force you to take stock of your place in the world. Inevitably, there is growth – and not the kind that society dictates. It is an authentic growth driven by a desire to reach potential. When a young person understands what he or she is capable of and is not frightened of achieving it, a leader is born.

Knowing that you have inspired young people to author their own stories is a wonderful feeling, especially when they are adventurous. Lighting a fire in a young person's belly gives them an invitation to step off the hamster wheel of life. Unfettered, their energy takes them to great and unexpected places. They are free to see everything the world has to offer and contribute to it.

I believe we are raising a population tied to a grindstone. How often do you feel that there is more to life? Do you contemplate what you are on this earth to achieve and yet do not even know what it is? I believe that absorbing, creating, and telling adventure stories is the best exit strategy from this culturally-inspired, self-imposed prison.


Four tips to help your children tell great stories:

1.Begin with the end in mind.

Last weekend I was at a memorial service for a friend's father. I did not really know him, however everyone's need to talk about him moved me. Everything I heard that day was a testament to the kindness of the man, his success, and common touch. Over and over, I heard how he had made an impact in their lives. All these positive images became a call to action.

I left wondering if my memorial would be that uplifting, and my thoughts strayed to what I need to do starting now. What actions do I need to take for people to say things like that about me when it is my turn? When you know the destination, navigating your way there becomes much easier. Knowing the end of the story helps define the stages that lead to it in a fluid and efficient manner.

2.Create a skeleton then flesh it out.

Screenwriters use story boards. I encourage young story tellers (and their parents) to do the same. Figure out the main points of the story, organize them, and then add the flourishes. Remember stories come in many forms. Have your children make a movie if this helps them to see the benefits of the process.

3.Emotions and descriptions make stories.

Storytellers use repetition; they find a cadence that lulls us to listen. They use descriptions of everyday things we have all seen, heard or felt to engage our emotions. Have your child describe details, how does something look, sound or feel? Collect these descriptions together using the skeleton.

4.Get your children outside.

Hands down the best piece of advice I can give. It is so much easier to describe an event in nature than anything else. Think about how many more triggers for the senses can be found outdoors. The infinite number of smells alone provide vast potential for storytelling. But this only touches the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the positive influences nature can have. Can I remember any of the hours of TV I have watched? No. But I still remember the rock's texture on climbs decades later. The fears, the humor, the excitement, the grandeur, all naturally vie for attention when I am telling a story.

How are you going to get your children outside and having adventures? How are you going to encourage them to tell their stories? If there is any way I can help, please reach out and let me know.

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