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"Any event retold from life that would appear to carry a meaning, however small, is a story" Ben Okri

"Every human being at core has a unique story, and to discover one's greatest meaning is to grow one's story" Carl Jung

"The purpose of a life is to make an unconscious mythology a conscious autobiography." Sam Keen

Storytelling is fundamental to our work as mentors and coaches. Our clients can't help but tell stories - a substantial part of many coaching and mentoring sessions is taken up with them - stories of who we are, what we've done and what we are intending to do. What is striking is how true these stories are - we live out the stories we tell and we are those stories. And it is this that makes storytelling so powerful because, if we change the stories we tell, we change the life we lead.

Elliot Coleman's Gift
A Word and a Sentence
“A Mind Once Coached Never Returns To Its Original Shape”
The Prince and the Magician
What is an Organisation?
The Stories of Mullah Nasrudin
Steve Jobs tells 3 Great Stories for his Stanford Commencement Speech
I noticed this in myself when I first started working as a coach. When people asked me how I came to be a coach, I told a story in which a succession of events - working as a management consultant, training as a therapist, getting my first coaching job - just happened to me and, as a result, led me towards becoming a coach. In effect, I portrayed myself as a 'victim' of my environment and circumstances. And then one day in response to the same question I noticed I had just told a very different story. This one contained many of the same facts but I was now telling a story of intention unfolding and emerging into the world, where my career was not the result of what had happened to me but was instead something I was building in pursuit of my vocation and sense of purpose.

I realised that a fundamental shift had taken place in how I saw myself as a coach. Coaching was no longer something that I just enjoyed and was good at: it had become something through which I could express who I was and what I stood for - it had become meaningful.

I now encourage clients to be more mindful of the stories they tell of themselves. I ask them whether these stories serve them in becoming the best that they can be and invite them to tell stories which lead them towards being more fully themselves. And as their stories grow and develop, so do they.

Here in Malvern we are lucky to have The Malvern Storytelling Club which meets from 8.00pm to 10.00pm on the second Wednesday of each month at the Great Malvern Hotel in the centre of Great Malvern. More details at Everyone welcome!
Here are two stories of Doug Lipman's (http://www. that I particularly enjoy:

Elliot Coleman's Gift

When I was a student at John Hopkin's University, I wanted to join a poetry writing course taught by Professor Elliot Coleman. To be accepted into the course, first I had to show Coleman a sample of my poetry. Fearing criticism, I procrastinated.

When at last I braved an appointment with him and let him read my poems, I was astonished at his response: he told me what he liked about them. I left his office buoyed and inspired. That very week I wrote a poem that broke new ground for me.

When my poems were discussed in class, I often felt that Coleman understood my purposes better than I did. I always left class inspired and able to improve what I had written.

One week, I lingered in Professor Coleman's classroom after the class session had ended. All had left the room except two other students, on whom I was eavesdropping.

One of the students was attacking a poem that the other had written. At bay, the author of the poem defended himself: "Well, Elliot Coleman likes this poem!"

The other, arching for the kill, hissed, "So? Elliot Coleman likes everything!"

In that moment I understood two things. Of course, I understood what the attacker meant: if I like everything equally, my judgement is meaningless.

But I also understood what the attacker did not. Elliot Coleman did not praise indiscriminately. On the contrary, his great gift was his ability to find what there was to like in every poem he read.

A Word and a Sentence

In the early 1930s, Mischa Borodkin was already an established symphony violinist when he decided to study conducting under the foremost teacher of conducting in the world, Felix Weingartner. Screwing up his courage, he journeyed to Switzerland during the symphonic off-season and presented himself to Maestro Weingartner.

"Maestro, I'm not sure I belong here. Everyone else seems to have studied conducting already. I have not."

Weingartner looked at this student who, at age thirty, had already played in the New York Philharmonic for twelve years. "Very well, you will conduct first. Prepare a piece for tomorrow, and we'll see if you belong here."

Late into the night, Mischa prepared his first work to conduct.

The next morning, as the last note of Beethoven's Coriolanus Overture dies out, Mischa looked anxiously at the conductor. Weingartner spoke the single most important word a teacher can say: "Stay!"

At the end of the summer course, Weingartner bid goodbye to Mischa with a memorable sentence of encouragement: "Write to me of your success in America!"

Weingartner did not say, "You are a great conductor," nor even, "You have made great progress." He did not evaluate Mischa at all. His gift of a single sentence was much greater, because this appreciation told Mischa that Weingartner believed in him.

Of all his stories from his nearly fifty-year musical career, Mischa told this one with the greatest sense of pride.

Both stories are from The Storytelling Coach by Doug Lipman, August House, 1995. ISBN 0-87483-434-1

Here is a wonderful story from one of my subscribers:

“A Mind Once Coached Never Returns To Its Original Shape”

Shortly after I sent out the September edition of the newsletter, I received the following email with the title above from one of my subscribers:

Anyway, my purpose for writing was to say that having spent many years in banking I discovered through coaching that my destiny lay elsewhere. (Myles and The School of Coaching course (including you) acted as the catalyst). After I completed that course I drove home very disturbed. I realized that working in banking had changed me, I had adapted to my surroundings, but I knew now that deep down I was not happy, I felt a long way from home. It took me a little while to pluck up courage and leave. By the time I left I was a managing director in a huge investment bank. A job many would dream of having, hated it, particularly being away all week from my wife and family, we were slowly growing apart.

I left in 2001 with no real plan. My wife fixed up for me to spend some of that summer and some time each summer ever since working for a small circus (, a long held dream come true. I did some coaching for a small Coaching and Leadership organisation and explored the world of NLP and even became an NLP practitioner.

At about the same time my wife and I imported some alpacas from Peru and started to breed them. We are now in the process of selling everything we have in the UK and buying a small ranch in Oregon where we will breed alpacas as our only source of income. I will miss the circus but not the bank.

If you ever want to tell my story to anyone who thinks that coaching can’t achieve significant and lasting change in your life feel free.

You can’t have everything you want but you can have anything you want.

All the very best


Here is another story I have always enjoyed:

The Prince and the Magician

Once upon a time there was a young prince who believed in all things but three. He did not believe in princesses, he did not believe in islands, he did not believe in God. His father, the king, told him that such things did not exist. As there were no princesses or islands in his father's domains, and no sign of God, the young prince believed his father.

But then, one day, the prince ran away from his palace. He came to the next land. There, to his astonishment, from every coast he saw islands, and on these islands, strange and troubling creatures whom he dared not name. As he was searching for a boat, a man in full evening dress approached him along the shore.

'Are those real islands?' asked the young prince.

'Of course they are real islands,' said the man in evening dress.

'And those strange and troubling creatures?'

'They are all genuine and authentic princesses.'

'Then God also must exist!' cried the prince.

'I am God,' replied the man in full evening dress, with a bow.

The young prince returned home as quickly as he could.

'So you are back,' said his father, the king.

'I have seen islands, I have seen princesses, I have

seen God,' said the prince reproachfully.

The king was unmoved.

'Neither real islands, nor real princesses, nor a real

God, exist.'

'I saw them!'

'Tell me how God was dressed.'

'God was in full evening dress.'

'Were the sleeves of his coat rolled back?'

The prince remembered that they had been. The king smiled.

'That is the uniform of a magician. You have been deceived.'

At this, the prince returned to the next land, and went to the same shore, where once again he came upon the man in full evening dress.

'My father, the king, has told me who you are', said the young prince indignantly. 'You deceived me last time, but not again. Now I know that those are not real islands and real princesses, because you are a magician.'

The man on the shore smiled.

'It is you who are deceived, my boy. In your father's kingdom there are many islands and many princesses. But you are under your father's spell, so you cannot see them.'

The prince returned pensively home. When he saw his father, he looked him in the eyes.

'Father, is it true that you are not a real king, but only a magician?'

The king smiled and rolled back his sleeves.

'Yes my son, I am only a magician.'

'Then the man on the shore was God.'

'The man on the shore was another magician.'

'I must know the real truth, the truth beyond magic.'

'There is no truth beyond magic' said the king.

The prince was full of sadness.

He said, 'I will kill myself'.

The king by magic caused death to appear. Death stood in the door and beckoned to the prince. The prince shuddered. He remembered the beautiful but unreal islands and the unreal but beautiful princesses.

'Very well,' he said. 'I can bear it.'

'You see, my son,' said the king, 'you too now begin to be a magician.'

From "The Magus" by John Fowles, published by Jonathan Cape, 1977.

The Mullah Nasrudin stories originated in the Middle East as Sufi teaching tales but their appeal is universal. Peter Hawkins has updated the stories for a modern audience and published them as "The Wise Fool's Guide to Leadership". More information at

What is an Organisation?

A board of Directors invited Nasrudin to help them change their organization.

"What is this organization that you want me to help you to change?" enquired Nasrudin.

The Chairman produced the glossy company annual report, full of graphs and pictures of Directors shaking hands with the workers.

"So you want me to redesign this report for you?" said Nasrudin, who was always ready to help.

"No, no," interjected the Finance Director, "that is just what we tell the shareholders. Take a look at these company accounts. These will give you the real picture."

Nasrudin flicked through the pages, each full of columns and columns of figures. "So am I to understand that your organization is made up of figures, all neatly lined up in rows on paper?" he enquired.

"Not at all," replied the Operations Director. "Take a look at this organizational structure chart. This will show you how we are put together."

"I see," said Nasrudin, and the board thought that at last they would get some sense from him. "The company is made up of a series of boxes, each joined to the others by straight and dotted lines."

The Human Resources Director said, in exasperation, "All right, the organization is not the propaganda, the accounts or the written structure. I understand the point you are trying to make. Unlike my colleagues, we in HR fully understand that the organization is really the people. If you like I will clear the car park and get all our four thousand employees out there. Then you will really see our organization:'

"So," said Nasrudin, "your organization is a large crowd, in an empty place, wondering what the hell they are doing there."

The Stories of Mullah Nasrudin

The Mullah Nasrudin stories originated as Sufi teaching tales in the Middle East but their appeal is universal. Nasrudin is the wise fool who says the unsayable, plays the fool, tricks us into seeing clearly, and turns our thinking upside down.

The Nasrudin stories can seem rather inane and shallow - a statement of the obvious - but that is where their strength lies. They invite us to see every day reality through fresh eyes - the reality that is always in front of us but which we forget to notice.

Peter Hawkins has updated the Nasrudin stories for the world of the modern organisation and corporate advisors in "The Wise Fool's Guide to Leadership", O Books, 2005. Here is one of his stories:

To What End

The board of a large company were working on their mission statement.

"What is your fundamental purpose?" asked Nasrudin.

"Our mission is to create constantly increasing dividends for our shareholders," they declared.

"To what end?" asked Nasrudin.

"So they make increased profits which they will want to reinvest in our company," they said.

"To what end?" asked Nasrudin.

"So they make more profits," they said, becoming somewhat irritated.

"To what end?" asked Nasrudin nonchalantly.

"So they re-invest and make more profits."

Nasrudin pondered this for a while and thanked them for their explanations.

Later that week they had arranged to visit Nasrudin's house to work further on the Mission Statement. They found him in his garden stuffing oats into his donkey.

"What are you doing?" they asked. "You are giving that poor beast so much food that it will not be able to go anywhere."

"But it is not meant to go anywhere," Nasrudin replied. "Its purpose is to produce manure."

"To what end?" they asked.

"Because without it I can not grow enough oats in my small allotment to feed this greedy beast."

More information, and another story, at

Steve Jobs tells 3 Great Stories for his Stanford Commencement Speech

On June 12 2005 Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, delivered the Commencement address to Stanford university graduates. He told three great stories. Read the text or see the video.


Copyright © 2013. Dr M H Munro Turner. All rights reserved