How do you match your story to a moral? And how do you use it in public speaking?


Match your story to a moral… I had a dream.  Not a Martin Luther King, Jr. dream.  A real dream.  One while I was sleeping.  I suppose that I have lots of dreams, but I don’t remember very many of them.  This one I did remember and it’s more than a bit disturbing.

I found myself in the camera view of an action thriller. A sick girl/woman named Chris (who I did not know) was in the hospital.  A man – also named Chris and also someone I did not know (even my dreams are confusing), was stalking her.  Eventually, he attacked her and killed her.  Thankfully, I dream in PG, and there was no gore or even specifics about how he killed her.  I just know I witnessed it like a movie camera would, and it unnerved me as I moved to the next scene.  I’m not sure what happened next – that part is foggy.  But at some point, a hospital worker was examining she-Chris’s body.  Maybe this was the medical examiner?  As she unwrapped the face of she-Chris, the previously dead person breathed deeply and we realized she was still alive.  The medical person then left the room, leaving me with our victim.  It was then I realized the he-Chris was still on the prowl.  I don’t know how I knew, but he was headed our way.  She-Chris seemed unconcerned.  Despite my pleas for us to leave, she remained calm, steadfast, and very much hunted.  The music built in intensity, warning me and anyone else watching this movie that he-Chris was coming closer.  I ducked under the sheet on the gurney, leaving poor she-Chris to fend for herself.  He-Chris entered the room, and like a good killer, walked slowly around the bed (containing ME!) towards his victim.  I acted quickly.  Somehow the sheets came off cleanly and I jumped towards the assailant with the intent to do him bodily harm through the only weapon I had with me: my fists.  I swung for his face, and connected with…

The alarm clock beside my bed.  I literally punched the clock.  It went flying.  My reading glasses suffered a broken lens.  I cleared my nightstand with one jab punch.  And I came far too close to breaking my hand (thankfully only some minor cuts and a sprain of my index finger).  At this point, I transitioned from dreamland to wide awake.

I doubt I’ve remembered two dreams in the last decade. It seems a shame I wasted good memory on this one.  I can be glad that my dream perpetrator was on my left (nightstand) side and not my right (spouse) side.  That would have been tough to explain.

I don’t watch many action thrillers.  I’m not a violent person.  I’ve never seen anyone get killed and have never acted in physical rage towards another human.  I wondered for half a day what this dream might mean.  But it was a wild story.  It sure felt like I could work it in someplace.  How could I use it on the stage or in the classroom?  Was it anything more than just a crazy dream?

So I practiced what we teach in our storytelling class:

Match your story to a moral.

What is the moral to my dumb dream? Where could this story fit?  I came up with three lessons and places to use my senseless dream:

1.  Punching the clock is no way to live

A phrase that originates from old analog timecards that had to be inserted into a time stamp machine to log a worker’s hours, it has come to mean putting effort into a mindless task or a job without meaning.  It’s the bane of middle age and the middle class – a pointless job in an empty existence.  It’s a concept that scares me almost as much as teenage boys wanting to date my daughter.  Fighting the urge to merely punch the clock takes discipline, tough decisions, and action.  It’s also a major concept in my new keynote: The Four Questions: Winning at What Matters.  Now I’ve got an opening story for the section on just going through the motions (punching the clock).

2.  Reality (to us) is what we perceive

While an outside observer would have seen a fitful sleeper tossing and turning before he mysteriously popped out of bed and pummeled the GE alarm clock, in my mind, the Chris’s were real and I needed to do something.  It seems silly, but you could not have convinced me at the moment that I was not in that hospital saving a helpless woman from a deadly threat.  Our reality is often skewed.  We see this in our public speaking classes all the time.  People think they’re loud when the audience can barely hear them.  We coach people out of these behaviors by showing them the GAP between perception and reality.  This is most easily done through the use of video, which seems to be more trustworthy than a speech coach.

3.  Our dreams should change our lives… today

Last year’s tens-digit birthday caused me to reflect on what I want to accomplish in my limited time remaining on the earth.  Sadly, most of our daily lives and activities are doing nothing to bring us closer to those dreams we’ve harbored.  It almost always takes a disruptive force for us to change.  Maybe a figurative punch in the face (or clock?).  I’ve enjoyed reading Benjamin Hardy’s thoughts on making the most of today.  What can you change today?

While I hope that throwing jabs in my sleep is a one-and-done occurrence, it shows that unique experiences can teach us, inspire us, and give us a platform for memorable communication.

Communication matters, what are YOU saying?

Learn how to create your own stories with morals in our 3-hour Storytelling Workshop. See our full list of public and on-site corporate workshops.

This article was published in the February Edition of our monthly speaking tips email newsletter, Communication Matters. Have speaking tips like these delivered straight to your inbox every month. Sign up today to receive our newsletter and receive our FREE eBook, “Twelve Tips that will Save You from Making a Bad Presentation.”  You can unsubscribe at any time.


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