These posts are adapted from the 20 minute lessons on story telling presented by Dan at the beginning of our Workshop! Workshop! show. All links are affiliate links.
Here at Story Luck we really liked Doug Lipman’s Book on Storytelling. It’s a huge influence on us. I want to relay an anecdote Doug recounts in his book. The story, basically, is a little parable on listening.
There’s this dude and he’s a really good cellist. He happens to be staying in the same hotel as this master cellist, an older guy who’s just been playing his whole life. Just incredible! The first guy’s name is Petro and he’s sort of the wunderkind and the older guy, the maestro, is Matt.
Matt sees Petro and bounds up to him and lets him know, “I heard you were here and I need to hear you play! I’ve heard so many good things! I need to see them for myself!”
So he forces Petro to sit down and play for him. “I want you to play this; do you know it? I want you to play that; do you know it? With this one I want you to play these three things – I need to watch how you do it.”
Petro’s playing but he’s just sweating. It’s the worst experience. He’s playing for one person who’s way better than him and who he admires and respects but who is being a complete maniac. And he can’t help but feel “I am a trash. I’m a garbage violinist in comparison to this guy. Oh, my god, oh my god, oh my god. And it’s just an awful, horrible performance. He’s completely miserable. This is the worst experience in his entire universe ever. Ever!
We’ve All Had the Worst Day Ever
Years go by; Petro becomes better. He’s playing in a great hall and after he plays there’s a standing ovation. He walks out at the end and Matt’s there. Matt’s like, “That was incredible! Do you remember you played for me at the hotel? It was the best experience of my entire universe!” Petro of course can’t help himself. He replies,“I was there. That it was the best experience in your universe is not possible. I know what it’s like when I play like trash. I played like complete trash.”
Matt goes, “Yeah yeah yeah yeah… that part? Sure! But we don’t talk about that part. Let me tell you what I noticed.” and he says, “On the first piece I had you play, on the seventh stanza, on the third bar, where most people would play it up here, you played it down here. And when you did your little swing you swang it a little differently. Let me tell you when you played the second piece you did it again. But you didn’t do it where I thought you would. You did it in the beginning rather than later. Also you had this other little upswing. Where I always go down like this. Weren’t you taught to go down like this?”
And Petra’s like, “Yeah, but it’s easier if you take it from here.”
“Of course, now that I’ve watched you I know that! And I’ve changed the way I play completely. I would have never seen this stuff!”
Laying it All Out
It goes back to the power of active listening. I know you got this and you probably don’t need any of this layed out. But just in case. The master, had found, he can hear past the mistakes. That’s a powerful skill that comes from experience.
If you’re trying to help people get better. Be able to block out the bad, the distracting, and focus in on what’s great, new, amazing.
Learn that skill, and bring it to our show on Monday.