October 16, 2007

Story – You’re in the Right Place

Deborah and I just returned from a month long trip to London and Germany. For the first 18 days we worked: a Story Theater Retreat in London, 2 Retreats in Munich, a keynote at the German Speakers Association annual conference and finally, a speech at a human resources convention in Cologne. It was a very busy, intense and absolutely wonderful time.

This was my first time presenting Story Theater in Germany and we weren’t sure what to expect. However, after doing two Story Theater Retreats and giving two speeches to audiences of Germans, Austrians and Swiss (many of them listening to me through an interpreter), the verdict was clear and overwhelming. The Story Theater Method works as well in Germany as it has everywhere else. Whew! We were in the right place. What a relief. And a blessing.

We also had some time for fun and vacation on this trip. For my 57th birthday present, I got to see William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, at the Globe Theater in London. The Merchant of Venice was the first play that I ever acted in, back when I was 19 years old. Seeing the play at The Globe was a dream come true.

After our work in Germany, we had 12 days to wander the countryside in a rented car. Our only plan was to drive until we felt like stopping, find a hotel and rest for the night. On a bright Saturday morning, we headed south from Cologne to Koblenz, and then along the Mosel River. Finding a hotel on our first night was pretty challenging, because it was wine festival season and we did not have reservations.

Every hotel we went to was booked. At one, the receptionist, a wonderful old grey haired Grandma type, told us she was sold out, but got on the phone and found a room for us in another hotel. This became the first instance, but not the last, of German kindness and hospitality. We were greeted at our hotel with a welcome glass of wine and had a wonderful meal before bedding down for the night.

The next day we continued to wander south along the lovely Mosel River, then headed southeast towards the Black Forest. Deb picked out a town on the map that looked good for our next night – right on the Rhine River. If it’s on the Rhine, it must be quaint, right?

By the time we stumbled into town it was dark and I was getting cranky. I was getting used to a frothy German beer at dinnertime and it was well after 7:30 pm. After driving around in circles for another 30 minutes, we realized that this was not the quaint river town we were expecting. We finally saw a hotel, but it was not good. We found another one a block away. It was shut down for the night. Things were looking pretty grim. It seemed like we’d made a mistake and were in the wrong place. But, there was a Greek restaurant across the street and we needed food.

I had to look through the window of the restaurant to see if the place was still open. I saw one couple eating and one waitress at a counter, so we went in. We struck up a conversation with the couple at the next table. Lucky for us, the husband spoke great English. He said, “Ask me anything. I’ll help you any way I can.”

Not only did he help us find a hotel two blocks away, but he also told us about some old castle ruins that are not in the tourist guidebooks, and an idyllic old German town called Wissembourg (which happened to be in France). Plus, he gave us his own map of the region, one that proved indispensable for the rest of the trip.

As we walked out of the restaurant, I said to Deborah, “That was interesting. It’s like we’re on a scavenger hunt and he just gave us the next clue for our journey.” To which Deborah replied, “We were in the right place after all.”

The ruins of the castle were up on a hill overlooking the vineyards. To get to it you had to ride an old, and I mean old, ski lift through a lush grove of trees just starting to turn into their fall colors. Wow! Later that afternoon, we drove down the Weinstrasse (Wine Road) to Wissembourg and boy was he right. This was the classic old German town of your dreams. We spent two nights there and enjoyed a wonderful day wandering the streets, taking photos and shopping.

Heading east across the Black Forest was beautiful. The two lane mountain roads wound through quaint little villages that sold Cuckoo Clocks. Deborah kept reminding me that we needed to find a place to take a hike in the woods while it was sunny and bright. So we drove and drove and when it was lunchtime, I pulled off the road at a little Bierhaus.

Deborah ordered the fish from the river that ran through town and I had a Wurst with Kartoffle (sausage and potatoes). While we were lunching, I noticed a lady pull in to the parking lot, look at a sign and then disappear up a path beside the restaurant.

When I investigated further, I discovered a 2-kilometer wellness walk right there behind where we were sitting. This was our hike! Furthermore, it was an experience that we had never had before. This trail was designed for walking barefoot, over mulch, sand, pebbles, mud, pinecones and grass. A foot massage in the woods!

Once again, we were in the right place to find the next clue.

Back in Munich, after experiencing Oktoberfest and drinking 1-liter beers (without getting tipsy) we decided for our last night to walk over to the Marianplatz and watch the famous Glockenspiel do its thing at 5 o’clock. We found a seat at a table next to two Americans. It turned out that one of them lived in Denver, 60 miles north of Colorado Springs. By the end of the conversation we were exchanging emails and considering the possibility of how my Story Theater Method could help his company.

And again, we were in the right place.

This wonderful trip was just like my life: full of hundreds of times when meaningful coincidences, (Carl Jung calls then synchronicities), have happened. Not only are these synchronicities happening all the time, they can be counted on. It’s as if life is a mysterious scavenger hunt and you have to live each day to discover the next clue. But the lesson is this: Know that you’re always in the right place to receive the next clue.

Even when it is not obvious, we are actually in the right place all the time. At each turn, with each encounter, we get the clue for the next piece of the journey. The trick is to look for the clue – expect it – and then, do what the clue tells you to do.

It’s absolutely amazing to me that I just returned from speaking in Germany. Years ago, when I was beginning my speaking career, I marveled at how people got to give speeches in Seattle or Atlanta, much less in another country. I realize that all along the way, I have received clues for what to do next to lead me on this journey. Sometimes I made the decision to follow the clues, and other times I didn’t even notice them or I rejected them.

The nice thing about this journey is that you are always in the right place to receive the next clue, and even if you ignore or reject the clue, it will come back around until you finally recognize it as YOUR next clue.

Many years ago I got a clue that I was supposed to be speaking about Story Theater rather than customer service and change. I had to get that clue many times before I finally GOT it. Once I recognized the clue and made the change, it eventually led to me speaking in London and Singapore and Australia, and now Germany.

Know that you’re in the right place to receive the next clue. Is there a clue that you are ignoring? Are you holding onto your current “right place?” Being in the right place is not a permanent place. You are in the right place to receive the next clue that will take you to the next right place. Know that you’re in the right place. Follow the clues.

(Note: The above story demonstrates theme weaving and using a Phrase That Pays. For more information on these Story Theater principles, refer to the index of topics for the past issues of the Story Theater Newsletter.)

(Note: The above story demonstrates theme weaving and using a Phrase That Pays. For more information on these Story Theater principles, refer to the index of topics for the past issues of the Story Theater Newsletter.)


Doug Stevenson, president of Story Theater International, is the creator of The Story Theater Method and the author of the book, Never Be Boring Again.

His 10 CD – How to Write and Deliver a Dynamite Speech audio learning system, is a workshop in a box. It contains an 80-page follow along workbook.
Learn more at: Dynamite Speech Home Study Course

Doug can be reached at 1-800-573-6196 or  1-719-573-6195 or at: Story Theater Website

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