We are pretty fanatical about stories in business not taking more than 2 minutes to share. I know, sounds harsh but we have even written another post on how storytelling like everything in life is subject to the law of diminishing returns. Simply put the law tells us that after a point in time the more you put into something the less you get back. And I absolutely think the law kicks in at about the 2-minute mark with most stories.
But of course what makes life so interesting is that there are always exceptions to every rule and one must always know when to break or bend a rule.
Just recently a client, Richard Binch from Accenture shared a story of how a long story can work! Richard talked about attending a conference where Nando Parrado was invited to speak.
In October 1972, Nando Parrado was one of 16 survivors when a plane carrying the Uruguayan rugby team crashed in the Andes Mountains. Parrado lost both his mother and sister in the plane crash.
What follows is not for the faint hearted. Stranded at over 11,800 ft altitude, the survivors were faced with extreme conditions, little food and no heat source. Facing the grim prospect of starvation and after hearing on radio that attempts to rescue them had been abandoned, the 16 survived by feeding on dead passengers preserved in the snow. Parrado says out of respect for him they did not touch the bodies of his mother and sister.
“I think the greatest sadness I felt in my life was when I had to eat a dead body,” said Roberto Canessa, one of the other survivors later. “I would ask myself: is it worth doing this? And it was because it was in order to live and preserve life, which is exactly what I would have liked for myself if it had been my body that lay on the floor,” he said.
Desperate after more than two months in the mountains, Canessa and Parrado set out to seek help. They climbed a 5000 metre mountain, one part of the ascent was diagonally across a sheer wall of snow. They had no picks, no ropes, no climbing equipment and only summer clothing. In addition to the cold, they had to deal with thin air, blizzards and their physical debilitation. Nando told the others that from the summit of the mountain they would see the green plains of Chile. When he reached the top there was no green, only white.
After 10 days of trekking, they spotted a livestock herder in the foothills of the Chilean Andes. They could not reach him because of difficult conditions, but they heard him say one word: “Tomorrow”. “With that, our suffering ended,” Canessa said. The herder went into town and returned with a rescue team.
Richard shared that Parrado spoke for an hour and a half and had everyone riveted and Parrado used his story to say ‘Don’t waste your time, lead the life you want to lead’. Parrado was brought in, to inspire the sales force and within 2 days, about 7 people in the sales team resigned as Parrado’s message struck a chord with them. Even in Richard’s retelling in Melbourne, so many years later you could see that the audience was visibly moved.
Thanks Richard for reminding us that there are exceptions to every rule and long stories can work. And as the Dalai Lama said “Know the rules well, so you can break them effectively.”
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