Oct 06, 2011
The great storyteller Steve Jobs; My sons in their younger days,
moments before their bedtime program.

I have been under the weather since Monday so I’m in a self-imposed confinement in our bedroom, missing a much awaited brunch yesterday with old friends. This morning I learned that Steve Jobs passed away after battling pancreatic cancer for several years now. Together with the whole world I mourn the loss of a great visionary, innovator and storyteller.

          Back in my grade school days I joined and won storytelling contests – the verbal, not the written kind. The mechanics goes something like this. Contestants pick their numbers. Then contestant number 1 picks his topic first while the rest of the contestants are kept in a room. Contestant number 1 is given 7 minutes to develop his story in a room by himself. After 7 minutes, he is brought to the stage and he delivers his story in 7 minutes (the same time he was given to prepare his story). During this time contestant number 2 picks his topic and develops his story in another room away from the other contestants and away from the stage so he would not hear the first contestant. Then contestant number 3 picks his topic and develops his story while contestant number 2 delivers his, and so on. This reminds me of the way Q & A in beauty contests were conducted before. The other finalists were inside a transparent soundproof receptacle where they could not hear what’s going on while the audience could still see them. The only difference was we had to deliver a 7 minute story with actions and we definitely were not allowed to bring interpreters.

          Why am I remembering all these now on the death of Steve Jobs? It’s because I realize that no matter how great your product or idea is, if you cannot convince enough people, your product or idea will go nowhere! And how do you convince enough people? It’s by being a good storyteller, which Steve definitely was.  We, especially Apple product users, believe that Apple products are fantastic and trendsetters that we are convinced to pay just a little bit more to have them.

          When our family purchased our first Apple product, we were all wowed! Opening the sealed Apple product is already an experience in itself. We marveled at the sleek neat design – from the box to the plastic, to the tiny white gadget inside with the simplicity and elegance of clean lines. Even as we struggled at the start to figure out how to use it, we ended up buying our next Apple “toy” and the next, and the next, and so on.

          Buying an Apple product is similar to eating in your favorite fine dining restaurant. You feel special when you’re there, you enjoy not just your meal but your whole dining experience, you’re not overstuffed, and you pay a little bit more, but you’re not complaining because even before you went there you were already convinced that you are getting your money’s worth. And you go back there over and over again.

          It’s the same for Apple products. For a family who takes pride in being frugal, we have welcomed over 20 Apple products into our home, and counting. And I know that part of this whole Apple experience is the great storytelling of Steve Jobs. The Apple website is very good in exciting customers that they aspire to be the first to have the product in their hands, even willing to fall in line hours before store opening. (Thank God, we’re not that fanatic.)

          And of course, no one could beat Steve Jobs in his live presentations. He was a rock star whenever he unveiled a new product! Clad in his classic dark turtleneck long-sleeved top tucked in his Levis 501 jeans and sneakers (sometimes black shoes), he pulled all the right magic tricks in a great theatrical performance that everyone in the audience can only say oooh! and aaah! as they salivate to get hold of the new gadget.

          Some people say that the competitor Samsung which uses the Android technology is even superior to the Apple. But do they have a great storyteller? I don’t think so.

          This brings me back to how my husband and I enjoyed the mini presentations of our sons since their baby days. Dressed in their matching pajamas, they would perform to us before bedtime. The bay window seat across our bed was their stage when they delivered their impromptu program. They loved to show off their new songs, nursery rhymes, even jokes. And no one would allow to be grabbed off his own airtime. (It was usually performed on restricted time because they had to sleep early). Now I can’t remember which one came first. Was it their interest in showing off or was it our eagerness in watching their new tricks? It doesn’t matter.

          When they were a little bigger, we had a period when we asked them to give a mini presentation complete with mic to discuss anything at all. The stage was not the bay window seat anymore because they’ve gotten too big for that. It was just the nook near our dining area. (Last week, we agreed to bring this back and to include Papa and Mama as well complete with Powerpoint Presentation, if necessary starting this weekend.)

          All throughout their growing up years, the dinner table was their (our) everyday stage when we did our storytelling sessions that bonded our family profoundly.

          What have all these done to our sons? I think they have become more confident and all three of them love to perform. They’re all into hiphop dancing now and performing at the Araneta Coliseum and other venues are among their most memorable moments. They also host programs and parties and they enjoy and do well in projects where presentations are required, unlike most students who are mortified by them.

          So if a parent asks me how my sons developed their confidence, I usually say through their impromptu bedtime programs and everyday storytelling.

          Because of my book, I have been invited to give talks and guest on TV and radio shows. And because of this, I also have to hone my presentation skills. So far, the feedback has been encouraging and I find myself enjoying not just the talk itself and the learning I get from the audience. I also enjoy the preparation. It takes time because I research a bit more on every topic but I end up learning more which is definitely good for me. This paves well for me because my motto is to be a student for life.

So for now this student wants to learn how to be a great storyteller like Steve Jobs! For the meantime, please excuse me as I have to refine my next presentation. I hope I get well from this cough soon so I can deliver my story well to some 200 high school parents and teachers on Saturday.

         Let me leave you with this reminder. Train your children to be great storytellers.  As Peter Drucker (a great writer and management consultant) said, “As soon as you move one step up from the bottom, your effectiveness depends on your ability to reach others through the spoken and written word.”

         Happy parenting!