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The Art and Science Behind Telling a Story That BOMBs

Science says that we tell and listen to stories because: “the constant firing of our neurons in response to fictional stimuli strengthens and refines the neural pathways that lead to skillful navigation of life’s problems.”

Translation from Klingon to English: We like stories because they help us deal with both the beauty and the crap that life sends our way. 

So if we need stories to navigate through life, why does it feel like some stories are all about the storyteller and do nothing for the listener? This kind of story is all about: my resume, my greatness, my oppressive agenda, what I want. 

If your story as a lot of “my’s” and “I’s” then it’s going to be a crap story and the listener is going to walk away (and might probably be pissed as well). 

Case in point: When I first started out as an actor, I wanted to meet every director, producer, and casting director from New York to Bollywood (hey—I was desperate). Whenever I got the chance to get in front of someone I wanted to impress, the story was always about me, my resume, my skills, and what I wanted. Soon enough, the director’s or producer’s eyes would glaze over, bored to near death, hoping to god they’d be saved by a nuclear blast rather than sit through another thirty seconds listening to me talk. 

I never stopped to think about having a conversation, about asking them who they are and what they wanted. I never thought about telling them a (my) story so that it was for their benefit. 

Storytelling is never about what you want (not entirely) nor the income… it’s always about the outcome. You’ll get what you want in part or in full only after you’ve fulfilled someone else’s needs. 

PS. I’d love to hear about a time you told a story and it totally bombed. What could you have done differently? Click reply to holler at me or message me on Facebook.

P.P.S. Speaking of stories: I recently was interviewed on An Evolving Lifestyle Podcast. It was a blast! And I think you’d enjoy. You can listen to the interview here:

If You Want to Go Fast, Go Alone, But if You Want to Go Far, Go Together

If you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together. 

Speak up and speak often. If you seek to do great things in the community, collaborate with stakeholders and leaders by crafting and sharing your collective stories. We need all of our stories to unify, to ignite change, and to create a better world for our children and grandchildren. We need to work together.

When alone we are vulnerable but together we are mighty. 
The i’Mpossible Project: Reengaging With Life, Creating a New You is now available for pre-order at 50 authors. 50 inspirational stories of overcoming tremendous obstacles. 

The first 200 people to pre-order will get a “thank you” in the front of the book, and a free copy of the book The Gospel According to Josh: A 28-Year Gentile Bar Mitzvah.

i'Mpossible guest post: Leslie W. Zeitler with Got Hope?

This is the forty-eighth edition of The i’Mpossible Project: A series where anyone can share a personal story of inspiration or an event in life where they overcame tremendous odds. Everyone has a powerful story to tell and something to teach the world. (See HERE for guidelines on how you can write for The i’Mpossible Project.) Here we have Leslie W. Zeitler with Got Hope?

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Got Hope? (Hint: It looks a lot like weeding...)
Thanks to Josh Rivedal for the invitation to guest-post!  Today's post is about hope lost and eventually, hope regained.
When I was 15, I lost my mom to suicide. Despite the profound loss of my mother, the fallout with some family members afterwards, and the feeling that my world had completely upended, I still had ambitions. Even with the sense of betrayal and the long-gnawing fear of possibly ending up like my mom, I felt myself moving forward on a trajectory that whispered softly in my ear: “history is not destiny”. I stuck to my goals: I went to college, I traveled, I found a city in which to live that felt like home (3000 miles away), I went to grad school and became a professional social worker which I’d felt was my calling. I couldn’t have done any of those things without hope.
Then, my maternal aunt – my mother’s older sister - died by suicide 17 years after my mom’s suicide. My aunt, the one who acted as my second mom in early childhood and took care of me when my mom struggled with severe bouts of depression. My aunt, the woman who helped me get my prom dress made in my senior year of high school. My aunt, who came to my college and graduate school graduations. My aunt: another woman in my family who battled depression.
Yes, I’ve been in therapy to deal with the loss of my mom, the family fallout, the loss of my aunt, and more. Yes, I’ve attended support groups. Yes, I have dear friends who I’ve been able to talk with about these losses. Yes, yes and yes: I took and continue to take steps to attend to my own mental health and well-being. But even with all of these steps, something transpired inside of me and I lost more than just my aunt.  It took a long time to figure it out, and it took some digging...

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Leslie W. Zeitler, L.C.S.W. is a survivor of two family suicides: Leslie was 15 years old when her mother died by suicide, and was 33 years old when her maternal aunt died by suicide. She has been looking into a variety of ways to support survivors of suicide.  She writes about the losses (, speaks about trauma and loss, and has engaged in storytelling to bring more attention to the needs of survivors of loved ones' suicides.  As such, Leslie has had literary work accepted into mixed-media art exhibits hosted by the Asian American Women Artists Association (AAWAA).  Professionally, Leslie is a social worker whose career spans almost 20 years in the field of child welfare.

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You can find more stories like Leslie's in The i’Mpossible Project: Reengaging With Life, Creating a New You, now available for pre-order. 50 authors. 50 inspirational stories of overcoming tremendous obstacles. 
Read a few sample chapters HERE.
The first 200 people to pre-order will get a “thank you” in the front of the book, and a free copy of the book The Gospel According to Josh: A 28-Year Gentile Bar Mitzvah.

Knowing When it’s Time to Speak Out and Speak Up

When is it your turn to speak out and speak up? 


If not now, then when? It’s time to take back your power. No longer is it necessary to sit back and wait for “your turn.” The democratization of the internet, the advent of high(ish) speed ground and air transportation, and the accessibility of self-education have put us in a fascinating and liberating time in human history. 

No longer is it necessary to wait to be picked—you can pick yourself.

Your story matters. Your point of view is important. Your idea could change the world. 

It will never be the perfect time to research, to take risk, to launch. 

But what happens if you do? Or what happens if you don’t?

Speaking of stories and speaking out... the new The i'Mpossible Project book features fifty authors who are speaking out with their stories, using their harrowing experiences to help others. Below is one of our fifty stories...

The Bully in Me
Matthew Shaffer
 was nine years old the first time I entered a dance studio. The intoxicating smells of ambition, sweat, and leather Capezio jazz oxfords permeated the hardwood floors. (It was the first time in my life that a scent other than food got me excited!)

I stood on the threshold between the carpeted waiting room and the dance floor, which was filled with stunning dancers. Two at a time, they soared through the air with relentless passion. I looked back at my mom and dad and uttered the words that my father had been dying to hear from his only son for soccer, baseball, football or any other sport ending in “ball”: “Sign me up!” Without hesitation, my parents enrolled me in Beginning Teen Jazz, and my journey began.

During the first three years of dance, most of my grade school friends had no idea that I spent every Thursday night perfecting my #JazzHands with a room full of girls. By the time I reached middle school, I could no longer hide my enthusiasm. It was not a hobby. I was not “collecting” dance.
Dance was much more significant to me than a sport. I watched my friends play sports, and most of them hated it. I LOVED to dance. I was fully committed to becoming a professional dancer, and I wasn’t concerned with anyone else’s judgment. Or so I thought.

Everyone who survived junior high knows how devastatingly cruel Tweenagers can be. Nowadays, we use the term bullying––but growing up, it was just my life. At first, the negative comments and painful attacks on my character just stung. I’d seen Can’t Buy Me Love, so I was prepared for the usual teenage taunting. However, as I continued to pursue dance, the “jokes” turned into torment.
Let me set the stage: I was freakishly short for my age and very round. I wore dress pants from the Macy’s “husky” department with vintage, button-down dress shirts from my grandpa’s closet. To make matters worse, I had developed a serious case of acne from all of the stress. (Imagine a fabulously styled Mr. Potato Head with a pepperoni pizza face.) So yeah, that was fun.

Several kids spent every lunch period harassing me to the point where I could no longer eat in the cafeteria. Others would follow me between classes shouting “Butterball,” “Fatty,” “Fag,” and other hateful slurs.

I ignored the situation until rumors wound their way through the nasty schoolyard grapevine and into my little sister’s ears. She was so devastated by those evil words that I actually considered quitting dance. I begged her not to tell my parents, because I was embarrassed that I was being made fun of. I spent every night crying myself to sleep, praying that the kids would stop tormenting me so that I could keep doing what I loved.

The bullying continued until one day in seventh grade, when the anger and rage boiling inside motivated me to stand up and roar back. (Imagine a clip from When Animals Attack on the Discovery Channel.) I was the lone hyena attacking the lions to shreds. Needless to say, from then on, kids avoided me the way an “A-List” actress avoids carbs.

Once I got to high school, I discovered that the kids who harassed me saw something in me that terrified them. They realized I was a confident person working toward a remarkable goal. I wasn’t afraid to stand out or be different, and they couldn’t control that.

After graduation, I was fully prepared for my life as a sassy, slightly short-statured entertainer with a plenty of personality. Unfortunately, I had not yet realized that the biggest bully I was ever going to encounter was me.

As I set off on my professional career, I convinced myself that the only way I was going to be successful as an actor was if I hid the fact that I was gay. Let’s be honest. It’s not like Hollywood was embracing “out” actors at the time, and unless you had a body like Matt Bomer or the nerd appeal of Zachary Quinto, Tinseltown isn’t exactly celebrating openly gay men in leading roles even now. 
I spent my early twenties in the closet, dating girls and acting like a frat brother at every audition. Aside from a small group of friends, with whom I was completely open, I fought every natural instinct to be funny, authentic, or fabulous because of my fear of being discovered. I carefully crafted the way I talked, dressed, and socialized. I bullied myself into believing that who I am wasn’t good enough.

When I turned thirty, my grandpa–who was an incredibly supportive figure in my life–told me, just before he passed away, that he was so proud of me for following my dream. Suddenly, it dawned on me that, unlike my seventh-grade self, I had become a victim. I’d spent an entire decade of my adult life pretending to be someone else and it hadn’t brought me any closer to my goals.

Finally, I’d reached a point where I was tired of running from myself. I decided that living a truthful life (ironic for an actor) was more important than being famous. Once I gave myself permission to love myself entirely, a universe of unexplored creativity and opportunities emerged.

My partner and I began writing and producing our own digital short sketches, which attracted a huge online fan base. I came out in a national magazine, I wrote and published a book, and I started working as an actor in areas that are perfectly suited to my talents.

More importantly, now I can openly share my story and create work that is grounded in issues and subjects that are relevant to me, hopefully provoking someone else to conquer adversity and triumph on their journey.
The i’Mpossible Project: Reengaging With Life, Creating a New You is now available for pre-order at 50 authors. 50 inspirational stories of overcoming tremendous obstacles. 

The first 200 people to pre-order will get a “thank you” in the front of the book, and a free copy of the book The Gospel According to Josh: A 28-Year Gentile Bar Mitzvah.