Like all habits, collecting pithy stories, facts, quotes and jokes crept into my life a little at a time. First, I was an editor invited to teach communication classes peppered with personal tips and icebreakers. Soon I was writing my own courses and speeches, and I fell into ghostwriting when a keynote speaker preparing to honor a prominent citizen at a formal dinner asked for my help. Back then, I didn’t know what a “roast” was, but I learned, and I delivered.
Fast-forward about 20 years, and I’m staring at a stack of files almost three inches thick. Online resources are easier to access when I’m working on an assignment for a client, but I like digging into those folders on my own time for inspiration. As I purge and add, the files evolve, a loose journal of sentences and stories that matter to me.
Here’s a personal anecdote: I visited a cave-like monument in France on a college trip at age 19, with a tunnel full of white lights marking Holocaust deaths. The inscription on one wall is “Pardonne. N’Oublie Pas.” Translation: “Forgive, Do Not Forget.” I will always remember our white-haired guide with a set of numbers tattooed on his arm.
I can read about perseverance in the face of rejection or criticism, from hit television shows labeled “weak” or “not very entertaining” in initial feedback to Fred Astaire’s now-famous screen test: “Can’t act. Slightly balding. Can dance a little.”
Risk and love are other popular themes.
Helen Keller said,
“Security is mostly superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the end than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”
And C.S. Lewis wrote,
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”
I love these quotes and many more, but we don’t need podiums, cameras or keyboards to unleash the power of conversation.
Every day, words move us.