What we can learn from a young girl with a powerful story

1: Tuesday, October 9, 2012 started out like just another normal day.  

A 15-year old school girl boarded a rickety covered truck and three benches in the back.  The “school bus” made its way down a muddy road.  Suddenly it stopped.  Two masked men came aboard.  One of them pulled out a Colt .45 and fired three shots at the girl, one of which hit her in her left eye, Carmine Gallo recounts in his book, The Storyteller’s Secret.

She was treated at a hospital in England and survived.  She still lives there because there is too much risk for her to return to her native Pakistan.

Malala.

“Her first name alone has become a symbol of resilience and courage,” Carmine writes.

“At any one time there are 66 million girls out of school around the world.  Every three seconds a girl becomes a child bride, and 4 out of 5 victims of human trafficking are girls,” Carmine reports.  

2: “Those numbers are staggering, but the human mind doesn’t handle abstraction very well.  And that’s why one face, one story, can humanize a global atrocity and give voice to millions who can’t speak for themselves.

“And when the face belongs to a brilliant storyteller, a movement begins,” Carmine observes.

One year after the shooting, Malala spoke in front of the United Nations about the millions of girls around the globe who are denied the ability to attend school.  Her talk received several standing ovations and launched a movement to unlock the potential in young girls.

Her book I Am Malala spent over a year on the New Your Times bestseller list.

In 2014, she became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize

As we discussed yesterday, a transformative story requires (1) a hero with whom we can empathize (2) whose world is turned upside down by an unexpected challenge who (3) triumphs over hardship and adversity (4) which sparks a call to action or lesson learned.

3: Austin Madison is a story artist and animator at Pixar who has worked movies like Brave and Toy Story 3 gave a presentation on the 7-step process that all Pixar movies follow.

1. Once there was a ___. [A hero with a goal is the most important element of a story.]

2. Every day he or she ___. [The hero’s world must be in balance in the first act.]

3. Until one day ___. [A compelling story introduces conflict. The hero’s goal faces a challenge.]

4. Because of that ___. [This step is critical and separates a blockbuster from an average story. A compelling story isn’t made up of random scenes that are loosely tied together. Each scene has one nugget of information that compels the next scene.]

5. Because of that ___.

6. Until finally ____. [The climax reveals the triumph of good over evil.]

7. Ever since then ___. [The moral of the story.]

Carmine notes that “Malala’s speech perfectly follows Pixar’s 7-step storytelling process.  I doubt that she did this intentionally,” he comments, “but it demonstrates once again the theme in this book—there’s a difference between a story, a good story, and a story that sparks movements.  Below is Pixar’s storytelling process overlaid on Malala’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech:

1: Once there was a little girl who lived in a ‘paradise home’ in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, ‘a place of tourism and beauty.’

2: Every day she had ‘a thirst for education’ and would go to class ‘to sit and learn and read.’

3: Until one day the Swat Valley ‘turned into a place of terrorism.’

4: Because of that girls’ education became a crime and ‘girls were stopped from going to school.’

5: Because of that Malala’s priorities changed: ‘I decided to speak up.’

6: Until finally the terrorists attacked Malala.  She survived.  ‘Neither their ideas or bullets could win.’

7: Ever since then Malala’s voice ‘has grown louder and louder’ because Malala is speaking for the 66 million girls deprived of an education.  ‘I tell my story, not because it is unique, but because it’s not,’ Malala said.”

More tomorrow.

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Reflection:  What is a goal in my life right now?  Who do I need to persuade?  Think or find a persuasive story that will move my audience toward my goal.  Outline my story using the Pixar 7-step process.

Action:  Journal my answers to the questions above.  Deliver my story!

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