When abroad people sometimes ask me for a copy of my book. Because there is no English version of the book, I have translated the introduction, which very well summarizes the central ideas.

In life everything is a story.

In life everyone is a story.

Stories hide in everyone and everything.

Be open to stories,

and understand the bigger story.

 

Nothing is what it seems.

This book will leave you with more questions than answers. This is intentional. But I am sure it will open your eyes.  School teached us there is an answer for every question. That is why we learned to categorize everything. It helps us to make quicker the right analysis. We are trained to do so. We see, hear, taste or feel something, make an interpretation of it and come to a conclusion. This conclusion is not necessarily the best option.

When I was a student at the school of interpreters I had a very good friend. We had been following the lessons side by side for more than four years and we were very close. During the breaks we would talk. We talked a lot and we knew each other very well. I would visit his home regularly and I found his parents as charming as he was. But one day he burst out in tears and told me his father was not his father. I will not tell you the rest of his story, but be sure I  was flabbergasted. How could I know someone so well and yet not know this one fact which was so determining in his life ?

This story touched me deeply and keeps me busy even today. I will not easily judge people, because there definitely is a reason why people behave in one way or another. Every home has its cross. Everyone holds the right to have a secret.

I collect stories.

From the school of interpreters I immediately landed a job at the Flemish public broadcaster VRT, where I have been working for more than 20 years. I started as a young editor for tv and climbed the ladder to become the controller of Eén, the biggest tv channel in Flanders. If I would apply for a new job, I would definitely stress this knowledge I have in tv.

I am 20 years in the business, so I must be hooked to television. For sure. But it was only recently – and believe me, it was a revelation to me – that I realized that not television was my job, but stories. Although television is a profession with strict rules, it is not the essence. Choosing the right stories and creating a platform to broadcast them is my job. And my main concern is to make authentic television. I want to show real people with real stories and real emotions.

Since I made the change from television-maker to story-bringer, I look at the world in a different way. I look out for stories in a more intense way. You can find these stories on television, in books and magazines and on the internet, but someone who watches in a different way, will find plenty of stories elsewhere. In fact you can find them everywhere. Because everyone and everything is a story.

Everyone is a story.

To begin with myself : I am a story. I will tell you about myself in this book. Even if you don’t know me, you will have an idea of who I am. I will be honoust with you so that the image you have of me is close to whom I really am. And if ever we meet, then tell me what you think of me. I love reading biographies because they pull me into the life of that person. But you don’t have to read the biography of a celebrity to be inspired by someone else. Look at and listen to people more closely and you will discover the bottom of their story.

The stories of Madonna or Lady Di read like a book. But are you aware of your own story ? Of that of your friends and neighbours ? Even if we aren’t  ‘a Princess of hearts’ like Diane or a chameleon like Madonna, every day each one of use daily writes his or her story. Sometimes consciously, some unconsciously. Sometimes in an implicit way, sometimes explicitely.

More than six billion people live on our planet. Each one of them is a story. A book with a beginning, a middle and a final. Some will have several prints, some revised editions.

I hope this book will stimulate you to collect stories and to live your own story more intensily.

Everything is a story.

Not only people are stories. Who looks closely around him or her, will have to admit that everything is a story.

What is the success of Ikea ? What do you feel when the Mona Lisa stares at you ? Is Jamie Oliver the best cook or is he a ‘cookmissionary’ ? Why are you so attached to a piece of furniture ? … The answers to these questions lead to the essence of the story.

Take for instance ‘nine eleven’. There is only one thing that comes to mind if you hear these two words : the attack on the World Trade Towers in New York. About how it changed the world before and after September 11 2001. ‘Nine eleven’ is a story. More than just one story as you will read later in this book.

About pens and spectacles.

Stories are up for grabs. Every day we are surrounded by tens even hundreds of stories, but we no longer see them. Unwillingly so, or because we don’t understand them.

You don’t have to become member of a secret society to become more aware of these stories. Just select the right spectacles or take the right pen to become more story alert. It is in my nature to be a rational person. I can make very sharp analysis and take a decision. But over the years intuition became a new drive. In my reports I ban most of the words and logic and replace it by an image. I try to make a point not by ratio but emotion. These images, moodboards, mindmappings, word clouds, … have learned me to read and tell stories in a different way. The white space on a piece of paper tells me as much as the printed text.

Now that I collect stories, it is my mission to convince everyone about the power of stories. I didn’t go to university to do this, neither do I want to impose it. This book offers you some spectacles and pens. You decide if they can be of any help. Maybe you will find spectacles and pens elsewhere that may be more usefull.

Stories are powerful.

I wrote this book with my right brain. Our left brain is driven by logic, while our right brain drives on intuition. So you don’t have to read this from the beginning to the end. Just go with the flow.

Because I learned to think out of the box, the result is an out of the book book. Therefore it has no table of contents. You will have to do it with the mindmap on the next page.

This book must leave you with more questions than answers. Because I want you to look out for stories. This book should put you on the right track. If you are a parent and you want to challenge your child to make his life more colorful. Or you are a student and you wonder what to do with all that knowledge. Or you are a manager and you want to inspire. Or if you are just part of life … you are a story and stories will cross your path. I can’t stress it enough : deal with it in a more conscious way.

 

Jean Philip De Tender

storyevangelist