Top Gems from STORY Chicago

STORY ChicagoOver the past six months, I’ve been attending numerous events and conferences to re-engage with my professional community. Last week I attended an event I had never heard of before called STORY hosted here in Chicago. In its sixth year, the event took place at the beautiful Harris Theater located in Millennium Park. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect as I hadn’t found anyone in my circles who had heard of it before, but I went with an open mind and a strong desire for creative inspiration.

With the 2014 theme focused on “Creators, Dreamers, and Storytellers,” STORY Chicago is a conference combining music, performance, digital, discussions, presentations, labs, and much more, all focused on creative storytelling and drawing more than 1,500+ creative professionals nationwide.

The speaker line-up included writers, filmmakers, an Emmy-winning actor, photographers, digital creatives, a tattoo artist, an illusionist, college professors, a spoken word artist, musicians, and so many more. With this much creative power in one room, you can’t help but walk away inspired, enlightened, and enthused.

STORY Chicago 2014_PresenterAs the audience was drawn in with the da Vinci inspired stage design, local musicians kicked things off with stimulating performances that brought even greater energy to the room. The entire conference became a feast for the senses with strong visuals, powerful stories, and captivating performances.

While there were so many take-aways and a few aha moments, below are just a few gems that I picked up from some of these engaging presenters.

  • From best-selling author Jonah Lehrer, who graciously and bravely shared key learnings from his post-plagiarism and fabrication scandal, “Failure educates. We don’t speak enough about our mistakes.” He also stated that, “If you love what you do, this is the reward. It’s not about getting to the top, but loving the incline.” He made the point that, “What provides meaning to the creator is the process. Find meaning in the hard work as it is all we have.”
  • Christopher Chapman, Global Director of Creativity & Innovation, The Walt Disney Company, reminds us that “Story is king…it all starts with a story. Story informs every decision.”  This is certainly true of every Disney experience.
  • As Sarah Lewis, cultural historian and author of The Rise, talked about the importance of having private domains, she commented that, “Mastery is a journey. Mastery means we have to be able to do it again and again. Mastery means being in a constant state of beta.”
  • Welby Altidor, Executive Creative Director of Creations, Cirque Du Soleil, offered that, “We need to program ourselves for failure.” He goes on to explain that this process can help us to recover from it more easily as we face failure. We learn how to not be ashamed, but to deal with it in a healthy way by extracting and learning from mistakes. He provided a great story of taking his young daughter out to learn how to ice skate. The first thing he taught her was how to fall.
  • Jon Collins, Founder of Epipheo, made the profound statements that, “Stories are just more interesting explanations. A good explanation isn’t simply describing something. It’s explaining why something matters and what it means. We crave story because we crave understanding of the world we live in.”
  • Melissa Weigel, Director of Multimedia, Moment Factory, showed some breathtaking multimedia public installations her organization has developed.  With the context of Audience + Space + Digital Media = New Forms of Communication, she shared, “Don’t wait for someone else to tell you what to do…use your imagination to fill in the blanks.”
  • Tony Hale, Emmy award-winning actor from Arrested Development and Veep is now a children’s book author.  Entitled Archibald’s Next Big Thing, a surprising tale of one chicken’s search to find the next big thing, he drives home the message that, “If you’re not practicing contentment where you are now, you won’t have it when you get to where you want to be.”  In addition, he said, “You have to wake yourself up a 100 times a day to enjoy where you are.”  Excellent advice.

What an empowering event with an amazing lineup of creative and thought-provoking talent. What events do you enjoy attending? Which are the ones you get the greatest inspiration from, or maybe where you meet the most interesting and like-minded participants?

Photo credit: Tara Jantzen

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