Loyola University Chicago

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Judith Kolva: The Power of Storytelling

Judith Kolva: The Power of Storytelling

Stories Trump Things

Toss out the term “legal will” and you never need explain yourself. Research conducted by estate planners indicates Baby Boomers will pass down roughly $30 trillion during the next few decades.  How? Legal wills.

Certainly, material possessions are important. But do you know two separate Alliance American Legacies studies affirm traditions, values, wishes, and, yes, stories trump things? In summary: “Boomers and elders agreed: Inheritance is not ‘owed’ to children. But family stories should be passed down.”

Jay Hughes, author of Family Wealth, writes, “Stories inoculate families against the shirtsleeves- to-shirtsleeves in three generations syndrome. Every family I know that successfully preserves its wealth sets aside time at family gatherings for sharing its unique history.”

Mrs. Lavern Norris Gaynor, heiress to the Texaco fortune, says, “It’s my obligation to tell my story—a story that includes my family’s business story. After all, it’s stories, not sterling, that link generations.”

One of Chicago’s hometown boys (Can you say, “Barak Obama”?) says, “When so much of our politics is trying to manage this clash of cultures brought about by globalization and migration, the role of stories to unify is more important than ever. Storytelling brings people together to have the courage to take action on behalf of their lives.”

I call human beings homo narratus—storytelling animals. Our brains are evolutionarily hardwired to think in, tell, and remember stories. Stories are the heartbeat of the human experience. They teach us who we were, who we are, and who we can be.

Someday List

If stories are so important, why do we put off, or even avoid, passing on stories that preserve wisdom, hard-learned lessons, traditions, beliefs, and hopes—the intangibles that comprise our true legacy?

Answers are universal:

  • I don’t have the time.
  • I don’t have the skills.
  • I don’t have the resources.
  • I don’t know where to start.

So, we jot tell my story on the Someday List.  All too often, before the Someday calendar page turns, it’s too late.

Written by Judith Kolva, Ph.D.

Personal Historian, Legacies In Ink, LLC

Judith Kolva, Ph.D., is a professional personal historian. She is a trusted interviewer, expert researcher, gifted writer, and engaging speaker who navigates Fortune 500 boardrooms, family living rooms, and speaking podiums with ease and grace.

Dr. Kolva works worldwide with multigenerational families and family businesses to safeguard stories in heirloom books. Her proprietary model, StoryPower: Your Hidden Heritage, engages her clients and combats the “shirtsleeves-to-shirtsleeves” syndrome.