People often ask me "Craig, how did you become a professional storyteller?"
Interestingly enough, it was all the result of a bad blind date. Well, not just any blind date. More like the mother of all blind dates. Except, in this case, my blind date had two mothers! And not just any mothers…but Jewish mothers. How could it possibly have succeeded? Talk about a burden of expectations!
My mother and her mother were friends. Each had a single adult child. It was only a matter of time until they became matchmakers. And so it was that I called to ask 'Sara' out…to a local neighborhood eatery that next Monday night.
A date was made. Soon enough the day came, the time came and I came to the trendy neighborhood bistro. But where was Sara? Since we'd only spoken by phone I didn't know exactly what she looked like. So, I waited and waited and waited some more.
I sat for 30 minutes wondering if I had the wrong day, wrong time, wrong location, or worse yet, that she saw me and bolted. It sounds harsh, like something guys do!
My date was sooooh late I began approaching other women asking if they were Sara. Approaching one single woman after another, I felt like a bad pick-up artist. One woman actually asked: "can't you do better than that!" Ouch.
Once my date finally did arrive it was clear within a matter of seconds our first date would be our last. She was boring. I was bored. As she prattled on and on about her Ex, I found myself envying him. The date was a dud. Yet I now had a story to tell at my weekly Toastmasters meeting.The Story About the Story
So later that week I told a captivating audience my seven minute story: "Drama, intrigue, suspense…The Blind Date" and received rave reviews. And something unexpected happened. My club president recommended I tell my story at another Area's upcoming evaluation contest, whereupon other Toastmasters compete to constructively evaluate a presentation.
A Growing Audience
And so it was that later that month I gave my first presentation outside my home Toastmasters club, and received the benefit of more laughter and three stellar evaluations. And then something else unexpected happened. I was invited to tell my tale at a District Conference for an auditorium full of Toastmasters. And so I did. And my story was met with more laughter and yet another invitation to tell it anew.
The irony wasn't lost on me. I'd only had one date with Sara, but my story about the date already had three dates. This relationship had legs!
To The Silver Screen
A man in the audience asked me if I could give a 45-minute version of this story to his non-Toastmasters audience, for his dating-by-video organization.
Just between you and me, I had previous ill-conceived blind dates, other horror stories and more that I could talk about. 45 minutes…that's just a slew of dating horror stories with time for applause and some questions and answers.
So I told my stories to a live audience and a TV camera too. If only they had positioned the camera within the audience. It was at such an angle that they wanted me to ignore the audience and only play to the camera at the side of the room. I couldn't do it! I could not ignore a live audience for a camera. I now have a video with 45 minutes of my profile. Still, it was a milestone for me. Ironic too, that I’d gone from a bad blind date to telling stories to a dating service!
A Professional Date
And, as luck would have it, something almost expected (by now) happened. I was asked to give this longer story program again, for a local church's evening speaker program. The gentleman described the group, the room and their willingness to videotape me (head-on this time). He then asked me: "How does $75 sound?" (Between you and me, I'd have paid over $100 for a useable video of my storytelling to a live audience.) "I suppose I could afford to pay $75" I speculated aloud.
He laughed and explained that they would pay me to tell my story. And so they did! When the $75 check arrived I thought I would die of pride. Wow, paid to tell stories. This was great.
The evaluations were decent. That’s when I learned I could return in six months and tell more stories of more close encounters of a single kind.
I triumphantly returned six months later to regale another audience with tales of the Magic of Mingling, and later to tell my tome of Reviving the Lost Art of Conversation. They had launched me as a paid storyteller.
Kiss and Tell
When I wasn’t dating around town, I was telling about dating around town. After two years, by chance I bump into a single woman who was writing a book on Internet Dating. She turned out to be my neighbor. Soon I reviewed some of her chapters, co-presented with her and participated in her focus groups. She even interviewed friends of mine who married after meeting on match.com.
And, during the course of her research, she met a great guy and married him. And as a result I took my stories and began teaching a version of her Internet dating class for The Learning Annex. I called mine Log On To Love.
You'll be happy to know that my blind date Sara is now married. That means she is happy and her mother is too! Since I am not married my story is still in search of its happy ending. Yet I continue to tell stories, and now receive payment too, in and out of schools, churches, synagogues and Toastmasters. And not a day goes by that I don't look back with fondness on my blind date with destiny.