The Fresh Prince, Story-telling and Life Before Covid19

Stewart Bewley

For the past few weeks I have been making videos with my children on how to bring energy to the screen — from Prunes and Bananas to calming breathing. They have been brilliant and it has been a lot of fun. But they are tired. The same old story of Covid19 is getting to them and they need something different — they need to be living in other stories, stories of hope, stories of things we have done as a family that define who and why we are before Covid19 and ultimately stories that will guide us into the future.

And I don’t think think it is just them.

We are all nearly a year in. For the first time in human history I can mention the name Covid19 to anyone on the planet and everyone will have a story to share. I joke that I can’t remember life pre-covid 19 and that is why I have put a huge photo wall up behind my computer, to remind me that life existed well before March 2020. It keeps me alive, keeps me fresh to what has been and gives me hope for what could be.

Yesterday I was chatting with a client and we found ourselves talking about the 1990’s. we shared the same age, so we shared the same music. And TV programmes. Soon we were talking about our teenage years. Before we knew it I was drawn into her story of those years and how it had a direct impact on who she is now.

And then something weird happened.

It was like I had taken a breath of fresh air. We weren’t talking about life through a covid filter, we were talking about life. And as we did I found this weird emotion rising in me — joy, simple joy, of being caught up in someone’s history — their sights, smells, sounds and “so what”. And I felt alive.

As we moved back to today, to Covid, we talked about how social media feels like a lot of froth and for teenagers today they need resilience. But we did that because we had gone back to the 1990s.

I have blogged about bringing energy to the screen and that is SO important. There are many many things we need to do to keep us alive and engaged for our audiences and teams. And in fact, I released an app about it, for free. Download it, watch it and do the exercises. These techniques, if deliberately applied like putting on clothes in the morning, will prepare you for when the Zoom/Teams/Loom/Hopin begins. But putting on clothes is just the start. We need the find the moments of connection, the ‘Do you remember the 1990s?’ conversations. And to do that we have to talk a little bit more, share a little bit more, and ask a little bit more (sounds like a bad Liberty X song, anyone remember that one?).

So how do we do that? Here are three things you can do:

  1. Be keen to NOT leave the screen as soon as possible. I know — why would I ask that? But stay with me here. If you are in charge of the meeting, end it 10 minutes early. Or five minutes early. And when the business of the meeting is over allow yourself to get lost in the ‘water cooler’ moment — talk about a piece of music you listened to, ask someone a deliberate question such as ‘What were you doing before this job?’ We have all done quizzes on Zoom to try and create energy and connection with out families and friends — so we all know that a good question will lead to an open discussion. And now it is time to apply that to your work. It will feel a little awkward, but life is pretty awkward on screen anyway. You might just be surprised what people say.
  2. Let it flow. Nobody says everything they want to say in one sentence. Steve Covey describes really good listening as un-peeling the onion. So how do you do that? Playing back what the person has said and joining in with their energy — if they are talking about how they remember watching Will Smith and the Fresh Prince, join in with their joy and simple play back, with genuine delight — ‘The Fresh Prince — I LOVED that program’. It’s not rocket science but it works! Then let them continue. Like helping small child ride a bike when you listen well you are running alongside them and every now and then you gently tap them to keep them on the straight path. You don’t take over the bike and push them off.
  3. Do points 1 and 2 as often as you can, for small amounts of time, until you feel confident to be the one who brings the pre-Covid story, the pre-Covid question and the listening. It may always go back to Covid and that is the context we live in, but then you will bring someone back to their life today with a deeper connection to you and they were before this pandemic. That will only make you stronger, give them joy and give you satisfaction.