Jeff Polish is a consultant and professional speaker on the topic of storytelling and how to use true stories to create major impact in your life, business, or organization.
He is originally from New York, NY and currently based in Chapel Hill, NC. He travels across the country and internationally helping people and companies forge greater impact and change through story.
When he’s not doing that, he produces and hosts The Monti storytelling events in North Carolina, for which Southern Living Magazine named him a 2012 Hero of The New South. Jeff has also been awarded a 2013 Indies Arts Award for his impact on the community through the telling of stories.
Jeff is an avid trail runner and mountain biker, and he enjoys spending his downtime with his wife and three sons.
In my own words...
If you had told me twenty years ago that I would be traveling the world teaching people how to communicate effectively with stories, I would have responded,
“No, actually, I am going to be a world-famous scientist, publishing papers and walking around campus wearing a tweed jacket with suede patches on the elbows. I’ll be smoking a pipe too—because that’s very academic.”
It took me awhile to realize that storytelling is the work I was meant to do, but when I look back, the connective tissue was always there.
As a kid, my vivid imagination was my escape. It was there that I found reprieve from what I interpreted as chaos. In my mind, I could create a magical place where I could explore the world and interpret it in a way that gave it meaning. I could be independent, and I could always make myself the hero.
But I never knew that this internal monologue could be a gateway to a thriving and productive career. Instead, I followed an interest for science into college, a Ph.D., and my career as a high school Biology and Chemistry teacher. Even then, I quickly found that what I really loved was sharing the stories behind the data and the observations. Teaching was like telling stories all day, every day. I had a blast in the classroom. But still, something was missing.
In late 2007, I read about a number of live storytelling events around the country. They weren’t professional forums; no, they were outlets where real people were given the opportunity to tell their own personal stories in front of an audience. It was simple and made so much sense to me: tell stories, invite people to do the same, and invite people to listen. I knew I had to create this in my own community of Raleigh-Durham.
Five months later, I walked up to the microphone at our first event in Chapel Hill, NC and said, “Welcome to The Monti.”
That was April 2008. It’s been nearly nine years since that crazy notion caught fire. I continue to serve as the Executive Director of The Monti, and today – we host twenty-plus shows each year, with 120 storytellers sharing their true stories to over 6,000 people per year. Everyone who participates in telling a true story, myself included, takes a risk by becoming vulnerable through what they reveal. The result is that audiences are drawn to these people, and a night that starts with a roomful of strangers becomes a tight community bound by shared experience.
That – as they say in the movies – was the turning point. It was the door that opened possibility of how I could create impact in peoples’ lives through stories.
In my work as a consultant and speaker, I’ve had the opportunity to speak throughout the country and lead everything from workshops to team building exercises for Fortune 500 companies. And every day, I get to do the work that’s always made the most sense to me.
The lessons learned by running The Monti are the exact concepts I use when working in the corporate world: authentic and vulnerable expression through meaningful stories are critical to establishing connection with your listening audience in any context.
So – that’s quite enough about me. How about you - what’s your story? I dare you to tell me.
Send me your story now at firstname.lastname@example.org.