TEDxOmaha: Q&A with Rita Paskowitz, Storyteller
Rita Paskowitz is a Professional Storyteller, PICTURE THIS! Facilitator at the Joslyn Art Museum, and Adjunct Faculty member at UNO. She is the fourth in our series of speaker profiles from TEDxOmaha 2010. To see more speaker interviews, visit our TEDxOmaha Event page. For a chance to win 2 FREE tickets to the SOLD OUT TEDxOmaha conference, visit our Facebook group.
TED’s mission, "ideas worth spreading," is pretty lofty. As a speaker, does this intimidate you? How do you know your idea is worth spreading?
The things that we remember are not just facts, dates or numbers; what we hold most precious are the stories that tie them—and us—together.
Take the Ten Commandments, for example. Most of us don’t remember the entire list. At best, we recall the one we’ve broken most recently. But the story—the Ten Plagues, the slaves escaping from Egypt as the Red Sea parts, Moses at Mount Sinai—that’s what holds our interest.
Let’s face it—the shortest distance between two people is not a straight line; it’s a story. And that is certainly an “idea worth spreading.”
What do you do? How likely is it for someone to turn their passion into a profession? How necessary?
Having spent much of my life in some incarnation of performing and/or creating—be it acting, writing, improvising, drawing or doing stand-up comedy—holding down a regular job never seemed to work for me. While the steady paycheck and benefits were nice, the depression and migraine headaches that came along were not.
When I finally came upon storytelling, I knew my nine-to-five days were over for good. I couldn’t picture myself sprawled over a barstool, slurring “If only I would have tried it…”, so I jumped without a net and never looked back. It wasn’t a leap of faith; it was a leap to faith—in myself, my talent, and my making a difference in the world. I not only tell stories, I facilitate workshops on topics including leadership, grief, workplace communication, the Holocaust, visual art and writing. I speak on depression to teens and adults, do residencies at schools around the state and teach at the University.
I can’t swear that storytelling saved my life, but it did cure my migraines and get me to TEDx. I recommend it—or whatever your passion might be—highly.
It sure as heck beats sprawling over a barstool.
Where do you see your business/hobby/passion going? How would you like it to grow? What are you adding to the world that no one else is?
As a professional storyteller, I see myself working more in the realm of business—dealing with authentic leadership, intra-office communication, change and more.
With the economic climate we’re living in, corporations need to figure out what their stories are—who are the characters, what needs to happen and how do as many of the people as possible live as happily ever after as possible after it does? They also need to find their voice in terms of identifying and relating to the audience that is most important to them—including their employees, their shareholders, and their customers.
We live in a We/They world that separates industries from individuals. Until their story becomes our story, both the distance and the distrust will remain.
With my eclectic background and—dare I say it—aesthetic sensibilities, I bring something new to the table. I am able to synthesize ideas into activities that bring clarity and new understanding. By opening myself to them through story, I empower them to do the same with each other. It’s an alchemy that works—creating an atmosphere of safety, interaction, and discovery—proving that all that’s gold doesn’t have to glitter.
As a creative person, I see myself writing odd yet publishable poetry and stories that leave readers scratching their heads and wanting more. Sort of like nutritious mental ice cream that goes to your brain instead of your thighs.