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How Maya Angelou Changed My Life

By December 18, 2019January 13th, 2020No Comments
image of Maya Angelou and the blog title, THE quote that changed my life

My wife was adamant. “You have to verify the Maya Angelou quote.” I was adamant. “It’s not necessary. It’s quoted in multiple places.” She responded in her always insightful way, “You have no direct source with attribution. If you use it and you’re wrong, someone will eventually point it out. And then your credibility will be shot.”

With great reluctance, knowing my wife was right, I agreed. I needed to verify the quote.


I agonized over what to write. I now had to compose a letter to THE Maya Angelou. A luminary among luminaries with my words. What would I say to her?

Aspiring to write the world’s best inquiry letter, I metaphorically ripped up my letter dozens of times. Getting the letter right meant that much to me. I spent 2 hours and 38 minutes writing just 86 words. I timed my agony. That’s 1.84 minutes per word!

People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, people will never forget how you made them feel.

– Maya Angelou, On Oprah Winfrey, April 2004

I had so much angst. You see, this quote embodied everything near and dear to me. For storytelling, for communication, for marketing, for recruiting, for public speaking, for … you name it. Feelings are at the very heart of EVERYTHING. Feelings are what makes us human. Feelings are fuel for action.

I had been using this Maya Angelou quote for about four years after first seeing it in a workshop I attended. From the moment I heard it, lightning coursed through my body. I’ll never forget the feelings. The impact on my thinking then and the impact on my thinking today.

Less than 12 hours later, I received an email back from the agent of Maya Angelou consisting of three magical words, “That is correct.”

I also chuckled. After hours of agony, I had my reward.


Now… I know that there is something you read, you heard, you watched, or was told something directly, that still to today, you remember. That’s in your psyche, just like me. Whether it was negative, constructive, or positive. The old children’s rhyme, “Sticks and stones will break my bones and names will never hurt me,” is patently false.

We all remember THOSE words. And we all remember the lessons learned from words, whether they were deflating or inspiring.

If you are not regularly sharing these wonderful experiences and lessons learned, you are missing out on opportunities to build stronger relationships with those around you. I urge you to think back to those inflection moments, those feelings, and expand your story library.

Tell… more… stories. Tell more stories that make us feel. That connect us to you and your organization.

Contact us to learn more about improving your performance and effectiveness with our business storytelling workshops, training, coaching, and services.


Here’s the email exchange between the agent and me.

email text between the agent of Maya Angelou and mes a

Photography Source:  Blog Header – Flickr, York College ISLGP
Email Exchange Visual:  © Copyright 2019, The Chief Storyteller®, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Ira Koretsky

Ira Koretsky has built The Chief Storyteller® into one of the most recognized names in communication, especially business storytelling. He has delivered over 500 keynote presentations and workshops in nearly a dozen countries, in more than one hundred cities, across 30 plus industries. His specialties are simplifying the complex and communicating when the stakes are high. He is also an adjunct professor in public speaking and storytelling at the University of Maryland's Business School. With over 25 years of experience, he is a sought-after storytelling coach, global speaker, trainer, consultant, communication coach, and public speaking coach.