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After Dinner Speaker | Communications
Though Joel ben Izzy has been telling stories all his life, he began his professional career in 1983 after graduating from Stanford with a degree in English, Creative Writing and Storytelling. Following a year performing in San Francisco, he set off traveling the world, gathering and telling stories. His first job took him to a village outside Rome, and just as one story leads to another, so one trip led to another. Joel Ben Izzy traveled, teaching and telling stories in England, Wales, Ireland, France, Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, Spain, Israel, Japan, Hong Kong and China.
Joel Ben Izzy's own story took a sharp twist in the summer of 1997, when he was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Though usually a treatable form of the disease, in his case there was a strange complication: when he awoke from surgery he could no longer speak. So Joel Ben Izzy began an adventure as strange as any story ever told, which was to become the basis for his book, The Beggar King and the Secret of Happiness (Algonquin Books; November 2003.)
As Joel Ben Izzy says in the prologue: "Sit back and let me tell you my tale, of a journey that took me through dark times, yet gave me a gift that I treasure. That gift is this story, which I now pass on to you - a tale of lost horses and found wisdom, of buried treasures and wild strawberries, of the beggar king and the secret of happiness." This book recounts Joel Ben Izzy's journey, a true tale woven together by the stories he has collected in his travels. It follows twists and turns, leading up to the strangest twist of all - a year and one-half after he had lost his voice, long after he had given up hope of its return, it was miraculously restored to him. In the end, he was left with this story.
Ira Glass, host of Public Radio's This American Life.
In addition to his geographical travels, Joel Ben Izzy's stories have taken him to many places rarely frequented by storytellers. His work as a story-consultant has him coaching and teaching story-skills to folks in fields ranging from film to high-tech, from banking to advertising, from medicine to law. Joel Ben Izzy leads storytelling workshops for nearly 1,000 new HP consultants as part of the company's "Wisdom Dissemination" Project. He teaches how to craft appropriate analogies, tell stories to convey a vision, and use anecdotes to communicate more effectively with clients.
He was such a success at HP that Joel Ben Izzy was sent to perform at HP locations in Brussels and Italy. He encourages employees to create a ""virtual bag" of stories, symbolized by the shoddy leather case of props Joel Ben Izzy totes to every gig. "The imagination is a muscle, and you have to exercise it," he says.
Joel Ben Izzy has been coaching a senior executive at Agilent Technologies, the $10 billion HP spin-off. "Joel has the ability to help me pull stories out of my own life," says Steve Hoffmann, VP of Agilent's imaging electronics division. "It was a blast. The more we talked, the more fun and power I saw in it."
A much-sought-after storyteller, Joel Ben Izzy also appears at schools, libraries, camps, and synagogues. For Joel Ben Izzy, tale-spinning has become a way to be paid for his passion. "My wares weigh exactly nothing. I pay no customs when I cross borders. I sell my stories and I get twice as many back in return."
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