For author and lawyer Tanya Heaslip the answer is never. She believes the stories we enjoyed as children and the characters that inspired us shape our future lives in various ways.

Speaking at an AIM WA Your Best Self Series luncheon, Ms Heaslip conceded there was no scientific evidence to support this belief, but said when talking about inspiration from mysterious worlds, hidden treasures and magical kingdoms, science did not need to be involved.

"The characters and heroes you read about will likely have the characteristics you want to imbue in everyday life," she said. "Stories give you the chance to explore and understand and learn.

"Storytelling is as old as the dreamtime; stories, myths and legends are what we turn to to help give meaning and context to our lives.

"It is an extremely powerful tool in helping to build resilience and can be used as a means to proactively engage in your work." 

For Ms Heaslip, the catalyst for realising the power of stories came in the 1980's, when she worked as part of the prosecution team on the much-publicised inquiry into the misconviction of Lindy Chamberlain over the disappearance of her two-month-old daughter Azaria.

"Lindy Chamberlain was convicted because nobody believed her story," Ms Heaslip said. "It was our first trial by media and even after the acquittal, people were saying she got away with it.

"It showed me stories can be used for good or bad, but more importantly it showed me you have to drill down into stories; you can't take them at face value."

Of all the stories Ms Heaslip recounted during her presentation, the ones about her encounters in the Czech Republic were those that really showcased resilience through storytelling.

Ms Heaslip visited the Czech Republic in 1994, four years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and said she found the ability of the Czech people to continually stand up despite oppression awe-inspiring.

"This was a country that had been occupied almost continually since the 1300's," she said. "The way the people survived was through stories and a book called The Good Soldier Svejk, about a dumb solider who spends his whole life bringing the authorities down through his misadventures.

"From this, people learned pacifism could be a survival strategy. They had no means of ever fighting back against the occupier as their country was too small, so they accepted it and used humour and irony to survive.

"What they had been through, decade after decade, and the fact they survived gives resilience a whole new meaning. I learned from them that with the right attitude you can take the almost unendurable and endure it."

Upon returning to Australia, Ms Heaslip decided to ensure her work honoured what she had seen and learned in the Czech Republic.

"I knew when I came back I had to change my own story," she said.

A part of this Ms Heaslip set up her own legal consultancy. She took the stories of her clients and used them to engage with the hearts and emotions of the people involved, an initiative that has held her in good stead in the world of native title and heritage which she worked in for 25 years.

"It has a general point of application for everything you do, it's about finding that point of difference and presenting it to your client, customer or legal adversary in the most compelling way possible," Ms Heaslip said. 

"No matter what you do, it all comes down to how the story is told."

Chris Thurmott is a Senior Journalist for The West Australian and he writes for a variety of different publications including Leader and National Mining Chronicle.