Reflection: What’s your story? Everybody’s got one, or two, or three…or an endless supply!
For twenty years now, I’ve been writing a weekly column (13 years of Pause e-zines, and before that, 7 years of newspaper columns). Readers often ask me two questions, “Where do you get your inspiration, and aren’t you afraid of running out of ideas?” The answers to those two questions are, “Everywhere and No.”
Having an audience, a deadline, and an outlet keeps me noticing and tuned in to my surroundings. Material lives everywhere. Clients share problems, and program attendees ask questions. Ideas pop up as I browse the web, or leaf through books, newspapers and magazines.
But most importantly, things happen. Over the years, I’ve developed the habit of paying attention to everyday events as they unfold, and asking myself, ‘So What?’
Many of life’s experiences carry a bundle of insights and lessons. They’re accessible to all, if we pause to register the experience and mine the meaning.
You may not have a desire to write, or a platform from which to expound, so why would this matter to you? Because learning as we go creates a richer life experience. Because harvesting lessons on the fly keeps us from making the same mistakes over and over. And, because sharing the lessons brought by life’s experiences, gives us a way to mentor and encourage others – and remind ourselves.
The emotional tug of a great story makes a learning point more relatable and impactful. This is why organizations share stories of great customer service with their staff and clientele, and why they invest in building the storytelling skills of their leaders. This is why Aesop’s Fables and other stories have such a long shelf-life.
Memorable stories move people to thought and action – where mind-numbing lectures, endless statistics and tedious objectives fall short.
Action: Here are a handful of ways to improve your story finding and mining skills:
- Set an intention to notice. Remember the last time you were shopping for a new vehicle or picking out eyeglasses. Everywhere you looked, that’s what you saw. Same thing here. When you actively look for them, the stories will appear.
- Collect the gems that come your way. My Pause E-Zine Idea file overflows with scraps of paper – scribbled life notes, newspaper clippings and highlighted pages from magazines. A similarly named electronic folder in Outlook holds a collection of web links and hastily noted reminders of ideas. When I see something that prompts an idea, I email it to myself.
- Pinpoint occasions to use your stories. Business meetings, performance reviews, training and orientation events, family dinners are all possibilities. Sharing experiences and insights is a great way to mentor employees, inspire colleagues, and parent or grandparent little ones.
- Pause to think more deeply. Ponder, cogitate, ruminate…whatever it takes! Ask yourself, ‘So What?’ Not in a confrontational way, but in the most appreciative, most curious way possible. What does this mean? What can I learn from this? Who else might be interested?
- Test your stories. Very few anecdotes make it into the Pause message or earn a place in one of my conference presentations without first having been shared with a friend, a colleague, or a family member. Each telling refines the level of detail and the power of the message. Practice in low risk situations to boost your confidence and up the impact your stories have on others.
Once upon a time… is now! Keep your eyes peeled for today’s story, the meaning it carries, and an audience to share it with. Let me know how it goes! I love a good story!
Quotes Of The Week: The purpose of a storyteller is not to tell you how to think, but to give you questions to think upon. – Brandon Sanderson
Stories are how we think. They are how we make meaning of life. – Pamela Rutledge
Over the years, I have become convinced that we learn best – and change – from hearing stories that strike a chord within us. Those in leadership positions who fail to grasp or use the power of stories risk failure for their companies and for themselves. – John Kotter, Harvard Business School
The stories we tell literally make the world, If you want to change the world, you need to change your story. – Michael Margolis, Author
Resources Of The Week: For an article on using stories to inspire, check out this MindTools article on Business Story-Telling.
For great learning tools and resources check out Doug Stevenson’s Storytelling In Business website.
Readers Write: In response to last week’s message, Out In The Cold, Pause reader YD writes: Ethan is a very perceptive boy indeed. He might not understand yet what I have discovered by meeting with countless upset people in conflict situations: our needs for recognition, self-worth, and appreciation should also be satisfied internally. Having people around us satisfy the above-mentioned needs is helpful and pleasant. It feels very good. I have seen so many people become powerless by choosing to have “the others” as their only strategies to satisfy their needs. It made me realize the value of self-empowerment…recognizing one’s self-worth and autonomy. Given how perceptive Ethan is, I’m sure he will be toying with these concepts by the time he is seven or e