Embracing & Telling Our Stories

Life is a story with a beginning, middle and end. Every day builds upon the previous one and if we dare to be reflective, we learn from those chapters where poor decisions were taken and failures loomed large. We become better versions of ourselves if we dare to examine our actions and make new decisions. After all, we can control only the present moment and yet we constantly sabotage the divine present with regrets about the past and fears of the future. To live in the moment and be alive to its possibilities is the magic of now. It is a habit which must be cultivated since the noise of the past and future can crowd out this very real present.

An ancient wisdom teacher once said, ‘Be still and know...’ Part of the trick is learning to still that inner engine which is always revved up, typically in a flight or fight mode. But learning to breathe and take in what’s around us, feel it, drink it in, this is a habit which is learned behavior.

In PathNorth, we talk a lot about our stories. As Peter Buffett once told me, “we are all born into someone else’s story.” So whether you are the son of Warren Buffett or someone else, you too came into life shaped by your parents narrative and likely their predecessors as well. So why does that matter? Simply put, unless you and I understand how profoundly we were shaped by our parents stories, not if, rather, we will repeat central aspects of their stories, for good or ill. If you grew up in a family that never resolved conflict and buried feelings, it is likely you will mirror such behavior as well and pass it on to your offspring. Most of this is on an unconscious level.

If you doubt me on this, consider the fact that children, who were molested in their youth, have a high probability of doing the same to their own children. How can this be? You would think they would never repeat such horrific and toxic behaviors. Bad behavior even if destructive is familiar and thus comfortable, sadly. So the solution is to bravely face the story we came out of and make different decisions and create new patterns so that our children won’t be continuing any destructive patterns. Simple to say, yet hard to do. However, the most important thing we can do for our children, our spouses and friends, is to be the healthiest we are able to be. This involves understanding where our patterns come from and changing course.

So much to say about story and its power. Another aspect of storytelling relates to leadership. I have included a brief article that you as a leader might value: The CEO as Storyteller in Chief by Sangeeth Varghese. Varghese argues the importance of a leader understanding that a powerful way to communicate ideas and valuable teachings is through our stories. People are drawn to authentic stories that make a point. So throw out the PowerPoint and tell a real story instead.

Do you recall how you felt as a small child when a parent would read to you, ‘Once upon a time...?’ You were drawn to a magical place where your imagination soared and considered possibilities for your life and future. It remains the most powerful way to understand life. Information alone cannot do this, but a story is different.