What’s Your Story?

May 22, 2017 by
Filed under: Leadership, People, Resilience 

It’s a classic exchange, repeat many times on a daily basis. Go to any industry event, or even meet someone on the street, and simply ask someone “what they do”.

Most of the time, you’ll hear things like “I’m a project manager” or a coach or writer or perhaps a public speaker. Once in a while, you’ll get someone with a carefully crafted tagline like “I bring out the best in people” that will at least generate one more question to explain what that tagline means.

You might just as well say “How’s the weather?” or “what’s your job title” – you’ll get similar amounts of energy and excitement.

I think it might be better to interrupt people next time they start reciting that tagline: “OK…wait a minute…that’s good that you are a pm or you bring out the best in people…but why…what’s your story? What makes you tick, what jazzes you?”

Here, we just might get some interesting conversation, and definitely see a little more animation. The stories that follow that kind of introduction are way more memorable, and far more likely to be the basis of a connection that survives a brief networking instance.

For years I’ve been starting workshops by asking people to tell me something about them that’s fun – a hobby, how they like to spend their spare time, something that jazzes them. People rarely forget to reveal that part, people are always animated about it, people get excited. People smile when they get to tell their story.

And you know what? There’s always connections made in the group as a result. A couple people might find a shared interest in music, or travel, or exploring craft beers or knitting. You’ll find out about that person that has been an olympic-class athlete, the person that makes violins, the person that loves working with the elderly.

Sometimes there is a strong intersection between a person’s passion and their vocation. Often, though, that vocation has been seen as a means that allows them to pursue their passion. Unfortunately, sometimes, the work is seen as a barrier to that passion.

I’ve learned over the years that intention goes a long way toward connecting these two things. There are some forms of work that, while lucrative, just don’t align with my values and I choose not to go down those paths anymore. I’ve looked back at all the work I’ve done to find common threads of excitement in what I’ve accomplished, and I’m working to build a path forward that contains more of the same. I’m intentionally building my exciting story.

What is your story? Can you bring the same kind of passion to your vocation as you can for the thing you describe when you are asked what jazzes you? Can you find that intersection? – JB

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