Search This Blog

Friday, May 3, 2013

What's Your Story?

Stories convey magic and inspiration

Storytelling is as old as humankind.  Human beings have been telling stories, well, since there were human beings.  Stories inspire others, instruct, and pass along traditions, values, and ideas that are important to a society.  

Storytelling has become a hot topic as of late-especially with marketers.  It seems like everyone is talking about telling “their story” in an effort to help sell this product or that service. I’m fine with that because the stories are usually legitimate and if that happens to sell a product, so be it.

On a smaller scale, families have their own mythology. Dads tell tales of
their younger days spent proving their masculinity by brawling and womanizing while moms tell stories of their own that have defined their roles through the generations.  Storytelling helps perpetuate who we are.  

The other night, I heard a news commentator describe an informal (personal) survey he took, asking elderly people near the end of their lives, what, if any, regrets they had about their lives.  The two most common responses he received were that people wished they had done more to help others and, that they wished they’d lived up to their potential.  

…never living up to their potential… I found that heartbreaking-every human life is filled with so much potential. Heartbreaking, but motivating at the same time. It made me feel as though there is no time to waste.  That now is the time to do it, to write that book, start that business, have that baby, get in shape/get healthy-whatever “it” is for you.  If you died tomorrow, what would people say about you?  Would your eulogy be a generic description of a pleasant life, with no enemies, a few friends and a clergy person muttering something about how you’ll be missed by your loved ones?  One of my all-time favorite quotes is “act boldly; and mighty forces will come to your aid.” If nothing else, I want the priest at my funeral to say that I “acted boldly.”

The same week that I heard about that survey, I read one of those annoying political facebook postings. I stumbled upon this post from someone who was angry that former Vice President Al Gore, had won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2008 (I believe it was for his documentary film, An Inconvenient Truth.)  The award was given to Gore instead of Irina Sendler, a social worker in WWII Poland who saved 2,500 Jewish children from the Nazis.  Though I’m not a fan of political posts on facebook, this story piqued my interest.  

I never heard of Irina Sendler and I soon discovered most other people hadn't.  I found there was a book on her story, Life in a Jar. I ordered it for my Kindle.  I had gone so long without reading a book that wasn’t about fitness, nutrition, or marketing that I had to ask myself what it was that drew me so strongly to this particular biography.  After reading it, I realized that as with all biographies, I am fascinated by what people accomplish with their lives.  Irina Sendler’s story was only “discovered” by accident, when Irina was 91 years old.  Had it not been for three Protestant girls from a small town in Kansas, the story of this Catholic woman saving 2,500 Jewish children in WWII would never been told-and the story is unbelievable! The breathtaking courage of this woman and the network of couriers and others who helped her operate the (underground) resistance that saved thousands of lives while putting their own lives in peril, was beyond anything I could have ever imagined. The mere fact that her story had almost never been told, was simply incredible to me.  Which begs the question, how many more stories have died along with their heroes because no one was present to document what they accomplished, their courage never celebrated, their self-sacrifice never honored?  The greatest thing one can do with their talent or their circumstances is to inspire others with their incredible lives. That, to me, is what the best thing stories can do. They teach-sure, they recount history-yes, but they inspire us to do great things.

I think of some of the incredible stories of transformation I’ve witnessed from clients of mine or that I've heard about through others.  I know what this takes and these stories are simply humbling.  While they may not be matters of life and death like Irina Sendler’s story, they're powerful and they inspire me to demand more of myself, to remember that when something seems “hard,” I'd better rethink that.  I’m learning what "hard" really is. Hard is pleading with a baby’s parents to hand over their child to a complete stranger knowing they’ll never see it again, in the hopes that the stranger may be able to hide your baby, maybe, but then that’s the only chance your baby will have to survive the war. We each can only control our little corner of the world but that’s how the world is changed isn't it?  One person at a time.  As Ghandi said, “be the change you want to see in the world.”

What will be my story?  I know that I don’t want to die with regrets like the elderly people in that off-the-cuff “survey.”  While I dream of some kind of greatness, (yet to be revealed), I believe we’re here to create-whether that creation is another person, a business, a song, or a better life for others. If you want to change your life; change your story.

That’s the way I’d like to be remembered; as someone who created something.  Preferably something that benefited others.  What started as a desire to create a stronger body has morphed into creating a better person-and I'm not the first person to recognize this.  The biggest thing I learned from pursuing this goal (and I’m still pursuing it), is that the goal to be stronger has made me stronger in every area of my life.

Maybe my niece or nephews will someday say “...Aunt Jin, she helped so many people live a better life.” Or, “look at that, my aunt created that.” 

What’s your story?


Post a Comment