You have no power or influence over any person or organization until you become part of their story.
You have no real relationship or kinship to someone if they haven’t woven you into their narrative.
This concept drives trillions of dollars every year. Word of mouth marketing . . . have you heard of it?
Stepping away from business, though, I have had occasion to think about this again and ponder it for quite some time over the past few weeks.
It’s something I started thinking about last year, and now that’s come up several times in just a few days, I’m taking it as a sign to pay attention and internalize it.
First example: A relationship ends, and not cleanly or cut and dried. While you’re still friends with the person, you hear the other person sharing stories about experiences he’s just had with another woman … places they explored together, meals they’ve shared. There are pictures, inside jokes. You understand (or should understand) that it’s time to move on. He has woven another woman into his story in a way that is meaningful to him. There is little room for you.
Second example: You feel an instant bond with someone you meet and you enjoy each other’s company. You find her hitting the nail on the head when she listens to your problems and offers feedback. You find yourself lending weight to her opinions and begin to value her. You find yourself talking about her insight with other people in your circle. “When I told her this, she said that.” Boom. She’s part of your story.
Third example: Someone who you’ve spent little time with seems to understand you pretty well without much effort on your part. Without much fanfare, he lets you know that he’s written a blog and he’s included a “callback” referring to a joke you made a few days earlier. This is funny to you because you had already read the post before he alerted you and you knew that callback was included for your benefit. Mutual admiration is at work, and you’re now each part of the other person’s story.
All of this has me refocusing on input versus output. I’m pouring so much of my time and attention into things that have no meaningful place in my story. I can only read so many blogs/websites/case studies. Why not abandon a few them and replace them with my friends’ work? How about that? Paying genuine attention to the people I love and admire instead of strangers. I have so many smart, talented friends that I can easily replace some of my daily intake of “expert” with the content they work so hard to produce. (These thoughts started shortly before this relevant post by my friend Morgan.)
If I’m managing input, I should be paying that much more attention to output. I’ve been spending more time here and on my other site writing. It has felt wonderful to experience this release, the spill of words on a page again.
Stories aren’t just on paper or on a screen. My story is how I interact with you, what I give to you and what I take from you.
I want my story to be:
When I meet you, I want to contribute these memories to your story:
She was intelligent.
She was talented.
She was beautiful.
She was driven.
She was genuine.
She was enthusiastic.
She was devoted.
I need to bring life into balance this year. For me, balance isn’t 40 hours of work and 20 hours of play. My balance is switching back and forth between the hot tub and the cold plunge pool, experiencing the refreshing shock of change whenever I need it and feeling that much more alive for it.
I want work…deep intense challenges in my career with problems I don’t know how to solve yet. I want an intensely fulfilling relationship with someone who’s ready to stand still and pay attention and then hold on for dear life to the center of our relationship while we push each other to excel at those things we’re driven to succeed in. I want to turn off the spigot of superficial interactions and channel the flow of my attention into the people who matter most.
This is my narrative. I’m paying attention to my story, and to the characters in it.