Continue Yourself

538. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

In his TED talk, film director Shekhar Kaper said, “Without a story you do not exist.” It is such a simple phrase and yet flip it over and you glimpse the enormity of his implication: To exist is to story (my apologies to Horatio, I am using the word “story” as a verb). Some folks laugh when I suggest that if they would change their story they would change their world. “Pie in the sky!” they exclaim. They are still under the illusion that their thoughts are facts or truth or somehow happening to them. What I appreciate about Shekhar Kaper’s sentiment, what is implicit in it, is that the story you tell largely determines how you exist because the story you tell defines how you relate. Many years ago I worked with a woman who storied herself as a fraud and that made her peers and co-workers dangerous to her. Hiding was her major action. She fired people that got a peak behind the curtain. Hell is not some place you go after death when you’ve been particularly rotten, hell is what you live when you story yourself a fraud, or deficient, or needing to be perfect. The Greeks personified the monkey mind: when your thoughts were particularly tortuous they believed the Furies possessed you.

Organizations are particularly blind to their story. They are keen to have a vision statement but reticent to compare the vision to their day-to-day choices. A vision statement is a story of aspiration. Actions are a lived form of story (we act according to our story); to compare the story we intend with the story we live is usually bracing. It is also revealing and that is why the comparison is so often ignored. Organizations, like people, become healthy when they close the gap between what they intend and how they act. To thrive is requires a fundamentally different narrative than to survive. The language of thriving is very different than the language of survival.

Another phrase, I believe this one came from cartoonist Scott McCloud (don’t hold me to that – it could be from Joseph Campbell. I took too many notes on the page and they ran together): “We tell story to continue ourselves.” It is a variation on the first quote with this important addition: it acknowledges that our stories outlive us. We live into the future through the stories we inspire. I have been especially aware this week of this aspect of story as we prepare for Margaret’s memorial. We are telling and hearing many stories about her and how she lived. She lives on in our narrative; she is a vital part of our story and through our telling we weave her story into the ancestral quilt.

One Response

  1. thank you again for the reminder of the ever presence of those we love

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