What if your story, whatever life story you have to tell, is about more than you?
I speak about and advocate for telling our life stories. At a recent workshop, I encouraged attendees to think outside of themselves when they resolve to put a story down – be it their own, their family history, their small business, what have you.
One man, who has been at work on his family history for 30 years, asked why.
Why do I need to think about others, he asked, when my primary motivation to explore my family history is to learn more about who I am?
It was a good question, and I wasn’t shocked to hear it.
But I think we so often fail to think outside of ourselves when we pursue our own endeavors. So often, we think, a) no one else will care; or b) this story won’t do anyone else any good, when in reality, the opportunities to speak to others through are stories are simply untapped goldmines waiting to be explored.
This same man, in his tireless pursuit for names, dates and places of long-dead or long-lost family members, found a treasure trove of stories lurking beneath that hard data – stories I don’t think he necessarily bargained for. He wrote letters to people asking for information, and received stories and memories in return. You know what that tells me? Others in the family besides him have an interest in the family legacy.
When I suggested this to him, he nodded, as if giving me the benefit of the doubt. Then, he was quiet for a long time.
A year and a half ago, I set out to piece together a complete small business history. I wrote letters to 250 of the business’ mainstay customers, asking for their stories and memories of how the business had been a part of their lives.
I had no idea who, if anyone, would respond.
For a while, no one responded.
Then, some stories started to trickle in. Followed by more. And more.
In the end, thanks to the submissions I received, the history of the business was, in page numbers, twice as large as I had bargained for.
Know what that means?
People besides myself and my family became invested in the larger story. People had something to say; they wanted their hand in it. Now, still pre-publication, the book has sold almost 150 copies.
That tells me this small business history is about more than just the business itself. It comprises threads of numerous people’s lives, people who care about their part in the larger story.
Consider your own story. Who is a part of it? Would they care to know it? How can you reach out to others with your own message?