As I sat looking around the room at the people anxiously expecting me to do something, I didn’t want any part of it.
I found myself in a situation where people were expecting me to share a story – my story, to be precise. I didn’t want to share about the time I had not received a job I thought I was a shoe in for, breaking me of all my pride. I didn’t want to share about the times I had hurt others by my own selfish acts, I didn’t want to share about the times I have said things out of anger I immediately wished I could take back. And I certainly didn’t want to share about the brokenness of failed relationships.
Shy away from everything vulnerable and let them know about the best things in my life…that’s what I longed to do. I wanted them to know about growing up in a loving home, about going to school on the beach and seeing people’s lives changed over and over again – how great I had it, how amazing my life was. I wanted them to know I’ve had opportunities they would kill for! All that other stuff I just wanted to hide.
Instead I chose to share the real story of my life.
What’s the real story?
Real stories have ups and downs…tears and laughter. The real story is one people can engage in – they can decide to lean into the mess or run away from it. It contains the messiness of life and demands confrontation.
When I think about stories, I think we live in a culture that wants to gloss over all the junk. We live in an era where Photoshop is a standard. A world where the bigger house, the faster car, the skinnier butt, the better athlete can all be replaced by biggest, fastest, skinniest, and best all in a click of a button. We live in a world where people are starving for false acceptance, where a deep conversation has been replaced by likes, followers, pins, and reposts.
As leaders we have to push past this. We have to be ok with telling the “real story” and showing people the real us. We have to sit across the table from a coworker and apologize for getting frustrated and continue to seek out their opinion. When we do that we earn their trust. We remind them that they are part of the story too and they get to be part of redemption and the next chapter.
We have to be willing to talk about the times we thought we were going to mess it all up. When we were shaking in our boots wondering if that decision just cost the company millions of dollars. We have to be willing to share the ups and the downs of our stories. Sharing these pieces of our lives, the messy, imperfect, and real pieces, is what holds the power to challenge those we lead to step up and do something, change something, be something.
Impactful storytelling has always been relevant.
As Theodore Roosevelt put it so profoundly,
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails at least fails while daring greatly…”
Start sharing your stories. And this time, I challenge you to share the real stories. The stories that spur on irresistible change.
Written by: Jenn Byham, Contributor