By an odd coincidence, I recently came across a video interview of an old colleague – a man now acclaimed ‘the most successful Dutchman in Silicon Valley’, apparently. He had something very interesting to say about how products – he was speaking about technological products, but I think it applies equally well to anything – become successful. What he said was that a product doesn’t need to be perfect. It’s not their inherent quality or perfection that makes them successful, it’s how good a story is told about them. It’s the story that sells them.
What’s your story?
I think the same is true of people. Our experience is the result of our story. For example, if your story is one of happiness and success, that’s more likely to be what you encounter – and the reverse is also true. The real issue lies in whether you believe the story, whatever it is.
For example, at a certain point in my career, about 18 years ago, I decided I was no longer inclined to ‘follow the job’, and turned down a posting to another country. This time, I decided I wanted a more radical change, and began working for myself as a marketing communications consultant and writer. Over the following 3-6 months, I thought about how to do this, took a couple of skills courses, registered with the Chamber of Commerce and changed my status at the tax office, etc., and told everyone I knew about my decision. One of the people I spoke to was a salesman who visited a lot of companies in the course of his work. One of his customers told him of an opportunity that might suit me, and he passed on the name to me. That contact became my best customer, and continues to be a respected colleague and great friend to this day. The point here is that my ‘story’ was credible. And because I believed in it myself, it found resonance with others.
Within the overall story of our life we tend to have ‘sub-plots’: one for career, another for partnership, one for financial status, and so on. We may be more or less aware of these sub-plots. So finding out what our stories are is an interesting feature of enquiry. Also interesting is finding out where and how they may be limiting us, and ultimately realizing that we have choices. And most interesting of all is being open to all the choices that present themselves, when we haven’t already hemmed ourselves in with old stories.
It is no easy task to see through the blocks and obstacles that limit our potential. It can be challenging to investigate the empty spaces that show up in the cracks between sub-plots, the space that appears between self-images and stubborn beliefs. It’s good to remember that we’re all creators, the makers of our own stories. When we look closely, we might discover more interesting options. We need to be adventurers, and engage in a little space travel!
Try it sometime.