I talk to a lot of people about how to find the power of their own personal and professional stories. And I hear a common objection: “I just don’t have that many interesting stories.”
Look, I get it. Most people, thankfully, are humble. Of course you don’t go around imagining yourself as the protagonist of a never-ending story.
But you are.
Or at least, you could be – if you gave yourself permission to tell the tales of your daily life and work. Not to make yourself out as a hero, but to help the people around you learn from your experiences. Because while you may not be off on grand adventures, every day you’re at the center of many small yet meaningful vignettes.
For instance, a few months ago I was about to leave the Avanoo office –
(Note for the youngsters: An “office” is a building where people used to go to sit around conference tables and put fish in the microwave, back when we were allowed to leave our homes. Wild, right?)
– anyway, I was gathering my things when I noticed a hard drive sitting on my desk next to an open cardboard box. The drive belonged to a freelance videographer in Montana. I’d finished copying the footage and was supposed to stop by the FedEx store on my way home to mail it back.
Every day you’re at the center of many small yet meaningful vignettes.
Except – groan – I’d forgotten to pack it up. If I did it now I’d once again be late getting home, where my partner had been taking care of our 1-year-old all day. I knew she was counting on my help with dinner and bedtime – but I also knew our freelancer was counting on having his equipment back in time for his next gig.
I stood in the doorway for a second, hands already full with my backpack and coat, feeling frustrated, frazzled, and frankly even ashamed because my forgetfulness meant I was about to let somebody down.
At that exact moment, my colleague Michael happened to walk by my door. “Hey, you need anything?” he asked.
I sighed and told him about the hard drive – how it still needed to be packed, taped, labeled, and dropped off at FedEx – and how I was already late getting home.
Michael shrugged. “No problem,” he said. “I’ll take care of it.”
I suddenly felt a flood of relief and gratitude that seemed totally out of proportion with the small favor Michael had offered. But after I thanked him, hurried out the door and started driving home, it hit me: Small favors are the lifeblood of a thriving team.
We all have so much on our own plates that it’s easy to lose sight of anyone else. But each time we make the choice to show up for each other and help out however we can, we reinforce the caring and trust and togetherness that makes our team strong. That’s what Michael was doing in that moment – and in that light, my gratitude didn’t seem out of proportion at all.
It would have been easy to overlook the story here. After all, it was a really small favor. I forgot to mail a package, and Michael did it for me – no big deal.
But by opening up about what that small favor meant to me in the moment and what it says about our team, a story comes to life. Not an epic adventure or a wild success, but one that’s meaningful to me, and Michael, and our colleagues. And hopefully to you.
So don’t let yourself, or anyone else, get away with saying they don’t have any good stories. You just have to look a little closer, and help those stories come to life.
—Ted Burnham, Avanoo Lead Content Marketer
Ted Burnham loves the power of words – to tell stories, explain big ideas, and help people connect. He is a writer, editor, multimedia producer, storyteller, and “professional combobulator”. Ted’s work has appeared on NPR, Popular Science, and elsewhere.
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