Stories Matter

I help owners find customer stories. Then, in a workshop setting, we get the communication “right” – together – to amplify these stories. Actual individual customers. Not just how many people they serve. Instead, how they helped one person, one family, one business. This includes finding, owning, and sharing these stories, which enables an owner to demonstrate that they are not just a company that measures up. More importantly, they are a company that matters.

If there’s one thing I love doing, it’s working with another business to find and highlight their best customer stories. That’s what I enjoy about my relationships, too – listening for a story, and the story makes your ideas matter.

Look away from the pack

Alternatively, I could look away from the pack.

There’s more room to move. More room for error, too. That is part of what is scary. There’s more room for growth. More room to spread my wings.

For example, SEO company websites look and feel the same. Freelancers, too. Most florists sell the same flowers, maybe wrapped in different paper. The gyms have similar training schedules. Real estate agents run the same mailers. For most, if the formula looks like it’s working, we’re happy to follow it. Of course, follow the well-trodden path!

But… if we stick with anything long enough, heading AWAY from the pack could be best because most people don’t risk going where everyone else isn’t, and in the long run, this is how I set myself apart. It’s still too early to tell, and I have much more work in front of me.

Ass in seat at 5 A.M.

With my (freelance) writing or any creative endeavor, I must “put my butt where my heart wants to be.” If I want to do work that matters and continue leveling up, I must show up regularly, regardless of setbacks or challenges,
ie. Hello, 5 AM = Ass in the seat at the kitchen table.

Where does your heart want to be, and are you willing to put your butt there, too?

Balancing act

As a single dad, I juggle a full-time day job, freelance writing work, and parenting three kids. It’s a balancing act that requires me to manage myself effectively. As Seth Godin points out, we are often our own worst bosses.

So I’ve been thinking of myself as “the boss.”

With three competing tasks vying for my attention, I feel overwhelmed. Yet, I am grateful for the flexibility my day job and freelance writing provide. It’s a privilege and a right to pursue upward mobility and provide for and protect my kids.

To succeed, I try to set clear goals, establish a routine that maximizes my productivity, and care for myself physically and emotionally. Still, there are times when I falter and waste time.

Ultimately, the responsibility falls on me to hold myself accountable. It can be a daunting task, but when I am successful, it’s gratifying.

As the boss, I’m removing the title of “Boss.” Instead, I will continue striving to be the best Director of Self I can be, for myself, my kids, and my day job. I’m a lousy boss. I’m becoming a better Director.

How are you achieving the right balance to move forward without dropping all that’s good and precious within the status quo?

Writing is life work not desk work

John said something unusual on the first day of the workshop.

Our instructor asked why we chose to enroll ourselves in such an endeavor. What do we hope for?

John told us he was dying from a rare form of cancer.

At that time, he was still feeling good. He said he was here to finish up something before he passed. He’d written love letters to his wife and wanted our help to get them “right.”

This three-part writing workshop was for those transitioning through change, divorce, loss, grief, and growth. I had all of those things occurring at the same time.

We gathered from poetry, stories, free writing, silence, discussion, and participatory exercises to stimulate reflection, self-understanding, and our depth of healing and hope.

Powerful stuff. Important, worthwhile work.

After John shared, it dawned on me that writing isn’t exactly about writing.

Writing is about remarkable communication.

It’s about accomplishing something with language that is important in our lives. Writing is a means towards something more significant no matter how poorly we feel.

That writing workshop was where we gave one another our full attention. Doing so is one way to advance dreams and move forward with life.

Thanks to the influence of John, I put my attention toward being a communicator of life work.

I emphasize the creative process and what it feels like to be my witness. This is something meaningful that I’d like to pass on to my children.

Most people will never attend a writer’s workshop, but we all have the workshop of life to live.

I like to think that, in our way, one way or another, we’re all collectors of the bits of life — adding in our thoughts and responses because that makes us feel significant, and it’s our way of declaring it precious. At least, that’s what my favorite people do.

I see listening and writing as an act of optimism, it’s a way for us to clarify what we need to do. Then use writing to move in that direction.

“Life work” is about finding why a particular encounter stayed with us. It’s narrowing our way deeper until we understand what happened there. Because it’s not random that you forget so many things throughout a day but specifically remember others. There is something that reveals who you are and what you are here to do.

One way to put this into perspective…

You’re home at dinner to gather with family or loved ones and find yourself talking about an encounter from the day, and something worth telling about happened.

What is it? What did it reveal that you know to be true?

You don’t need to be a writer to do this. You only need to be you.

Whatever that experience — you can share your story. As a mentor has written, “You can write as you talk.”

This is emotional labor, and it’s the required life work from a world that needs our stories, poems, little pieces — our work.

Our content is our voice and perspective.

Personal stories help us understand and experience human connections.

My small contribution is pretending I’m sitting down with you for coffee and telling you about an encounter from the day that stuck.

I’m reminded of John at our workshop, who, with cancer, was practicing to get the communication “right” and have something to pass on.

If you were to begin writing in the spirit of yourself, what communication would you want to pass on?

Decoding our choices and understanding the clues they provide

My choices not only determine my priorities, plans, and results—they are also clues about what matters to me.

The choices we make in our lives reflect our values, beliefs, and priorities. When we decide, we indicate what is important to us and what we want to achieve. These choices can range from minor decisions, such as what to eat for breakfast, to big decisions, such as where to live or what career to pursue.

The results of our choices can also provide insight into what matters to us. If we consistently achieve our goals in a particular area of our lives, it may indicate that we place a high value on that aspect and are willing to put in the effort to achieve success.

On the other hand, if we consistently struggle to achieve our goals in a particular area, it may indicate that it is not as important to us or that we need to re-evaluate our priorities and make different choices.

Overall, the idea that our choices determine our priorities, plans, and results and provide clues about what matters to us can be a valuable tool for self-reflection and personal growth. By examining our choices and their consequences, we can better understand ourselves and make intentional choices that align with our values and goals.

What steps can you take to align your choices with your values and priorities?

Any day can be your January 1st

It doesn’t have to be Jan 1, which is just a celebrated reminder.

Today is March 18, and I will write here every day. Yesterday was the period at the end of the sentence, and today is the capital letter — a new sentence.

Let’s celebrate the reminder that every day is a chance to reinvent, which goes for any day. I choose today.

I’m always in motion. And, if I’m awake, I decide: forward or backward?

Today is a chance to start from scratch, and there is something beautiful about starting from scratch because all labels I ever claimed are now just vanity.

I am a zero. I don’t say I’m anything, everything starts, and I do or do not do.

I’m not looking for the end of the road; I’m at the first step and can see the next step. That’s what the New Year means to me and what today means to me as a writer who clicks publish.

Any day can be the “Jan 1” you choose, and today is mine.

Just for today

I am exactly where I want to be, for better or worse. I belong right here, right now.

Just for today.

I don’t know where I’ll end up. I am exploring. I have no goals. I am a wanderer. When our paths cross, I will be kind. I have no expectations.

I work hard, but nothing is for keeps. I will work harder yet. I promise not to hold on. Not today.

Today life has delivered me to each tree instead of the entire forest. Everything is less overwhelming, and there are no hassles.

Today I am off the Internet, and a connection occurs when I disconnect. My best reflections about experiences are those I have when “disconnected.”

Today phone calls, text messages, and emails are a suggestion, not obligations. Today an actual book is in my hand, and it’s beautiful. Today I will go to the library, not Google.

Today I didn’t read random articles on the Internet. There is no “information” I am missing.

Today I will do one thing and not talk about all of the other stuff.

Today “doing” is information. Today “doing” is experience.

Today, no desire, no possession, and no control. I have no longings or belongings, and fear is gone.

No miscommunication.

Today I’m not asking, ‘Why?’

Today I won’t make room for them if I don’t choose to do so, and I don’t have space for their opinion. I’m sorry if it’s been a bad day or life, and it’s not that I don’t care. Today I choose not to try to understand—even my stuff.

I am not seeking to accomplish anything today.

Yesterday that wasn’t the case, and tomorrow that won’t. But today? “Accomplishment” is something holding me down.

Today no one is judged or to be judged. Especially not me. No inner voices say I have or have not, and I can afford to give it all away today.

Today the things I know to be accurate are:

— I’m in the library writing this with pen & paper.

— I feel joy, and that’s a choice from the inside, not an emotion that’s given.

— I’m attractive and wealthy when charitable with my love, wonder, kindness, curiosity, friendship, and connection.

Today I have no goals. Yesterday I had plans. Today I’m not thinking, “Once I achieve (X), I will be (Y).”

Today nothing outside of me will make me happy.

Today I hold my hand while walking down the street, and in doing so, I will achieve all the goals I never made for myself.

Don’t take my advice today. If you read this, thank you. May our next step be lighter than our last.

Tomorrow the deck is liable to flip, and I’ll change my mind, but today this is what I know to be true.

Getting in tune

Starting each page with the date is surprisingly helpful, not just for keeping track of the writings. It’s a signal to begin, meaning I can start writing without inspiration. The pen is in motion, or the fingers clatter across the keyboard, and I’ve taken the first step and am ready for the next. When I do this every day, the mundane comes to life.

What is something you do that sets the ritual in motion so you are in tune to run free?

Invest in value

My freelance contractors aren’t just buying the result but investing in the value of my expertise and effort toward being a remarkable communicator. So I must remember to tell that story about “marketing” and find the parallel for their business.