isualize the last time you went to a party. We realize that was probably some time ago given our current need to social distance, but nonetheless you can still play along.
Typically, we know the people with whom we’re about to spend an evening or Saturday afternoon quite well, as we’ve been invited by relatives or close friends. But at some point, someone in your orbit wants to introduce you to someone else in theirs. We’ve all heard it…“You’re going to love them, they’re great!”
Of course, now the party feels like work, you have to put on your poker face, smile, engage in the social norms of pleasantries and nice-to-meet-you’s. Then, right on schedule, the ever-predictable question hits you…”So, what do you do?”
How we answer that question, or the way we feel it should be answered has always been fascinating. Almost universally, our locus-of-identity is centered on what we do professionally. “I’m a lawyer, I’m a teacher, I drive long-haul trucks.”
That’s almost always the first verbal volley we shoot back in response. But why? Is our locus-of-identity really just what we do from 9-5? Of course, not. So why do we shy away from telling our story?
The answer…open up the suitcase of your life and take note of what you’re carrying around with you. We’re a collection of experiences, of stories, far more interesting than just one limited chapter.
The next time you’re at a party…safely and socially distanced, of course…try this challenge. Ask that friendly stranger not ‘what do you do?’, but rather ‘tell me your story’. One style is limiting and terminal, the other expansive and full of possibility.
It’ll seem awkward at first, but as you open the suitcase, and in turn share your own, you’ll find a more meaningful story within the context of that conversation. You might uncover wonderful, inspiring things about that lawyer, or that teacher, or that truck driver. You might discover they’re also a survivor of trauma, a fighter for a cause you equally champion, maybe hold some wisdom for which you’ve been searching, or you might be the person they need in their life right now too.
The point here is simple…beyond what it says on our business cards we are human, we are all storytellers, and compelling stories are everywhere. We carry them around in our suitcase, but we’re so conditioned to keep it closed while moving so quickly through life. Set it down, open it up, remember your story, and share it with those around you.
When you put your suitcase down, you tend to find yourself at home. That’s what we do at Steven James; we welcome you into our home, we unpack suitcases, sort through the complex, messy, beautiful parts of life. We unfold the subtleties, the new perspectives, and then we turn it into art.
Your story is our story.