Stories are more than a part of my consulting work. They actually saved my life at the tender age of nine.
That year I was diagnosed with a series of illnesses, starting with mononucleosis, that resulted in my being house-bound for almost a year.
My parents did not have the money to pay for someone to stay with me, so they had various church members and a tutor come by a few times a week. However, the rest of the time I was alone in a house that was located in a fairly tough neighborhood in California.
Fear, however, was not the biggest problem I faced. A sense of being left behind and bored out of my mind were the top issues. I watched from behind curtains as other kids went to school, played, sold lemonade and roller-skated.
My family would leave at approximately 8:00 a.m., and with the final slamming of the door I was met with deafening silence.
What saved me? Stories. I created a little area between the piano refinished in the lovely antique green of the day, and our fireplace. The space was probably four feet wide, but it was my personal space. I put down a blanket and formed a little shelf of books to the left. My pillow behind me, I would fold up in this safe area that couldn’t be seen by any stranger at the front door.
Then, I left my weak body behind and became Pippi Longstocking on her latest adventure. Or maybe Jo from “Little Women,” just starting my writing career. I read “Don Quixote” by Cervantes and yearned for noble causes. I read “White Fang” and cried my eyes out for days.
More importantly, I told myself new stories about me. I was no longer the sick kid that everybody felt sorry for. I would wake up in the morning, and don the outfit that matched my character for the day. During my “Don Quixote” period, I rode our broom and carried a stick as my sword. “Little Women” required a briefcase, paper, pencil, and one of my mom’s old dresses. I would sit for hours and write. I completed my very first novel – 17 pages on notebook paper, front and back!
After reading “Charlotte’s Web,” I imagined positive messages spun into the corner of my bedroom.
While incorporating my stories into my life, I didn’t become someone else. I became a better me. I was more than my illness. My power sources was infinite, and my imagination became the ultimate companion.
I believe that those stories gave me the energy and stamina to get through the tunnel of my illness by showing that I was a hero waiting to happen.
I also believe that each of us reflect the stories that we read and the stories we constantly tell ourselves. In my opinion, individuals and organizations are formed by the stories repeatedly shared in hallways and cubicles.
Do you tell yourself that you are:
Or do you tell yourself that you are:
What you tell yourself, you believe.
Stories saved my life. They can save yours. They can save your organization. They just have to be carefully told, because they are always believed by someone. Maybe by you.
I think that’s why I used stories in my recent book on how to lead change. Stories make sense to us because we are living stories, editing every single day. I would be honored if you decided to purchase the book. If you go to the link below, you will see that it is also available in a Kindle edition!