Story. We’re all wired for it.
Stories & storytelling have always been an important part of my life.
At the heart, I am a storyteller.
When I was very young, my aunt would improvise stories on the fly for my siblings and I. It’s one of the highlights I remember as a small child. I was entranced by movies and books. As a young child, I latched onto the idea that I wanted to tell stories. I wrote my first book (a children’s short story of course) in second grade, “Timmy: the Clock Who Couldn’t Tell Time.”
Story reaches deep within us. It touches our emotions in ways that other forms of communication often cannot. From early childhood through my early teen years, I read voraciously. The newspaper, encyclopedias, fiction, nonfiction, National Geographic, and more. I had read hundreds of books by the time I arrived in middle school.
Given what I went through in my mid-teen years, realizing I was gay, but growing up in a conservative religious and social community, I started to withdraw from emotions, and people. I didn’t enjoy movies or books as much during this phase. I lost interest in storytelling, because storytelling pulls our emotions to build connection with other people.
As I grew older and came to accept myself as I am, I regained my intense love of story. I am SO glad I did. I discovered Dungeons & Dragons, I rediscovered reading, and I found writing again. I rediscovered an important part of myself in it too.
I love story, because it is how I connect with the world outside, but it’s also how I discover and connect with myself.
Throughout my career, I have discovered other aspects of story which I think are important, to me, but also to wherever I work and serve.
During my move away from story in my teen & early young adult years, I dove headfirst into strategy, planning, and design.
Strategy is figuring out what the story is, and shaping the narrative in the way which best communicates that story. As someone who excels at taking a step back and viewing the ‘big picture,’ I can get lost in clouds, but I’ve improved my ability to keep an eye on the clouds while also keeping my head in the game on the ground.
That doesn’t mean strategy is all opinion and conjecture. Data is as important to the story of strategy as anything. I’ve spent my fair share of time compiling and studying reports in Excel, coding qualitative survey responses, and searching for patterns in dialogue with customers.
Planning and strategy are interconnected and interdependent, but separate. And for me, they are very much also storytelling.
Planning is the first step of executing a strategy: it is the organizing of a plan (a story), which you then play out. I am very good at organizing a strategy into a plan. I am good at organizing BECAUSE of my ADHD. If that seems crazy, read on. 🙂
ADHD shapes who I am. I struggle with executive function.
Executive function is, in essence, the subconscious ability to make decisions. As humans, we make decisions constantly all day long.
Developing and maintaining new habits is MUCH harder for me than for most people. I’ve found that as I am more self-aware of my mental state and my actions, I am able to moderately shift and direct myself better. Years of practice in therapy, mindfulness, and developing personal management systems have given me the skills and tools I need to succeed.
I have become very good at creating external systems to help me get things done, because my internal self is not a reliable manager. I am very good at planning & seeing projects through, despite my difficulty with executive function, because I have had to work harder than neurotypical people in order to accomplish almost anything.
Design is a form of storytelling on its own, but also enhances narrative when paired with other forms. Colors and shapes—like words, sounds, and smells— shape our understanding of the world. Design is an important part of narrative storytelling, and particularly in a business context.
My entire life has been a story; it is about story; and I am a storyteller.