You are a mentor

It is true. I know it may be hard to believe. “Mentorship” is one of those words that can be big and scary. One that can often bring up the self-questioning thoughts that often echo in our psyches:

“I really haven’t accomplished enough to be able to mentor someone else.”

“The skills/position/experience/(fill in the blank) really isn’t mentoring worthy.”

“I wouldn’t know where to begin with a mentoring process.”

It’s not true. Everyone has something that is completely unique, that they are experts in that no one else can claim. That is the story of their own experience. When you share your story a relationship is formed, and you put on the table examples, learnings and inspiration that only you can. It doesn’t matter if what you share is directly relatable in terms of topic or question to those listening. When you share your story connections will be made and new, usable perspectives will be uncovered that can help inform and guide the questions or struggles the audience may be experiencing.

I have experienced this personally. I had the opportunity recently to speak to the Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership class at George Washington University. I, like most, spun for a while on what I could share or teach that would seem worthy for the class to spend their time on. In the end, I decided to simply tell my story. My background, my journey, my decisions and what I learned from them. Where I succeeded, and where I fell. The dialog, appreciation and feedback I received from the class was amazing and humbling. I had helped, and it was so easy.

We need more people to step up and mentor. It’s the most effective and meaningful way to learn. There is a secret though–It must be your story, and not a report on chronological events. Timelines and resumes do not equate to experiences, and the nuances of experience are where connections and learning occur. So share your stories. And ask for others to to share theirs. Learning is a two-way flow. You will be amazed by how easy it is, and how impactful it can be.

Add “mentor” to your list of accomplishments. It’s a worthy goal.


One word stories

If you’re friends with me on Facebook, you know that I often post one word status updates. I started doing this last year out of complete boredom. As luck would have it, something very interesting happened. I got more conversations and replies to my one word posts than many of my more descriptive updates. I began to force myself to think in only short, abbreviated updates. And so, for a period of about six months, I would only post a single word.

I’ve written previously about what you can learn by stripping things down to the bare minimum. So, as my business partner @deziner often asks, what are the learnings from this particular instance?

Whether it’s a status update or a tweet, you are essentially telling a micro-story. When you edit it all the way down to one word, it invites everyone to imagine and create the rest of the story. They must fill in the blanks. So, when I posted “Wings,” John Sprecher scribed “Buffalo or Paul McCartney and…?”

At it’s heart, this is what social media is all about—shared storytelling. A user shares an experience that friends and followers then participate in based on their own experience.

From a brand perspective, this is one of the most overlooked, misunderstood, and underutilized aspects of social media. Shared storytelling has been going on since humans gathered around a fire. Stories are retold (The Odyssey), re-imagined (Romeo & Juliet becomes West Side Story) and repurposed (Petroglyphs as done by Paul Klee).

I often wonder why so many in marketing still cling to the hope that they alone should control the story. The only reason I can see is if your brand story never held any truth in the first place.

What did you earn today?

We all need this.

Last week @MarkFairbanks and I had the esteemed honor of participating in Seth Godin’s Medicine Ball Sessions. I call it an honor because it truly was. Not only because we got the opportunity to engage with Seth for 3 full days and learn what’s in his head, but the people that were in attendance were amazing. They came from all walks of life, all types of experience but with one thread that wove us all together; a willingness to see see things differently, own it and do something with it. I don’t know if you’ve had the opportunity to be in the room with mindset peers like that, but it is inspirational and transformative.

I’m certain that you will hear from the both of us over the coming days/weeks about what we learned. Part of why we went was to bring thinking back to share, and there’s plans already in the works, both formal and informal to do just that. But tonight I was going through the notebook full of notes I took (which is something I rarely do, so you know it must be good!) and I came across a starred line that struck me again, just as it did when I heard it:

“What stories did you earn today?”

On a daily basis we question what we got done that day. We berate ourselves over missed opportunities to check tasks off our lists, or determine the worth of our day on a measure of tactical accomplishments. Did I call enough people? Did I deliver those documents? Are the dishes done and the laundry folded?  We execute tasks and spin in actions without really thinking about the impact of them. But talk to any human being, about any subject at all, and if you listen closely you will notice that people are stories not tasks. We speak, explain, complain, live, in stories not checklists.

Stories are sprung from impact. Unfortunately we try to generate this impact from the wrong places. The stories that people respond to are firmly rooted in what the impact is, not the ways in which you make the impact. What was the impact of delivering those documents? To you? To those they were delivered to? That is the real story, and that is what matters. Focusing on delivering the documents gets you delivered documents. Understanding the story that the recipient writes in his/her head about them being delivered earns you a place in their repertoire of worthy storytelling. Knowing that allows you to find other ways to deliver on that impact, making you irreplaceable, not merely someone who delivers documents on time. Or otherwise known as… a commodity. It’s a shift of notice that can make us more impactful people, in all areas of our lives.

Today, I earned the story of it being ok to be silly in the name of having fun, rather than simply carving out time to sing karaoke with my sons. Whatever will I do with that story? :)



The Importance of Story

“Work for you?”

The question hung in the air after reading Chris Brogan’s post “The Importance of Story in Your Life.” His question being  in reference to the task required to secure a free copy of a book he loves – “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years” by Donald Miller. But it seemed to mean much more. Perhaps because the story of stories is so close to my heart.

Our lives are stories. We all have those memories, those moments in time that have become little scripts. We recite them at opportune moments, knowing which words to emphasize and where the pauses are most impactful. But it’s when we string all those chapters together that the dots start to connect, and a picture of a life comes into focus. It is a gift to be cognoscente of the connection of these chapters, these moments. To see how they build on each other and produce a whole, rather than merely independent vignettes. There are no coincidences in life, everything has a purpose, just like every moment has a place in the story.

But the magic of seeing your life as a story, is that the story needs to be written. And we each man the pencil, the pen, or the keyboard. That is powerful. Stories are crafted, they do not simply appear. Stories are also deeply impactful, they connect people to ideas in a way nothing else can. They can suspend reality or clarify the complex because of the ability of a story to take anything, and make it relatable. That means if your life is a story, and you are writing it, you have the ability to connect, instill belief, clarify and relate to others through your life. Sounds like a fairly important and exciting undertaking to me.

I personally have witnessed the power of storytelling. Whether it be the awe experienced by my young boys as we paint the picture of magical lands before they head to their dreams. Or the “a-ha” moments of discovery and understanding experienced by clients in boardrooms, when ideas and complex hypotheses are communicated in story form rather than charts and graphs and bullet points on screen. Regardless the scenario, it is stories that are a key ingredient to these experiences. No doubt. And we all know how we feel about experiences.

So to answer your original question Mr Brogan;

“Oh yes… it works perfectly for me.”