When I began my meanderings into the realm of Greek mythology last week—my rumination on Sisyphus and existential philosophy, and making connections with my job as a winery worker—it was not without some hesitation. Not wanting to make my blog—or any of my writing—self-absorbed, I have often shied away from writing about myself and my personal experience. Now, I am beginning to think that such reticence is probably misguided.
My views on this are changing for a simple reason. In the past 10 days, I have received a truly inordinate number of favorable reactions from a variety of people about my last two posts. Several long-time readers commented that these were among my best entries ever, and they encouraged me to do more writing in this style, and with this type of personal content.
While I remain reluctant to make this blog overly personal, the recent requests from readers for more personal stories do not surprise me, and they are even reassuring. In fact, their observations align perfectly with one of my deepest convictions, something I have been telling clients and audiences for more than two decades: Personal stories of identity are a human being’s most powerful form of expression, and a leader’s most effective tool of influence. It only makes sense, then, that this conclusion should apply equally well to myself and my writing.
When people wrote last week to encourage me to tell more personal stories, I also realized that their request reflected what my university students, and a variety of other audiences, have been telling me for years. Throughout my time as a professor, and as a corporate keynote speaker, I have worked diligently at preparing and teaching. Even when evaluations from a group are outstanding, I always solicit additional feedback, to search for aspects of my teaching that I might improve.
After many years as a lecturer and public speaker, answers from participants continue to baffle me. In both short seminars and longer courses, the most frequent comment concerning what I might do better is simply: “Tell more stories.” The reason for my ongoing surprise at this response is that, whenever I teach, I invariably have the impression that I am talking about myself—and telling my stories—far too much. So, I suppose people’s longing for even more storytelling is further validation of my long-held conclusion that the best way to connect with any audience is with one’s personal stories.
As I reflected a bit more about telling my own stories, it was amusing to think that I was doing precisely what I ask my coaching clients to do. An essential element of my methodology stems from another of my long-held convictions: our ability to influence begins with self-knowledge. And, it is only by processing and reprocessing our life experience that we can acquire the deep self-knowledge that will allow us to truly impact our worlds.
Image: Flickr-user Clara Don