Under the Influence of Story


I'm under the influence of several stories at the moment. I admit it.

You probably are, too.

There's the story we tell ourselves about who we are, where we come from, and where we're going, which is tied to identity. Identity is much broader than our online profile. It's made of many pieces that speak to:

  • heritage — where we were born, where we live, our age, educational background, etc.
  • environment — transient external factors such as the economy
  • needs — they include both what we truly need and what we think we need and actually just want
  • interactions — we also define ourselves in relationship with others

Some stories are situational, they exist because of a certain set of circumstances. Others are imagined, we make them up in our heads, and may end up overlooking critical cues that things are not really that way. Or, we may end up inviting those thoughts into our lives as reality. 

The story of where we would like to be is our vision. The aspirations of a business are encapsuled in a (usually) pity statement. The collection of stories an organization tells about itself becomes the culture of that organization. They say "here's the way we do thing around here".

That can be both good for the business and stifling for innovation, depending upon how the organization handles storytelling.


Using stories to connect

We share some of those stories we carry around. We do it to convey emotion, or to inspire. Often, we use the words of others to describe the behaviors and situations we'd like people model. We use portable stories — quotes — to convey that what we're thinking and feeling is bigger than us.

A few days ago, I asked people to share their favorite inspirational sound bites on Google+. You may see them all by following that link. Here are a few:

"The only difference between a good day and a bad day is your attitude." ~ Dennis S. Brown (via Lori Griffin)

"People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did but people will never forget how you made them feel." ~ Maya Angleou (via Anna Farmery)

"Every artist was first an amateur." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson (via Alizee Rait)

"Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm." ~ Churchill (via Kristoffer Sorensen)

"Be the change you wish to see in the world." ~ M Gandhi (via Geordie Wardman)

“All successful people men and women are big dreamers. They imagine what their future could be, ideal in every respect, and then they work every day toward their distant vision, that goal or purpose.”
~ Brian Tracy

“To believe in the things you can see and touch is no belief at all; but to believe in the unseen is a triumph and a blessing.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

“Some men see things as they are and say, Why? I dream of things that never were and say, Why not?”
~ George Bernard Shaw

"Adversity makes men, and prosperity makes monsters." ~ Victor Hugo (all via Michael Ramkisoon)

"The memories of a man in his old age are the deeds of a man in his prime." ~ Pink Floyd (via Howie G)

"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind" ~ Dr. Seuss

"Sometimes you just have to take the leap, and build your wings on the way down." ~ Kobi Yamada

"What we think, or what we know, or what we believe is, in the end, of little consequence. The only consequence is what we do." ~ John Ruskin (all via Marc Malonzo)

"Measure your success in life by how many of the people you want to have love you actually do love you." ~ Warren Buffet (via Danny Brown)

"Limits exist only in the souls of those who do not dream." ~ Philippe Petit – Tightrope walker (via Marko Kulik)

"The new source of power is not money in the hands of the few but information in the hands of many." ~ John Naisbit (via Julian Inasi)

"if you have to give up,
give up anger, fear, guilt, doubt –
not your time, your breath, or your clarity."
~ Prem Rawat (via Carlos Saraiva)

"Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten." ~ G. K. Chesterton (via Fred Sampson)

"Make things as simple as possible–but no simpler." ~ Einstein

"Eyesight is insight." ~ Rudolph Armheim (both via Ron Jay Miller)

"Fortitudine Vincimus: By Endurance, We Conquer" ~ Sir Ernest Shackleton's Family Motto (via Jarie Bolander)

"There is no try; only do." ~ Yoda (via Peter Rodgers)

"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." ~ Gandhi (via Valentin Dobroia)

"Think beyond your lifetime if you want to accomplish something truly worthwhile." ~ Walt Disney (via Vincent Palmer)

"[Courage is] when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what."~ Atticus Finch/Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird (via Christa Miller)

"Twenty years from now you'll be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than the things you did. So cast off the bowline. Sail from safe harbor. Let the trade winds catch yours sails; explore. Dream. Discover." ~ Mark Twain (via Frank Strong)


When you're reading these quotes, they probably stir you in some way. Each quote is a story, each story is part of the narrative shared by a person, who in turn is part of the tapestry of a community. Stories help connect us to ourselves, and to others.

What is your most inspirational quote?


ONE MORE: "Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I'll meet you there." ~ 13th Century Sufi Poet

ONE MORE: "Happiness' best friend is Kindness. Passion's best friend is Generosity" ~ Seth Godin


[image by Ville Miettinen]

0 responses to “Under the Influence of Story”

  1. So awesome. I know I added more than a couple +1s to that thread. Thank you for sharing.
    My long-standing favorite quote was from Thoreau, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams, live the life you imagine,” but recently have found that Ghandi quote to be my absolute favorite.
    I’ve been ignored. I’ve been mocked. And I’m looking forward to a good fight.
    Because I know what that means.

  2. Yes. I was reminded of that quote as I re-read a thread here that is 3+ years old – http://www.conversationagent.com/2008/06/ive-done-it-all-wrong.html – doing it your way, doing something original, means you’re not going to be popular. At least not in the usual ways. There are other ways, of course. Like helping a large corporation scale back to its core and restart from a place of strength. Or helping a startup scale up with built in wisdom of the trade in the leadership team. That’s what I do. So it’s not shocking I would not be popular in the middle, where everyone else is playing.

  3. Valeria, what a magnificent collection of wonderful quotes! Each one is a gem, but altogether it’s an encyclopedia of what life is all about. To me, in the business world, if frontline associates could strive to put a smile on everyone’s heart on every encounter, and treat customers as people first, customers second, it would make all of our lives better. And conversely, if customers treated frontline associates with the respect they deserve, it would be a great two-way street. Richard Shapiro, The Center For Client Retention @richardrshapiro

  4. That is very inspirational stuff. That feeling can be this diversified. Thanks for all the enthusiasm to extend such helpful information on this post. . famous quotes = hope

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