Story tellers and meaning makers.
On the human condition and writing stories worth reading.
What differentiates you from a bear? Or a moose? Or a bald eagle?
(It’s the Monday before the 4th of July 🇺🇸 and I’m in the mountains. Can you tell?)
What is the thing that makes you and me distinctly different from the rest of the animal kingdom?
I’m not talking about size, or strength, or speed, or the ability to fly.
(But if there’s a way to sign up for a bear’s strength or an eagle’s flying skills, I’m all ears.)
I’m talking about the human element. The things that lead to this ambiguous idea that we all understand simply as the human condition.
The answers are numerous, but I want to focus on two areas:
Story telling and meaning making.
Our lives collectively revolve around stories. Think about it. Let’s take something as simple as catching up with a friend.
We tell stories about what we’ve been up to.
We tell stories about what we have coming up.
We tell stories about other people. About ourselves. About our beliefs. About our successes. About our failures.
Every single thing we experience in our short lives above the dirt is lived and experienced through the lens of story.
Story is the connective tissue and residue of that damned prefrontal cortex that makes humans…human.
Perhaps you’re in a job you hate. Or a job you love. Or desperately wanting any job. Perhaps you’re healthy. Perhaps you’re sick. You might be at a low point. Or a high point.
But no matter where you are, you can’t escape the fact that you’re in the middle of your own story. A story with an ending that has yet to be written.
Are you hopeful about that story? Or hopeless?
That question leads to the second thing that makes humans undeniably human.
We’re meaning makers.
We don’t just tell stories. We attach meaning to them. Stories are a vessel. They contain within them the seeds of something else.
What is the difference between someone who experiences tragedy and spirals, and someone who experiences tragedy and uses that tragedy for good?
When my best friend in the world passed away in his sleep the night of my college graduation party, I had a choice to make.
Let the experience shape me for the better.
Or let the experience shape me for the worse.
Becoming despondent at the loss of my best friend, future roommate, and better half would have been a perfectly reasonable response.
But my response to the situation is also what would be the ending to that story.
Did I want it to be a story Jordan was proud of?
So I chose a different path. Living my life with the vitality that Jordan did - making sure my story was one worth reading. Hell, that experience might be the single reason you’re even reading this post.
Meaning matters, because meaning about the past is what we project into the future. If the only meaning of our individual tragedies and experiences is a negative one, we’re going to project that into our future. What we repeat, repeats.
But if we can scrub, and sand, and polish these experiences to expose the good - the seed of hope - we can take that into the future and write a different ending.
We have all experienced good things and terrible things, and there are more of both to come.
The meaning we attach to those experiences will either empower us or disempower us. That’s a choice we have to make.
What story do you want to write?
What meaning have you attached to an experience that is holding you back?
Where is the good nested within the bad?
That’s the human condition. Wrestling with the polarity of life. Choosing to accept the bad, while relentlessly seeking the good within it. Not ignoring the bad. Not pretending the bad didn’t happen.
But sitting with the bad and choosing to make it good anyway.
That’s how you make a story worth reading.
There’s no difference between a pessimist who says, ‘Oh, it’s hopeless, so don’t bother doing anything,’ and an optimist who says, ‘Don’t bother doing anything, it’s going to turn out fine anyway.’ Either way, nothing happens.
-Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia
✌️ and ❤️,
Certified High Performance Coach™
👉 Forward Coaching