Can you tell who you are; craft the headline of your life, in just six words? Ernest Hemingway managed to say an entire story in just six words,
“For sale, Baby Shoes. Never worn.”
Through varying degrees of poetic expression and clarity, flash fiction conveys a wealth of emotion in just a few words. One of my favourites is the one by Neal Stephenson –
I saw a Facebook post on a writers’ group recently. The writing prompt asked the writers-in-waiting who use such prompts to hone their craft, to write a six-word story about the time when they were eighteen. The time when we were plunged into the abyss of choices and could return with only one. Among all the brilliant ones that were written, I was struck by the simplicity, honesty and the pain of one,
“They taught code. I wrote poetry.”
Let’s move from the wold of imagination and fiction to the world which we have come to inhabit through our education and our work experience. Career coaches and self-help manuals sell us the dream of following our passion, no matter what the cost. But truth is many of us meander through life, lurching through jobs that we land into but rarely plan for. And mid-career blues sound much like the deadline timebomb ticking away remorselessly.
And we all go through our could-have-been moments of inspiration which sound suspiciously similar to “They taught code. I wrote poetry.” One could just interchange, code and poetry with the lost code words in our own lives.
Over the last fifteen years of working in the corporate sector, as I collected work experience, I moved across companies and disciplines, often choosing projects I wanted to work on over fancy designations. Now, as I try to write the headline six words of my own life, I realize that my restless meanderings across the corporate world were always a search. And just like the corporate intern who tries to figure out her real dreams while maximizing learning within the short 3-6 months of the internship duration, I was also, always interning. Learning.
Is that my story? In just 2 words?
Doesn’t tell what I really learned. My biggest learning from these meanderings, apart from skills imbibed and friendships forged, has been the stories I collected over the years.
Stories. Yes. Whether working on a strategy update or analyzing competitive positioning, developing the brand content or hearing a start-up pitch for investment; what I really had been doing was using the structure and power of stories, with words, numbers, and pictures, aided by large doses of humor. Unconsciously. Stories that are not “once upon a time fairy tales” but real, personal, inspiring and memorable. Do they work? In my experience, they can inspire, drive insight and initiate action, if told well.
And as I connect the dots, I have now consciously started using the structure of storytelling and narrative fiction with the right business context to improve business results.
That brings me back to my story. A lot to crunch in 6 words. But here goes.
STORYTELLER: Solving business problems through stories.
Would love to hear your stories.