Chris Brogan recently wrote a post about ‘redrawing’ his life. While really this is another form of goal setting, his inspiration came from Donald Miller’s book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years which he had recently reviewed.
The book is about changing your life, by treating it as a story which you can rewrite, interact with, and improve..
I found the idea fascinating. When i was studying for my business degree, i had some great subjects that delved into management theories – the stuff that looks for deeper understanding of why particular management strategies and techniques work. A section that i loved, and wrote a paper on at the time, was the concept of strategy as narrative. Every year, companies sped large amounts of time and money on strategy sessions, and planning for the next year/few years/decade.
The thing is, these strategies almost never become reality. Sometimes they are close. Sometimes they are very close. More often they miss the mark. SO what then is the purpose, and what is the relationship between these strategy sessions and the final results?
One idea is that the intention is to create a narrative – a story – that paints a picture of where the company should be and what it should achieve. If this strategy is presented in a compelling and consistent manner, then there is a high probability that employees will ‘buy into the story’ and shape their behaviour and goals accordingly.
Donald Miller’s book follows this same idea. If your life is a story, then you can rewrite it. Not the past perhaps, although even the exercise of rewriting past events in a more positive light can change your outlook. Really this is about the future. Don’t just set dry goals and outcomes, paint yourself a detailed picture of where your life is going and what you want to become.
I discussed this with some friends, who didn’t completely agree. It easy to rewrite a story, they said, you can change yourself to whatever you want…. doesn’t mean it is going to happen…..
Thinking about this, i realised how much the idea actually ties in the fundamentals of storytelling, something my friends were not so familiar with.
When i am working on film scripts (or any narrative work) the essential question that you have to keep coming back to is – is my character truthful? If my character has to perform a heroic feat, then i need to first establish how and why they have the required physical or mental strength to complete the task. If i don’t first establish this, then the character and the film loses believability, and the audience loses the connection with the story. They look away from the screen to look at each other and say “yeah… as if that would happen”.
Its the same with corporate strategy. The story and the company’s role in it have to be believable, or employees will laugh it off as a pointless stunt from an out of touch management team.
It is also the same when it comes to rewriting my own story. I can write that tomorrow i will run a marathon, but it isn’t going to happen. Alternatively i can write about my months of training and preparation, of early mornings and aching muscles, of early sleeps and carb loaded meals. Then i can write about running a marathon and it becomes believable, and achievable.
Honest characters. always.