I am proud of most things in my life. The one thing I regret is remaining silent for the last twenty years instead of sharing my story with the world For fear of judgement.
I sat with my dad in the ICU during his last weeks of life. He was hooked up to a ventilator. Constant beeping and buzzing. Only a week before they had to put him into a medically induced coma. That is when the silence came. No more bellowing voice. No matter laughing and learning. Just silence mixed with fear.
The part I wanted most desperately as I stood there clutching his hand and trying to grab on to any last moments I had with him where his stories.
He was a master storyteller. He used to paint vivid pictures in my mind with the simplest of words. I feel as though I have a catalog of his life experiences etched into my consciousness. If I shared many of them it may even seem as if they are a script from a movie, but the best ones were quite ordinary.
They were not about his 18 months carrying a rucksack through the swamps in Vietnam as a dynamiter, or when he was recruited to play baseball in college from his orphanage and then received his draft notice for the poor man’s war as he called it.
They were the simple ones about how he experienced his day. Or stories of my childhood where he would tell me about how I was a “home wrecker” in a somehow endearing way as to call it “free-spirited.” He had the most ambitious imagination and strongest sense. He shared that with me and it has guided my life.
Those stories of how his mind worked were some of my favorite and cherished memories. When he passed away I can picture his funeral. People came from so many walks of life. The line was out the door for hours.
As people came through the receiving line they had joy in their hearts and sadness streaming down their faces. Each had a story about how my father had done some kindness, usually a rather large one. One particular theme had arisen. He had taken these people who had nothing left and were the brink of losing themselves and somehow brought them back.
Most spoke of his presence and his willingness to give. They all seemed to have had these deep story filled conversations with him. These stories would be mind-altering for the listener. They were not grand, but for some reason he just knew how to tell it so that people could see themselves in those stories.
It was his ability to cut through the noise in life using stories that created these deep bonds with people.
Some of those same people would go on to help our family long after his passing. They all wanted to hold on to a little piece of him and to hear his stories one more time.
This is the power of a story told. If we are good we will tell a story to ourselves that makes us better. If we are great we will tell a story to others and change their lives. They don’t have to be dramatic. They don’t have to be long. They just need to be real and full of emotion.
Simply telling your story through whatever medium you have is what we should all aspire to do. Whether to a friend, to an audience, or to a loved one, share your story because it means more than you think.
I hope we all can find the courage in our lives, careers, and businesses to share the real stories. The ones about how you feel. The ones that make you think. The ones that make you smile.
That is how you change a life. What’s your story?