Your story is about the defining experiences that shaped you, molded you, refined you.
Embrace your story, whatever it is. Your story reveals who you are, and your story reveals what makes you unique. From your story you find your strengths and talents that will enable you to make a contribution to this world that only you can make.
I've been writing a lot about myself lately, and that's mainly to help me think through my own story and find the threads that connect all the dots. It's my hope that by doing this exercise in public, I'll inspire others—like YOU— to dig deep to uncover and understand your own stories.
Bo Eason is all about using the defining moments in your life to tell your story.
I listen to a lot of podcasts and, over the past few months, Bo has turned up as a guest on a few of these.
Bo Eason is a former pro football player. For that reason, he's not the type of person I'd normally seek out as a source of inspiration. To be honest, I almost skipped the episode the first time he turned up because I didn't want to hear a former pro football player go on about his story of playing through injuries. But…..
Gaining New Perspectives
One strategy I use to make sure that I'm taking in new ideas is to listen to or watch interviews with people that are outside my realm of experience or direct interest. I like to expose myself to new ideas.
That's how I came to be listening to School of Greatness podcast to begin with. Lewis Howes happens to be a pro football player who talks about playing through injuries and has become a motivational speaker and “lifestyle entrepreneur.” His guests are kinda guy-oriented, but the insights are universal so I listen to most episodes from the School of Greatness. But when I heard Lewis introduce Bo Eason I almost hit “skip” because the idea of TWO former pro football players talking about playing through injuries just seemed like a bit much….
Whenever I feel a strong urge to avoid something harmless (like an interview with a former pro football player-turned-playwright and motivational speaker), I take it as a sign that I'll learn something from the experience.
So I didn't skip Lewis Howes' conversation with Bo Eason and, as is usually the case, I found some nuggets of wisdom that I could apply to my own life. In short, I learned about his approach to finding and telling your story through the defining moments in your life.
In some ways, it was that first podcast interview that sparked the “how do I tell my story better” exploration on this blog.
What Are Your Defining Moments?
Quite honestly, once the semester kicked me into overdrive trying to get everything done at work, I forgot about Bo Eason. I was so busy that I was only blogging occasionally, when I could squeeze something in, and focusing on the Teach Social Business site because I could use my blogging there for course preps. I knew I wanted to explore my story, but I was concerned about blogging too much about myself, yada yada yada.
This weekend Bo Eason turned up again in my podcast feed. At first, I didn't remember his name so when one episode of Bulletproof Radio ended and segued into the next one I ended up hearing once again, an intro to Bo Eason. I ALMOST skipped it once again.
But I'm so glad I listened to this episode of Bulletproof Radio to hear Bo Eason explain the importance of finding your defining moments and building your story around them.
Sometimes it takes repeat exposure for messages to sink in.
I'll be honest, some of my defining moments are still somewhat private and I'm not sure that I'm ready to publicly announce my take on those experiences. Others know about them, but I feel that talking about some of those defining moments in public would hurt other people and I don't care to do that. I don't think it's necessary to hurt others to succeed.
In any event, I think it's how we RESPOND to what we experience in life, rather than the experience itself. I like to think that I'm not defined BY my experiences, but rather how I've responded to both adversity and success.
[Tweet “It's our response to events in our life that define us, not the event itself.”]
Many of my defining experiences are easy to share. I've recognized them as defining moments for my entire life—so much so that I've never considered blogging in detail about most of them. But I will, soon. Here are a few highlights of defining experiences that happened before I was 6 years old.
The Lawnmower Accident
When I was 3-1/2 years old I was in a lawn mower accident.
My dad had me sitting in his lap on a riding lawnmower and it started to “rear up” on a slight incline in the yard. He tossed me off to the side, trying to get me out of harms way. But instead, the mower tilted over on top of me. The left side of my head was crushed.
My parents rushed me to the hospital. I can actually remember every detail about the accident AND the trip to the first hospital, my head on mom's bloodstained shirt and her stroking my hair saying “It will be OK.” Everything did turn out OK.
I call it my Harry Potter scar.
The Not-Dorothy-in-Oz Experience
A few weeks after that lawnmower accident, a freak tornado sent everyone scrambling for shelter. My dad literally got stuck in the mud as he ran across a freshly-plowed field toward the storm shelter with me in his arms and we fell face-forward into the mud. We survived, of course.
I didn't end up in Oz. Instead, my freshly-changed bandages were a muddy mess.
I learned about the power of storms and, for a while, I was afraid of them. But another defining moment changed that a few years later.
“I Have An Idea”
I started first grade when I was 5-years-old, having never been to kindergarden or pre-school. My parents didn't want me to wait another year and I'm glad they found a way to get me in school early.
Since I was so young, I was placed in the “can't read” group. By the end of the first week, I had progressed to the strongest reading group. I knew I could read.
I also appeared as Martha Washington that year in my school play and got to proclaim at the Constitutional Convention: “I have an idea.” Yes, I remember that vividly. I still have ideas.
“Mrs. Peel, We're Needed”
Around the same time, I discovered a TV show called The Avengers. Even though I was much too young to understand all the irony and nuance, Steed and Mrs. Peel became a role models. My mom would let me stay up and watch the show every week.
Scenes from one episode, in particular, always stayed with me. The defining moment of that episode: Mrs. Peel is on a conveyer belt, about to be sliced in half by a spinning saw blade. Instead of revealing fear, Mrs. Peel just displayed the unflappable, calm fortitude she's known for.
I began to emulate Mrs. Peel when I played. More importantly, the strengths of the Mrs. Peel character helped to define my own response to a whole host of situations.
I even dressed like Mrs. Peel.
Life, Then Death
Shortly after my first school year ended, I watched my beloved grandfather experience a fatal heart attack and die in front of me. He was only 46 years old. I learned about death and how it can come suddenly, but it didn't make me afraid.
Those are a few of the defining experiences from the first six years of my life. I'll be sharing more about these events and others in future posts. They're too complex to do justice here.
The key takeaway for me is not that the moments or experiences define us, rather it's how we RESPOND to the experience that defines us.
Honor Your True Self
Today, I know myself pretty well.
I lost myself for a while, in my 20s, as I floundered trying to be someone I really wasn't. I relinquished a lot of my creativity, energy and adventurous nature in an attempt to fit into the world of business law and estate planning. My intentions were good, but my soul and spirit were suffering.
What I've found is that when I honor my true self, by playing to my strengths, I get good outcomes. Trying to fit into someone else's definition of what's right for me is like wearing someone's else clothes—and that's under the best of circumstances. It usually doesn't turn out that well.
To get to this place in my life, where I know myself, I had to make some detours, wrong turns and experience some things that I didn't enjoy at the time. I never quit, never gave up. Those detours are part of my story.
You probably have some detours and wrong turns, too. Most people do, unless they never seek to grow.
Learn From Your Experiences
I am convinced that our experiences are meant to teach us something. If we keep having the same type of experience over and over, and getting the same outcome, repeatedly, we are not paying attention and not learning what we need to learn.
The point is that we all have life experiences that both shape and reveal who we are. We face a situation and we respond to it. We have to find those and look for opportunities to grow from them.
So look back at your life and consider your experiences. Find your defining moments. Find the “Groundhogs Day” moments when the same problems or issues keep cropping up.
Through those moments you can uncover the lessons you've learned, or still need to learn.
I hope this post will inspire you to find your own defining moments and enable you to tell your story with courage and dignity.
I'd love to hear from you!