Sunday, June 7, 2015

What is your favorite story of a new beginning?

A New Hope

Recently, I started a new job.  I’ve done this many times in the last few years.  Maybe too much.  Along with the usual experiences of a new start - excitement, curiosity, even fatigue - I thought about how I might make this particular beginning memorable and meaningful.  

(I experienced many new starts.  As a young college graduate in a post-dotcom bubble economy, I had a job offer rescinded.  It was my first taste of how callous and impersonal the business world can be underneath the smiles.  As a young auditor at a Big Four accountancy, I felt I found a good job, but not one I found interesting.  And when I found something that was fun and interesting, I struggled to balance it with financial payoff.  All this to say that I’ve experienced many ups and downs, and I’m still here!)


In this new start, I got to thinking about what kind of story I want to tell of this period in my life when I look back.  For me, the story as told in the movie starring Robert Redford, The Natural, comes to mind.  In that movie, Roy Hobbs is a baseball phenom with a complicated history.  His talents as a young baseball player lead to hubris.  That prides leads to a fatal mistake that derails his career before it starts.  Years later, many years after the world has forgotten him, Roy returns to the baseball he loves and starts over.  He is an old, 30-something rookie.  He swallows his pride and others’ skepticism and shows up for practice every day.  He works hard to prove himself.  He is human.  He stumbles with the new-found fame, but remembers his old self and gets back on track.  Rather than taking a bribe to throw the pennant game for big payoff, he stays true to himself and does his best with what he has.  

Roy’s story resonates with me.  Rather than dwelling on the past, the right attitude is to assume humility, and be curious like a newcomer should be.  A new player should be deferential to the team, and work hard to prove himself.  Certainly, some work will be menial, but I can use all things as an opportunity to learn.  I hope that I can look back years from now and be proud of how I worked hard regardless of my age.  I hope that I can take pride in serving my team and my customers faithfully, and growing as a leader.

Narrative Arc: What’s your story?

Which makes me curious.  What kind of narrative are you writing with your life or with your career?  If you started something new recently (a new job or new family or new location), then what kind of story would you like to be able to tell about it when you look back?  Were you beaten down, but picked yourself back up and persevered?  Were you faced with evil (or difficult) forces, but kept your integrity and won with patience and love?

This isn’t about legacy.  It is about how you make sense of your world.  What kind of experience do you want to have in your life?  Thinking about the right narrative arc can help.  In his book The Seven Basic Plots, the author Christopher Booker outlines seven narrative archetypes:

  1. Overcoming the monster
  2. Rags to riches
  3. The quest
  4. Voyage and return
  5. Comedy
  6. Tragedy
  7. Rebirth

I think my story will be a mix of these.  What I do know is that I want to be more mindful about writing a plot and working hard to follow the plot this time around.  I wonder what kind of story you’re excited about living out.

Exercise

Think about the narrative arc you would like to live out.  How would you work to build that story into an aspect of your life today?

You may want to check out the book The Seven Basic Plots by Christopher Booker.

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