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Beware Your Stories

Trevor O'Hara
2 min read
Beware Your Stories
Photo by Roman Kraft / Unsplash

The origin of a six-word tale, rumored to be written by Ernest Hemingway, is clouded in mystery: "For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn."

This "story" has gone down in literary history as possibly the shortest story ever. Yet, it's also a brilliant example of the power of so few carefully chosen words to stir huge emotion.

Whenever we go through a change or transition, we fall back on stories to help us make sense of reality. These stories are a testament to our experiences, offering insights into our past, what we've been through, who we used to be, who we are now, and who we aspire to be.

Stories form the bedrock of our perception, influencing and motivating us. The car we drive, the clothes we wear, and the concepts of love, family, success, and failure are all stories we tell ourselves. Hope itself is a narrative. Our lives comprise one grand tale, interspersed with countless sub-stories, constantly woven and reshaped until they exit our mouths in neatly edited, linear, chronological narratives.

The narrative we love most is the 'linear up' narrative: a journey of constant growth and self-improvement where each experience neatly leads to a better outcome. On the other hand, the narrative we all like the most is the 'rags to riches' story.

Then there's the 'linear down' narrative, a life story that depicts things going from bad to worse. For example, someone had a successful career but made terrible decisions or experienced unfortunate circumstances, and life has been on a downward slope ever since. As a result, we've all found ourselves saying things like, "I'm such a failure," "Nothing ever goes right for me," or "I can't ever seem to catch a break."

Life is not a polished CV or LinkedIn profile. There are curveballs, broken dreams, and disappointments. But we also encounter tremendous fortune, good luck, and good times.

The nonlinear life is not up or down. It fluctuates. And there are gaps and overlaps, dark corridors and wide open plains, storms and sunshine. We would therefore do well to shape our narratives around the growth and transformation at every twist and turn. This is a more realistic reflection of our complex life experiences.

These are the true stories. Edit well!