The Lost Art of Storytelling

Think back to when you were a child. What was your favorite bedtime story, one you could hear over and over again? Now looking back, what was it about that story that intrigued you? The characters, a particular moral, a happy ending? Either way, it’s clear that stories, whether real or fictional, have the power to influence.

storytellingA few weeks ago, I listened to a presentation by Lani Peterson, an award-winning storyteller, author and public speaker. In her 60 minute talk, she spoke about how powerful personal stories can be if constructed correctly. Her main points are summarized below:

  • Stories need to be personal, emotional and connected to your values. If a story isn’t authentic, it loses its power. Having a powerful story positively contributes to your presence and identity.
  • As you’re telling your story to others, take time to step back and evaluate. Check in with yourself and others within your organization to ensure the story you’re telling is aligned to what others know or hear about you.
  • There is also immense power in listening, especially when you are new to a company and need to better understand their story and the motivations behind it. By listening, you can find common values between you and your colleagues or your company at large.

After listening to Lani, I reflected on what she said and really thought about my own story. I’d venture to say your personal and professional narratives are one in the same. You might need to tailor it to your audience. I asked myself the following questions to strengthen my story:

  • What do I want to be known for?
  • How did I get here/what did the journey look like?
  • If I wasn’t in the room and someone asked about Alex, what would I want that response to look like?

Your story is essentially your personal brand. It’s a tool you should use to build your credibility andbranding establish strong relationships with others. What I find challenging when developing your story is aligning it to your company’s values while also stay true to its meaning. Like Lani said, a story must be authentic to be powerful. But, it’s also important to message it correctly so it resonates with others within your organization.

As I move forward in my career journey, I plan to take Lani’s tips with me. I’ll also continue to evolve my story as I experience new things or challenges. How have you created a career narrative? Has it changed over time?

Book Review: Normal Gets You Nowhere

Note: This post contains explicit language

While on vacation, I read Kelly Cutrone‘s Normal Gets You Nowhere. This is her second book after the wildly popular If You Have to Cry, Go Outside. I’ve been wanting to read this book for a while, so I’m glad the opportunity presented itself on vacation. I was not disappointed; I couldn’t put the book down and finished before the cruise was over.

Normal Gets You NowhereCutrone’s straightforward attitude shined in this book, as she offers insights on topics including religion, empowering young girls and death. She holds nothing back and provides a fresh perspective on ideas that aren’t frequently challenged. Below are my favorite de-normalizing thoughts from Cutrone with my opinion mixed in.

  • Cutrone starts by telling everyone to figure out how they are sacred, magical and special. This is an individual truth that all must nurture and develop. In her words, “I want you to fuck the Earth with your energy.” We are each responsible for the energy we put out to the universe so we might as well put positive energy out there.
  • Next, she discussed the media and how society is overstimulated with ridiculous distractions. We should be challenging what is fed to us via the media, whether it be through traditional, digital or social channels. People are programmed to not dig deeper; we should ignore that programming and push the envelope.
  • In speaking about empowering young women, Cutrone talks about sexual repression and how we teach young girls to be coy but not how to be honest. Amen! All women should be comfortable talking about sex and empowered to say what they feel versus doing the norm.
  • I LOVED the chapter about holidays: Why celebrate and spend money on days you don’t believe in? Tailor holidays to your personal belief system and only back ideas you firmly believe in.
  • She describes life as a bank account: random acts of kindness and telling truths are the deposits. Kelly CutroneBeing stupid and messing with others are withdrawals. If we give more than we take, we progress. I couldn’t agree more with this concept. It ties back to the energy we put out there – the more good we put out, the more good we shall receive.
  • Your “no matter what” club: The people who you would do anything for, not because they’d do it for but because you want to; because your life would not be the same without them. Sometimes, these people disappoint you and don’t progress as quickly as you do. That is not a reason to discard them. Do not let your ambition get in the way of this group of people.
  • Lastly, Cutrone approaches the topic of death with clarity and vulnerability, speaking about her grandparents’ and father’s passings. As someone who is still grieving, this chapter was hard but necessary to get through. You should plan your death, who’s there and how you want your life to be celebrated. That’s the key – death should be a celebration of someone’s life.

I could write another 500 words about Normal Gets You Nowhere and all of the examples Cutrone provides about why being normal isn’t the best way to live. To that end, I want to thank Kelly Cutrone for putting it out there and challenging the stereotypes. I also want to thank all of the women in my life: my mom, grandmothers, girlfriends and colleagues, who have embraced being different and have lived their lives on their terms versus others.

I highly recommend Normal Gets You Nowhere – you’ll feel inspired to think and live in a more authentic way. If you have read the book, please share your opinions in the comments section!

Cruising is a Girl’s Best Friend

I spent last week cruising the Caribbean with one of my best friends. I’m not sure what I was more excited about: my unlimited drink package or being able to lay in the sunlight for hours at end. I just couldn’t wait to get away and unwind.

Grand Cayman

Grand Cayman

One thing we didn’t plan for on the cruise was spring break. Being a bit removed from the college life, we completely forgot that the March is when most colleges have their spring break. Lucky us! Our ship was filled with college seniors letting loose and partying one more time before graduation. Most would be annoyed by this rowdy bunch but I was intrigued. I never went away on spring break during college. I wondered if I was ever as carefree as the group of girls we made friends with. Maybe..?

One thing about being on a cruise: If you’re remotely friendly or social, you will have an entourage following you by the end of the vacation. We literally had all sorts of people hanging out with us throughout the cruise. What can I say; we’re a good time!

At one point during the trip, I believe our new friends referred to me as Oprah. What an honor! I was talking to them about life after graduation. There’s advice people beat into your head, mostly around finding a job, being financially responsible and not burning bridges. What they don’t tell you is that the hardest part about graduating college and becoming adults is transitioning your friendships. In college, everyone has the same goal: to make it out alive (aka to graduate). After college, those goals and priorities shift and look different for each person. You’re going to have friends who get married right after college, choose to go to graduate school and some who might be a little lost. I said this to my new friends from UGA and the reaction I

Some of our friends from dinner

Some of our friends from dinner

got was priceless. No one had ever said that to them. Admittedly, they are worried about their friendships, people moving away and life changing. As I talked to them with one of my college best friends next to me, I was honest: it’s hard, you’ll argue, breakdown, freak out and cry..a lot. But just remember, not everyone grows up at the same time. No one’s dreams should look the same. Understanding and respecting that is the key to holding on to those friendships post college.

I love vacations because it gives me a chance to reflect about life. If I didn’t meet these girls, I don’t know if I would have thought about how graduating impacted my friendships. I might not have realized how blessed I am to have friends who respect each other’s decisions and understand one another’s journeys. It wasn’t a vacation of a lifetime, but I got to push pause on reality, let my thoughts unravel, dance until the sun rose and unplug from technology.

Tell me about your most recent vacation! Any big revelations or did you make any new friends?

My favorite picture of Haiti

My favorite picture of Haiti

Disciplined Pursuit of Doing Less

As a follow-up to my post about being busy, I present to you Greg McKeown. He is an author who has been studying essentialism for over a decade. My colleague sent me this video last week and I’m hooked!

Greg’s words strongly resonate with me, as with many others who I work with. My favorite piece of advice is that you need space for thinking; thinking about what is truly essential in your life and then creating a plan for executing. Finding that space is the challenge.

Additionally, Greg hits the nail on the head on the art and challenge of saying no. It is painfully hard for me to say no to anyone: my family members, my friends, my boss, strangers, etc. What I liked about what Greg said is that saying no is a practice, it’s a muscle you can build. Thank God! Now it’s time for me to strengthen that muscle.

Share your thoughts on Greg’s video below. Can’t wait to read your comments once I’m back from vacation

Life Lessons From A Knee Immobilizer

A couple of weekends ago, the ice got the better of me and I fell on my knee. I’ve been hobbling around ever since. Luckily, my icy injury has been getting better, but moving around quickly is still not in the cards.

It wasn’t until my knee forced me to slow down that I realized how jammed packed my schedule is. I’ve structured my life in a such that there’s no wiggle room for injuries. There’s not much down time or white space. While I like it that way, when something goes astray, it’s scheduling gymnastics to figure it out.

slow downWhat my knee has done is allowed for time to reflect, something I should do more often and will now try to build into each day. Below are a few of the lessons I’ve learned while being immobile the last couple of weeks.

  • It could be worse: I’ve had days where I felt really sorry for myself. How did I manage to do this? The timing couldn’t be worse (in fact, it could). And then, I realize it could have been much worse, like cracking my head open or chipping a tooth.
  • My body, my temple: When your body functions properly, you totally take it for granted. It’s after your body fails, even if temporarily, that you realize how important each moving part is. For me, this mean refocusing on my health and fitness once this knee heels.
  • Every bite counts: Since I can’t exercise, I’ve notice that every last thing I eat matters. There’s no room for cheap meals or cocktails when you’re not burning calories. Also, thanks to a colleague, I’ve realized how bad sitting all day is. I hope to bring an exercise ball to work as an alternative to sitting all day in a chair.
  • #Blessed: This knee thing is a momentary setback. Others aren’t as fortunate and have permanent, life changing injuries. I have a newfound appreciation for those people because it can’t be easy.

Thankfully, my knee will heal and I’ll be back to running, yoga and Zumba in no time! I am glad that I was forced to slow down and reflect, something I need to do more often. Have you ever had an injury that slowed you down? Share in the comments!

Love & Other Drugs

Social media was flooded with two types of posts this past Saturday: people believing in love and people jaded by love. On one side, there were pictures of flowers, chocolates and jewelry. On the other side, cynical quotes tagged with #singlesawarenessday. So many emotions, so little characters, all for one day!

Valentine’s Day doesn’t phase me; it’s just another day on the calendar. If you’re not in a relationship, then maybe you should focus on the good relationships you do have – your parents, siblings, extended family and friends. Most think of love in terms of a romance, with a significant other. But there’s so many other types of love out there, why limit Valentine’s Day to a celebration of just romantic love?

SATCOne observation: most millennials are good about broadening this definition of love. Generally speaking, we’re not a generation hyper-focused on getting married and having babies. I’m not going to pretend that I know why or that I’ve done research that shows why. My best guesses are we’re more focused on bettering ourselves, finding a career that makes us happy versus makes us money and giving back. Also, we saw how our parents did it and might not want that for ourselves. Or maybe Carrie Bradshaw did have it right, that our girlfriends are the true loves of our lives.

I don’t want to generalize and say all millennials are waiting to get married or have babies. That’s not the truth. What I am saying is that there’s something about the 20 something female that is different in this generation versus past ones. The dating game has changed with the advent of Match.com, Tinder and the like. Also, the ability to Google anyone and anything might hurt our cause versus help it. Maybe technology has helped us create this barrier, this layer of protection, so we can somewhat hide behind a computer or phone screen. It makes us less vulnerable.

I’ll admit dating does intimidate me. I don’t like to be vulnerable and put myself out there. But, as the real lovesaying goes, no risk, no reward. I waver between understanding that statement and wondering if real, true love is sought after. If it’s meant to be, won’t it find a way? Or should I be searching for it on the Internet? I don’t have an answer yet but I do know I’ll figure it out in my own way on my own time.

Either way, however you look at it, wherever you are in the dating game, have an open mind and heart. I’m going to try and suggest you do that same. You know I want to hear your thoughts on this topic! Share away!

Honing Your Craft

Earlier this week, I was fortunate enough to attend the Training Magazine Top 125 expo and gala. I was one of ten people to be picked as a representative of my company. I’m so glad I was able to go!

At the suggestion of a colleague, I arrived in Atlanta early in order to attend the expo. I’ll admit I was a bit overwhelmed as I walked into a giant room with numerous training and development professionals. I wasn’t entirely sure where to begin. But, I knew my time was limited so I had to make the most of it!

I walked around the expo, looking at the booths and engaging with other professionals. I naturally gravitated towards booths that discussed the use of social media to enhance employee engagement and overall learning. As you can probably tell, I enjoy social media and am interested in how to use it more efficiently. My other favorite part of the expo was the pop-up bookstore that had tons of books at a discounted price. I came home with four new books to read!

The welcome message as we entered the gala.

The welcome message as we entered the gala.

I haven’t begun to distill down all of the information I received at the expo. That’s a full weekend project! The big takeaway for me was the importance of honing your craft. Even if you’re a more junior employee, it’s vital to invest in yourself. Raise your hand and ask for those developmental opportunities! For me, I’m not 100% sure what my craft is or the exact direction my career will go in (no one actually knows this). But I do know what interests me and how it can apply to the projects I’m currently working on. I’d recommend we all take a step back, figure out our interests, apply them to our project and then find different opportunities to build upon those skills.

Later that night, I attended the Training Magazine Top 125 Gala. What an incredible experience! It was

My co-worker and I all dressed up for the gala.

My co-worker and I all dressed up for the gala.

awesome to see other companies who value learning, development and training. It was also a good reminder of how much my company invests in its employees. Sometimes, we are so busy with our heads down that we forget what motivates us to do the work we do. My 24 hours in Atlanta was a reminder to keep my head up, looks for development opportunities that will help me hone my craft while also helping my team achieve its collective goals.

How do you invest in your professional self? Share in the comments section below!

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