Story versus Status

From the Praxis blog.

I’ve written before that I like to ask people when I meet them, “What’s your story?”  It’s more interesting to me than typical questions about education, major, city of origin, job title, or sports team.  All of these things might play a part in their story, but story implies something much broader and more personal.  It’s the narrative of your past, present, and expected future.  It’s the drama of your own life as you see it playing out.

When I think of the most interesting and talented people I know, I think of their story.  I don’t think of their status.  “Oh, he’s a graduate student” is a status.  So is, “Married, salesperson, lives in Ohio”, or, “Studying business at USC”.  A status is a static snapshot of a handful of labels attached to a person based on some institutions or external standards.  It conveys nothing really unique that gets to the core of the person, or the animating force behind their actions and ideas.  There is no passion in it.  No sense of direction and creativity.

Your story is fun, entertaining, unexpected, and lively.  It’s the narrative arc of your life, your motivations, your goals, what wakes you up in the morning, and why you do what you do.  It’s not a summary of past accomplishments or even current activities.  It’s not a hobbies list.  It’s a description of the theme playing out in your world.  If you described the movie The Matrix with the typical cocktail party status approach it’d be a few bullet points like, “Guy quits job.  Trained in martial arts.  Solved agent Smith problem.  Reads code”.  Contrast that to the inspiring, unforgettable power of the same facts in story form.

If I sent you a few bullets on schools attended or subjects studies, would they be as compelling an intro as something like, “She’s the girl who is obsessed with word-play and since childhood has been trying to be a well-known writer”, or, “He’s the guy who left his desk job to climb mountains barefoot because he was so tired of all his health problems”, or, “She’s the girl who’s trying to figure out how to use design to improve people’s moods”?

You are living a story.  What is it?  The sooner you stop defining yourself by your status, the sooner you can spot the beautiful narrative you’re creating and communicate it to others.