Speaking of Leadership Part Three – 5 Messages that Matter from Storyline


We are part of a bigger story.

Recently I attended the Storyline Conference in Nashville, TN lead by Don Miller, author of the best-selling book, “Blue Like Jazz”. I’m not going to recap the entire event in this blog post but I do highly recommend the conference. You will see your story in a new light and learn how to create the narrative that will guide your life. Besides, I could never do it justice. If you’ll indulge me for a few minutes however, I do want to call on a few ideas that I took away from the experience and reflect on what they might mean for those of us who lead or just want to live a bigger story.

“Tell people who they are, not what they want” ~ Bob Goff, Author of “Love Does

If you ever hear Bob Goff speak you’ll never forget it. His message of love and action pushes you way out of your comfort zone and his energy level would put the Duracell bunny to shame. Everyday we are bombarded by messengers who tell us what we should want. The message is that we are missing something. Some “thing” or experience or level of faith or other piece of the puzzle that will somehow get us a little bit closer to the life we “really” want and help to be the “person” we always wanted to become.  The people you come in contact with every day are hearing those messages over and over. Maybe you are to. What if instead of talking to people about what they want we told them who they already are.

When was the last time someone spoke that into your life? What if I told you that you are an amazing human being, full of love and capable of creating an amazing story with your life. If I could help you believe that and embrace it. How would your life be different tomorrow? How would your story change? Then what if you believed that to the point where it just overflowed from your heart into the lives of others so that you spoke that same truth to them and helped them to know who they really are beneath the fear, shame, guilt, etc. that keeps us from fully expressing our uniqueness. Can you feel that?

“Our calling is to love the world not to change it.” – Becca Stevens

Ah this is a tough one for leaders. We’re all about changing the world, leaving our mark, making an impact, you know, all that stuff. Don’t get me wrong, I love those messages and I want them too. Yet, these words made a powerful impression in me. Could we have it backwards? Don’t be fooled, Becca is changing lives and changing the world, but for her that’s not the goal, it’s something that happens when love is your calling. Through her work with Thistle Farms women are restored from lives on the streets and given a chance to rewrite their story.

So here is the question, what if you decided to change your mantra from “I want to change the world” or “I want to make my mark” to “I am going to love people and give myself to improving the lives of my fellow human beings”? Where could that kind of focus take you? I think someone like that might just change the world. In fact, I bet they always do.

“The most powerful moments in a person’s life are the moments in which they realize what they are capable of.” – Ryan Forsthoff, The Leadership Foundation

OK, I’m just going to go on record that this simple message totally knocked my socks off. I’m not kidding. I had to pick them up like three rows behind me.  I know this isn’t a brand new idea and has been said in other ways by other people but for me this had profound significance. You see, I started out as a school teacher and I absolutely loved the “ah-ha” and the “I really did it!” moments. When I moved into a new career as a business leader I found out that I still loved and longed for seeing those moments in others. Does that feel true for you? Here’s another great quote from Ryan…“I will pursue you because of what I see in you.” I mean don’t we all crave that?

As leaders what if we really tapped into that out of a heart of service? Just going all out to help people find out what they are capable of. It might just knock your socks off…and theirs too….and your family’s socks…and your customers socks…and your shareholders socks…well you get the picture, socks everywhere. Did I mention this is Socktober?

“Just Ask” – Jia Jiang, 100 Days of Rejection

This one is a double whammy for me. A. I am an introvert and 2. I’m a guy who won’t ask for directions. Jia had the courage to leave his well-paying corporate gig to try to start his own company but then he came up against his nemesis, “rejection”, when a key investor turned down his business proposal. It almost killed his dream. To overcome his fear he decided on a course of massive action. He decided to go out every day for 100 days and face rejection. And he was rejected. The surprise was how often his requests were granted, even some that were quite outrageous. He learned that to get what you want you have to ask. Rejection is hard but it can be overcome. “In running away from rejection we end up running away from ourselves.”

An important way we can develop ourselves and others is to build our “rejection muscles”. To realize all that is possible for us and our organizations we have to be willing to ask. What have you been avoiding doing that might change your life because you are afraid to ask? Are your people just waiting for you to ask so they can show you what they are capable of?

“Great stories like great lives are clear.” – Don Miller

Don loves to equate life to the elements of story. When we don’t know what the character wants in the story it bogs down. When you think about great books or great movies it’s always very clear what the key character in the story wants and the story becomes about how he or she overcomes some conflict to get it. There are so many options available to us in our world today. So many things we could be doing. Things that seem good. It’s easy to weed out the things that harm us or keep us from our goals but what about the good things? What about things that just keep us busy or distracted because they are interesting or they seem to be more exciting than the path we’re on. It’s so easy to lose our way. I love shiny objects. I need one of those beepers that goes off when I’ve fallen into the internet and I can’t get up.

Organizations are similar. People are seeking clarity. What are we about? What are we trying to accomplish? What do we need to do to get there? Leaders clarify. It is our job to remove all the extraneous noise and focus on the critical elements that will help us build a great story, together. What are some “good” things you have allowed into your life that are keeping you from clarity? Can the people in your organization tell you what the story is about? Do they know where this is headed? If you clarified it for them, they just might decide they want to play a part.

The message of storyline is that you can edit your story. Whatever has happened. Wherever you are.  Your story is still yours to write. It doesn’t have to turn out the way others tell you it should or the way it has in the past. You can start today to build a better story, for yourself, and for the people you serve. For more on Storyline check out http://storylineblog.com/.

“Every day is an opportunity to improvise.” – Tripp Crosby

The Journey One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice—
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world
determined to do
the only thing you could do—
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Mary Oliver

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

13 thoughts on “Speaking of Leadership Part Three – 5 Messages that Matter from Storyline

  1. carolburbank says:

    Reblogged this on Lead Me On and commented:
    In this blog, Elumn8 shares five “aha” moments from a Storyline Conference in Nashville, TN. It’s a wonderful mix of good advice, inspiration and challenge, and a lot of fun — especially ending with my favorite poet, Mary Oliver! Reminded me of my own interdisciplinary work, working with core stories. I believe story in business and personal leadership is about a lived experience, not something you tell. These tips — get rejected! – wow! — made me think of that. In order to shift our leadership story, we need to take action, live the story, challenge the habitual story that keeps us stuck by challenging our stuck places! I like the conclusion: “The message of storyline is that you can edit your story. Whatever has happened. Wherever you are. Your story is still yours to write. It doesn’t have to turn out the way others tell you it should or the way it has in the past. You can start today to build a better story, for yourself, and for the people you serve. ” It takes guts and self-awareness to edit your lived leadership story but it’s well worth it!


  2. Scott, chiming in late here, but wanted to say that this is one of your best posts, loaded with heart and wisdom. I can only imagine the experience you had being in the conference. We’re most certainly writing our story every day we’re still alive. What I’ve learned is that the less I’m concerned about writing it the way it’s supposed to be, as if there’s some objective “right” way it should turn out, the more interesting and mine it becomes. Also, your post made me think of one line from one of my favorite authors/teachers, Robert Holden: If you feel there’s something missing in your life, it’s probably you. Thank you for sharing your heart and depth of reflections here.


    • scott_elumn8 says:

      Thanks for joining the conversation Alice. Always appreciate your insights and wisdom. Love the quote you added. So true. We are prone to look elsewhere when the answer is already inside us if we will listen.


  3. What a wonderful perspective- to reflect who someone is instead of adopting the attitude of “here’s what you want/what I want from you”. I can only imagine if my boss were to say to me, “this is who you are- embrace it!” Very empowering!



  4. I love this post! It’s so uplifting and encouraging to the reader because it invites us to just BE! I’m one of those who gets wound up thinking I need to accomplish this and that to be successful, etc. This post was like a breath of fresh air…maybe all we’re called to do is simply love where we are and who we are in this world.

    BTW, ending with Mary Oliver poem was truly inspired!


    • scott_elumn8 says:

      Thanks LaRae – I loved writing this post and attending this conference. I can be tempting for me at times to focus on what I see wrong with rather than focus on what is already right. These messages were very encouraging reminders of who we are and what is possible.


  5. […] Speaking of Leadership Part Three – 5 Messages that Matter from Storyline by Scott Mabry […]


  6. You’re on a roll with this series of amazing posts Scott. Bravo! : )

    ‘What if I told you that you are an amazing human being, full of love and capable of creating an amazing story with your life.’

    Then instead of our insides locking up tight in resistance or needing to figure out how to walk on eggshells next because once again, we aren’t accepted for who we are in this moment and once again…being told we don’t measure up unless we meet someone else’s expectations…we’d finally relax a little bit. Perhaps even sigh…deeply.

    Perhaps we’d be able to conserve some of that valuable life force energy that can be devoted to more creative means since we aren’t having to utilize it to protect ourselves from yet another psychological attack mimicking ‘The Borg’ who keeps droning out…’Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.’

    In a nutshell, life on this planet boils down to this. ‘Can you be you without hurting me? And can I be me without hurting you?’

    Loved every point you made in your post. Especially the part about facing rejection.

    Especially loved that you used Mary Olivers poem to wrap things up at the end. Great choice. : )

    Thanks for sharing Scott. Always a treat to read your posts.


    • scott_elumn8 says:

      Thank you Samantha. You are so right about conserving energy. We burn so much of it trying to keep up the the performance that we believe is required for our acceptance. Imagine the power and joy we could experience in a community of people who had decided to embrace who they really are and accept that in one another. Always appreciate your support.


  7. Alli Polin says:

    Sounds like the conference left a mark on you that is far an wide. Thank you for sharing some of the stories and why our stories matter – as windows into who we are, not only what we do.

    For years I facilitated a training class on workplace behaviors and everyone had a secret coach to engage everyone forward the learning of other participants. We ended with certificated and unveiling the secret coach (they handed out the certificates) They said two statements about their person in the course: “You are ______ ” “My wish for you is ______” The first let them know that their hearts were seen and known and the second was truly championing who they are and cheering them on to create their story.

    Love this post, Scott.


Please join the conversation...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 11,589 other followers

%d bloggers like this: