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A Taste Of My Own Medicine

Can you remember a time when you received advice that you didn’t want to hear, but it turned out to be for your improvement? Well, it was my turn to be the recipient this past week…and it was so much more effective because the messenger used my methods to reinforce the delivery!

I will admit to having reached a time in my life when personal comforts with only small amounts of resistance are important to me. (As you can readily imagine, I am often disappointed.)

This past week, I had a meeting with one of my mentors. As I mentioned in one of my earlier postings, I have an Advisory Board of mentors, each of whom responds to a different aspect of my life.

At our most recent meeting, my mentor had an uncomfortable message to deliver. He knew that it was one that I didn’t want to hear and one for which I had prepared a litany of justifications for not pursuing. (I didn’t, and still don’t, consider these justifications to be frivolous. They do, however, keep me firmly in my comfort zone.)

Since this is of an intensely personal nature for me, I hope you will forgive my not going into details. Suffice it to say that my mentor felt strongly that he needed to find a way to reach me…to have me give his words serious consideration.

Yes, he did it by telling me a story.

My purpose in writing about this today is not to tell you that I was so influenced that I immediately consented to the suggested change. I’m still considering the aspects…and I do like my comforts.

What I found to be impressive is that I am considering the change at all. My mentor was right in his approach. I wouldn’t have heard his advice.

His story, however, touched me emotionally. In the days since, I have thought about the lesson over and over again. It comes to me unbidden at unusual times and I find myself pondering what I should do.

As corporate storytellers, this is often the most that we can hope to achieve. Changing a cherished or desired belief is not an easy thing for our audience to do. Sometimes, the best we can hope for is to have the thought “Can she be right?” come to mind from time to time. Slowly…gradually, we either become motivated to change, or we put the possibility on the back burner.

Stories can do that. They can provide the emotional link that reaches deep into us and allows us to question, while the logical approach can be easily deflected.

I’m currently reading Ayn Rand’s ATLAS SHRUGGED. It’s one of those books that I probably should have read during my college years because I can imagine the coffee house debates it would have stirred. Somehow, none of my professors thought to assign it, and the daunting length is enough to give many potential readers a moment’s pause.

Upon further reflection, I don’t know that the story would have had as much meaning to the person that I was in college. With retirement lurking much closer than the budding start of a youthful career, the book has touched experiences that would not have been present…or not as readily recognized…”in my younger and more vulnerable years.”

What I find so enthralling about ATLAS SHRUGGED is the extent of its influence on me. In many ways, its philosophy is the polar opposite to my firmly held values of how people should be respected and treated.

And yet…

I find myself understanding, appreciating…and caring for…the opposing view. I am in the hands of a master storyteller, and she has me completely wrapped up in the lives of the profit-seekers. They are human, too, and their motives have much to recommend them.

In short, my interpretation of these cold-hearted people is strongly influenced by my being critically judgmental. Would I have Henry Reardon over for dinner? No, probably not. We’d spend too much time staring at each other without uncovering a common thread of conversation.

But, I’d have to think very, very carefully about endorsing a practice that would restrict him. That’s a bit of a different “me.”

It was the emotional bridge of great storytelling that reached me.

Thank you for reading.

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