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#103 - The Key to Ending a Story Well
Why It's Never a Straight Line to the End
Life is a meandering thing, isn’t it? At least that’s what I’m learning as I get older. In North American culture many of us were raised to expect somewhat of a straight line through life: birth, pre-school, school, more school, dating, job, marriage, house, kids, middle age, retirement. But I think we all get to a point in life when we realize, “oh, it’s not quite that straightforward.” And we have to then decide what to do with that knowledge. I think so many of us hit that point, if we hadn’t already, during the past two years. And now as we move out of the lockdown phase of things, we’re looking around, assessing, and trying to figure out what’s next. Where does our path go?
If like me, you left a job or set off on a new adventure in the past few years, you may be in a state of, “oh shit, now what?” I know I was for a bit even as I worked to build a business and supported clients through that feeling in their own businesses. Full disclosure, I don’t have the answer, but I can tell you what I’ve learned from stories. It’s simple really.
It’s never a straight line to the end. There are dips, deep valleys, and high highs; we spiral, circle back and find that we continue to move forward as ourselves changed by the many elements of our personal stories. If we’re lucky we get to take time to reflect, create, share what we’ve learned along the way and keep going.
So how do we navigate a path and personal story that sometimes feels a little like a roller coaster and hard to steer? Well, move toward the transformation. Be open to it. Oxford defines transformation as “a complete change in somebody/something.” In life the change is gradual but at the end of any story (or phase of life) that change needs to be complete in order for that story to resonate and do all the wonderful things stories do in life.
A good story follows the hero on a new path, a great story concludes with transformation of some sort. In fact if by the end something significant hasn’t’ changed, we haven’t quite told a story. Not yet. Because the lesson is in the transformation. It’s something I teach in all my introductory workshops and courses. If a story has a beginning, middle, and end, the key element of the ending is change.
It's so easy to write that but when we take that idea and apply it to the story of our lives it seems daunting. At least to me. I don’t do well with change or the unexpected (Type A, Virgo, enneagram five over here) and yet that is what life and the lessons it has to offer is often about.
I’ve shared in the past about the shape of your story, the many different structural forms a story can take and that was about getting to the end with impact and holding on to a through line as you do in the stories you create and share. I think the build on that lesson is simply to remember that the twists, turns, and switchbacks are part of the adventure and our job in our stories (both life and the ones we create or share) is to take the lesson from them and explore the transformation they’re leading to. What shape has your path taken and what kind of transformation have you experienced over the course of the past few years or even your longer life? Look back, reflect and share the wisdom you may discover in the comments.
A Story Well Told
Do you ever come across one of those Instagram (or TikTok) accounts that just utterly calm your nervous system? That give you a kind of simple, inexplicable enjoyment rare in the world of social media but so enjoyable. That is what Robert Lucas of @thesweetimpact. Reels from this self-taught cake baker and cake decorator and a source of true delight for me and I think may be for you. I save them up and then watch a bunch of them in a row. I don’t know who introduced me to him, but I am forever grateful to that person. Do you have accounts like this that just grab and hold you with the most straightforward content? I’m really into baking so that’s probably why this one does it for me, I’d encourage you to watch out for those creators on the internet who do it for you. It’s the simple things as they say.
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