#86 What You Can Learn About Storytelling in Texas
A key lesson about personal stories from SXSW
I never thought I’d go to Texas. The large southern state with questionable politics was firmly on my “do not visit” list. But I’m not one to say never and believe it. So I found myself in Texas. As you may already know, I was in Austin earlier this month speaking at South by Southwest.
SXSW is many things, a film and music festival, a conference, a showcase, a destination, an experience—for me it was an opportunity to share the craft of storytelling with a wider audience and I felt lucky to be given the opportunity to go and participate.
But I found myself overwhelmed the first few days and unable to really enjoy that feeling of being away and in a new city and trying new things. There were hundreds of talks, panels, and events on any given day and I wanted to do it all. I was anxious about missing something vital and not getting the chance to experience so many of the amazing perspectives and insights from the people who went to share and connect. Between the festival, the conference, and the additional outside events, there were so many options and tracks. I couldn’t help but feeling like I was missing out even when I was in the middle of an amazing panel discussion on organization built on the blockchain. (Folks, I missed Brené Brown talking about her latest book my first night because I was too tired after my day of travel to venture out so I had good reason to want to make up for lost opportunities to meet an idol). Then I had a moment of clarity my second night and it was a simple one with a lot of impact on how the rest of my trip went. The path I’m on, the things I’m seeing are my story and I was missing it because I was letting FOMO get the best of me. I think it’s something we all do. I was missing the amazing story and experiences unfolding right in front of me because I was so focused on what I might be missing.
On one of my last days in the city, I decided to go for a walk in the afternoon and find a sit-down lunch rather than scarfing down a (delicious) shawarma plate between sessions and rushing off to the next thing. I made a trek to a bbq place that had a line out the door and ended up going somewhere that was a (quieter) local legend instead and getting a true experience of Texas BBQ. On that walk I cam across some of the most stunning scenes and moments of beauty (I shared some on my insta here). In making that choice to take a walk, I gave myself the chance to be present in my own story—to experience Austin and make room for quiet absorption and processing of all I’d seen and done in my days in Texas—from the strangeness of flying after two years to the delicious margaritas at the open air bar near my hotel. The unexpected delicious meals, the amazing view of city life from my hotel room and the late night live music that kept me up until well past 2am but also was somehow okay. All of it had become part of my story.
“be open to the story unfolding in front of me”
I also made the choice to miss the last day of the conference, rent a car and drive to a small town a couple of hours outside Austin and be a bit of a geek about brands for a day (I’ll be telling you all about this in an upcoming post). And it was the best choice I could have made for my life, my perspective, and my story.
So I guess the big lesson I learned about storytelling in Texas was to be open to the story unfolding in front of me in my life and let go of what might have been for the magic of what is being. Because in that presence you get to engage with the details of your story and be able to share it back in a way that creates strong connection between you and the people you choose to share it with. What’s happening for you today in front of you that is worth holding onto, storing away and putting away to be shared with a trusted person or community?
Stories are everywhere and they can come to life in ways that are magical if you make space for them. If you’re able to embrace the potential for stories in life and in you in your everyday.
A Story Well Told
Anita Li’s local publication, The Green Line, launches this Friday April 1st. And I cannot wait. It is is a hyperlocal Toronto-based news outlet dedicated to investigating the way we live to help young Torontonians survive and thrive in a rapidly changing city. It’ll be Toronto’s only independent, hyperlocal news outlet dedicated to serving gen Zs and millennials, as well as other underrepresented communities and is guided by their values of Action, Solutions, Community, Trust, Depth and Nuance. It is an entirely new way to approach media and I think will provide an important model for the future of news. Even if you’re not in Toronto, I think you’ll find it enlightening. Anita was featured in our Storytellers I Admire series where she talked more about what shaped and has inspired her approach to the publication. It is the culmination of her life’s work (so far) and I think you should check it out to see what that can look like. You can also follow them on all the socials if you’re curious and want to learn more: Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Facebook and Twitch.
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