Step number two in the Three Step Story Process is to Connect. In this step you begin to draw parallels between what you have experienced and the lesson(s) learned.
Connect: What’s important about the list of times, places and words or phrases that you see before you? One way to jump-start the connecting process is to think about the values or ethics you learned at each stop along the way. What I learned that dark night in January of 1974 is that material things mean nothing when you have your family. I also learned to keep a pair of shoes next to my bed. Crunching through the hard-pack snow in your bare feet is no picnic!
Lessons don’t always come from happy, sad or the most significant events. A 10-second conversation with a stranger in Boston during the summer of 1981 taught me to follow my passion when it comes to my profession. The stranger was the NHL Bruin’s play-by-play man at the time, and I recall asking him what his secret to broadcasting longevity was. He pulled my Windsor-knotted tie close to his face, and breathed “You have to love what you do, unconditionally and with all the passion you can muster!” Like many twenty year-olds, I quickly forgot that lesson, and had to re-learn it the hard way in the years since.
Once you have connected moments, events and places from your past to the lessons you learned along the way, it’s time for the third and most critical phase of the Three Step Story Process. As a sales coach asked me many years ago, “Who cares?” It’s time to Apply.
Apply: I’ve written some great stories over the years, but more of them end up in the wastebasket because of Step Three. You must be able to apply the learning from your story to a present-day challenge or situation. Stories are great for helping yourself and others adapt to change. Take the house fire that forced my brother, sister, Mom, Dad and me to flee into that January night. That event didn’t happen gradually, it happened in a matter of seconds. The application of the story is that no matter how entrenched we feel in our habits, ways or thoughts, we can be moved to action instantly by crisis. Crisis can break us, or it can clarify our thinking with searing insight. Answer the Application question by asking yourself “Why does this matter to me? What can others gain from hearing this story?”
Perhaps you don’t have a house fire in your past. Frankly, that’s not a bad thing. No doubt you have a funny story about a sibling, or your first job, a crazy third-grade teacher or a boss with whom you couldn’t communicate. The important thing about your stories is to tell them. Not everyone in the business world can relate to bar graphs, spread sheets or revenue projections. Everyone can relate to a well-crafted story that comes from your authentic ability to Reflect, Connect and Apply.