Stories Don’t Tell Themselves

I have experiences that I didn’t know were stories until I started telling them.

For example, once or twice (or a few times) I slept in the luggage rack of a smoke-filled Greyhound bus near the wafting chemicals of the bathroom in the back as I traveled with my mom, two sisters and little brother across the country.

I used an outhouse at my Grandma Bee’s house in the South Valley of Albuquerque, NM when we drove down for a visit from our soggy home in the Pacific Northwest.

I used to watch my mom–who worked the night shift–struggle to wake up just to hear the stories about our day as soon as we got home from school.

I used to keep these stories to myself because I knew they were different from the stories of my peers. But later in life, I realized they were adventures that others were missing out on. They were adventures that gave me a unique perspective of life, a perspective that allowed me to see a variety of struggles that people face in order to succeed.

Would you like to use my grandma’s outhouse? Probably not, but that’s okay because they got a working toilet sometime in the 80’s. Actually, the whole house has since been torn down. But guess what? You just experienced that memory from the perspective of everything you know about outhouses. Experiencing that story adds to the way you see the world and may even contribute to helping you overcome your next challenge.

Everyone has a collection of stories that shapes them and colors their unique world views. These stories are the backstories of corporate success that exist in the office, on the shop floor, at the nurses’ station, on the construction site, on the production line, in the lab. They represent the values people express in the way they face everyday struggles as they try to meet performance goals.

Training programs that omit the struggles people face when trying to learn new skills, procedures, or equipment details lack the backstory that fuels people through conflict.

What stories are you omitting when you design training for your organization?

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