Stories

Every one of us has a story we tell ourselves. Sometimes it’s the same one we tell others. Other times, it’s a slightly altered one. Or maybe even a different one. There are times when we even believe the story we tell others. There are some stories we believe ourselves.

Sometimes we don’t like the stories we tell ourselves. We talk to friends, who might help us see the story in a different light. Sometimes we believe them & change. Other times we stop talking to them.
“That girl I really hit it off with at the party won’t talk to me”. “Mate, she gave you her number and asked you to call her. Then you got piss drunk & ….”.  
“I never seem to be considered for a promotion, even though my boss knows how much I am willing to take up the opportunity. I think ‘they’ hate me so much as to sabotage every opportunity that comes my way.” “You didn’t even apply for the job.”

Other times, we need professional help.
Sometimes we can afford this help, sometimes not.
In either case, we tell ourselves a story about why it is so.

Some are great story tellers. We listen in rapt attention to their stories. In pubs, restaurants, coffee shops, sometimes even on public transport, you can see this play out every day.  Stop whatever it is you’re doing, take off your headphones & listen to the conversations going on around you. And if you’re alone, go back to the story you were telling yourself. These stories are rich in detail.

We all have friends who bend the truth while they tell their story. We know it because we were there in the situation they are describing, & It’s not exactly how we saw it. “Correcting facts in this moment is not appropriate, everyone’s having a great time” is the story we tell ourselves. Other times we do, & results in an argument, lost friendships, & sometimes tragically loss of life or limb.

Then sometimes we believe our own stories. We live our entire lives that way. Sometimes we find out the truth. & we are unshackled. Other times, it destroys everything.  See the newspapers for examples. Actually, don’t ever read the newspapers.

We sometimes write our stories & publish them. We categorise it – fiction, biographies, autobiographies. They’re all versions of the truth.

Job descriptions these days. Regardless of your career, “story-telling is a key skill” is the story that is told around the world. There are thousands of courses that claim to teach us how to story-tell with data.

Ad infinitum.

What’s your story?

Fear, that impostor, turns the possible into probable

You could hear the child’s screaming above the loudspeaker blaring announcements.

He was 7 or so, dressed in the event-issued jersey, looking like the 1200 other kids taking part at the annual TRYathlon event.  He was lost & terrified. Worst of all, he didn’t know how to find his mother.  A volunteer kneeled down beside him, trying to pacify him, & to walk him to the information marquee that was just a few metres away.

Two other things also happened simultaneously. The compere’s voice, calmly, announced that a mother was looking for her lost child.  The mother, wailing as loud as the child, with another little crying bub in her arms, rushed out of the crowd, from the direction of the information marquee. 

The tears & the wails continued loudly, but this time in happiness at the family reunion.

In the moment, there was a possibility that the child might never see his mother ever again.
In the moment, also, there was a probability that the child would be quickly reunited with his mother.

For the child, there was no difference between possibility & probability.
For the mother, fear triumphed for a brief moment – so there was no difference between possibility & probability either.

I saw them a little while later. The young fellow, with an ice-cream in his hand, sweat on his brow, and a medal around his neck,  was beaming from ear to ear at having completed his first ever TRYathlon. So was his mother.  Neither looked frightened.

Health Goals & Public Accountability

I made a new year’s resolution of exercising 5 days a week.

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    You know how it goes with new year’s resolutions:
    Before you know it, it’s the second month of the year. Life’s coming at you from all fronts. And to be honest, you weren’t quite clear why you made that resolution in the first place. So it falls by the wayside.

    That’s been my Standard Operating Procedure for a couple of … ahem, decades.

    While the human body has an amazing ability to heal itself, I’ve ignored several little signals I’ve had from mine over the last few years to stop testing that. Given my slow yet steady horizontal expansion, the not-so-subtle digs from my kids & wife about said expansion, & the annual reminder from my doctor to get more active, all of which I’ve ignored, I’ve a feeling this habit is long overdue.

    My resolution this year was to keep up at least one of my new year’s resolutions about my health. A couple of my colleagues have, quite likely without knowing it, been my inspiration for various reasons. Thank you Vicki & Alex!

    So, in the first week back at work this January, I accompanied Alex to the local gym. A week of consistent attendance, thanks to these New Year freebie offers, & then I actually signed up. Matt has been a fantastic trainer, keeping me on my toes, back, stomach… and pushing me just a little bit beyond my comfort zone. About six weeks in, I’ve kept up this exercise habit nearly every day. See here for pictures of my six-pack.

    Why bother sharing this?

    This is an experiment of sorts. Putting it out there apparently increases the odds that I will keep at this genuinely important personal goal. When I want to give up, quietly, there will be at least a few of you good people who’ll ask how I’m going on this journey, & I will probably hate to have tell you I failed.

    The second is a reminder to myself that it’s never too late to start on my (health) goals. This one was from my 2016 edition: it only took 4 years to work up the courage to walk into a gym. Luckily I’m still around to be able to pursue it.

    Do you have any goals that have taken a while to start?

    Also, a little inspiration of a different kind:

    Work that you love

    Is that an oxymoron?

    Really, if it’s work, can you love it?
    And if you love it, is it work?

    Pedantic questions aside, what is it that I really enjoy about my work?

    For much of my last two decades, my identity has been defined by my qualifications & work. In direct contrast to how I thought of myself for the previous two decades of my life. I loved art, music, life in general. I drew my energy from the world around me, from books, from sketching & cartooning, from spending time in nature, observing things around me, curiosity driving many of my questions, & driving the adults in charge mad. I loved solving problems, words, cross-words, puzzles & math. I loved the idea of travel, the idea of meeting my idols, the idea of learning new things.

    While I didn’t have much of a choice in the path I ended up on, it started a course of events in my life that didn’t make any sense at the time, but in retrospect, have been perfect. Maybe that’s the case of most people, if not everyone. For two decades,  I tried to find every avenue to learn & do things other than what I had “qualifications” to do. Not  being formally accountable  for these things was a double-edged sword: I could experiment with my learning, but I would forever remain a dilettante.

    Today, I find myself doing work I love. I get to work with words, help apply math to real-world puzzles & problems, to learn. I occasionally get to travel, & rather than just meet my idols, I get to meet amazing people every day.

    What isn’t to love?