A New Year, A New Story
Most of us spent most of 2018 talking about how terrible the world was, because our eyes were open and we saw the horrors. Children in cages. Cities under siege from tsunamis and hurricanes, while our President bragged about the size of his nuclear button on Twitter.
This is a new year. And I’m going to call on us to tell a new story. No less true. But so much more powerful.
Let us tell, literally, a better story.
Let us tell stories about the children of Stoneman Douglas following in the great tradition of young John Lewis and Andrew Young, a tradition dating back to David with a slingshot, a tradition that reminds us our children will always lead us to better days, and better days are always ahead.
Tell stories about the historic new Congress, including the most powerful woman ever elected to office, the first Muslim congresswomen, the first Native American congresswoman. Remember that they followed the first African American president, who lit the White House in rainbow colors when gay marriage became legal across the country.
Stories Become History
Tell good stories because the stories we tell tend to become true. The more we talk of division, the more divided we become. The more we talk of fear, the more we become afraid. Every time you tell a story of doom and despair, you bring the darkness closer. Every time you talk of anger, you create anger. But when you talk of light, you create light.
Tell good stories because when we are told “you are weak,” we become weak. But when we are told “you are strong,” we become strong. When told, “you can do this,” we can do it.
Don’t look away from the suffering. Indeed, lean into it. The purpose of every story is transformation, and we cannot transform without struggle and effort and pain. It is the pain that makes transformation possible.
Don’t Shy Away From Suffering…
This doesn’t mean to tell false stories. Indeed, don’t shy away from suffering, because it is part of every story. Indeed, the point of a story is transformation, and we cannot transform without struggle and effort. In fact, it is in the struggle and the effort and the sweat and the pain, that we become better than we are, we become who we are meant to be.
Remind your children that one generation ago, we never talked about homosexuality or trans issues. Congressman John Lewis had to fight to be allowed to sit at a drugstore counter. We were terrorized by the possibility of a nuclear attack.
Remember that for most of human history, in every country, it was legal and standard practices for rulers to slaughter any citizen who disagreed with them, and while we still have work to do, the work that is before us is nothing compared to the work that is behind us.
Remind your child that once she could not walk, and now she can weave with a soccer ball through a line of defenders and pivot left and plant her foot and drill a ball into the back of the net. Tell her this story to remind her that what is true now will not always be true, and whatever her strength today, it is nothing compared to the strength she will wield in the future.
…It’s Part of The Story
In fact, the more often you tell stories about setbacks, the more powerful you become, and the more you empower others.
So tell your employees about the time you worked for six months on a huge government pitch, only to discover that the process had been rigged all along.
Tell your child about the first time you took the PSATs, and the principal sent a note home to your parents telling them you would never get into a good college.
Remind us that NASA seeks out astronauts who have failed, because NASA knows that when you are going into space, the one thing you know is that at some point everything will go wrong, and you need an astronaut who can be brave and strong and thoughtful in a crisis.
Tell us that in every story, in every movement, in every era, abyss happens. But that doesn’t mean we are failing. That just means the story is still being told.
It is not our job to predict the future. It is our job to create the future.
Remind everyone you speak to, every day, that it is not our job to predict the future. It is our job to create the future.
Remember that every great leader and every great movement began with a vision of a better world for all the people who heard the tale.
Tell good stories.
Tell true stories.
And if you don’t like what is happening around you, then your charge is so simple.
Change the story.