When I was a sophomore in college, I wrote a paper blatantly disagreeing with what my professor had been lecturing about all semester. The assignment was to write about how the class had changed my perspective. Instead, I wrote about how I disagreed with most everything that he had taught me. When I received the paper back, I failed — 0%, the worst grade I ever received in my history of schooling — and had a page-long note from the professor telling me I was ungrateful, snobby, and he didn’t understand how I had even gotten into college based on my shallow ways of thinking and I better set myself straight or else I would be a miserable failure in life.
I made copies of the papers and brought them to my academic adviser and the dean of the college — asking them if they were all right with professors force-feeding students opinions and failing them when they chose to disagree. The dead-panned faces of both my advisor and the dean agreed with my professor.
Immediately I dropped out of the “accepting” program I was in and entered into the world of professional writing, where I was greeted with open arms. Thankfully, I wasn’t graded on my opinions; I was graded on my participation, creativity, consistency, technique.
The rest is history.
That is just one of the defining moments of my time at college. I had many others: some good, some I’d rather forget. That moment taught me that it is okay to have beliefs and to stand up for them. It is okay to say I think this or that and not be told I am stupid and arrogant. It is okay to have an opinion. And that is something that I’ve carried with me from that day forward.
Last night, I went to a lecture where the speaker talked about the power of storytelling in business or in life. His book, “Lead With A Story,” gives example after example of stories that motivate and inspire, stories that have made changes to companies big and small, stories that define success and failure. He asked the audience what their story was. What story they could give to future employers, or a story they could use in their current jobs, or whatever. And here’s why:
Stories are easy to remember. It has been a form of communication for millennia. And, most of all, stories inspire others.
The speaker, Paul Smith, said, “If a story was meaningful to you, share it with someone. It may impact them, too.”
So, there you go, dear readers. That is one of my stories that have made me who I am today.
What is your story?