Like most people, I love a good tale. Stories are one of the principal means we have of passing on knowledge and wisdom, as well as communicating meaning and feelings.
I heard a story the other day that was at once sad and uplifting. It has to do with dreams of success and how people should feel free to pursue their goals no matter what others say. It seems a seventh-grade teacher asked her students to write essays on what they wanted to do when they grew up. One of her students came from a rather poor background. His parents worked on a 200-acre ranch, with the father employed as a caretaker for the horses and the mother cleaning the big ranch house.
When the time came, the youngster turned his term paper in and waited for his grade. It took a few days but eventually the teacher returned the paper. He opened it and saw he had been given an F. He was puzzled and asked the teacher why. She told him his paper was unrealistic because his parents were essentially migrant workers with no hope of bettering themselves. She also told the boy that he probably wouldn't be able to afford college or be successful in any way because of his station in life.
The boy was stunned and asked what he could do to earn a better grade. She told him to think about it and submit another paper. He thought about that for a number of days and finally turned in another paper, but it was along the same lines as the first one. This time she gave him a D for effort.
A number of years later, that same teacher would take her students on field trips to visit various places and one of them was a large ranch owned by that same young man whose "unrealistic dreams" she had discouraged. Through perseverance and hard work the former student had made his dream come true.
This sort of thing is all too common. Too many people tell those who seek a better life or a new job or business that they are living in a fantasy world. The naysayers may feel threatened because they have tried something and failed or never tried at all. But nothing should stop those with enthusiasm and ambitions. Obstacles are just something to be overcome.
Anything is possible if someone is willing to put in the time and effort to make his or her dreams come true. Some of the fiercest competitors I have known in business and athletics are individuals who were told they wouldn't be able to do what they have done. Those of us who have had a measure of success know that getting there is half the fun, but, more importantly, it wasn't easy.
Nature has a way of enabling us to forget the bad times. Even the details and feelings of the good times are often lost in the haze of memory. Retelling the stories over the years can lead to embellishment. This is why I often tell people they should put their thoughts on paper relatively soon after an event in their career so later on, they can recall it for others and the stories can retain meaning for those who weren't there when the events took place.
Every organization needs to know its history, how it got to be the way it is today. This is the way that institutional culture and memory is retained and the organization's values are inculcated into later generations of employees. Often companies write books about their history and the people who made it happen.
Stories that are about overcoming the odds to achieve something are among the best. When used in a business setting, they can help motivate workers to meet organizational goals or to overcome a serious shortcoming. Instead of saying, "You ought to learn to be more outgoing with your colleagues," a manager might tell a story.
For example, if you have an employee with a communication problem, you could tell a story about a top executive who always made decisions without consulting with colleagues, creating a terrible morale problem because everyone believed she didn't have any respect for their opinions. One day a trusted colleague explained to her what was happening and told her that as the leader of the company, she should be more outgoing and direct with her key people. Soon after that, she involved her key people in all decisions, morale began to pick up dramatically in the whole company and the company's business outlook edged up year after year.
Isn't that approach better than simply criticizing someone?
If you truly want to achieve your goals and realize your dreams, it just might behoove you to learn how to make your point with stories. Writing them down helps keep them fresh for the retelling. If they are about a failure, it helps to know how and why things went wrong so they aren't repeated. If they are about a success, they can inspire others to do great things.
Dreams do come true,