Imagine yourself at a party. You’re relaxing in a chair by the fireplace when a guy in the adjacent chair starts making small talk. As you share a little about what you’ve been up to lately, your new friend leans in. He doesn’t want to miss a word of your story.
Soon you notice others nearby abandoning their own conversations to listen in. Your fascinating experience draws them in close. They don’t want to miss a thing.
What is it they find so interesting? What’s so amazing about you people can’t get enough of?
Maybe you’ve met someone like this before. Perhaps you’ve been a member of the crowd listening in as someone else shares their own real life epic. Your mind wanders back to their adventure as you sit at your desk waiting for your next meeting, or as you daydream sitting in traffic.
I guess the great stories are reserved for the lucky ones.
The “Fireside Chat” Test
Put yourself back at the party in the chair by the fire and think through the story you’d share about your own life. What goals are you working towards or have you accomplished lately? Where is your energy focused?
Is anyone listening in? Is a crowd starting to form?
I call this the “Fireside Chat Test,” and if you’re like most people you’re not drawing a crowd. In fact, there’s a good chance your new friend is glancing around the room for someone else to talk to instead.
If that sounds like you there’s a good chance you’re living a boring story.
I don’t mean that your story isn’t interesting, engaging, and fun for you. But I am saying that’s about the extent of the appeal. It’s missing purpose bigger than yourself. It’s missing the risk that creates great adventures.
Why We Live Boring Stories
If the story you’re living isn’t that interesting, I want you to know it’s not your fault (and you’re not alone).
Society teaches to take the safe route to avoid setbacks. Only pick battles you’re sure to win. Only start adventures you’re sure you can handle. You don’t want your tale to become a cautionary tale used to teach others to avoid risk!
Because of this we intuitively assume that awesome lives and great stories are utopias where the only problems we have are what the weather will be like at our beach house next week or how long your next boat should be.
But nobody would remember a story like that. Nobody would gather around the fire as you tell it.
Creating a Story Worth Living
I’m going to let you in on a secret. Nobody remembers an easy story. So if you’re hear looking for utopia, you’re in the wrong place. Great stories, the kind filled with meaning and adventure and significance, are built around a completely different set of guidelines.
Great stories have these three elements.
1) What you want must be difficult to attain.
The more difficult it is, the better the story. And the more difficult it is to attain, the bigger the reason behind why you want it has to be.
2) There must be a question of whether or not you’ll succeed.
This part is very simple, and very scary. The minute you start off on an adventure where the chance of failure is real, you’ll start to feel the resistance. You’ll find reasons to put things off for a while, or reasons the risk is simply too great.
If you hear those questions rattling around in your mind, just know that you’re on the right track.
3) It has to cost you something.
If you want to live a great story, it’s going to cost you. You must go through the pain of training for the marathon (and racing it). You must sacrifice relaxing with your family and friends to jump-start your business.
You must give up something of great meaning to you in the hopes that you’ll succeed.
Your Own Epic Story
Take a look at the story your life is telling right now. Does it have all the makings of a great adventure? Or are you picking easy battles and working to minimize risks?
Here’s what I want you to do. Answer this question on paper.
1) What is it you want to be / create / have three years from today? What is your BAG (Big Audacious Goal)?
Do you think your adventure will pass the “Fireside Chat Test”? Are you a little freaked out about starting? Good. You’re on the right track.
PS: If you know someone you think would benefit from this post, please share it with them! That’s how good ideas spread.