My life is over.
I’ve hit the bottom.
I don’t know what to do.
Please help me.
This is what Pema Chödrön told Trungpa Rinpoche at the end of her very first interview with him. The interview happened at a point in her life when everything was falling apart and she felt a complete failure.
Trungpa Riponche responded with the following advice:
It’s a lot like walking into the ocean and a big wave comes and knocks you over. And you find yourself lying on the bottom with sand in your nose and your mouth. And you’re lying there, and you have a choice. You can either stay where you are or you can stand up and keep walking.
You stand up because you know that if you stay there you’ll die. The waves keep coming, but you keep cultivating courage and going forward.
And after a while it will begin to seem to you that the waves are getting smaller and smaller, and they don’t knock you over anymore.
As Pema Chödrön says in her book it’s not that the waves stop coming but rather that you get better at holding the rawness of vulnerability in your heart.
I’ve heard entrepreneurs telling this story but also freelancers, creators, managers, meditators and people who help others to heal their trauma. The funny thing is that the story was initially conceived as a commencement address to graduates.
All these people easily relate to this story because it talks about something as human as failure in a very visual way, using images and experiences that we’re all familiar with like waves, sand, and the ocean.
I’m sure that when Pema Chödrön wrote this story she wasn’t thinking about advising entrepreneurs, or that Seth Godin would write the foreword to her book, but somehow the story resonated with all of them.
Partly it’s because she wanted to connect with how it feels to fail. She could have chosen to give an explanation of the Buddhist meaning of failure, but instead she told a story instead about how failure feels. And she made it personal.
Every time I read this and many other stories I think about all the time I’ve wasted trying to make people understand something I care about instead of reaching out to connect with them. How many times I lost the opportunity to tell a story that could have helped people to experience an emotion that might have changed how they see things.
Not being heard and understood is painful.
I’ve always believed that we tell stories to connect, not for the results. And this requires a different mindset and a different process.
Scott Perry and I have launched a mini workshop that can help you to move from explaining what you do to connecting with others through a story that resonates with the right people , you can check our workshop here and consider if you want to join.
Change happens not when people understand, but when they feel connected to what you have to say. If in doubt, choose to connect rather than to be understood. People will feel that you care, and it will be easier to create action around it. #storytelling #connection #failure #understand