Everyone has stories. They come from the core truth of who we really are. I think it’s important to live and be who we really are, regardless of our immediate surroundings. I am the same Al whether I am in the office, at home or in my Villanova classroom. You don’t get a different version of me depending on where you interact with me.
As leaders, it’s especially important to embody that sense of who we really are, and to support that in those that work with us. The better and deeper you know your teammates, the more synergy you will have as a team. Understanding their story is the key to understanding who they are.
Go ahead – share it!
I think there is an unspoken rule that says we shouldn’t share our personal stories except in the context of a personal relationship. But I disagree with that. Having a career or volunteering in your community can’t erase who you really are at your core. Rather than hiding part of yourself, be your authentic self at work—especially if you can share your passion for what you do. It can make you more successful at what you do, and it helps those around you understand you better.
The cornerstone of my story
Regular readers of Front and Centered won’t be surprised that my story centers around family and self-reflection. I work hard, I am an active member of my community and I enjoy all that I do, but nothing will ever be as important or have a greater influence on me than my family.
My career often takes me on the road. I enjoy the travel, and I love engaging with clients, prospects and teammates.
I also like the time it gives me to reflect—usually about my wife and kids, because I miss them when I am on the road. I also think about what kind of dad and husband I am; what I do well, and what I wish I could do better.
But last week on the road was different. It was the anniversary week of both of my parents’ passing: my mother passed 40 years ago, and my father 29 years ago last week. It doesn’t matter how much time has gone by, this week is always a tough week for me. I miss them terribly, and spent a lot of time thinking about them. Now that I have my own kids, I wish I could ask them for advice, or have them over for a sleepover with their grandchildren.
But after a few minutes my mind shifts from missing them to remembering them. I am moved from tears to smiles.
I have great memories of my parents and all the good times we had. I remember as a kid, staying up late—even on school nights—just sitting and laughing with my mother. We watched Johnny Carson together. I imitated people in our family just to make her laugh. She would laugh so hard she would cry.
I remember cooking breakfast with my father, or walking home from practice and reading the sport scores together (this was before ESPN—he would have loved that network). Every Saturday, I rode my bike to a local Restaurant called Jems to meet him for lunch after he got done with work. We talked about life, school, friends, sports, my daily chores—anything or nothing.
These memories are a cornerstone of my own story.
Your story is part of a long legacy
Losing my parents has helped me understand the power and importance of stories, because they bring our memories to life. For example, my kids only know my parents through my stories. Without them, my kids would not understand the legacy my parents have instilled in me, and that I in turn pass onto them. My parents’ brand and legacy lives on through my stories.
Look for lessons in your story
It’s always tough to lose people in your life. When I lost my mother and then my father, I realized nothing was forever. Their loss has taught me to enjoy the moment, not hold grudges and not take any time for granted. It has also made me appreciate the good moments over the bad moments – those are the memories you keep with you for a lifetime. It’s also made me understand the power and importance of stories to express our “who we are.”
Your life is your story – to be continued
We all have stories to tell and every day we continue writing them through our actions with our family, our teammates and society. Are we living a life that we would be proud to have our children share with their children? You tell me. What’s your story?