Here’s a brief little exercise that may come in handy the next time you’re toiling over what decision to make:
Imagine your future self. You’re sitting in a comfortable rocking chair as you reflect back on the years you’ve lived. Now imagine having little grandchildren sit on your knee as they look into your eyes with wide-eyed curiosity. Imagine them saying “tell me some stories about the things you did when you were younger.”
What will you tell them? Will your stories be interesting? Will they be fun stories to tell? Will your stories inspire them to dream? Will your stories inspire them to look at life as if it’s an adventure? Will there be any failures in your story? Will there be any spaces of breathtaking suspense? Will there be any moments of redemption? Will there be any plot twists?
I read a lot of success stories. As you probably already know, there are tons of articles written about the traits that successful people have in common. What’s most interesting to me, however, is that nearly all of these stories were inspired by other stories. People who have amazing stories tend to be significantly influenced and inspired by other people who have amazing stories. It’s not the success that makes the story. It’s the story that makes success.
In my latest book, Why Haven’t You Read This Book?, I told the story of how I auditioned for American Idol. I also told the story of how I went on an episode of Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader and I literally got the first question wrong. I recently received messages from my brother and his wife about how my niece recently read my chapter of the book and feels inspired by my experiences.
I failed at American Idol. I failed at Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? But guess what? I’m still alive and well, and more importantly, there’s a young girl back home who feels a little less afraid of failure, a little more amused at life, and a little more inclined to live her own adventure because of my story.
Your life is a story too. You’re writing a new page with every choice you make. Someday in the future, someone is going to ask you to tell your story. Can you imagine how uninspiring and incoherent that story is going to sound if all the choices you made were based solely on what you thought was the safe thing to do?
Your future audience deserves more than that. You deserve more than that. Go after something that truly enraptures you. Take at least one big chance for something that fires you up. Live a story that’s going to be ridiculously fun to tell.