A couple of weeks ago, I was blessed to have a pleasant Zoom conversation with Gabrielle Dolan, an inspiring Aussie storyteller, author and speaker among many other talents.
What I intended to be a chat around #storytelling quickly and naturally branched to other interesting topics including the work I do around innovation, data, and the nomadic life I personally lead across cultures and borders. And it was exciting to listen to Gabrielle telling me the story of her own professional journey, a journey she has started years ago when the term #storytelling was still “too playful” for the corporate world. And I found it a journey of continuous growth that inspired me to make many notes on and also take some immediate actions.
Days later, and while I was still reflecting on Gabrielle’s valuable thoughts and advice, it dawned on me that the conversation has actually reminded me of four inspiring principles about approaching business and life in general:
First: Generosity and willingness to help others are traits of highly successful people.
Sometimes, as in this chat with Ral (this is how Gabrielle prefers to be called), we can see this generosity in their genuine interest and readiness to share with others the knowledge and experience they’ve accumulated through years of learning and hard work. And they are happy to do so in a pure non-transactional manner, they don’t expect or ask for a favour in return. And I intentionally refrain from labelling this as “pro bono” because such label makes this noble behaviour “more professional less human”. Instead, I believe it’s just a beautiful part of the personality of such successful people.
And this is exactly how I felt during my chat with Ral, there was no pre-set agenda, just a natural engaging convo that kept progressing from one topic to another thanks to Ral’s keenness to share her thoughts and advice.
Second: In our continuous pursuit of success, happiness or whatever goals we set for our lives, we should proactively reach out to those who have actually made it and ask them this simple question: how did you do it?
Sometimes, this can feel a bit intimidating or challenging considering how far those high achievers might be in their journey compared to your own. You might be still struggling to write the first chapter of your journey, and they’ve just published their 6th book.
It doesn’t matter, just ask!
I’ve learned that asking this question and seeking inspiration from such role models can save me a lot of time and effort, and can help me avoid making unnecessary mistakes. It’s not about copying their journey, but learning from it and aiming at imitating their successful steps in a creative way that suits my own journey.
And whenever you feel a bit challenged or hesitant to send that email, just remember the first lesson you’ve just read!
Here’s a beautiful Arabic proverb that might encourage you to adopt this habit:
العلم يُؤتى ولا يأتي
Knowledge doesn’t come to you, you go to knowledge.
Honestly, all I did was dropping Ral an email asking for that Zoom chat! I took the opportunity she offered in her newsletter.
But asking this question itself is not enough, which lead me to the following two principles learned from chatting with Ral.
Third: be prepared to actually listen.
Yes, asking for advice and inspiration can be useless if you are not welling to listen. What I mean is to join the conversation with open heart and mind, absorb the new knowledge and viewpoints that are presented to you. You don’t have to agree with all what you hear, but you must be welling to challenge your own stories and assumptions that you brought with you to the conversation. When you have that mentality, you have a better chance in spotting the value in the ideas being shared with you.
I personally consider a feedback one of the most precious things anyone can offer me. It can be a joyful complement or an irritating criticism, yet I learned to sideline my feelings and focus on the actual words and leverage them to be a better person.
At some point in the conversation,Ral paused and suggested something I found very interesting. Instead of focusing my energy on progressing as a professional storyteller, she pointed out that I’ve something more unique and valuable that I can bring to the world … to be a “universal cultural adaptor”.
As an outcome of continuous nomadic life across borders and cultures, and the current “tale of two cities” lifestyle I’ve been leading for years, I’ve developed this ability to easily navigate across different cultures and handle situations in which cultures tend to converge or even “collide”. In many situations like this, I watched people struggle and business deals collapse! For me, such situations are source of joy and excitement!
Storytelling, according to Ral can be the tool I use to help cultures be friends!
Finally: Take action.
All the above is helpful and fun but now you actually need to do the real work, and put it all into action. This is essential if you want to develop the trait of being “coach-able” and keep growing. You just need to ensure that this particular action you are taking is in sync with your master development plan.
In less than an hour after the conversation with Ral, I signed up to the Foundation program at Thought Leaders, and I’ve already started realising its value!
These four principles are not totally new to me, I’ve encountered them through my life in some way or another. But somehow, Ral managed to package them all in one 30 min session via Zoom.
What I expected to be a chat about storytelling, turned out to be an inspiring and beautiful reminder of these four principles.
Thank you Ral again for your generosity with your time and wisdom, and for having this conversation during these tough lockdown times in Melbourne. Stay safe!