Metaphors Are Dangerous

Source: Goodreads.com. (2019). G. Willow Wilson Quotes (Author of Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1). [online] Available at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/815259.G_Willow_Wilson [Accessed 31 Aug. 2019].

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Make Your Lives Extraordinary

Source: Goodreads.com. (2019). N.H. Kleinbaum Quotes (Author of Dead Poets Society). [online] Available at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/52601.N_H_Kleinbaum [Accessed 30 Aug. 2019].

Life’s Task and Calling

What I love and feel is my “life’s task” and calling

I love creating and sharing engaging and entertaining stories. Through my stories, I entertain, motivate, and educate my students and my clients. As I transition to the next phase on my life journey, I am focusing on pursuing my “life’s task:” to entertain and inspire as a writer of fictional stories a broader audience.

Example project on my Mastery Journey towards becoming a writer of fictional stories
In my role as VP of Marketing for a national homebuilder, I designed and implemented a comprehensive project to revise our promotional materials. The goal was to reach and engage with prospective homebuyers in six distinct segments: Young Adult, Single Professional, First-time Homebuyer, Single Head-of-household, Trading-up Family, and Active Retiree segments. With our promotional materials we sought to engage, inform, and educate buyers. Most buyers preferred to read in English. Many preferred to communicate in Spanish.

Despite the language preference differences, we knew our promotional materials should engage and reach each group with customized messages. Thus, the stories we featured would describe homeowners whose lives, dreams, and desires resembled the unique desires of each targeted segment. Using real homeowners as my inspiration, I crafted brief fictional stories that were composites of several homeowners’ experiences as they considered, selected, and purchased our homes. Each story story featured a fictional homebuyer and described their unique lifestyle and homeownership aspirations. Yet, each story described homebuying needs and desires that were truthful reflections shared by actual satisfied homeowners. In other words, the individual stories of young professionals, first time home buyers, growing families, and retiring active adults I created were fictional—but how our homes satisfied their needs was very much real. The stories worked their intended magic, drove awareness of our communities and grew sales of our homes.

Positive insight gained completing this project

What I learned from this project changed profoundly my professional writing. Prior to embarking on this project, my writing had been focused on brand-building and efficient sales communication, promoting standard solutions and describing actual customers. Once I made the leap to creating fictional buyer stories instead, I discovered how much more effective—and how much more engaging – my marketing and promotional materials could be. Evers since then, I’ve been hooked on business storytelling. When appropriate for the project, I leverage consumer research and my storytelling skills to craft fictional stories that are more truthful than they are true. 

Knowing the difference between truthful and true is the key to success in business storytelling. Creating these promotional materials, I discovered that well-crafted fictional stories can communicate “truth” and impact readers effectively. For instance, upon reading the fictional stories of homeowners in my promotional brochures, prospective homebuyers related to the composite characters and connected more powerfully with our model homes and communities. 

As humans our brains are “wired for story,” (Cron, 2012). According to Cron, for millennia, listening to stories and later reading them, people have enjoyed being entertained as they learned about their world: how to live their lives, how to behave, how not to behave, and how it feels to dream, to fear, to love. Listening to well-told tales humans learned to crave discovering what follows after we hear the magical words “once upon a time.” As a writer and story teller, I will explore, with reverence and respect, the awesome power of well-told stories to engage, entertain, and inspire my readers.

Negative insight gained completing this project

            Providing too much information too soon can be confusing to readers. Instead, it is more effective to build a business story (or an entertaining tale) that unfolds gradually until it reveals fully the message it holds. At first, in the project I described previously, each of our promotional materials included too many details, in both English and Spanish, and the readers were confused. That was the wrong approach. By creating separate, high impact, and engaging promotional materials in each language, and weaving in compelling stories and descriptions with fewer features and construction details, we connected more effectively with each unique group of buyers in our target market.

Lessons learned from the reading 

From reading Chapter IV, “Strategies for Acquiring Social Intelligence” scenarios in the Mastery book, I learned four lessons about communicating my expertise as I develop as a writer of fiction.

Negative Lesson One: Do not avoid fools but instead suffer them gladly.

Greene explains what should matter in practical life is getting long-term results by getting work done as efficiently and creatively as possible (Greene, 2012, p. 163). Instead fools value short term results, immediate money, attention, and good looks (Greene, 2012, p. 163). Lowering yourself to their level and attempting to win arguments with fools is a waste of time and emotional energy according to Greene (2012). In this lesson I learned that instead of avoiding fools and their negativity, I will adapt Greene’s suggested strategies to neutralize the harm they do. I will do this by focusing on my goals, ignoring fools when possible, learning from them how not to behave, and seeking to turn to my advantage what fools throw my way.

Positive Lesson One: Speak through my work.Greene suggests that we express our social intelligence through our work, as well as demonstrate we are thinking of the group and advancing its goals by being efficient and detailed oriented, (Greene, 2012, p. 151). According to Greene, speaking socially through our work and remaining focused will raise our skill levels and cause us to stand out among others who make noise but produce nothing, (Greene, 2012, p. 151). My take away from this lesson is the following: Professionally, I strive to be efficient, contribute to the success of clients and employers, and take pride in communicating excellence through the quality of my work. Unknowingly, I’ve been following Greene’s advice of speaking through my work long before I recognized doing so expresses social intelligence. Embracing my life’s calling, I will continue to speak through my writing.

Negative Lesson Two: Do not dismiss critics but instead see myself as they see me.Greene, explains that while we are quick to recognize mistakes and defects in others, we are too insecure and emotional so find fault in ourselves, (Greene, 2012, p. 158). Also, he points out it is rare that people tell us what we do wrong. Seeing ourselves through the eyes of others would benefit our social intelligence, would help us correct our offensive flaws, help us recognize how we contribute to negative dynamics, and enable us to develop a realistic assessment of who we are (Greene, 2012, p. 158). The lesson I learned is especially important for a writer: Rather than dismiss critical comments and suggestions, it is imperative that I embrace them unemotionally to understand how my work triggered the criticism. My skills and effectiveness as a writer will improve if I actively elicit and seek the criticism of informed readers.

Positive Lesson Two: Craft the appropriate persona.Our ascension to mastery and our success is powerfully influenced by the personality we project to the world, according to Greene, (Greene, 2012, p. 155). Since people will judge us based on our outward appearance, we must create the image that suits us best, and by shaping our appearance intentionally, influence other people’s judgement of us (Greene, 2012, p. 155). Greene advices us to think of this as theater. He suggests that we develop a persona that is “mysterious, intriguing, and masterful… giving them something compelling and pleasurable to witness,” (Greene, 2012, p. 155). This suggestion is intriguing. My personal inclination is always to be transparent and forthcoming through my demeanor, thoughts, and opinions. As a result, my choice in clothing, shoes, glasses, and personal accessories would be described best as professional and conservative. In this lesson, I learned that, keeping Greene’s advice in mind, and thinking creatively of my writer persona as theater—it’s time to rock something fresh! Perhaps donning writerly glasses and a snazzy fedora will do the trick and help others see me as The Writer. Stay tuned, as I find out how well this strategy works out for my persona.

References

Cron, L. (2012). Wired for story: The writers guide to using brain science to hook readers from the very first sentence. New York: Ten Speed Press.

Greene, R. (2012). Strategies for Acquiring Social Intelligence. In Mastery (pp. 144-166). New York, NY: Penguin.

Tom Kelley(Founder-Ideo) – Do What You Love. (2010, October 28). Retrieved August 19, 2019, from https://youtu.be/nPRW9q-0unc

Image Credits

Unsplash. (n.d.). Pop & Zebra (@popnzebra): Unsplash Photo Community. Retrieved August 19, 2019, from https://unsplash.com/@popnzebra?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText Source for illustration image.

Illustration Quote

Greene, R. (2012). Mastery (p. 19). New York, NY: Penguin.