So last week the Ice Road Truckers were up in Pauingassi, Manitoba. And so was I. (You can find more about IRT here, if this is new to you.)I got to see one up close. Without the TV outlining the truck cab, I just thought it was another truck making another delivery, to another remote community. Funny how that works. When you take the subject out of context you end up with an unfamiliar scene. When I got home I watched an episode of the show with my boys, and it had a new spin in our eyes; drama attached for the sake of viewers. It was a story, not an occupation.
I bring this connection up because I asked my son a simple question today: What have I talked about the most since coming home? Without hesitation he replied: The ice roads.
It was true, the ice roads captured my attention. Driving in from the airport it was an interesting item to observe and talk about. On the way back to the airport it took on a whole new meaning as they were officially closing around that time. Are they OK to drive? My driver was unfazed and we talked about the community, hunting, and new construction. And he chuckled about the truckers needing to make the TV world a little more dramatic. They all had a story to tell.
“I really liked all the stories.”
When I asked for feedback on my career development workshop, this was the response. Most just quietly nodded along, and said thank you. But one individual brought this up a few times. The others agreed. Hearing this, I am glad I resisted the urge to go into a list of dogmatic axioms for doing business in the ‘real world’. As another individual quipped going into one of our breaks, “Do you want us back on Canadian time?” We laughed because we both understood the story behind the understanding of time and how different people groups and cultures interpret it. I am not great at Canadian time either, so it was especially meaningful to me!
Establishing rules based on our experience makes for great in-house policy, but this does not convey well without the context.
That is where storytelling comes in. We are all story people. We all desire to be drawn into a story that is based in the meaning or the instruction we hope to glean. Inversely, it means we desire to convey the feeling and importance that a situation carried in our own understanding. This is why news programming and Ice Road Truckers do not simply show a picture and mention exactly what happened in a minimal format. They add scenery, experiences, details… A story.
When we develop and grow in our experience, we create the story we are in. It is not age dependent or for the sake of teaching someone else. We want to understand and tell the story of us for ourselves as well. We want to be the heroes and narrators of the story we are currently writing. And this is a huge piece of vocation and career. Why? Because we are not simply machines accomplishing a task, we are created with purpose and mission in mind.
Stories can also inhibit us.
People can exaggerate and embellish for the sake of their own importance or to isolate community. Living with different cultures at work in our own backyard we can minimize strengths of others so our weaknesses are not so evident. Rather than embracing another’s uniqueness for the sake of greater community, we isolate distinctions as being ‘wrong’. Not different. We end up destroying our own hero’s tale, where good things happened, and turning it into a tragedy. Or even worse, a daytime drama.
So I am thankful for the welcoming experience of career development last week! My story was enriched because I was allowed to be part of theirs. And hopefully I gave the same in return.