The Story of You

The Story of You is an intriguing book. Most motivational books are full of very high spirited, encouraging images to inspire you and draw you into following their path. In The Story of You, Steve Chandler often seems to be going out of his way to annoy you into paying attention. It will be dependent on your own personality whether this eggs you into reading more or putting down the book.

The book is in essence a collection of real life examples helping to show why you should not let yourself get bogged down by your own past history. Even if you've been a procrastinator in the past, you can have a different future. Even if your parents told you were lazy all during your childhood, you can be an energetic adult. You have to overcome that "story" that you have come to believe.

The story metaphor is interesting, but it's presented in a disjointed fashion which at times makes it hard to follow. You almost need to read the book through a second time to begin to understand what he's trying to say as a result.

So let's start with some of the statements that irked me in the book. He says "grown-up people are almost always vain and important". He tries to make the point several times that kids are great and pure, and that adults are tainted and bad. Apparently parents who worry about their children are REALLY only worrying that they (the parents) are going to be embarassed by something the child does that is "wrong". Children are praised for walking and talking - but then have to "repress their enthusiasm for life" to fit in. Apparently we should all stay children forever, with no responsibility or rules!

But that's not true at all, of course. Many adults I know are NOT self-important. Many parents I know DO honestly want the very best for their kids without any care of how it reflects on them as parents. You can be greatly enthusiastic about life without having to yell out "MAMA! MAMA!" The reason we praise children as they learn is because they are LEARNING. We praise adults who are learning, too. We appreciate people who love life.

There are of course many great messages in the book. He talks about how you're never too old to start writing. Norman Maclean decided to try writing at age 73 and wrote the great book A River Runs Through It. James Patterson had a super busy job but wanted to write, so he set an alarm and got up at 4:30 every morning to write from 4:30-6. He made the time, and he reaped the success.

As Steve said, if you love to write, you make the time for it. If you're not choosing to make time to write, then other things are more important to you right now. They could be valid things - like your family, or money to put a roof over your head - but it's important to realize you are CHOOSING the things. It's not that you "don't have time to write". You have time - and you are choosing to spend it on other things that you find to be of more value.

It may sound semantic, but this thought is key to a lot of what is explained in the book. You choose everything you do. If you had bad luck in the past, it should not shape your future. You can shape your future based on your current desires and needs. If you used to be disorganized in the past, it doesn't mean you have to be disorganized in the future. You have the choice to act a certain way each day. You need to be mindful that these ARE choices you make, and to take responsibility for them.

One suggestion he offers is if you want to do something - start doing it! If you want to write, then just write. Set aside time each day. If you get stuck at first, write anything that comes to mind. The more you practice it, the easier it will get. If you give up on day 1 because you're rusty, you'll never get better.

On the downside, as a way to get people to do this, he says to keep in mind that the way you are now is "enough". I have problems with this. We should all strive to learn and grow, rather than stagnate. Far too many people sit on the couch every night, doing the exact same thing as the previous night, and figure it's "enough". Then they get bored in their marriage, short-tempered with their kids and blame others. I think it's fine to say "you have the potential" - you can always START from where you are. Even if you're 73, you can start writing, right now. You have that potential. But there is MUCH more for you to achieve, if you take that first step and start walking.

Again, anybody wrote writes about September 11th as a situation for "other people were whining about losing their jobs - but I saw this as a great opportunity! I could sell to people who couldn't travel now!" is a person who enjoys dancing on the edge of really bugging people. Steve writes several times about deliberately antagonizing people to help them to change. Maybe he feels this is a good technique for a book. I found it off-putting, but I do appreciate the messages he has here. Maybe there is a segment of people who ignore the fluffy-happy motivational books as being meaningless, but who might be shocked into action by this. In that case, if you're someone who normally skips the self-help book aisle, give this one a try. You might be in for a change.

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