Often, when our lives shift or hit a major turning point, we suddenly find ourselves in a new role as the messenger. It is during these life experiences that we are forced to dig deeper. Our reality, as we know it, changes and we see the world differently. We realize that sometimes our biggest fears can materialize and that, when they do, we can survive. Upon learning the tools of how to get back on track, we often become so inspired by what we’ve learned that we feel a responsibility to deliver our message to others that are going through the same life experience. This concept continues to fascinate me and was on my mind when I came across the book, The Millionaire Messenger.
Brendon Burchard, author of The Millionaire Messenger, tells us the story of a near-fatal car accident that changed his life. This major turning point led Brendon to ask himself three questions: “Did I live? Did I love? Did I matter?“ After pondering these three questions, he stumbled upon a messenger on television (Tony Robbins) whose message was simple: You have unlimited personal power to live the life you desire and make a difference, and I can help you. Brendon felt empowered to read and listen to the messages of other self-help and business world gurus including David Bach, John Maxwell and Seth Godin. He began wondering — if they could deliver such important messages, why couldn’t he? He devoured all the knowledge he could about becoming an expert.
Brendon discovered that members of the expert community focus their efforts in two ways: first, relating with their audience to gain their trust and understand their needs and ambitions. Then, creating useful information, content and products that add value to their audience and teach them how to live a better life or grow their businesses.
During Brendon’s inspiring two-year journey, he reached millions of people with his message and earned over $4.6 million teaching others how to improve their lives and share their own message. I was so inspired by this book and its message that I read it twice. The information is so accessible and Brendon inspires you to believe that anything is possible. It’s all about knowing your message and putting it into play. It’s about serving others and creating purpose.
I recently read another book that delivers an equally powerful message but from more of a spiritual perspective. It’s called, May The Angels Be With You: Access Your Spirit Guides and Create The Life You Want by celebrated psychic, Gary Quinn. Similar to Brendon, Gary also uses his life story to move in this new life direction. Gary recounts the incredible story of how he first discovered his own angelic messenger in the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris at a crucial turning point in his life. He tells the heartbreaking and ultimately inspiring story of how he struggled with his psychic gifts as a child and then, reconnected with them as an adult.
Gary shows us how to believe in our own possibility by introducing us to the idea that we are each surrounded by a number of angels. Everything we need is around us. We just need to learn how to draw from it.
When I reflect back now on my own turning point, I understand that the universe giving me a nudge was the best thing that could have happened to me. It pointed me in a more authentic direction. It led me to write my book, Story Line: Finding Gold In Your Life Story, which also came from two pivotal life events in my story. It also led to creating a six-figure business from scratch that is all about serving others and helping them to attain their dreams. It provided me with a platform to deliver my teachings about “developing from within” and “finding gold in your life story.”
Our major turning points in life have a purpose behind them. It is our job to seek out the message and accept our role as the messenger. In doing so, we may find that we can turn tragedy into triumph and find our life’s calling in the process.
Your past, with all its beautiful and haunted memories, is written in your mind. What if you could learn how to access your past and “re-truth” it? In other words, what if you could re-write your past? Would you find this liberating? Your past and learning how to mine it is what connects you to your calling in life. No matter who you are or what business you are in, your story is what connects you to others. Understanding your story is key. By creatively reflecting, analyzing, understanding and recasting what happened in your past, you can become more empowered and fulfilled in your present.
My publisher, Michael Wiese Productions, recently introduced me to John Schuster, author of The Power Of Your Past: The Art of Recalling, Recasting and Reclaiming. They felt that John and I would have a lot in common because of my book, Story Line: Finding Gold In Your Life Story; in it, I teach writers how to mine the gold from their pasts and fictionalize their truth in their writing. I was immediately fascinated by the concept of John’s book. I could see the connection in our themes. My book explores how to look into your past, draw from your emotional truth and fictionalize it in your writing while John’s book delves into how you can actually ‘extract’ those truths from your past. I was particularly intrigued by his concept that you can “re-truth” your past. John writes, “Once you begin to ‘re-truth’ your past with balanced and thorough reflection, you are more free to choose a future that you want, not the ones determined by your compressions.”
John explains, “Society and its institutions, and your specific interaction with them—in the form of taunting fraternity brothers, an aunt who taught you how to garden, a lifelong friend who has always gotten who you are, a boss who demoted you over a mishandled project—all these and way more evoked and compressed you into the current version of you. Let’s more thoroughly check out your interaction with those surroundings with specific methodology. We want to fully understand our essential gifts on the plus side, and we want to re-do our less than useful ways of being and doing on the minus side.”
Most of us are afraid to go into our pasts in any real way. We distract ourselves in the present. We hide some of that discomfort through success and achievement, thinking that the higher we climb up the ladder, the brighter the light shines on our present and the more our past can be forgotten. Yet, being in touch with ‘what was’ can mean everything to us in authentically creating ‘what is’. When we understand who we were, we have a much better understanding of who we are now. When we take the time to look at our pasts with the wisdom that we’ve gained from it, we can recast and “re-truth” it in a way that further connects us to our true destiny.
Sharing pivotal life moments is a huge part of what I do. In consulting with writers, I find that when I show them how far I am willing to go into my emotional well, it helps them to do the same. By engaging them in this process, I know that they will find and enhance their voice. What John’s book did for me was to give me a much wider array of stories to draw from in my own past. He helped me to see the value in stories that I had forgotten, suppressed or just no longer saw the value in. He awakened me to more of that which is inside me. By doing this, I am able to teach writers how to go further into their pasts and see so many of their life experiences as universal and rich with true potential for emerging in the present and connecting them to their genuine possibility.
I’ll end with one last quote from John’s book. He writes, “If we think about our past from the factual level only, we are like a Cyclops with one eye—we see just the facts and only the facts, and miss the depth of perception that comes with being bi-ocular….” He provides a solution to this by writing, “If we raise our thinking, however, and go at our past from multiple levels and with both eyes, our recalled yesterdays are a living 3-D movie from the emerging truth of who we are, what we are becoming, and where our commitments can take us.”
I love this book. I highly recommend it for anyone who is interested in better understanding the past through a clearer vision so that creating the future will come from a more authentic place
The goal of the storyteller is to tap into the truth of the emotions inherent in the story that is being told. How do you find the truth? Through the telling of the story, you learn how to reveal it. Emotions are the key to connecting your audience to your vision. Learning how to mine your own emotions and extract them from your life experience takes tremendous courage, wisdom and strength but it will add a layer to your story that reveals how you feel, connects you to your audience and transforms a tale into a truth.
I recently watched The Tillman Story, a film that explores the true story behind the death of soldier and former professional football star, Pat Tillman. To say it was incredibly emotional would be putting it lightly. The film revolves around a family’s journey, led by Pat’s mother, to reveal the truth about their beloved son versus having him catapulted into sainthood by Army recruiters in order to enlist more soldiers into war. Initially, you might look at this concept and wonder why a family is striving so hard to reveal that their son didn’t die in the heroic circumstance that was touted? Through their journey, you connect with the family, their anger, their sadness and rage over the idea that the government was not only lying to them but was also using their boy as a poster child to get more people to join the war. The family just wanted the real truth of who Pat was to surface. There was one very telling moment when one of Pat’s brothers spoke at his Memorial service and said that Pat was dead. He didn’t believe he was in heaven because Pat was not a religious man. He was just dead. They showed several clips that helped to paint a picture. As the real truth was being told, the picture of a hero was still painted, however it was a humanized version of a man who stood up for a cause and made a choice to leave a multi-million dollar football career in the NFL in order to stand up for something greater. It is a story of depth and one man’s search for purpose and greater meaning by making a critical life choice; it is also about the family who continues to love him and who wants him remembered for the man he was, not for who others want him to be.
I so admired the strength and conviction behind the telling of this tragic but inspiring story. In watching the film, the message resonated with me. How can we all contribute in a way that adds meaning and purpose to our lives? Why do we choose to put people on a pedestal versus understanding the reality of what was? This type of story makes you want to be a better person. This is the gift of story.
How does the writer elevate the emotion in their story? This is something I always work on with writers. The reason I do this is because the goal of the storyteller is to make the audience feel their story. In order to feel, there has to be a truth that is emerging and coming through.
In the 2nd Edition of Stealing Fire From The Gods, James Bonnet affirms, “The author of great myths and legends is inside you.” I love this concept. Bonnet goes on to write, “Metaphor is the symbolic language that expresses the wisdom hidden in the creative unconscious self. The hidden wisdom exists as raw energy and in order to be communicated to consciousness, it has to be translated into visual images – i.e. the characters, places, actions and objects, etc. that you actually encounter in great story.”
In The Tillman Story, I understood the family’s drive to seek the truth behind the death of their son no matter what was revealed in the process. I admired their conviction. The idea of the story behind the story is where we find the truth. We often put things, people and places in a higher regard to appease ourselves versus understanding what was real.
I’d like to leave you with one last quote from Stealing Fire From The Gods, which really sums up the idea that it all lies within. Bonnet writes, “Bill Moyers asked Joseph Campbell, ‘What is Heaven?’ And Joseph Campbell answered, ‘Heaven is a symbolic place. Heaven is no place. These are planes of consciousness or fields of experience potential in the human spirit
Where is our gold when it comes to telling strong stories that connect us to our audience? How do we learn to tell stories that touch our spirits and make our hearts come alive? Compelling stories often come from a truthful place that lives and breathes inside the emotional well of the storyteller. Your emotional well is your gold when it comes to bringing your truth to the page and learning how to fictionalize it. This is not about coming from an autobiographical place. It is about coming from an authentic place, connecting with your life experience and bringing your voice into your characters. History has shown us that rewards come to those gifted writers who know how to delve into themselves and bring their truth to the page.
An excellent example of this is the Oscar-nominated film The King’s Speech and its writer, David Seidler. As a child, Seidler used to stutter. When I watched this film, I felt more emotionally connected to the plight of this character than any other recent film’s protagonist. I was totally mesmerized by this character’s journey. When King George VI (played brilliantly by Colin Firth) approached the microphone, I felt his fear. I could feel it in my throat. I rooted for him. I wanted him to arrive at the ‘light bulb’ moment by doing the work with Lionel Logue (played by Geoffrey Rush). I related with his sheer terror. Having personally experienced the challenges of public speaking and learning how to move past the fear as millions of us do, I wanted to see Prince Albert (on the road to becoming King George VI) succeed at his speech. I was on the edge of my seat because I could relate to and connect with his experience. The fear of failure, another life experience that drives most of us, was conveyed flawlessly in this film.
Discovering that David Seidler personally experienced stuttering in his childhood helped me understand why he was able to hit a pitch-perfect portrayal of this character. He drew from his own personal well of experience and emotion and brought it to the page. This allowed the audience real insight into the vulnerability of the film’s central character.
This concept is something I explore heavily in my new book Story Line: Finding Gold In Your Life Story. The book is about learning how to add fiction to your truth. It is also about learning that the stories we experience in our own life have tremendous value. They happen for a reason. And only by doing the challenging emotional work, do we gain the tools to move past the pain and then pass our stories onto others.
In Elizabeth Edwards’ memoir Resilience, I found that she dug deep into her emotional well and came from such a raw and real place. She writes, “Each time I fell into a chasm – my son’s death or a tumor in my breast or an unwelcome woman in my life – I had to accept that the planet had taken a few turns and I could not turn back. My life was and would always be different, and it would be less than I hoped it would be…. I learned that I was starting a new story. I write these words as if that is the beginning and the end of what I did but it is only a slice of the middle, a place that is hard to reach and in reaching it, only a stepping-off place for finding or creating a new life with our new reality.” Think about the words “…an unwelcome woman in my life” and “it would be less than I hoped it would be.” These are powerful admissions and they prompt an emotional experience that millions can connect with.
Resilience reached #1 on the New York Times Best Seller list. The King’s Speech is an Oscar nominated film. Both stories come from a place of truth and conviction. Both writers draw from their emotional wells and bring their truths to the page, giving their audiences a chance to really see them in their stories. I encourage you to draw from your emotional well in your writing. You never know what can happen.
We all have a story. Everyday, our story grows. Some days are good days and we feel joy and a strong sense of accomplishment. While other days something happens that causes our life to turn upside down and throws us out of balance. We utilize our story to connect us with others. Story unifies us and makes us feel less isolated in our life experiences. Our emotional well is where our story resides. When you learn to draw from your own emotional well, your truth will be revealed. Being willing to go deep in your own life experiences will help others to understand you. As a storyteller, one of your goals is to help the audience see you in your story. Learning to draw from your emotional well will open you up and strengthen your voice.
In my new book, Story Line: Finding Gold in Your Life Story, I help you learn how to draw from your emotional well and add fiction to your story. In Chapter Ten I write, “Think about the pivotal life moments you’ve gone through. What actions did you take in each situation that led to the climax? What are the moments that you tap into as a sequence that leads up to the dilemma? It is in these situations that we begin to see patterns of our behavior and how we bring certain things into our lives. When people experience big moments like the loss of a job, an addiction that may lead to a tragedy, the betrayal of a loved one, or any type of major life transition, there is always a sequence of events that led up to it.”
In Chapter 23, I write, “Some of the goals of the storyteller are to reach, connect, emote, fulfill, intrigue, inspire, empower and impress. What do you want to impress upon your audience? What is the message in your story? Think about weaving it throughout and building us up to the point of recognition. Intoxicate us with your journey and, before the end expose us to the story beneath your words.”
When writing, think about what drove you to get out of difficult life situations. Could you utilize this in your characters? By looking at the sequence of events that led up to the pivotal points in your own life, you see how back story can be brought into the present. What dialogue could you use that gives us a sense of what transpired before the moment without having to go back to it? What did you do when you hit your “all is lost” moment to bring your life back into balance? By digging within, you will find all the answers. You just have to find the courage to go there.
Story Line: Finding Gold In Your Life Story is intended to help you see your story in all its glory. All your emotions and experiences mean something to your audience. By extracting the truth from your emotional well and transforming it onto the page in the stories you tell, you will connect your audience with your vision.
Love is something we are all constantly learning how to do better. It is a running theme in all of our lives and in every story we tell. It is an emotion that fulfills us, inspires us, excites us, brings us joy, makes us believe, belittles us, confuses us, haunts us, enrages us, hurts us and the list goes on. In the book, “I Love You And I’m Leaving You Anyway,” the brilliant author, Tracy McMillian, takes you on an unforgettable journey through her life, tracing her choices with love back to her father. “Alternating between the nice guys she knew she should want, and the unavailable men who were compelling, Tracy found herself repeating the hurt that began when the man who loved her the most, her father, left her for prison when she was just three years old. Freddie’s absence meant a childhood filled with foster homes, a temperamental stepmother, and near constant upheaval. It took three marriages, the birth of a son, and, most important, resolving her relationship with her dad for Tracy to discover the truth about herself — a truth that finally set her free.”
To say I had trouble putting this book down would be putting it mildly. I found myself enthralled and intoxicated by her story. Her voice and the truth that comes from it is nothing less than remarkable. I haven’t read a book that kept me this entranced since I read “A Million Little Pieces” by author James Frey. It made me grateful to all the writers who have the courage to really go to the deepest and darkest places while managing to make us laugh and learn along the way. It is a true gift.
Universal themes are covered throughout this book. Our stories are all so different but the emotions we feel as a result of them are often the same. McMillan writes, “You have just laid eyes on a man who is going to trigger every single childhood wound you have, who is going to bring those wounds to the surface, and who will, in the process, bring you to your knees, all for the purpose of healing.” We all identify with what love brings up in us. Tracy goes on to write, “It’s like I have two opposing parts of myself: one that nurtures, and one that destroys.” Further down the same page, she writes, “I’m just like my own mother — except with a husband, a house, and a college degree. It’s gotten to the point I don’t want to do anything else without getting high first.” These scenarios and others she explores all have to do with love, what happens when we’re loved, what happens after we love, and what happens after we leave or after we’re left.
Healing is what inspires us to love again. In this book, after every heartbreaking experience, we see Tracy get stronger and grow deeper in her self-awareness of life and love. It encourages all of us to do the same. In a scene when Tracy brings her son to prison to meet her father, she writes, “It’s like together we are one of those medical books where when you lay each page over the next, you get a picture of one whole body, with all of the insides. Me, my dad, my son — we’re all one.” As I read, I wanted to get to the end of the book quickly because I wanted to know her story, yet, I knew when I got to the last page, I would be sad to put it down. I was right.
When we watch story and experience story, we emotionally respond to truly knowing and understanding the characters in the story. A strong story that is well told affirms our life experience. If the storyteller has the gift of shining light on why we should care about who we are watching, the overall experience has more value. I like to push writers to strive for this emotional depth in the stories they tell.
Mythology adds tremendous depth to writing. Understanding myth is an ongoing journey. In Pathways To Bliss: Mythology and Personal Transformation, Joseph Campbell writes, “That’s the first function of mythology: not merely a reconciliation of consciousness to the preconditions of its own existence, but reconciliation with gratitude, with love, with recognition of the sweetness. Through the bitterness of pain, the primary experience at the core of life is a sweet, wonderful thing. This affirmative view comes pouring in on one through these terrific rites and myths.”
In The Virgin’s Promise, Kim Hudson explores the emotional depth in the commonly used mythical archetypes of the Virgin and the Hero. In the Intro, Chris Vogler writes, The Virgin’s Promise provides a pathway into the feminine archetypal journey lying dormant in our collective unconscious. The quest to become true to yourself…” These words hit me. Kim Hudson takes the reader on a journey into truly understanding the feminine archetypal magic in writing. Kim writes, “The tensions are also different in the Virgin and Hero stories. The cost of the Virgin going on her pathway is the potential loss of love, joy and passion. Without these things that accompany the fulfillment of her dream, the Virgin suffers loss of self, which manifests as depression, insanity and suicide. The cost to the Hero of going on his journey is potentially death. The loss of life at the hands of others will involve physical pain and leave his village vulnerable to evil.” Kim takes us into the power of the feminine journey and on an internal journey as a way of discovering our truth and the meaning of our obstacles. This affects both our writing and our own spiritually. It is all intertwined.
Both authors really explore how to add depth to the human experience. With story, we want to be transformed. We want to connect and understand the power of life experience. By shining a light on the internal goal of your characters, you add an emotional depth that fulfills your audience. You do this by digging into your own emotional depth. Be willing to go inside and your audience will feel the reward.
The start of a new decade is filled with positive aspirations. It is about THINKING BIG and putting a plan/goal/strategy into play. It is a time of rebirth and letting go of what was and being in charge of creating what is. What do you want to achieve this year? Can you see it? What if you start small and build from there? The power of the mind is a beautiful thing. If you can clear out the clutter of self-doubt, past failures and blurry intentions and clearly envision a destination, you can and will get there. You are the author of your own story, so it is up to you to make it a good one. I saw the movie INVICTUS over the holidays. I loved one of the themes it explored: How do we inspire and empower change? In the movie, we see how one man’s complete focus on a single thing, creating a championship rugby team, is able to inspire bigger change. Through a winning team, a nation’s pride is born. Another holiday movie with a very strong message is THE BLIND SIDE. In its simplicity, it shows the power that love, belief, validation and focus can have on the life of one man, inspiring possibility and completely changing the direction of his life and the lives of everyone around him.
What if you put this into play in your own life? Focusing on a single small change could affect your life in a much larger way. This could include changing your eating habits, working out more, implementing a new exercise routine (like yoga), reading more, cleaning out one room each week, meditating on positive thoughts and what you want to bring into your life during the first 10 minutes of every morning, creating a vision board, going to church or temple, volunteering more, or spending more quality time with family and those you love versus those you feel obligated to spend time with because of your career. If you focus on any of the above, you will start to see change in all areas of your life. Since it is too overwhelming to start big, why not start small and see the very big effect that it will eventually have on your life?
How do we inspire change in ourselves? Information is a powerful thing. If there is something you want to change, read about it. By reading how others have dealt with the same type of obstacles, you will be empowered to do the same. The power of the word also inspires change. Here are some inspirational phrases worth meditating on to get you in the right mindset: yes we can, breath positivity and negativity out, being kindness, if you fail so what, I will take care of you, the opposite of within is without, change your thoughts, change your life, failure is your greatest opportunity for growth. Think about the words that inspire possibility in you. Every time you come across an inspirational line in a movie, book or newspaper or hear it from a friend, write it down. Refer to these words. Use them as your anchor.
If you add more positivity to your life, you will inspire change. It starts by taking care of yourself. If you are in a strong place and you spread your energy in a positive way, you will attract whatever you set your mind to accomplishing. In turn, you will see that being the author of your own story has its benefits. You can create what you want. It is up to you to make your story one worth telling and one that people will remember.