Storytelling is the modern-day superpower

As I walked around my neighborhood, I looked up towards the Arizona sky and saw something strange.

It was the middle of March — 2020 — and for the third day in a row, it was about to rain.

There’s nothing particularly noteworthy about a spring rainstorm in Arizona, but this was no ordinary time.

You see, 4 days earlier, I’d joined millions across the country who had been sent home as places of work closed in response to the growing COVID-19 outbreak.

We were sent home with the belief that it’d be a short-term thing. We assumed we’d be back on the field 2 weeks later.

Yeah…about that…

Confused, uncertain, and thrown off from my “normal”, my mind went to work to make sense of it.

And these two things — the pandemic’s outbreak & the unusual rain — were perfect fuel for meaning.

It wasn’t enough that the world had been flipped on its head; now it was raining when it didn’t usually rain!

At best, it was an eerie coincidence. At worst, it was a sign of the impending destruction of mankind. My interpretation changed by the hour.

With the benefit of hindsight and a clearer head, I’m embarrassed by this. The stories I told myself over those three days had no grounding in reality but were simple, poor interpretations that placed me at the victim-conscious center of the universe instead of as an actor in it.

The story I told myself — that the world was crumbling and that the rain was confirmation of its destruction — was powerful. It shaped my perception, my reality.

Even though that season brought some hardship, the reality was far different (and better) than the stories I had concocted to explain what was going on.

As Seneca wrote long ago, “We suffer more in imagination than in reality.”

A similar thing happened a couple of days ago. I was preparing for an uncomfortable conversation when the sky darkened and the winds started to blow. My mind immediately started connecting the two. Was this an omen of how the conversation was to go? Was it a sign that I should reverse course and not have the conversation?

But then I caught myself. I reminded myself that there were nearly 1,000,000 other Charlotte residents who were having very different days that were in no way connected to the weather system.

And then I realized that if that was true for them, it was true for me too.

Which makes me think…

If the stories we tell ourselves have the power to alter our perception & resulting reality, how much more powerful are the stories we tell others?

How do the stories we tell affect our relationships? Those we lead? The life that’s unfolding through and around us each day?

Are our stories generative and expansive, divergently opening up new doors to create the change we wish to see in the world? Or are they convergent, narrowing options and blinding us to where we might be called to go?

Are your stories bringing you closer to the types of people you want around or those who inject stress, worry, fear, and timidity into their social circle?

I’ve always thought of superheroes as those with extra-human physical, mental, or supernatural abilities. Like the people in the movies.

But as I’ve met more people and gotten my first taste of life, I’ve realized that the real superheroes are storytellers. The ones who spot a better way of doing things and then tell stories that bring connection, understanding, and shared purpose to those who want to see that change realized in their world.