A full room of wonderful people today at the kickoffs for the San Diego Marathon and America's Most Beautiful Bike Ride events. Thank you for letting me share my story, and for the generosity and kind words that followed. You make the world a better place and I am grateful to be part of the team.
A hard day and a half driving from North Carolina toward Arizona, rain and highway construction and then a dodged tornado at 4:00 am as it killed four in Mississippi. A 6:00 am plumbing repair from a frozen water pipe in the flooded parking lot of Lowe’s in Tuscaloosa, and a popped rivet and a couple of loose screws just to prove that I’ve been somewhere. But now: The sun finally came out as I cruised into the first Louisiana rest area. Cranked up Tater’s Big Stereo tuned to the public radio station out of Monroe and really, no joke --they played a version of Dylan’s Like a Rolling Stone by … the Drive By Truckers.
There must be road angels flying over north Louisiana.
And just finished: A nice bath, clean clothes and a hot meal 100 yards from the railroad tracks. A train just went by -westward- and I realized that by tonight I will be where those trains are headed by yellow Union Pacific locomotives, and I’ll make one more connection to the promised land. All of this experience - this is why Deborah and I travel by dragging around a big aluminum condo on wheels. Home is right here, on the back side of a soggy rest area in Louisiana.
I am sitting here by the fire working on an inspirational presentation for later this month. At this point in my life I finally feel qualified to give it.
Storytelling is hot. Podcasts and TED talks are knee deep in it, so much so that it seems in danger of becoming the next cliché. While most of popular culture deserves to become a cliché, storytelling deserves to be resurrected as the ancient communicative art it is.
For most of my life, and certainly for most of my life as an environmental biologist, I’ve had this feeling that I was privy to the solutions to big problems – those that dogged humanity on a big scale, such as how to live gracefully and beautifully during a time of increasing scarcity. After all, teaching it was my job. But informing is not the same as motivating. Lecturing alone is useless because it means the audience is responsible for motivation.
But now I have a story. I don’t want it or like it, but there it is. And when I connect it to a message of grace, truth, and beauty, it becomes an inspiration. Every decent thing I do in the face of my adversity becomes decent times two. And it should. If my story includes me doing thing X, then other folks know that they can probably do 2X. That’s the stuff of motivation.
And then there is this: Suppose every day we did something that was worthy of a story. That is the sign of a life well-lived. It is my goal every day, and I become intolerable when it does not happen for days. It’s not too much to ask, especially when one lives with the consideration of time suddenly getting very small.
Imagine your life as a story worth telling.