Over the past several years superhero movie remakes have made billions at the box office. From Wonder Woman, to the Guardians of the Galaxy, to the Fantastic Four, we just can’t seem to get enough of these underdogs-turned-protectors.
While some don capes and others sling webs, there’s one thing that all of these celebrated characters have in common. They each have a clear origin story that explains how they came to be the hero they are today, even if they started as a frightened child or an outcast.
There is something so compelling about transformation. Knowing that a badass like Rogue was once uncertain makes her far more relatable. Realizing that there’s a reason why Spiderman slings webs turns him from an eccentric into someone you root for.
Have you ever stopped to consider your own origin story?
I invite you to pause for a moment to consider that everything you have experienced up until this point informs what you do today. Every job (no matter how grueling), every relationship (from the nurturing to the downright unhealthy), every struggle, every stumble, every sweet victory has shaped how you see the world and how you move through it. Just one reason why Emily McDowell’s brilliant “On Failure” print graces my home office walls. A constant reminder that no matter what happens, it’s fuel for your future.
Beyond that, the way you talk about how your past informs your present has the potential to be just as intriguing as those superhero story plots. The more pieces of your puzzle that people are able to put together, the more connected they will feel to you and your personal brand.
I may not have a Batmobile, but still . . .
Speaking from my own experience, I can say with certainty that I’ve learned many important lessons over the course of my journey. My years writing for schools and nonprofits has an obvious connection to the work I do now. But, you might be surprised to learn, my training as a theater artist has influenced my current work in equal measure. Through my experiences acting, directing, and devising original theater I learned how to identify the story, discover truths, to connect with an audience. All of these abilities help me advise my clients on how to engage with their customers in ways that are authentic and impactful.
Going back even farther, I can trace many of my current work habits back to my college years or earlier. Throughout college, for example, I juggled anywhere from two to three part-time jobs while attending classes and actively participating in several student groups. Organization wasn’t optional, it was necessary for survival! I prioritized. I worked to meet deadlines. I learned when to say “no” to additional commitments and when to say “yes” to possibility-rich opportunities. All of it helped me succeed in my career and has influenced how I approach my work to this day.
These are powerful discoveries that help me talk about why I’m uniquely qualified to do what I do, in a way that can’t be replicated by any other individual on earth. When you think about it, that’s pretty powerful. Everyone’s recipe is different.
From Beer to Basketball
I recently threw this question out to my social media followers and friends: what is one past experience (job or otherwise) that seems unrelated to what you do now, but informs your current work?
I learned that selling season ticket packages for the Celtics made one friend and even more incredible higher education career services professional. I heard from an exceptional teacher who credits her background in musical theater performance with helping her to engage her students, hour after hour. A talented family photographer shared that she learned the vital business skills of selling and negotiation from her time working at a car dealership. Matt Gwynn, brewer at Michigan’s Old Nation Brewing Company, shared this parallel between his theater career and his current pursuits,
"The most effective thing I learned about the entire show experience was to enjoy the process of rehearsal. . .Though it's the same show in the same way, you constantly find little ways to get better. I didn't used to, but now I love the process and find it the best part of the show experience. . .
[As a brewer], I brew the same beer 9–10 times a week every week. What keeps me loving my job is that I have found the same joy in the process that I used to have in rehearsal. Every batch is a chance to refine and get better. We tweak, we measure, we adjust. The minor changes in water chemistry, malt, color, yield, and hops all come in to play at this level. . .It's like a long rehearsal and the occasional pint at the end of the week or sold out beer festival is the show."
Often, things don’t seem to make sense in the moment. There are times when we feel we’ve wandered too far off course or when we don’t know where we want to go next. Yet, it’s reassuring to recognize that we each have control over how we shape our narratives. Never forget that you own your story.
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