Episode 238 – Rewrite Your Story
Rob Shallenberger: Welcome to what is going to be a great week! This is your host, Rob Shallenberger – I hope you are doing well, wherever you find yourself in the world, even during these crazy times!
I wanted to share two things with you on this podcast that were great learning experiences for me, over the course of a couple of days this last weekend. So, this past weekend, here in the United States, 4th of July, we celebrated Independence Day, and so, we had the chance to go up with our family to visit our in-laws on their farm in southern Idaho. And we get along great, they’re an incredible family, I’m very blessed to be able to marry into that family and we always have good visits together. And while I was there, like I mentioned, I learned two important lessons that were very helpful to me, and I want to share these with you. And I’d love to hear from you if you feel like these are helpful, if this makes a difference, because sometimes you wonder in the back of your mind, “Do these podcasts really make a difference? Do these lessons learned and these thoughts and ideas that we share, do they really make a difference? Should we keep doing these podcasts?” And it’s when I get a text or an email, someone talking about what they heard or listened to, that’s the fuel to the fire that makes us want to keep doing these podcasts. And so, I would love to hear from you what your experience was – if these two things that I’m going to share on this podcast made a difference for you, if they helped you in some small way because that really is what sometimes provides the fuel and the fire to keep doing these.
So what I’m going to focus on is Principle #7 of the 12 Principles. And if you’ve read our book, or listened to these podcasts for any amount of time, you know that Principle #7 of Highly Successful Leaders is to be an effective communicator. Easier said than done, right? And in my experience, this is probably one of the most challenging of the 12 Principles to live, almost across the board because we live in a culture of problem solvers. We want to fix things, we want to get in there and make it better, make it right. And we’d like to solve the problem. And one of the challenges for most people is really being able to listen effectively and communicate well.
So these are two things that I’m going to share that had a big impact on my life – and my wife is dialing these in pretty well and sometimes I’m a little slower learner than she is so it takes me a little bit more time. But I’m going to share with you these two lessons learned and then, let’s see what impact they may have in your life. So, here are the two big takeaways that we’re going to talk about and cover on this podcast: Number one, is to communicate in a way that motivates others. This may seem like a trivial or a small thing, but the reality is this can make a huge difference. I saw that this weekend, and I’ll explain more of what I mean by that. So, whether it’s your children, your employees, your co-workers, your spouse, whoever it might be, communicate in a way that motivates them. Number two that we’re going to talk about here, this big lesson learned that I had is learning to rewrite your story. In other words, how many times do we create these stories in our brain, based out of thin air and we create a mountain out of what would otherwise be a molehill? And what’s amazing is, how often I’ve been creating these stories in my mind, and as I’ve talked with others, I found that they’re doing the exact same thing. And so, this is a really conscious effort to rewrite some of these stories. And again, I’ll explain what I mean by that, here, in just a couple of minutes.
So let’s start with number one: communicating in a way that motivates others. Here’s where this came about. So we’re there at my in-laws, it’s Friday afternoon and the next morning – Saturday morning – I wanted to take my daughters on a four-wheeler ride. So I asked them the question, “Hey, Bella, do you want to go on a four-wheeler ride?” Her response? “Nope.” “Okay, Lana, do you want to go on a four-wheeler ride?” “Nope.” And then, of course, I started being a little persistent. “Alright, come on! It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be a great time.” “Nope. No, thank you. I don’t want to go. No, I don’t want to do it.” Alright, so now I’m deflated. I was so excited to take these girls on a four-wheeler ride up in the Canyon. It was a beautiful, green Canyon. I had just been up there with my wife a few hours prior and it was awesome. It was beautiful. And I knew that they would love the four-wheeler ride. They always do after the fact.
But, here we are. There’s a situation. They both said no, they both had zero desire to go. Well, that’s when my brother-in-law – fortunately, Darrell is a great guy – heard me and he said, “Rob, you’re approaching this the wrong way. You’ve just got to speak their language.” And I go, “Expand on this. What do you mean by speaking their language?” And he said, “You just need to find out what it is that they want, and then help them get that.” And so, for example, we talked about the gas station – there’s a gas station about a half-mile away; remember, we’re up in rural Idaho here, so there’s not many stores or anything like that. There’s a simple gas station. So, he suggested that I asked my daughters if they could go to the gas station, what’s one thing that they would want, and then take them to the gas station and get it.
So, I thought that’s pretty good advice. Let’s try this little experiment. See how it works. Maybe 10-20 minutes later, I called Bella back over – my 15-year-old daughter – and I brought her in close and I whispered to her, “Alright, Bella. So, if we stopped at the gas station, if just you and I snuck out and went to the gas station, what would you like if you could have anything in the store?” And she said, “Takis“. I guess are these little spicy things, kind of like a Dorito in some form or another. But, anyway, she said Takis. And so then, I asked her, “Well, how about if tomorrow morning you and I quietly slip away on the four-wheeler and we’ll run over the gas station and get you some Takis?” And all of a sudden, she’s like, “Dad, it sounds great!” So, there we go! And I was so excited. So, I said, “We need to leave by 9 AM” And it’s a Saturday morning. She goes, “Oh, can’t we go a little later?” I said, “No. If we need to get the Takis, we need to go at 9 AM.”
So, anyway, she was up, she was ready to go. We left at 9 AM, and we had a great ride. We rode the half-mile on the four-wheeler, so that was quick. We walked into the store. She got her chips. And from there, I said, “Well, would you like to just go over here real quick while we’re on the four-wheeler?” She goes, “Oh, yeah, that’s fine!” And we ended up having a great ride. We went up to this nearby cemetery – it’s the St. Charles cemetery. We saw the gravesite of my great, great, great grandparents. She walked with me out there. And so, overall, it ended up being a great experience together. But it was almost the ride that wasn’t. So, thanks to my brother-in-law, Darrell, who helped me see a better way to communicate! And it was that reaching out and speaking their language that helped make the connect because in my mind, “Hey, do you want to go on a four-wheeler ride? It’s beautiful up there. The scenery is great. The views are great.” That didn’t connect with my 15-year-old daughter. So, what was her answer? “Nope. Nope, don’t want to go.” There was nothing I could say that would change her mind from my perspective. And, as soon as I shifted the conversation to what it is that she wants, and what resonated with her, she was all in. And someone could say, “Well, isn’t that manipulation?” No, it’s just speaking to what connects with the person. As soon as I started talking about, “Hey, Bella, what do you want?” “I want Takis.” “Okay, how about if we go on a little ride and get some Takis?” Now, there’s a mutual benefit. I’m on the four-wheeler ride spending time with her, she’s getting the Takis, and we ended up having a great experience.
And I thought, how many times does this apply to our employees, to our team members, our co-workers, the people we work with? How about especially the customer, if we’re running a business? How many times do we communicate in a way that resonates with them? How many times do we speak their language? Do we focus on the benefits to them rather than the features that we so often talk about with our product or our service? It’s something to think about if you’re in the business world. On a personal level, when you’re talking with your spouse or with your children, it’s the same thought process: how do you communicate in a way that resonates and motivates them? So, something to think about.
The second lesson learned I had when we were in Bear Lake, is this idea of rewriting your story that I brought up earlier. Now, let me explain what I meant by this. So, again, my wife and two brother-in-law’s, we’re having a great conversation – Darrell and Brian. And we’re talking about my 18-year-old son – so we have four kids: an 18-year-old son, and three girls, 15, 12, and turning 10 the next week or so. As we’re talking about my son, he’s kind of at a pivotal point in his life right now and he’s getting ready to go in numerous different directions. So this is what spurred the conversation, is talking about my son.
Now, from conversations with others, it sounds like there are a lot of people out there in the same boat that I’m in when it comes to rewriting your stories. In other words, what I mean by this – and then I’ll jump into what it meant to me and my son – when we talk about rewriting your stories, it’s easy to create these stories in our brain of what I call, ‘what ifs’. Many times these are made-up stories, and the only thing they do is consume our energy, they create stress, and even potentially strain the relationship. In other words, oftentimes it’s about making a mountain out of a molehill. It’s creating something big out of something that’s fictional and doesn’t even exist.
So let me come back now and use my 18-year-old son as the example here. He is a great young man. That is the truth. He just graduated from high school. He’s a good, young man. He has great ambitions. He got accepted to BYU, he got a full-ride ROTC scholarship to be either a fighter pilot or a surgeon in the Air Force. He’s planning right now to go serve a two-year mission in Juiz De Fora, Brazil, which is about 60 or so miles to the west of Rio de Janeiro. Beautiful mountainous place! He starts that experience on July 15th. So, there’s a lot of things that are happening right now. This is a pivot point in his life. So, here we are, we’re about two weeks prior to his start date and we’re just talking about his life.
Now, just after he graduated from high school, which is about a month ago, he moved in with a group of friends about 30 minutes away from our current home. He’s selling pest control in the Valley nearby. And so, he’s had about a month when he’s no longer subject to the guidelines in our home. He’s had fun, he’s played – it’s given him a chance to really spread his wings and have some freedom there. And yet, it’s been interesting to see in my own mind, how many stories I’ve created out of thin air when it comes to him, my son. “Oh, he stayed up late. So what if this becomes his new habit? Then, what if he’s not working because he’s staying up late? Then, what if…” And so on. And you create this mountain out of a molehill! Can you see how unproductive that negative line of thinking is?
I thought maybe I’m the only one that’s thinking like this. And then, as soon as I started talking to the others, I realized that this is something that a lot of people do. A lot of us do this in our minds, we conjure up out of thin air this potential false reality and it becomes so consuming. Now, the reality is that almost every one of those thoughts, those stories, those what-ifs, they never happened. I’m looking at it now. We’re in early July, he starts his experience next week – his two-years service mission. All of these what-ifs, these imagined things in my mind, never came to fruition. And you know what? Even if they did, so what? I mean, isn’t that how we learn in life? It’s not easy to see other people struggle, especially our children or a spouse or others like that but the reality is, that’s how we grow, we learn from those types of experiences. So, if we make mistakes that’s okay! Hopefully, they’re not what we call ‘catastrophic mistakes’, but even if they are, we still continue to work through life in those.
The point that I wanted to bring up here, though, is, how often are we creating these mountains out of molehills? How often in our minds are we creating and writing these stories, and they’re completely fictional, brought up out of thin air? So, the reality is that most of our stories, these what-if scenarios are totally fictional, and they only are in our minds. So why do we come up with these? And I mentioned my wife earlier. She’s becoming a pro at this. She can call us out in a very nice and loving way and she’ll just say, simply, “Rob, is that reality, or is that a story?” And it’s a good check for me to say, “You know what? That’s right! I’m just writing a story here.” And oftentimes, it tends to be a negative narration or a negative story. Well, why not rewrite it for the positive? So what if he has the opportunity to learn this lesson? What if he has the chance to learn from all these experiences? What if… And it becomes a positive reality rather than a negative. And who’s this really affecting? It’s affecting me. I look inside, this story in my brain isn’t going to really affect anyone else, although it could potentially hurt the relationship. So, it starts with my own brain and it’s really affecting me. And so, I love the fact that my wife is now so tuned into this that she’s able to point this out for us, “Rob, is that the reality or is that a story?” And it’s a great check for me.
You know, I saw her doing it with her own mom. And she does it in a very loving way. My wife is just amazing like that. She’s talking with her mom and her mom started going down this same what-if path even for her own life: “If so and so does this, then what if that happens to me? Then what if they do that? What’s going to happen if they do that?” It’s just this what-if journey and it was so easy to see from the outside, it’s like, you’re just bringing this story out of thin air. So Tanya politely paused her and said, “Mom, let’s rewrite the story in a positive way. What if the positive side of that equation happens? Because you don’t know. That negative stuff that you’re talking about now is totally fictional, is totally made up, so let’s rewrite it in a positive way. What if everyone does show up for Christmas? What if everyone does do this? What would that be like?” Otherwise, we’re just creating a negative reality for ourselves.
So this was a really eye-opening weekend for me. It really helped me internalize and look inward and say, “Man, Rob, how many times am I writing these stories?” And I’ll tell you where it’s most easy to do this, is in those relationships in our lives, where we have the tightest, strongest, emotional connection – whether it’s with our spouse, whether it’s with our children; next up, probably, after that are our co-workers. But it’s easy to write those stories with the people who we’re strongly connected with, emotionally. That’s where I found that it often tends to happen.
So, this is a short podcast. I’m just inviting you introspectively to look, number one, as you communicate with your spouse, your children, your partner, your co-workers, especially your customer, other people – communicate in a way that motivates them. Just like with Bella. When I took my approach, I got zero results. When I started asking her from her perspective, what was important to her, now she was all-in and we had a great experience as a result of communicating in a way that resonated and motivated her.
The second invitation from this podcast is to really look at how often you’re writing a story in your own brain. And then, when you recognize that happening, consciously focus on rewriting the story to a positive. Because, like I mentioned, the truth is, most of the time, in most of these stories, the only person who we can really harm is ourselves and our own brain. Now, potentially, if we don’t rewrite that story, it does have the potential to spill out into our relationships and manifest itself. You know, if my son was to show up after I’d been so far down this story path, “Robbie, why were you out doing this? Well, what about this?” And he’s thinking in his mind, “What are you talking about? I’m not even sure what you’re talking about.” Because in my mind, there’s this story that has gone down this path.
And so, I would really invite us to, number one, recognize the stories that we’re writing, and then rewrite them in the form of a positive. Be cognizant about whether you’re creating a story for yourself, or whether you’re creating a story for someone else who’s important in your life, and then rewrite it and see how powerful that becomes. Because the truth is sometimes out of our hands, it’s out of our control. I have a very strong belief in God. Not everybody does – different people, different walks of life, I totally respect whoever that is. I happen to have a very strong belief in God, and I was praying about my son a few months ago, and I had a very clear, distinct impression coming to my mind that said, “Rob, I’ve got it. I’ve got this, trust me!” It was a great faith test for me.
So, every time I start rewriting these stories about my son at this crossroads in his life, I remember: “Rob, I’ve got this! Have some faith!” And so, I would invite us all, as you think about the different people in your life, and especially ourselves, be careful about the stories that we’re creating in our minds because ultimately, those stories can become so powerful in determining our behavior and our thoughts.
So I hope this was helpful. If you have a second and can take just a minute or so and write us a quick email, I’d love to hear your stories and thoughts on this. If you have my number, if you’re a friend and you have my number, you can text me – I would love to hear your thoughts. Because again, it’s when I hear from you, it’s when we hear your thoughts, your stories, that’s what really provides the fuel to keep these podcasts going. Otherwise, it’s just sitting here talking into a mic out into this world that you can’t really see in front of you. And so, we’d love to hear your feedback, is what I’m saying.
Alright, well, my hope is that you have a great week this week. As you’re thinking about communicating with others, find ways to communicate in a way that motivates them, be careful of the stories that we’re coming up with, in our brains, rewrite them when necessary, and shift it to the positive, and feel the power that comes into that. So let’s really focus on that this week, and see what impact it has in our lives. Because remember that one person can make a difference. And it starts with us being that person. So, thank you again for listening to this podcast. I hope you have a wonderful day and a great rest of the week!