Reclaim Your Story- Guest Story by Jeff Rock

The Night It Began

 On an October night in 2012, Immigration Attorney Margaret Baumer was on her way home to her apartment in New York City with some friends. They were returning from a party and upon getting to her apartment, Margaret Baumer realized that she didn't have the key to her door.  She came up with a creative, if unorthodox, plan for getting into her apartment, and it almost worked.  But in executing her plan, she had an accident and her arm was almost completely severed just below the elbow.  It was the beginning of a series of painful events including multiple surgeries and being separated from her family by Storm Sandy.

Own Your Narrative

 The story of the accident was picked up by several online publications, some of which distorted the truth, and created a devastating narrative where the protagonist is a fool deserving of her fate and losing a limb is funny.  These negative comments could have facilitated a downward spiral for Margaret had she let that narrative become her identity.  The “journalists” in question tried to hijack her story so that it was no longer hers. Instead Margaret decided to reclaim the narrative and provide a fuller, more complete version of her story, pointing out that the night in question highlighted one bad decision in a life marked mostly by intellect, kindness, and work in the helping professions. She has continued on the same path of helping others since her accident and made a miraculous recovery by relying on her inner strength.

The Origin of Stories

 Anthropologists postulate that storytelling about people and events helped our early ancestors to survive. Stories simulate real life.  They communicate how you would behave in a similar situation.  These stories build trust within your community and create a way for us to connect with others in a meaningful way.

Our brains then, are hard-wired to comprehend and store information in story form. Stories are really that important.  Communities are built upon them. Political campaigns are won or lost because of them.  Trust is at the heart of your Brand Story.  If your personal brand is your unique promise of value, then your brand story is about what people can trust you to do.


Storytelling as a Tool

 As a coach, my most powerful tool for working with my clients is storytelling. At our first meeting, I ask my clients to tell me their story.  It helps me to understand how they see themselves and the world.  As the story of their journey unfolds, their stories reveal strengths and skills that they did not see in themselves.  Before long, the inner-critic makes it's presence known, and I begin to seek out ways to expose it.

As our work continues, my clients come to understand their limiting beliefs through story.  What are the stories they tell themselves, and believe, that limit their growth and stop them from achieving their full potential?  The words we use in the telling of our stories can indicate enthusiasm or fear, hope or despair.  It is difficult to set a goal and believe you will achieve it if you also believe that you are a victim and have no control over your life.

As our work together winds down, we write the next chapter in their story and in so doing, create the reality they envision.

Metastory – Story of Action

 In his new book, True Story, Ty Montague talks about metastory. “Metastory is a story told through action.  It is not a story that you say. It's a story that you do.”

Everyone has a metastory.  It is your true story and the sum of all observable actions by the people in your communities over the course of time.  Consider 360 feedback surveys such as 360Reach.  By collecting feedback from representatives of all of your communities including friends and family, you have a report of how your metastory is perceived.  Your personal brand is defined, in large part, by your metastory.

There are times when our story, the narrative about who we are and what we can be trusted to do, get hijacked by others for reasons other than making connections.  How do you stop a story thief?  You stop them with your metastory, your true story of your actions.

The hijacked version of Margaret Baumer's story can be summarized in three words: Stupid drunk lawyer.

Atty. Margaret Baumer's Metastory

Here is an abbreviated version of her true story:

Margaret Baumer grew up in a small town in Massachusetts on the east coast of the United States.  It was a largely rural area and she loved being outdoors playing and climbing.  In her adult life, she maintained that sense of adventure and recently hiked to Machu Piccu in Peru with some friends.

In her professional life, Maggie was an attorney with Goldstein and Lee P.C. where she practiced immigration law.

Prior to that, she was a mediator at the Brooklyn Mediation Center where she helped low-income families settle personal disputes.

She served as an intern with the Attorney General for the State of New York where she spearheaded a project in pursuit of predatory credit card companies.

Before getting into law, Margaret Baumer was a Mental Health Counselor at the Franklin Medical Center assisting psychiatric patients in crisis.

Margaret graduated from Tufts University cum laude with a BA in Clinical Psychology. She graduated with her Juris Doctor in Law from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University. She is a member of the New York Bar Association and the Massachusetts Bar Association. Some of her personal brand attributes identified by her communities are:  Bright, Adventurous, Positive, Inspiring, and Compassionate.

The Accident in the Context of the Metastory

 Now, let's look at what happened in the context of Margaret's metastory.

On the night of the accident, Attorney Margaret Baumer was on her way home to her apartment in New York City with some friends. They were returning from a party and upon getting to her apartment, Margaret Baumer realized that she didn't have the key to her door. They were able to get into the lobby where there was a trash chute leading to the basement and laundry room.  She knew she could get into her apartment if she could get to the basement.  She opened the chute and the light was on in the room below.  She was athletic, adventurous, and had negotiated more difficult moves in her hiking and climbing experience. It was a straight shot.  But the entrance of the hydraulic trash compactor was hidden in the shadows, so when she navigated the chute, her arm went into the motion-activated trash compactor and it clamped down on her arm. She was trapped for about an hour. She has since endured twelve surgeries.

The Bigger Picture

 Margaret's larger story demonstrates a life-long pattern of finding meaning in her work through helping others.  She is smart and well-educated.  She has used her gifts and talents to help people through working in mental health, health law and advocacy.  She is viewed by her friends, family and colleagues as compassionate, responsible and dependable. She has also overcome tremendous hurdles, including the loss of her limb, with grace and determination and used these events to find new meaning in her life. Since her accident, Margaret Baumer has joined a women’s group aimed at assisting women to become powerful speakers in their personal and professional lives. Over the course of eight months, she has begun taking on a leadership role with this organization and facilitates some of the weekly group discussions. 

She has also used her experience to begin helping other amputees navigate the change in their lives and to re-enter society with confidence. She continues to work on her personal growth by taking vocal lessons to become a more powerful speaker herself and maintains a healthy lifestyle and strict exercise regimen. In short, instead of breaking down and succumbing to depression based on the loss of her limb and the public damage done to her image, she has gotten up, dusted herself off and blazed forth on a course of recovery and philanthropy. This Margaret Baumer bears little resemblance to the one in the media.

How to Reclaim Your Story?

 There are many ways to communicate your metastory.  A strong social media presence is one way to ensure your metastory is known, or at least available.  Margaret used a BlogTalk radio show hosted by me.  Within a few days, the show had been listened to by 1,855 people.  People from all over the world reached out to her and she was surrounded by love and support.  The stories in the online media are now becoming obsolete, and serve only as an example of the work we still have before us to bring compassion to the world.

Finding Truth Through Storytelling

 In the end, it is our stories that create truth from facts.  Our stories speak to what is at our core, where we have been and where we are going.  They are our truth, our personal brand,our connection to our purpose, and the vehicle by which we reach our potential.  Stories are the proprioceptors  of our world, creating awareness for our selves and others of where we are in time and space. 

During the course of our lives, we are handed many stories by people and institutions.  We have a choice.  We always have a choice.  We can choose to be victims to those who will take our stories, or we can choose to live out the stories that define us, release the stories that hurt us, and write the stories that fully express our personal brand and enable us to reach for the stars.
Brief Profile

Jeff Rock is the Founder and Chief Insight Officer of Swift River Coaching, a consulting company that employs personal branding and transformative storytelling as engines of personal development. He works with mid career professionals to make career course adjustments or determine what's next..

Jeff's clients come to him with their career stories and together, they deconstruct the narrative and pull out the strengths, skills, and passions that are the substance of their value proposition.

He conducts workshops, retreats, and group coaching sessions for individuals and companies that integrate energy management, personal branding, and transformative storytelling. This combination of disciplines enables both success and authenticity.

Jeff is the Executive Producer of The Next Step with Jeff Rock, a BlogTalk Radio show.  His career in Corporate America spanned over 25 years and included Project Management, Information Technologies and Consulting.

Certifications include:
The Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC) both as an Empowerment Coach and Energy Leadership Master Practitioner.
Genos International Emotional Intelligence assessments
Reach Certified Personal Branding Strategist.


Popular posts from this blog

Mind Lost, Heart Won

Everything Connects, A Book by Faisal Hoque & Drake Baer

One Plus One Equals Eleven