The story that would have bombed

A close shave at a company offsite trying to pull off something I wasn't ready to.

I was at a company offsite recently. On the flight to the island of Mallorca where I'd meet around 30 of my colleagues, I was nervous.

Just a month ago, I was another software engineer in the company. Now, I have been given the opportunity to lead a major project. As I take my seat, I wonder, "why me?"

But I brush that thought aside quickly. Or, more honestly, stress just kicked that thought out. I need a story.

I knew I needed a story. I had just read a wonderful book about storytelling called Storyworthy by Matthew Dicks and I knew I needed to use a story to bring across the idea that "data must be treated as a product" in our startup.

The flight takes off. I pull out the popsocket stand on my iPhone and lay it on the fold out table in front of me, connect my Magic Keyboard, and launch my notes app.

I'm ready to write the third draft of my story. The story that shall serve to persuade everyone in the company to prioritise the sanctity of data in their everyday work. It will both improve the business and my standing in it.

I already know the story I want to tell. It was surprisingly easy to decide on which story to tell, maybe because I only know a handful of them readily.

I wonder if it's even a good story. Fit for purpose. Or if it's going to flop.

It is the story about how I went from being ranked 35th out of 40 in the last class in secondary school until the final year, when I came in 2nd in the whole cohort. And how it wasn't the exam and grades that motivated me at all, but the fact that the girl I was chasing had strict parents who expected her to have good grades. Because I would do anything to spend a little time with her, I ended up studying a lot. That changed my life because I went to the best university in the country, and every door suddenly opened for me.

I would triumphantly end the story with that revelation, and say a brief few words to link it to the business situation we were in.

Raising funding. We needed to pass an exam to raise successfully. We need not care about how well we do in that exam, but if we did well, it would mean future fund raising would be much easier (doors opening).

But as I type this story into my iPhone, I feel a sinking feeling. How do I tie in the data part into the story? Who is the girl in our business situation?

For the whole 2 hour flight, I push through and find a way to connect the dots. I'm incredibly happy and excited. This offsite is going to be one to remember.

First day of the offsite comes along... and I learn that we have changed plans.

Not everyone's going to attend the workshop I'll be running (for reasons I agree with). Instead, I'm left with a handful of the key stakeholders that I need to get the project up and running.

Am I disappointed? A little.

Am I relieved? Very much so!

I look back now at my messy attempt at telling a story to bring across a point and I realise that it probably would have bombed.

It was a damn realistic rehearsal, though!

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