When I was in my second year of college I was lucky enough to take Western Civ with the great cultural historian, Karl Joachim Weintraub.
Little did I know that walking into this class and experiencing Professor Weintraub, listening to how he spoke about History and its relationship to the individual, would set the course of my life.
I know now that these kinds of experiences are called “feather from the firebird.” (If you want to find out more about feather from the firebird check out the mythologist Michael Meade's work).
Your life literally opens up in front of you in a before and after moment and you are captured by a call to understand, do or be something. This is an archetypal experience. It’s got a massive voltage. And you will never be the same after such an experience because you just got called.
It would take me the next 20 years to sort out what that meant.
I can tell you now that Weintraub was a guru experience for me. Whatever he was for me, I would be for other people.
I need to slow that down for you.
We get blown out when we are young in these first moments when we meet the very energies we are to become.
Look to the story of the great Grail hero, Parzival, for a road mapping of exactly this story.
But even more specifically, I was served in the question Weintraub's work explored.
What does the value of the individual, our highest idea of what we do with our Selves, our lives, have to do with the larger moment we’re living in history? In particular Weintraub was interested in looking at the story told by great individuals who changed the world about their own sense of becoming.
From Weintraub’s instigation I took up the question of Self Story and its relationship to Collective Story. (Today I'm likely to explore this using the term "social story" as the site, the place we work this storytelling together--with the key factor being that it is experiential).
At first I studied literature and its form. Then I studied writing and its form. Then I studied myth and its form. And then I studied psychological theories of development and the form of the stories we tell through this lens, all so I could write a dissertation about the shape, the form of our storytelling to become that individual who lives history by reaching our highest potential.
Then I turned to collective forms of storytelling beyond looking back into literature, history, and myth, by studying current and future story in the myth of our time: business and the story of our professional lives. I’ve worked alternatively with the form of businesss story as brand story. And I’ve worked very deeply with individuals at the site of their professional life story.
I’m looking for the weave—the mirroring—that Weintraub suggested existed. That very first idea to excite my own intellectual fire.
And that question has me somewhat obsessed with this idea of a corporation and its story of becoming, what we call Brand Identity and how we see our own identity, our own becoming mirrored or not in this collective story.
For sure what holds these two stories together is the very form of Story. And the topic: Identity.
Even so that we can speak of business story and the story of our lives as Identity Story and the story of our becoming. We can also look to the questions of life story, what remains the same and what changes over time, as a shared frame for brand story.
These days, professionals often confide in me their heartbreak over working within Brands, the most esteemed brands in the world, where they hoped they’d find an identification, a fulfillment of purpose, and instead they find misalignment.
This is very serious. What it means is that those individuals have fallen out of their myth. (I promise to explore this thread more fully elsewhere).
I also think a lot about the attempt of Brand Story to create an identification with their customers that feels a mirror. Our Story, our brand story of becoming to solve just such a problem, is your story, you’ve got this problem, and you can turn to us to solve it, which is the story of now, the story of your problem solved in coming to us, the mentor of this very problem.
This phrasing here is not a new idea. It's Marshall Ganz' idea in the I, US, NOW model for leadership story as a leadership practice.
My theory is that this same model is the only substantial frame we can use for Brand Story. And furthermore, I'm convinced that it's a Love Story.
Now--I’m not certain of any of this…which is why I study story. But I’m held fast to the exploration of the topic…I just can’t get off of it.
Somehow you, me, and us are in these stories. The stories of our brands, the stories of our lives within our professional becoming…and we are looking for mirrors of our becoming…up to what looks like living myth….connected.