What if we quantified success by stories instead of cash? Experience instead of accomplishments.

The better the true story you could tell about yourself, the higher the value…

What would this do to your bank account? And what would it do to the decisions you made?

How would it change your career? Would it adjust your weekends? What would you be willing to try?

Good stories have lots of characters, lots of conversations. A good story has a lead with a heart of gold who keeps trying. A good story usually has some mistakes cooked in. Someone misjudges. Someone narrowly escapes. Someone shows compassion, crosses their fingers. Someone else tries again.

A good story has action. It involves less sitting and more attempting. It involves underdogs and longshots and second and third attempts.

A good story has a payoff. Maybe it’s a lesson learned, a perception changed, a paradigm shifted.

Maybe it’s subtle. A smile. A wink. A change of pace.

But a good story has substance.

Try this: Think of five or ten people you know – friends, family members, co-workers.

Using traditional measures of success, quickly rank them from those who seem to have attained the most down to the one with the least.

Got it? Now change the criteria. Rank this same group in a values system anchored by quality narrative.

What happens to your list?

On mine, the doctor and lawyers lose a few spots to the long-time touring road manager. The middle school teacher who used to make albums and now spends weekend late-nights entertaining in a piano bar just got a little ahead of the guy with the giant house.

There is nothing to say you can’t succeed on both scales. In fact, doing well in both economies may be what we are all trying to balance. But so often we sacrifice the stories to cram in another meeting or err on the side one-more-weekend-shift.

I’m not advocating being reckless. But there is a way to be responsibly adventurous.

And maybe you are successful on the story scale and just don’t know how to harvest the fruit. We aren’t all born storytellers.

Want to check the value of your history? Start by answering a few questions:

  1. When was the last time you laughed until you cried?
  2. What is the most scared you have ever been?
  3. When have you been embarrassed recently?
  4. What strange things have you seen in the last two weeks?
  5. What is the last thing you remember your mom yelling at you about (as a child or as an adult)?

These are just a sample of things you might ask yourself to start a personal story inventory. And not every question will be painless. But when has being successful ever been easy?

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