Your Story is the Only Intrinsic Value You Bring to Life
It’s not that hard to be the sharpest knife in a drawer full of spoons.
There are times in life when everyone else thinks you’ve got it all figured out. You’re on the court, you’re in uniform and although you secretly feel like a fraud, you think you’re about to win until you pull the dumbest move in the history of team sports.
Here’s how it went down.
I grew up all over the midwest, the son of a preacher man, as the song says. I went to four different grade schools, in four different states. We landed here in Oklahoma, just after my thirteenth birthday. I’ve been here, 35 years.
When I was thirteen and in seventh grade, I went to a small private school, and because I’d reached the height of 5’11” a couple of years earlier, everybody assumed I’d be a basketball player. I wasn’t.
I mean, I could dribble with one hand, make a lay up and shoot a free throw, but I’d never really played, didn’t understand strategy, couldn’t even begin to grasp defense. I was basically useless unless my size just intimidated the opposing player.
Anyway, I made the B squad, and I was a starter.
Until it happened.
We were three games in to the biggest “B” team tournament in our league and playing against a school called “Christian Heritage Academy”, which was ironic, because although their junior high was twice the size of ours, they were cheating by starting their first string JV forward on their seventh grade “B” team roster.
Needless to say, we were getting our butts kicked.
To be fair, we sucked pretty hard and probably wouldn’t have done much better against their seventh graders, but it was the principle of the thing.
Finally, one of our parents was able to get the forward disqualified, they took his points off the board (not sure what rulebook that came out of) and we ended up one point down, with thirty seconds to play. We had a chance.
Our star forward, a kid named Frank Plumlee, who was also a pitcher who knocked me cold trying to prove I couldn’t catch his fastball ( a story for another time) took the ball down the court on a fast break and I made a beeline for the lane, “posting up” or that’s what I thought I was doing, I don’t know.
Frank sees me open, looks for anybody else, anyone at all, and finally, with a look of disgust, makes the pass. I receive it at chest high, back to the basket about a third of the way up the key.
Now, what I honestly meant to do next was pivot out, rock back, and put a short jumper in the net.
Without even looking at the basket, my hands dipped below my waist. and to my horror, as if in slow motion, I watched myself take the ball up, over my head, backwards, without looking, and lob it in the general direction of the backboard.
Even as a non athlete, I was horrified. Laughter swept the stands, with more than a few boos from our section. It was three weeks before Frank could look at me.
Did I mention I was not a basketball player?
This scrawny kid with curly hair -the guy who’d replaced the ringer- who was maybe 5’2” -with his sneakers on- swept past me, grabbed the rebound, pounded back up the court and sank the last basket of the game from the free throw line.
As a solopreneur, I’ve had to wear a lot of hats. I love hats. You may have noticed.
Over time, I’ve learned that there are some hats that don’t fit me well. Put me in a creative role, and I’ll nail every detail. But, in general, I’m a big picture guy. I can offer suggestions on other areas, and often spot problems because I’m a connections thinker, but when it comes to implementing solutions outside of my sandbox, it’s hard for me to do it hands on.
I need to delegate to others who are excited about it.
I just don’t care.
There, I said it. The big reason that I’ve been self employed and run my own small businesses for 25 years. So much of what passes for important in business, just escapes me.
I don’t get why you need a strict dress policy in a world where people wear jeans to weddings and funerals
I can’t feel you on the need to scold grownups for clocking in five minutes late from lunch.
It blows my mind why you’d spend six months searching for the perfect candidate, then micromanage them into an early exit by insisting they forget all the great reasons you hired them in the first place.
My bliss is a good conversation, where you tell me a great story, and we find a way to make that make you money.
See, they wanted me on their team, because I looked like a knife in a drawer full of spoons.
Among a group of people who trend on the low side of 5’6”, I was a giant. They were impressed, but they shouldn’t have been.
This carries into my life as a writer and creative too. When you find yourself surrounded by people who don’t create for a living, it’s easy to impress them with simple suggestions. I can phone it in and still land the gig.
But the problem is, if you’re selling to spoons, and I’m thinking like a knife, there’s going to be a huge disconnect. If I’m playing to my own audience of one, instead of understanding your market, I feel great, you may be wowed, but the people who really matter? They’ll ignore us both.
Knives dig steak and chopping vegetables.
Spoons feel awkward at a barbecue until the condiments and baked beans show up.
It’s easy to think being a knife is somehow better, until the Maitre D delivers that hot bowl of delicious soup. Then you’ll wish you were a spoon.
That’s why, through years of acting and directing, I’ve had to train to step, temporarily, into the heads of other people. People who are not remotely like me. And, I’m told, portray them convincingly. As an acting coach, I can help you do the same.
I’m not saying that to brag. After all, for 25 years, that’s basically all I spent my time thinking about. I’m a knife in that way, and if you’re a spoon, that’s a foreign concept.
Now, you break out a spreadsheet and start talking ROI and profit margins and things get fuzzy.
I’m a pretty smart guy, I know the terminology, but you’ll probably lose me somewhere around the third column. It’s not that I don’t get it, I dig the measurement of success this represents, I’m just not the guy to explain it to.
No, I’m the guy who hears the end result, and goes back through the process to figure out where the disconnect is.
To me, it seems, it’s our job in life to figure out which role we play. In some scenarios, I’m the knife, in other places, I’m more like a spork. But, the idea is to feel it out and play to your strengths. This doesn’t mean we aren’t flexible and can’t learn new things, hell I’ve had to, just to survive. I’ve even got paid to learn new things from time to time.
What I’m talking about is being so in tune with yourself that you provide what’s needed from you in whatever environment you choose to plug into. You might not be the best at scooping soup, but a knife can dish out condiments too.
It’s that essential character, that “youness” that should flavor whatever role you put yourself into.
Notice, I did not say “get put into” because we’re all grownups and you chose your job. You put yourself there, and even if it’s traditionally a role for forks, but you feel more like a melon baller, your job is to just bring that baller attitude to bear and fill that fork’s role with a melony zest!
Or, better yet, find the opportunity that truly utilizes all that melon balling badassery to its fullest extent? Cool?
I may, or may not have mentioned yet that I’m a dad. Not just a dad, but one of “those” dads who has eight amazing kids, no twins, all with the same woman and never having been a Mormon or a Catholic. Yes, I know what causes it, and that my friends, is a story for another day.
But, as a dad to 8 human beings -half of whom now run their own lives quite successfully so far- and the oldest of seven children, I’m a mentor by default. So, here’s my take on this, from one dad’s point of view.
That thing, that makes you a melon baller, or a dessert fork, or a sorbet spoon. Your essence. It’s way more powerful than you think or imagine. It is. Not only that, but it is the key ingredient to your real success. When I say crap like, you can be yourself or a cheap imitation of someone else, I’m not just being a wiseass. (yes I am, no wait… okay, maybe a little)
I’m sharing something I believe deeply from the bottom of my heart.
We never pushed our kids. Ever.
Before you yell at me, the first one is in vet school, the second is a YouTuber who ranks about number three for VR gaming content (8BitNinja) the third is a junior working on her bachelor’s in photography, and already getting paid over a $100 an hour to shoot weddings, and the fourth just paid his first semester’s rent after covering his way to film school with his scholarships.
We set what we thought were reasonable expectations and we maintained them, but we didn’t push them. Instead, we encouraged them to find out who they are, and take that as far as they possibly can!
Because that’s what we’ve done with our own lives. And we’re happy.
I’ve spent my entire life telling stories from the age of eight when my third grade teacher handed me the assignment of writing a Halloween story on a single sheet of Big Chief paper that turned into three sheets, with accompanying illustrations.
I’ve done it:
As a clown
As an actor
As a public speaker
As a director
As a theatrical designer
As a playwright
As a freelancer
As a social media manager
As an author
And now as a ghostwriter
My wife followed me into the theater, which equipped her to do the work she does now, educating women on intimacy issues and managing a team of badass female entrepreneurs who will sell over a half million dollars in product this year.
Our successes haven’t always been measured by our bank account, but we’ve got lots of time and we’re getting there.
But, here’s what I want to say to you. If you don’t get anything else out of what I’m spitting here, get this. Are you ready?
Your unique story is the only intrinsic value that you personally bring to the marketplace.
I know for some of you, this feels like a slap in the face. You want to know if I think your MBA, PHD, or CPA is some kind of joke. No, I don’t. But listen to what I’m saying, your intrinsic value isn’t wrapped in a diploma, or a certification. It’s baked in. It’s in all the moments you’ve lived, and laughed and loved and cried, and died a little.
And for many of us, that’s sad, because we don’t use it. We put it on the shelf for special occasions, and only those people closest to us really see the “Real Me”.
I don’t care if you play a knife at work. If you’re a spoon, it’s going to show. And if it doesn’t, it’s going to dig at you from the inside out until you break.
It’s not that hard to be the sharpest knife in a drawer full of spoons.
But, if you’re a spoon, that’s your drawer. Own it!
Thanks for reading my article, if you agree that our perspectives are hugely undervalued, please take a moment to like this article, or share it with your own network. I'd also love to read your comments.