How did you get here?
There’s something confronting about a question like this, especially when a gun-toting US border guard is asking it. You don’t want to hesitate or seem evasive. You want to get your story straight. Problem is, when you really think about it, it’s not a straightforward question.
How did I get here?
How I answer depends on how far back I begin my tale. Does Sergeant Lopez want me to start my account from when I landed? (A: by foot) Or when I took off? (A: by plane). Does he want me to go back a week, a month, a year or further?
Well, Sarge, I was heading for a career in the arts when, in the mid 90’s I began to broaden my activities into the corporate world and two decades later here I am, having conversation with clients on the West Coast. Is that what the US wants to know? Or should I give him more biographical backstory? Back in the 19th century, my forbears the Perltonavitches got tired of being kickbags for Cossacks and started trudging across Europe in search of a better life…
“Sir?” Sgt Lopez is looking at me impassively.
And if we go waaaay back, there’s really no point in asking the question. We were all seeded in the same cosmic convulsion that was the Big Bang, right? So everyone turning up at Customs (Chechens and Chileans, Arabs and Isrealis, Returnees and Refugees, even North and South Londoners) actually has the same embarkation point. Odd thought. Our life stories may have unfolded differently but they all started the same. Humanity has a collective once a upon a time…
As it turns out the BA flight number was all US immigration was looking for. But long after I clear customs the question remains in my head, a wonderful provocation to think about the story you’ve been living and want to live in future:
How did you get here?
PS I should have played Sgt Lopez this sound clip. In 3 minutes it sums up my journey to here, why I think story is so important – especially if you are trying to get anything done in this world – and why I have just written a book about it.
We’re launching Story for Leaders on March 8th at my London Business Forum workshop on Storytelling, Do join us. There are still some places and you’ll get a free copy of the book. Must remember to invite US Customs!