The Stories We Tell Ourselves: How Inner Narratives Drive Success
In Business and Life
Pay attention to the stories you find yourself telling others. These stories are the evidence of your life learnings that led to your practiced principles.
Until his passing, Regi Campbell was my friend and former investing partner. I miss him and the stories he used to tell. One story he repeated often reflected one of his core life principles. Here’s the story as I remember Regi telling it.
I was CEO of a VC-backed voicemail company in the mid-80s. We were growing by leaps and bounds. However, our growth generated continuous losses. These losses were being financed one round after another by our VCs. One day, this gravy train ended. My VCs said, “It is time this company becomes cash flow positive.”
Like that, my focus moved from the top to the bottom line. And that is when I realized I had a pricing problem. I was not charging enough. But, due to competitive market conditions, there was no way for me to increase my price. That’s when I knew I was screwed.
I was buying long-distance services from AT&T at the time. This was my cost of sales, and it was killing me. Sitting with my CFO, we concluded there was no way for us to make money. Increased sales translated into bigger losses.
The night before a board meeting, I was alone in my hotel room. I was trying to figure out what I was going to tell my VC board members. I had no idea. The facts were staring me right in the face. Our economic model was broken. This wasn’t a management or sales issue. We were optimizing a losing model. Our cost of sales was killing the company.
With no solution, I got on my knees and asked God to save this company. To forgive me for putting a losing strategy in place. To save me from what would certainly be a termination of my employment at the hands of the board. They had no choice. That’s what I would do. Fire me and replace me with someone who could right this ship.
The next morning, I woke up to an AT&T announcement. What they announced blew my mind. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. AT&T reduced its long-distance rates. Just like that, they changed their pricing. This reduction made my company immediately profitable. It was a great board meeting.
This experience changed Regi’s life.
He trusted God with his life and his marriage prior to this. But now he trusted God with his career and his business. I met Regi ten years after this story. His faith in Jesus always inspired me. Because of stories like this, Regi realized he must always trust God. God is in control. God can make straight what Regi made crooked.
I find myself doing the same thing.
As a more experienced investor and businessman, I became a storyteller. When meeting with an entrepreneur, I found myself telling stories. The stories taught me how to be successful in life and business. The stories that established the very principles I live by.
My life is simply a series of stories. Some really happy stories combined with some boring, some embarrassing, some with unhappy endings, and some filled with emotion. But each story shaped me. I am the sum of my stories. If you know my stories, you know me.
So, pay attention to the stories you find yourself telling. Doing this will teach you more about who you are and why you are the way you are. This is valuable.
What's a story from your own life that has significantly shaped your approach to business?