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Winning At Working: The Most Important Stories You Tell
by Nan Russell

Stories can inspire or deceive; motivate or manipulate; challenge or deflate; persuade or console; unite or divide; ignite or resolve; anger or connect. But, none of this is new news. Stories are everywhere, all the time. In the papers we read, in the content we watch or listen to, and in the places we frequent. That includes our workplaces. And we're all storytellers.

The stories we choose to tell about ourselves and others impact how we're perceived at work: team player or not team player; victim or problem-solver; resilient or discouraged; approachable or distant. They impact what work culture we help create: trusting or distrusting; silos or teams; soul-enhancing or soul-depleting. And most importantly they impact how we see ourselves. Our choice of stories matter, increasing or decreasing our potential to be winning at working.

But the most important stories you tell at work are the ones you tell about yourself, to yourself. For me, one of those is that I'm technically challenged. Okay, I know what you're probably thinking and you're right. The more I tell myself the story of my technical incompetence, the more likely it is that my behavior lives up to my expectations. That's true on the reverse side, too. Another self-story for my life is that I can invent the future that I want to face. In both cases, as T. Harv Eker puts it, "You will live into your story."

Kyle Maynard is a good example. Before he was nineteen he was a Wrestling Hall of Famer with the impressive title of the "World's Strongest Teen." He's been living into his story, summarized by the title of his book, "No Excuses." You see, Kyle has a congenital condition called quadramenbral phocomelia. He has no limbs below the elbows and knees. His becoming a wrestling champion goes beyond normally impressive feats. But Kyle lives his "no excuses" story not only in the wrestling arena, but in all parts of his life, learning to type fifty words a minute and drive a car.

What stories are you building your life around? Are they enhancing your potential or minimizing it? If your story is a victim story then you'll find problems. If it's about winning at working and achieving your life's potential, you'll see challenges to meet. It's not about the words, it's about your self-vision behind them. How you see your life is how you live it.

Sometimes we're not even aware of the stories we've adopted as our own. We've grown up hearing about who we are, what we're like, what abilities we have or don't have and we overlay those stories onto our life as our own. But here's the wonderful thing about stories. We can write new ones.

For much of my life, a story I lived into was being quiet and shy. It was true I was a very shy child, but I kept the story alive as I grew older. At times, it kept me on the sidelines as a spectator to my life. But now I find that story confining, limiting and detrimental to the work I want to do. So, I've let go of it and replaced it with one that better fits this stage of who I am and what I'm about. I've chosen a different story to live into.

You see, you have the power over your life story. Winning at working is a choice. What I learned in twenty years in management is this: people who are winning at working realize they're the ones with the pen. They know they're the author of their own work story and they act accordingly. So, if they don't like how their story is evolving, they create a better one and start living it. They write their story as they go, building the outcome they desire.

(c) 2006 Nan S. Russell. All rights reserved.

Sign up to receive Nan's complimentary biweekly eColumn at Nan Russell has spent over twenty years in management, most recently with QVC as a Vice President. She has held leadership positions in Human Resource Development, Communication, Marketing and line Management. Nan has a B.A. from Stanford and M.A. from the University of Michigan. Currently working on her first book, Winning at Working: 10 Lessons Shared, Nan is a columnist, writer and speaker. Visit or contact Nan at

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