Episode 59: Old Stories Create New Pathways

What Stories From Your Past Still Color Your Present?

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His mother went to answer the door while his family sat at the supper table. Chris heard a man's voice, and watched as his father went into the living room. A demonstration and 40 minutes of answers to every objection later, that Electrolux vacuum salesman in the brown polyester suit with bad breath left with an order for a $3,000 machine.

Chris was 10 years old, and his image of a salesman was set for decades. Not only did his family have a vacuum cleaner they didn't need and couldn't afford, his parents bickered over it for months afterward.

Fast forward to Chris as a young adult with entrepreneurial aspirations and the realization that he'd have to get more comfortable with sales if he was going to be successful. He hired a coach who was able to peel back the layers of Chris's experience to find that vacuum salesman and his impact on how Chris saw the word "salesman."


80s Style: Friendship Pins

80s Style: Friendship Pins

In the beginning of our conversation, Chris mentioned his love for heavy metal music, particularly in the late 80s and early 90s. He spoke about wearing his Metallica jean jacket to church, and about having the opportunity to play guitar with a band on Sunday evenings in the same church, and blowing away the senior women with the sound. We made a few references during that part of our conversation, one to a scene in Back to the Future with Michael J. Fox, and another about my friend Ranjith Abraham, and his musical projects, Miles Apart.


Connect with Chris on LinkedIn, and check out his book, It’s Time to Sell. Learn more about Chris and his gifted approach to sales and leadership by visiting his website.

Episode 58: When a Decision Looks Spontaneous, But Isn't - Nicholas Rupp

A Story of Romance and Pivot Points

"Are we going to talk about this?!"

Michael was at a loss when Nicholas handed him the clipboard with a marriage application attached and said: "Here. Fill this out," and then disappeared.

What he didn't know was that Nicholas was making a quick trip home to get their passports, assuming they would need two forms of ID to get the marriage license.

It was when he ran back into the county clerk's office with passports in hand, that Michael asked him what he was up to.

"Michael, I was going to do this on Christmas, but the risk of losing the opportunity is too great. Will you marry me?" And he showed him the rings.

You never know what part of an adventure like that will stick in your memory, or what the pivot point lessons really are until months, or even years later.

Nicholas realized around their fourth anniversary, that if he didn't write down the story, capturing as many details as he could, that he would start to forget those important moments. So he wrote out the story in great detail and posted it on Facebook for his closest friends and family to see. One of those friends was so inspired by the post that she asked him if he would please make it public so she could share it. He did. And it went viral.

One interesting aspect in this story is how Nicholas and Michael choose to remember and celebrate the occasion. Some of their friends who were married that same day, or just a few days later, remember it as being rushed. Some of those people have some regret about the spontaneity of the decision. But not Nicholas and Michael. The entire story is part of their romance, and though their family didn’t get to participate on the day of their wedding, and the couple has some disappointment with that, they remember it with love and humor, knowing the story is unique and a big part of who they are as a couple.


Connect with Nicholas on LinkedIn to learn more about his professional life and career.


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Are you enjoying listening to episodes of this podcast? Are you wondering how you can help me sustain this project, to support and encourage the sharing of important stories?

Here are a few ideas!
1) Leave a rating and comment on your favorite podcast service like iTunes or Stitcher
2) Share a link to the show and tell people why you like it
3) Become a sponsor (for as little as $2/month) by going to Patreon

Can You Bring Your Whole Self to Work?

Stories About Finding Your Fit

An introvert. That's how Jeff sees himself, despite being a successful salesman, and that's part of the reason his first career path led him to  a biology degree and a research position.

He realized at some point that spending all day every day in a lab, mostly by himself, didn't bring him as much satisfaction and stimulation as he thought it would. His colleague found her outlet as a bartender on weekends, and he realized he wanted to do something similar to bring some social activity into his life. Thanks to a few introductions from friends, he found himself training and then working as a DJ on weekends.

Not only did he enjoy the opportunity to get out on weekends, he liked the extra cash he earned. On top of that, he realized that despite his introverted tendencies, he was really good at engaging an audience and getting people to step out of their comfort zones.

After a few years of his Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde life of research scientist by day, wild DJ at night, he started to feel that sense of dissatisfaction again. He realized he felt split, like he was living two completely different, separate lives, and he wanted to be able to bring his whole self to his whole life. That's when he started to explore other options in his field, and found a great fit as a salesman.

How many of us have started down a career path with interest and passion, only to realize the choices we made might not really satisfy all aspects of our character?

The question, then, is how to transition into something that's a good fit?

Jeff Bissen shares his story here, in the hopes that others will see themselves in his story, and make the necessary changes so they, too, can find satisfaction by finding a fit that allows them to bring their whole selves to work.


Are you enjoying listening to episodes of this podcast? Are you wondering how you can help me sustain this project, to support and encourage the sharing of important stories?

Here are a few ideas!
1) Leave a rating and comment on your favorite podcast service like iTunes or Stitcher
2) Share a link to the show and tell people why you like it
3) Become a sponsor (for as little as $2/month) by going to Patreon


Share Your Story on Your Terms

How Do You Tell Your Story Without Being Defined By It?

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It’s not uncommon for people who have disabilities, or dealt with tragedies and other life-altering experiences to want to move forward and just “be normal.” Children who have experienced the death of a parent or sibling are often heard expressing this feeling of not wanting to be known as “the kid who lost his mom.” Many times in life, we see our weirdness through the eyes of the people around us, not really knowing that most everyone feels weird or different, or somehow not “normal” at some point in their lives.

Brian Schulman was sure he was weird, sure he didn’t fit in as he was growing up, partly because he had been born premature and had related health issues, and partly because he was diagnosed with Tourette syndrome in his pre-teen years. He definitely stood out with his tics and quirky physical movements, and being bullied didn’t help at all with his internal messages of being different.

The beauty, though, of each of us having those negative experiences is that they help us make a choice between adding to the sadness and aggressiveness in the world around you, or making a positive difference so those around you never feel like you did. That’s how Brian chose to live his life. He intentionally became a person others wanted to be around, he made sure the people around him felt good about themselves, felt like they could BE themselves.

Learn more about Brian, and connect with him on LinkedIn and Facebook!


Are you enjoying listening to episodes of this podcast? Are you wondering how you can help me sustain this project, to support and encourage the sharing of important stories?

Here are a few ideas!
1) Leave a rating and comment on your favorite podcast service like iTunes or Stitcher
2) Share a link to the show and tell people why you like it
3) Become a sponsor (for as little as $2/month) by going to Patreon


Taking Yourself Too Seriously? Remember Your Mistakes Fondly.

Choose a Cue to Keep it Real

It was my first day of my first real job out of college. My paid internship in Washington DC had ended and I spent the summer playing with my sister and roommate, waiting tables and hosting at a couple of restaurants.

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When my sister moved back home to Colorado, my roommate convinced me to join a temp agency. Shortly after my first placement, the company offered me a job. My appointment with Lori in the HR department was scheduled at 8am on a Monday morning.

It was December, and it was still dark when I woke up, eager to go to my meeting, fill out paperwork, and start my job with the Meetings Department at the American Chemical Society. I dressed in the dark and popped my head into my roommate's bathroom to say goodbye, she said "good luck, Sarah!"

It was still dim outside as I made my way from the apartment to Union Station to catch the train. I sat for the few stops to the Farragut North station and held my little briefcase, a graduation gift from my dad, on the tops of my feet. In my eagerness and anxiety, the long escalator ride to the surface seemed even longer than usual. As I stepped off the escalator, out from under the awning and onto the sidewalk, I glanced down at my feet.

Oh dear.

I looked back up and took a few more steps. I thought, "Oh no, I wouldn't have done that."

Looking back down at my feet confirmed my initial observation: I was wearing two different colored shoes. One was black, the other was navy. They were identical pumps -- except for the color, which, now in full sunlight, was obvious.

Walking into the first office building on my left, I marched with confidence toward the tall counter as the man at the desk behind the counter looked up.

May I please use your phone?

No ma'am. This is not a public phone.

Please? It's kind of an emergency. I'm going to be late for my first day of a new job and I need to call and let them know! Please? (Insert brightest, sweetest, Colorado-hick-in-the-big-city smile I can muster.)

Oh, ok, I guess.

Good morning, Lori. I'm on my way over now, only a few blocks away, but I have to run home so I'm going to be late. Why? Well... I just noticed... I'm wearing two different colored shoes. ... No, I know I can't come to work like that. ... Yes, just about 30 minutes. ... Yes, I'll be there. Thank you.

I hung up the phone and the man at the counter stood to pull the phone back down to the desk so he could peer down at my feet and grin.

Smiling back and thanking him, I ran back to the Metro station. I found myself grinning, feeling very silly, and trying to cover my shoes with my briefcase when I sat down on the train. I managed to get home, change a shoe, drive back to the office, pay an outrageous price to park the car near the building, and get to the HR office in 30 minutes.

When I told my roommate the story over dinner, we couldn't stop laughing. Our stomachs were sore from the deep belly laughs that night. She reminded me of a few other little details I managed to mess up over the previous few months and came up with a term for those, "Sarah-isms."

Those small details add up in similar ways to what I described in an earlier post about finding multiple Band-Aids on my hands. The difference here is that these little details are silly, not dangerous. Stories like these are great reminders that we are human, we are fallible, and that while it's important to take our jobs and responsibilities seriously, we should never -- ever -- take ourselves too seriously. After all, we are all human, no matter how high the pedestal on which we may stand or be placed.

Just a few years after the two-different-shoes incident, I was in Vancouver, Canada, for work. My colleagues and I took an afternoon to rent a car and drive up to Whistler to explore. It's a beautiful ski resort not far from the city; it reminded me a lot of Vail, Colorado. We were there in the spring and the hills were covered in beautiful green grass and wild flowers. A small boutique store back then, Joe Boxer happened to be open that day. Joe Boxer was the brand that got big and famous, thanks to Forrest Gump and his yellow smiley face. At the time, it was a higher-end brand (now you can find it at KMart) and all the rage. I picked out a watch with a brown leather band and smiley faces in place of the numbers on the face. For my husband, I picked a fancy silver one with the smiley face imprinted in the face of the watch. You could only tell when you looked closely at it.

Wearing that watch as a DC professional, as a consultant implementing a major software program in agencies like the Federal Reserve, World Bank, and NSA, kept me grounded. When I found I was taking myself too seriously, all I had to do was look down at my watch. A smile would begin from my wrist and work its way up to my face, guaranteed. DC has far too many people who take themselves far too seriously. They didn't need one more.