What’s Your Story?


Stories bring people together in powerful ways.

I was reminded of this at a recent leadership offsite.

Following a day of focusing on the future and identifying imperatives for the coming year, we gathered around the dinner table.

The talk turned to people’s stories, their families and the paths to where they are today.

We heard about teachers, farmers and ranchers. We heard about people who were the first in their family to attend college. We heard about struggles and triumphs. We heard about hard work and dedication.

It was an inspiring slice of largely American history. One especially sage colleague remarked about how far each of our families had come in just a few generations.

It’s easy to lose sight of that in our fast-paced, always-on 21st-century world.

I wonder what life was like for my great-grandfather, Neils Peter Larsen. Born in Denmark in the late 1800s, he was the youngest of 9 children.

With little economic opportunity on the Danish isle of Laeso, he left his country as a young teen. As a cabin boy, he sailed around Cape Horn to San Francisco.

Some years later, he became the captain of his own ship, the St. Katherine. My grandmother and sister share her name and adventurous spirit.

That’s the ship pictured above, temporarily stuck in the ice in the Bering Sea in the early 1900s. How cold must it have been that day? How likely was it the ship would break apart as the ice moved? How scary was it to walk across the waves?

Or maybe it was just business as usual in that line of work.

According to the San Francisco-based Pacific Telephone Magazine where my mom was featured as an employee in the 1960s, “Captain Larsen made history with voyages to Alaska during the Yukon gold rush and later with the Alaskan fisheries.”

I can only imagine what those experiences were like today, as I gaze at my family’s framed sea charts from California, Hawaii and Japan that line my walls.

It’s absolutely incredible to think how far sea navigation has come in little over 100 years – from large paper charts to electronic navigation systems. What amazing advancements will the next century hold?

My great-grandparents honeymooned by sailing around the coast of China. That chart hangs in my parents’ house in Connecticut, complete with pencil markings of an uncharted island my ancestors discovered on their journey.

These stories and the ones I heard from my colleagues remind me of the hard work and determination that are the hallmarks of our country.

They remind me that when things get tough, there’s always a way through – or around or over.

They remind me that the future is exciting and that we’re each creating it, one day at a time.

We have what it takes. We got this.

As I contemplate a visit to Denmark, I’m inspired by the serendipitous family reunion that the multi-talented photographer Denice Duff experienced on a magical trip to Italy.

While looking for her great-grandmother’s house in Sicily, she had the unexpected good fortune to meet family members she never knew she had.

This heartwarming story may be one of the reasons I recently picked up a book called The Storyteller’s Secret.

In this captivating read, Carmine Gallo says that, “since the next decade will see the most change our civilization has ever known, your story will radically transform your business, your life and the lives of those you touch.”

Why is this important? Because “ideas that catch on are wrapped in a story,” he says.

Stories connect us, inform us and inspire us.

That’s undoubtedly one of the reasons behind the golden age of television, with so many compelling shows. This is why it’s so exciting to work in an industry at the intersection of entertainment and technology.

This is where great stories are told that entertain us, help us make sense of the world and prompt us to think about our own stories and the difference we’re making.

(And this is where I remind readers that opinions are my own.)

Speaking of stories, I can’t wait to hear from the speakers at next week’s TEDWomen 2016 conference. Fittingly for me, it’s in San Francisco, close to where I was born and where my daughter is attending college.

What’s your story? How are you writing it every day?

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Caroline Leach

Hi, I'm Caroline Leach. I help people and organizations tell their stories. I'm a Marketing VP at AT&T, a former Communications VP at DIRECTV and an alum of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. This blog, How to Build Your Career through Social Media, shows you how to build your personal brand, advance your career and embrace your future. It helps you promote your employer and your network too. Opinions expressed in this blog are my own. Your comments are welcomed and encouraged. I'd love to hear from you!

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