A Choice of Two Stories

Two people can have the same experience and interpret it differently. Each of the stories they tell themselves and others about their experience can be wildly different, even if the general facts are indistinguishable. They are choosing between two frames, and the results that naturally follow.

The Circumstances of Your Birth

Two people could have shared similar circumstances of birth, little money or means, lousy neighborhood, and difficult family situations. For one person, this story is the reason they can’t be more, do more, have more, and contribute more. For the other, that same story is the source of their motivation.

One person struggled to finish high school and had a single year of high school and now tells themselves and others this story to explain why they struggle now. Another tells the story about how hard they worked to gain the skills and experience necessary to build the life they want—putting themselves through college while working.

What It Means to You

It’s possible you might tell yourself and others the story about some circumstance that surely must prevent and preclude you from being something more, doing something more, having something more, or contributing something more, but the evidence against this idea is stacked so high it blocks out the Sun. There are people who right now who have framed the story different from you, whether it’s the story you tell about your beginning, the story you tell about what went wrong, or the one about the person or persons who prevent your success or happiness.

Two days ago, David drove me to the airport in Tampa. I was not quite capable of identifying the place of his birth, and when I asked, he said: “I am from Cuba.” I followed by asking him how he got here, and he replied: “The same way everyone else from Cuba did, on a raft. I was scared.” The circumstances of his birth located him 90 miles or so away from Florida in the wrong direction. David is 61 years old and made that journey only ten years ago. He said, “They start washing your brain in grade school. They tell you the United States is the reason Cuba has so much trouble. I lived on $25 a month there and owned nothing, and now I own a house, I own this car, my third, and I send money back to help my family. America is the greatest country in the world, but you don’t appreciate it.”

What courage it must take to float across 90 miles of the Atlantic Ocean with no certainty you will make it or be allowed to stay. What I know for sure is that the story you tell yourself and others is true for you—even if someone else shares the same facts and tells a very different story.

Something is the reason you can’t, or it is the reason you must, and you are the only one who determines which of those is true for you.

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