There’s a photo of me trapped somewhere in an album in parents’ basement that was taken on my first day of school ever.
I had just turned 4 about a month earlier. I’ve got a bowl haircut (classy), and I’m wearing a hilarious jumper. I hold a completely empty book bag, and I’m standing in front of a giant oak tree in my yard. The only other notable element about my appearance is the look of pure excitement on my face. I had been asking my mom when I would get to go to school like my three older siblings since I was old enough to talk.
And today was the day!
I don’t remember anything about my first day of preschool. I probably colored something. Maybe I played in a sandbox of some sort? There was definitely a girl named Jacqueline. I vaguely remember the room having a jungle gym inside it. At any rate, what I do remember is this – when I got home that afternoon I was pissed off. I hated school, and I was never going back.
My mother was dumbfounded. How was it, that after begging to go to school literally my entire life, I was prepared to quit the entire institution after just a few hours in a classroom? Did someone bully me? Had I been sent to some awful, dangerous place where they locked me in a closet all day (unlikely, yes, but so was the idea that I would hate school)? My mom sat me down, put her arm around me, and asked what happened. Why didn’t I have a good day?
I looked her square in the eye and told her the horrifying truth, “They didn’t teach me how to read.”
You see, I love stories. I always have. I love reading them, watching them, telling them – it doesn’t matter. Any way I can consume a good story, I will. Humanity is cool, I dig it, and I want to hear about it all the time. It’s why my TiVo is pretty much always maxed out and books are spilling off my shelves with heaps (heaps, I say!) piled all over my bedroom floor.
It’s why I acted in my first play when I was 7, and it’s why I tried to quit school after they didn’t help me get a handle on reading on my first day. If those good-for-nothing pre-K teachers couldn’t get me closer to the stories, why bother keeping them around?
The Business of Stories
At Don’t Panic Management, we do a lot of writing.
We write blogs, we write newsletters, we write emails, we write social media posts. You could say content keeps us in business (other things that keep us in business: helping people organize their work life; general bad assery). That being said, Don’t Panic is not in the business of publishing or the business of social media – we’re in the business of relationship building. Everyone is.
A business can’t thrive without trust, loyalty, and connection among its employees, its customers, and its industry. And how do we build those relationships? Since the very beginning of human interaction, we have built relationships through storytelling.
A good story breathes life into your company. You aren’t a building. You aren’t a website. You aren’t a product. You are a collection of people working together to create something. Tell stories in your blogs, tell stories on your website, social media, and media kit. Tell stories in your annual reports. Share who you are and you will share your value with your customers.
Meanwhile, Back in 1992
That night, my mom taught me how to recognize a few very basic words in an effort to keep me from dropping out of school before I was even old enough to count my age on two hands. I walked away knowing how to pick out “a,” “and,” “of,” and “the” on a page. Immediately, I picked up a book and feverishly pointed out all the words I could “read.”
The next day I returned to school excited and proud to show off my new skills (and presumably to throw them in the face of the clearly inept teaching staff). I had arrived. I felt like a whole person. I was part of the elite group of people: the big kids, the grown-ups, the storytellers.
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