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The Change Your Story Guy

Mike Wolpert

Creating your compelling future

In the world of business marketing, communication connection there is much talk lately is about story and I believe wholeheartedly in it; the story of your business is story of your passion, the story of your customers. Story story story.
The question is, are we glossing over the stories that matter? What I found, after years of working with people telling stories is that the deeper we dig, the more personal stories get and sometimes through the art of interviewing, somebody will pop up and tell you a story from their past that has been extremely damaging, that has been holding them back that has been preventing them from really reaching for the stars, really living their full potential and they’re not even aware of it.
These are stories from our childhood, stories from teenage years, stories that parents or aunts and uncles or older sisters, or younger brothers, or somebody laid on us and maybe you’ve been like me continuing to pile those stories over the years.
What I’ve discovered is that all of those stories are real. Some of them are true. And some of them actually happened. But they’re real.
The secret is going back and finding those stories, reviewing those stories, going back through them and thinking, “Wait a second. That’s not exactly what happened”. Our brain remembers everything, every single thing that ever happened to us, around us, near us, every event, every conversation, everything. Now, as we get a little older, perhaps we begin to lose track of where we filed some of those stories and through easy process of guided imagery and and some very gentle therapy as possible to go back and find those stories that have echoed through our lives.
We find those stories and realize that this maybe isn’t true, you can revisit and rewire any story that you want. It’s very possible to go back and think “What exactly am I afraid of?” There is an answer to that; every single thing that we’re afraid of somebody either told us to be afraid of it showed us to be afraid of it, or made us afraid of it.
So what happened? Was it as bad as what we think? Should we allow the same story from our whole lives to continue on telling us don’t do that don’t do that. What if the story isn’t true or isn’t true anymore, or no longer fits who we’ve become, who we are today?
Part of the problem with moving on and making big change in your life and going to a new destination and starting all over again, is sometimes that you take yourself with you and you drag all that baggage, whether you notice it or not, you drag all that baggage along with you.
Change doesn’t have to be monumental change doesn’t have to be instant change doesn’t have to be something so huge that you can barely comprehend what that would be, because that sort of change is the sort of thing that never really happens. Incremental change, adjustments for the better, rewiring story so all of a sudden the pain that was experienced is mitigated. It doesn’t disappear. It’s not like things never happen. But you can take that story away. As if, yeah, it never happened like that. Right? Go back to childhood. What happened?
I went back to incident in my own childhood where I had come away with a feeling that everybody was mad at me. Everybody hated me. I was the bad kid and it was because of something I didn’t really do. I was probably 10 years old at a neighborhood barbecue, one of the other kids and I were toasting marshmallows on the end of sticks at the end of the barbecue. All the adults were over there talking and he threw one at me and I instinctively threw one back. Now, he didn’t come near me, but allegedly what happened was that I hit him in the face almost took out his eye with a flaming marshmallow. All the adults started screaming and yelling at me, everybody was mad at me and I was labeled the bad kid and nobody in the neighborhood was allowed to play with me.
But I didn’t do it – and that made me so defensive for so long.
The idea that I was punished for something I didn’t do made me push back against authority has made me really defensive in some areas through my entire life. Then, last year I revisited that story and I discovered that it did happen, but just not the way I remembered it. He threw a marshmallow at me, I throw a marshmallow at him. I didn’t hit him in the face. His father just saw me do it and yelled at me in front of everybody else so I was humiliated. None of the other adults were mad at me. Yeah, that kid wasn’t allowed to play with me anymore (mostly because he was a punk and his father was a jerk) but all the other kids were allowed to play with me.
I had just built up this story over the years and it just hung around my neck without even realizing it. Turns out the story wasn’t true. Yes, it really happened. But not like I remembered it today. And when I went back realized, hey, wait a second. I’ve misremembered the story. It’s grown over time in my head; that embarrassment, that shame, that resentfulness just grew and grew and grew, you know, like, like a mushroom in the dark or a festering sore.
By going back and saying, “Hey, hang on, maybe I’m not such a bad kid. 50 years ago, somebody told me I was a bad kid. What if I’m not?” – and just like that, I wasn’t.
You can feel that sort of change, with the little tiny effects it has, but like a chiropractic adjustment from that original shame where I did something wrong (but I didn’t) where all the adults were screaming and yelling and angry at me (but they weren’t). As soon as I went back to the original sin and got rid of it, I discovered that all those instances were less. So it relieved all this pressure, a string of shame through my whole life disappeared that by comparison, was less than so much. You almost become giddy. It’s like, Oh, wow. “What else?” Right?
What else did I misremember? What else did I make up? What else did I layer on? What other stories in my head won’t shut up? That kind where you’re kind of asleep at two in the morning and that story starts churning; this happened and I was wrong or they were wrong, or I was wrong.
Those are the kinds of stories that we churn over in the middle of the night. I had a guy that I was working with say, “Yeah, I have those stories. Sometimes they keep me up all night”. Then he said, “You know what really sucks. Most of the other people in those stories are dead, and there’s nothing I can do about it”.
I disagree. It’s your story. It’s his story. It’s my story. We go back there, take a look at what happened really. And revisit, revise that story make different meaning out of it. Right?
Every event that happens in our lives is neutral, right? What’s not neutral is our reaction to it. Right? Every event that happens in our lives is neutral. What’s not neutral is our reaction to it. Right? Two people have the exact same experience. They make completely different meaning over it. I think the first example I heard was about a car accident, right? Two guys leave their house same morning, same day, same everything same kind of car, they go out to the street corner and bam. They get in an accident. Nobody’s hurt. But you know, the cars are kind of wrecked. Okay, one guy gets out of his car “Ah, my car is ruined. My days ruined. Everything sucks. Look what you did. Look what happened. This is bad. Oh, man. There goes the whole damn day”. The other guy gets out of the car, same kind of car, same damage, same accident, same place, same time. And he looks around he says, “You okay? Yeah, I’m okay. Okay, he thinks I’m okay. Nobody got hurt. So that’s good news. Well, my car is ruined, but I have insurance. I kind of wanted a new car anyway, I wasn’t really looking forward to go to work today necessarily I get like a bonus day off call the boss. Hey, man, my car is wrecked I got in a bad traffic accident everybody’s Okay, gotta gotta deal with it. Do you mind if I take the day off? Now go ahead. And now I got a day off and I’m gonna get probably get a new car”. The other guy is still pissed off. So the event was the same. This guy is going to have a terrible day, this guy is going to have a pretty good day, he’s got a day off and a new car coming.
How often in life do these things happen? How often in life do old stories in our head trigger reactions to current day events, trigger a response to something that’s going on, but it’s not really connected to what’s going on?
Ever flare up at your spouse because she said something and she’s like, or he’s like, “What is going on here?” but you’re too deep in it to go “Oh, sorry. That’s a story from my childhood and you just touched on it”. You know 25 years ago, my first wife used to say “You know what – I don’t want to make you mad” okay, that still triggers me because to me, that means “I’m gonna make you mad, but I don’t really care”.
But that was then, that was her, this is now.
Somebody says to me, “Hey, I don’t want to make you mad”. Okay, I’m neutral. I’m glad you don’t want to make me mad. Is something going on that I might be mad about? Maybe you’re overthinking things, I got no reaction. You haven’t given me anything really to have reaction to. The story is the story. If the story’s doing tough things to you, if the story is creating negative results, then it might be something to go back and listen to, and rewatch, and revisit and then say, “Hey, so that’s not exactly what happened. Let me revision this story” and watch how that subtly changes all of your responses, all of your reactions, all of the pain, stress, shame, whatever it is, through your whole life is changed.
Not as painful, easier to deal with. Things can become a lot lighter.
Now, by the same token, we buy into stories because they feel good. I got my start in business in the in the radio business selling advertising, people told me “Hey, Wolpert, you’re good at this”. Oh, really? I’m good at this? Oh, you’re gonna give me money, attention, and more stuff to do and praise? Oh, I’m good at this. I’m good at this”. So I became very good at that. Selling radio advertising sales in general advertising and marketing as a package. I was told so many times that I was good at it that that was a story in my head. Yes, I did have some skill. I did love it. But you see, I bought into the story that others told me. What if somebody had said, Oh, you’re in the radio business? You? You should go to medical school. I don’t know what that would have done. My grandfather actually said to me, “You’re the radio business when you could go to law school? Well, okay, I’m sure you’ll make the most of it”. Also useful.
How we listen to stories becomes a little bit of a problem. Right? My dad said to me, I bought my first house. He came for a visit. He looked around what I considered a pretty nice house. Four bedrooms, three bathrooms, big backyard, in Florida. Really cool place, blah, blah, blah. He looked around and he said, “Michael, you’re doing just fine” and a little voice inside my head said “Just fine?? I’m doing better than just fine. Look at this house. This is a nice house. This is a better house than we grew up in, how dare you just fine. Why are you so mad at me? Why are you so disappointed in me? I don’t understand it. What do I have to do to get your love and appreciation?
That’s not what he meant. What he meant was, “You are doing just fine. Things are turning out just fine”.
See, my dad wasn’t somebody who thought you needed to have all the stuff, to have all the money. He had plenty. He didn’t think that that brought happiness. He didn’t think that buying new stuff was how you gauge the value of a man. He never bought a new car in his entire life because as he told me “I always let some other idiot drive it off the lot and lose a couple grand and then I buy it from him. It’s just fine. It’s just a lot cheaper and smarter”.
Okay, so Michael, you’re doing just fine crap. Ash, Oh, terrible, Michael, you’re doing just fine. Oh, really, I guess I am, I made the meaning of the story, it took me quite a while to change the meaning of that story. And when I did, all of a sudden I was able to, it didn’t change the way my dad thought of me. But I was able to receive it. In when I was able to finally get to a place where I could understand and receive what he was saying, by changing the story in my head. It made a pretty good relationship. Even better, it brought us even closer together. It let me understand what many men need; My dad is proud of me. My dad does see who I am. My dad realizes that I did try hard that I went after it and, and stepped into the shoes of the family and made the best that I could out of it. That’s a big difference from just fine. So the reason I heard it differently is because I had stories going in my head, not necessarily from him. Stories of my life were fine men bad. Right? Because the way humans communicate sometimes it’s like a tennis match. Right?
Oh, Hi, Mary. How you doing? Oh, fine. Mike, how are you doing? I’m fine, too. We’re both fine. Bing, bing, bing, everybody’s fine. In reality, most people aren’t fine. You know, the reality is, fine is an answer instead of I don’t know, I feel like jumping off a bridge or maybe crying in a dark closet. Because you don’t want to put yourself out there. But if you say to your friend, Hi, Mary, how you doing? Mary says I don’t know, man, I feel like crying or jumping off the bridge or being in a dark closet. You could say, Oh, tell me more what’s happened? And how can I help you? Can I support you? Can I be there with you. And the belief that that’s going to be the response from somebody is enough to take most of that pain and angst away, because it means that you’re safe. And primarily, we’re humans. We want to stay safe. Stay safe. We do two things as humans, we avoid pain and seek pleasure. Just two things. We’re really only capable of two things. No pain. Yes, pleasure. All of our activities are built around this idea that we need to be safe.
All of our systems are wired to keep us safe. All the critter brain that you’ve heard about, the ancient programming, all of this stuff is programmed to keep us safe. It’s why if you see a snake in your path, when you’re on a hike, and you’re surprised, suddenly you have the ability to jump four feet in the air. If you’re scared of snakes, right, that’s our body or ever, all our systems go into safety, safety safety. As you begin to bridge the gap between fear and comfort, reactions become more in line with actual danger and actual reality. So I see I see a snake in my path. Before everything launches me four feet up in the air screaming like a school girl, I have a second to take a breath and go, Oh, that’s a branch. All is good, not a snake. I don’t waste every bit of adrenaline in my system, jumping up like a maniac. So that the power of the stories that we tell ourselves about ourselves to ourselves, are way more powerful than the marketing stories we tell or the sales stories that we tell, or the tales that we tell of our past or the amusing things, right. There are people in the world who have no internal dialogue, I’ve discovered this. I think that’s pretty horrific. What do they think about? But for those of us who do have an internal dialogue, for those of us who have the ongoing chatter, it’s like a movie going in the background. Those are stories that could be dealt with some of them. Those are stories that can be revisioned, revisited. Those are stories that get to be retold with our updated brain systems.
Things that happened to me when I was 15 years old, were received and responded to by a set of programming instructions in my brain that are different than the ones I have in my 50s.
It’s just that simple.
So until we update those legacy programs update those stories they drag us back, they hinder us. We can also go back to those stories and discover that revisioning them from something that’s bad, they become actually something empowering and good. Like my dad; “Michael, you’re doing fine”. Fine isn’t good enough fine as bad. I’m not any good. That makes me angry and blue. Right? Revision that story about what fine means to him what he was trying to express. And when he says, “Michael, you’re doing fine” I can say “Wow. Yeah, I am. Everything’s fine”.
The world doesn’t need to be spectacular all the time. Everything is grind/grind, go/go and all this nonsense. You’re out there 10X crushing it. Oh, well, that’s nice. But that’s exhausting. And really doesn’t mean anything, usually, but more money. And if you don’t have time to enjoy and spend the more money Why are you killing yourself to get it? So by hitting that middle of the road where we can stop, breathe, realize “Hang on a second, I’m at a point in my life, you say to yourself where things are just fine”.
Maybe you’re like me, people look around who Hey, you know, you got a house got a great wife, you got a nice car, got a good business? Everything’s doing great. And there’s a voice in the back of your head that says, oh, no, this is just, I feel like this is a scam? What if they’re all on to me? What if they wake up and go? Who? What if I’m not good enough? Well, what if you are? What if you are good enough? What if that little voice can be isolated spoken to given new instructions, so that voice in your head starts saying a different song telling a different tale. These things are very possible, very easy is not the right word. Very simple to do. But it takes a little effort. It takes a little desire. So if you’re at a point in your life, where everything’s great. But maybe it’s not enough, maybe there’s an itch, there’s an inkling, there’s an underlying sense of disappointment. We got all the stuff, man, this is the society, the world told me I was going to be happy. If I had all this stuff, I got all the stuff. I’m not thrilled.
If you’re at a point in your life like that, it’s okay to go back and look at the stories that drive those beliefs and begin to adjust them. If you had a terrific successful career, doing your thing, taking care of people helping them out getting paid well for it and investing this money as you should have and everything’s kind of good and now you’re thinking to yourself; Wait a minute. Does that really matter? Do I matter? Did I love a lot? And I laugh a lot? Did I make the world a better place to have an impact? Do I leave a legacy? Am I doing now, at this phase of my life? What matters inside to me?
Are you harboring secret dreams of success, or secret dreams of artistic endeavor? Or secret dreams of coaching and teaching things that you haven’t done? What if you harbor dreams of sharing the knowledge that you’ve built up over the years and you never do anything about it? That brings us to the most terrifying bumper sticker I remember from the 1970s “Don’t die with your music still inside of you”.
There’s no reason that you can’t change paths, do something different. Get a side gig, volunteer on the weekends, there’s a world out there waiting for you to get out of your own way, waiting for me to get out of my own way to come offer what we have and it’s probably not what we’ve been doing the whole time.
I’ve spoken to thousands of business owners about marketing. I was so early on Facebook and stuff like that, that it was weird. That doesn’t drive me anymore. That doesn’t thrill me anymore. The world of marketing and storytelling and business and go/go, get/get, build customers – It just got empty and I and I continued along because there were enough people telling me “Hey, you’re really good at this”. But once you stop, look inside of yourself and see Wait a second. I can also do this thing I love and you share that with people or acknowledge it to yourself and nobody goes; “Really? No you can’t. You’re an idiot. That’s not gonna happen”. People recognize passion, people recognize belief. They recognize that because it’s beautiful.
As soon as you believe in you and look around, you discover that others believe in you. If you look around, you might see (as I saw) others believe in you before you get there. How many times has somebody said, “Wow, man, you’re really good at that. You should, you should do more of that” and you go “Yeah, I’d love to, I really love to do more of that, I really love doing that but I’m supposed to be doing this thing. I don’t know about that”. Believe them, because we’re pretty quick to believe the opposite, right? Somebody says, Oh, you really suck at this. We’re kind of wired to go, “Oh, my God, they’re right, I suck at this. I can’t believe it”.
Stop believing those stories because what those stories do is they tune into some negative little thing you’ve been carrying around. The ability to listen to the people who support you and love you and see the light inside of you. It’s not as easy as we’d like, but it’s there. And when we start realizing that there is another place for us to go another thing for us to do a next level, that we’re not going to become the kind of guys that retire and go play golf. We just went through COVID. If that’s what retiring is, like, I’m no longer interested. That’s isolating and boring. That doesn’t mean I want to do the same old business been doing for 30 years? No, no, no, it doesn’t mean that at all. But it does mean that there’s something else. And that’s something else appears. When we’re clear, when we begin to get ready when we begin to acknowledge, Hey, it’s okay, I’m going to be safe doing this thing. People aren’t going to laugh at me, they’re not going to hate me. They’re not going to … blah, blah, blah. Okay, we’re okay, we’re safe, it’s good and those are the things that come from telling your story to yourself, with a coach or therapist with somebody to take you down this path.
Imagine a world where you can go back and discover the stories from your childhood from your teen years from yesterday, the stories that trigger the bad stuff that hold you back that lets you know you’re not good. You’re lesser than that people don’t like you. They’re stories running around inside. Right? What if you could catch them? And, and kind of look at that story. Go, Hey, are you true? No. Just making shit up. Okay, let’s make some other shit up. Or, let’s hunt down the truth what really happened and look at the beautiful side of it. Right?
Every event is neutral. So that means you can see the good side or the bad side. Let’s look for the good side. And that ability to start looking for that then begins to serve you all over. Waiting in line at the coffee shop or hour. That’s kind of cool. Being at the coffee shop. All kinds of people I never saw. I mean, it sounds silly, but it makes her a much better lifestyle makes for a much better way of being.
Sometimes in life, we get really caught up in making sure other people are happy. It feels better, the people pleaser thing. That’s an extreme. But, you know, perhaps you’ve always been in a business or an environment where you’re dealing with customers. Selling. If you’re dealing with customers, you’re selling to some extent or another and that might craft the way you present yourself, in some ways it should craft the way you present yourself and in some ways it shouldn’t. But there comes a point where being you is way more satisfying and fun and fulfilling than a little bit of danger that somebody’s gonna look at you and go ooh, that’s really you. Not my deal. Yeah, that’s a fine thing to happen. Right. I am what I am. My wife gave me a birthday card recently that had the old Popeye joke on it and he was interviewing for a job and the CEO across the desk looked up and said I you I am what I am. That’s a hell of a resume. Isn’t it though?
Once we start looking at the stories that we tell in our heads from whenever those stories started, could be a year ago could be 20 years ago, 30 years ago, 40 years ago, once we start looking at those stories, taking ownership of them, beginning to understand where they come from, doing a little work, doing a little guided imagery therapy, doing a little “okay, let’s take a little trip in our heads, go find that story, see what really happened and then decide what that means to us”.
We are beings that walk around all day, all the time making meaning of stuff and sometimes out of habit we make negative meaning. Hmm, maybe you had a bad experience with the cop cop pulls in behind you, oh, you see him in your rearview mirror. He’s just the guy driving along in a police car. The lights aren’t are nothing but we all kind of go. Cop drives away. You’ve had a response that’s both negative and then releasing for no reason at all. That’s an obvious example. How often in life does that play out? How often do we see somebody say something, find ourselves in a situation. And because of something that happened in the past, we are doomed to repeat it. Now, there’s a lot of ways to go around this. But I have discovered the most effective, delicious way to change how we respond to things based on a story in the past, if you want to change how you respond to that, in the present. Let’s go back and change the story in the past changed the reality of the story, what it meant to us. And then the ripples in that pond, you drop a little a little rock in the pond and the ripples go out? What if they went out forever. Let’s change where we dropped the rock. Let’s change where we make the analogies.
We all come to a fork in the road where we have done the stuff we’re supposed to do and it seems ahead of us as either more of that, or something different, something different is probably going to be a lot more satisfying, a lot more interesting, a lot more juicy, but dangerous.
Because that side of the fork in the road is just a continuation of doing the stuff we’ve been doing seems to be working out pretty good, better stay the course, that safe. This might be dangerous. As soon as we start to change that story we open up ourselves, we broaden the horizons of what we think about. And all of a sudden the value of doing something fulfilling is way more important than the safety of doing the same old thing, the same old thing no matter how rewarding it was. You can be the most successful guy around; you can be a doctor, you can be CEO a lawyer. Eventually, you may get to the point where you’re like, Yeah, I’m good. I’m done. I don’t really love that the way I loved it in the beginning. Just kind of makes sense, doesn’t it? So okay. That means you have built up a wealth of experience and knowledge. You’ve built a beliefs and systems, you’ve built up understandings about life that can be applied somewhere else? Is it teaching and sharing? Which you know, is it? Is it coaching and working with people who are coming up in your field? Maybe it’s something entirely different. Maybe you secretly wanted to be a painter. And you go buy some brushes and start painting you realize, holy cow, I’m awesome at this. What if somebody came and bought some of your paintings?
Well, whatever it is, there’s a world of fulfillment. And the way to find that world of fulfillment is discover what doesn’t serve you.
Question Why it doesn’t serve you. Ask how we could replace that with something that does serve us? What will serve us, what new beliefs do we need to find? What evidence do we need to attract to us to support the beliefs? And then where do we go? How do we make it safe? There is absolutely no point to being successful in life for everybody else, right? Hey, good job, man. You have done a great job supporting your company built a law firm, built your practice. Whatever you have done. Pay for your home, put your kids through college Holy Cow Everything’s fantastic. Got a good marriage, your friends look and think “That guy’s got it wired”. And you look in the mirror going “That’s it?”
Don’t let it be disappointing. Let that be the wake up call. No, this isn’t it. This is the chance to do the rest.
This is the chance to feed your soul. This is the chance to really get into the juicy stuff that makes you warm, that makes you really go “Yeah!” this is the juicy stuff in life. You don’t have to keep doing what you’re great at.
You can in fact, change your story and live a life worth living.
Nobody is going to judge you for it. Everybody already loves you.
Let’s get you on that list. Okay?


Second Wind for the Second Half

Are you someone who is doing ‘just fine’? You look at your life; family, work, friends and it all looks great (from the outside) but you know there’s more; you can’t shake the feeling that there’s something more fulfilling, more rewarding, more meaningful that you can BE – and be doing, but there’s a little voice in your head that whispers “Who are you to want more, ask for more? Who are you to be so entitled, don’t you have enough?” The whispers tell you to be grateful and they ask “Who are you to think you deserve more?”

I know that voice, I get it. I hear that voice, those whispers also.

Here’s the thing; I know you can do it, I know you deserve it, I know you can get it if you really want – and I know you’ve ‘got what it takes’ to move to the next level and all you need is a little push (and support) to find it and make that happen, balancing the “what is” (and what it looks like) with “what can be” (and what that feels like).

And; you don’t want to upset the applecart; stasis can feel good – and safe, but that becomes a limit, it becomes a trap. Don’t allow someone else’s view of you being successful mark you as “complete” because you are far from done.

There’s no shame in being your most excellent, best self. There’s no danger in stretching a little bit more, for yourself – not others. You don’t have to upend your life and risk letting people down to do something differently more – you’ve just got to catch a second wind. You’re not leaving others behind, you can (and will) bring them along – and you get to set others down as you move on.

Starting with the premise that you are awesome, let’s consider this ‘tuning the race car of you’ tweak the engine, revamp the operating system.

Once we give ourselves permission to look beyond what we are really good at, we begin to get a clearer picture of what’s next. Many of us have a career where success and satisfaction is in part measured by the results we achieve – and the part where others tell us how good we are at it, a wonderful sense of validation that can have an end date on it, we can acknowledge our current past with gratitude and respect and set sights on new horizons.

Once we realign our thinking, it feels so easy that it might just catch on with others as our light, so to speak, shines on others; if we feel it’s suddenly easy or simple and most of all “OK” then there must be more and yes, yes there is.

Make no mistake; this isn’t about ‘getting more’ this becomes about ‘being more’ and having a life, with our second wind, that fulfills us inside, cares for those we care about and brings something better to the world and to our fellow humans.

If our brains, willpower and gumption have gotten us this far – and this far is pretty darn good – then it may well be time to add heart and soul to the mix, to open ourselves to the possibility of … everything.  Cell/Text: 407.405.3500

When You’re Ready for Change, Change Your Story.

Mike Wolpert – 407.405.3500