Rule # 4. Don’t do it for the story, do it for the experience.
We’ve all been there before. You’re at a bar or maybe a party or bonfire. Someone is telling the story about how they took up skydiving. Your interest is piqued. They describe the sensations, how they felt, how it changed them. This segues directly into the story about the time they went white water rafting. You mention that you too have been white water rafting, and it was an exciting experience that you’d love to have again. Yet they brush off your comment as they segue into the time they picked up a crazy hitchhiker. Then you realize, they’re the only person talking. It isn’t a conversation, it’s a lecture. That’s when you realize that you’re not having a conversation with an adventurer; an autobiographer is telling you a story.
What’s the difference? The autobiographer has the experience because he or she wants to tell the story. Not because the experience is necessarily meaningful, profound, or even fun. They don’t seek adventure because they find it interesting, they seek adventure because they want others to find them interesting.
We’re all guilty of this from time to time. I certainly was quite often when I was younger. I let me insecurity steer my decision-making, and often monopolized conversations recanting my tales of glory, hoping that people would find me interesting. Later in life I realized that people were much more interested in an actual dialog, where we related different experiences, discussing how they were similar as well as how they differed. All adventurers want to share their stories, but not because they need people to find them interesting. That’s the realm of the autobiographer. No, an adventurer wants to share his or her stories because they want to connect with others; this is the intended purpose of storytelling.
Great storytelling is awesome. It can build and strengthen bonds, forge friendships, and create a sense of community. It allows us to share experience and knowledge. My job as an archivist/historian deals with a lot of storytelling. This blog is itself a form of storytelling. But the story should always serve the experience, the experience shouldn’t serve the story.
When planning your next adventure, don’t make decisions based upon what will make a good story next time you’re at the pub. Instead, decide what to do based on what will have the greatest effect on you. If something changes you, it doesn’t matter what others think about it. Tell the story if you wish, but do it as a storyteller, not as an autobiographer. If you follow that approach, other adventurers will be drawn to you, and will want to share their experiences with you as well. They will want to converse, not lecture. You may find yourself building friendships, or at least getting ideas for your next outing.
If you find yourself acting like an autobiographer (and we all do occasionally), apologize for monopolizing the conversation and offer the spotlight to someone else. It isn’t too late to take a sincere role in the conversation. If you find yourself listening to an autobiographer for too long, excuse yourself and find or start a different conversation. It’s likely that there are others around who are looking for a real discussion, instead of a lecture.
Be sincere about your adventures; make sure that they’re always for you, not to impress others. Be a storyteller, not an autobiographer. Don’t do it for the story. Do it for the experience.
Rules for Intrepid Living” is an ongoing weekly article that gives potential guidelines for how we can all live a bit more of an intrepid life.