We have all been told about the importance of story. Every brand (including our own) is trying to craft a story to invite people into. Every song, movie or TV show tries to write in such a way that you see yourself in their story. Social media is all about pushing your story out to the world. Yet we came across something this week that challenged this entire notion.

“I do not believe your story matters as much as you might have been told.” CJ Casciotta, author and speaker.

He goes on to talk about the difference between story and identity. As Financial Advisors, we step into the story of our clients and we measure both ourselves and our clients by the sum of accomplishments, assets, and success at reaching goals. And while it is good to have objective goals to strive for, you are more than the sum of your goals. On the other side, as a song says, “you are more than the sum of your past mistakes” as well. There is more to people than what they can do or have done and more to us as a firm than what we can do for those we serve.

We had the privilege of hearing from Blake Haxton a few weeks ago at an event WealthStone hosted. Blake is an incredibly accomplished young man who recently placed fourth in the world in rowing, was the 2016 USRowing Male Athlete of the Year, has a law degree, CFA, and has been a TedX Speaker. Blake also had a terrible sickness in high school that resulted in both his legs being amputated. As he put it, “I got really unlucky once. Since that time, I have been the luckiest guy in the world.”  Blake clearly is more than both what happened to him and he is also more than the sum of the many things he has achieved in his life. So what is truly important?

To borrow from Blake again, part of our identity is found in how we can choose to be grateful. We can choose to let circumstances dictate what we feel about who we are and it is far too easy to go into a downward spiral when we focus on the things that didn’t work out the way we expect. Gratefulness is a choice.  “It is the hardest to be thankful for something when you don’t feel grateful. Gratitude is an emotion, not just an expression.” As he stated, we can get caught up in our ego and how life in unfair to us but truly we have far more things to be thankful for than the things that we have to complain about. What we choose to focus on changed who we are.

The other thing that Blake focused on was choosing to both accept and give help. “Accepting help is not an easy thing to do.” But when we accept help, it allows us to no see ourselves as superhuman but as another member of a common experience. It also allows a perspective shift. While it is common to think of your own problems and try to get rid of them, Blake challenged that “the best thing to do is pick up someone else’s problems. The weight on your own shoulders will get a little lighter. That’s where bonding happens.”

Blake’s story is unique. And yet the lessons that he shared were universal. Your story, what has happened to you and what you have done, is unique and important. But it is not the same as your identity or who you are. As a company, our identity is much deeper than what we have accomplished or can accomplish. Identity goes to the core of what makes you who you are, to the values that define you. And if we utilize Blake’s wisdom, we should strive to have gratefulness at our core and seek to serve others. It is there that we will find true value.

Photo courtesy of USRowing http://www.usrowing.org