Do you know your own story? Most of us can remember some of the critical points. You need to be able to talk sensibly about the important who, what, where and when. Can you give someone your story in about 90 seconds?
I thought I could until the one day a new college president found out that I was finishing a Masters degree in adult education. He looked at me and said, “Tell me your story?” I’ve done a lot with my life. But at that point, with the question coming out of the blue, I found it hard to tell him something that made sense.
I’ve had an exciting life, I was an Eagle Scout, I was in the Air Force for almost 22 years where I worked on five of the seven continents. I built computers for Apple. I have taught people how to use computers, how to find jobs, and how to write resumes.
I was a process engineer who designed the assembly lines, and the process is to build the computers. I have tracked satellites, modified satellite ground stations and worked in research and development. I have an Associate in Applied Science in Electronic Systems Technology, a Bachelor of Science in Business Management, and finally a Master of Arts in Adult Education and Training. Getting caught flat-footed, how could I put everything understandably in 90 seconds or less?
The trick is to actually think about it and practice beforehand. If I’m going to talk to the head of a technical college, I may need to emphasize different points than I would if I had to speak to a manufacturing vice president. It is not that I’m hiding anything, or over exaggerating certain aspects, I just need to talk to what they’re interested in when they ask.
Getting caught flat-footed was my own fault. We never know when an important question will come or what setting it will be. If we think about the questions that could be asked, by whom and where then we can be prepared. Running over them in our mind from time to time, just to keep them fresh is good. Taking 10 minutes a week to practice it a couple of times is even better.
There is a saying I hear a lot that talks about people not caring what you know until they know how you care. Sometimes you will never even know that people are watching you as you do something good for someone else. They see that you care and want to know more about you. Most life-changing moments are serendipitous and come out of the blue. You may not know when they’re coming, yet we can fall back on our scout training.