The Truth as It Is Told

personal development storytelling Jun 09, 2021
dog with raised paw looking like taking an oath to support blog post about truth-telling

During my career as a blues guitarist, I experienced the privilege of meeting many of my musical heroes. It happened with enough frequency that some of my musician friends call me the Forrest Gump of the blues.

I think they mean that good-naturedly...

Anyway, during a festival appearance in the 1980s, I found myself in a green room with Johnny Shines and Robert Jr. Lockwood. Johnny had run around with Robert Johnson back in the day, and Robert Jr. collided with Johnson while the legendary guitarist was running around with his mother.

I'd met Lockwood years earlier and knew he could be prickly. Johnny had a friendlier reputation. Eager to make a good impression and hear reminiscences from both of these icons, I did not make the mistake I saw most others make.

Most fans only asked these legends about their more famous friend, Robert Johnson. While we chatted, I never brought up Johnson. I expressed interest in their lives.

And the stories Shines and Lockwood shared were mesmerizing–tales filled with humor and pain, mystery and mischief. Most made the legend of Johnson trading his soul for his guitar skills sound tame by comparison.

Years later, I found myself in a green room with another bluesman, Honeyboy Edwards. Honeyboy had also spent significant time with Robert Johnson. As we chatted, I shared some of the stories Shines and Lockwood shared with me years earlier.

After relating a few of these, I noticed Honeyboy chuckling softly under his breath. I began to wonder if I'd been on the receiving end of a good old-fashioned leg-pulling. I asked, "So, do you think the stories they told are true?" "Oh, I'm not sure one way or the other," Honeyboy replied with a wink. "But it sure sounds like it was the truth as it was told."

In that moment, I realized that the absolute veracity of the stories I'd been gifted was irrelevant. These tales were undoubtedly true enough, and the telling had resonated and stuck. The truth of most stories worth sharing lies beyond historical facts.

As a difference-maker, it's equally important to speak past the details of your origin story or the features and benefits of the transformation you offer. Genuine connection and creating the possibility to make a change worth making put the point of your account ahead of the absolute accuracy of all the details.

This isn't a pass for self-promotional advancement or profit-scaling through falsehoods. It's a reminder that when your intentions are helpful and sound, you don't have to let exactitude get in the way of a generous story that will help the right people lean in to learn more about you and your endeavor.

What story are you sharing today? How can you make it even more true by paying less attention to the exactness of every detail and more emphasis of the worthwhile promise on offer?

Scott Perry, Difference-Maker Coach at Creative on Purpose.

BTW, I share more reflections on trust here.

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