What’s Your Story?

This is a guest blog post by Michael Palko, an instructional designer with the Duke University Health System and a digital storyteller. 

I recently had the opportunity to speak to the Duke Communicators at one of their monthly meetings.  That group is comprised of staff who are, in some capacity, responsible for getting news about Duke University and the Health System out to the masses.  Their work spaces were wide-ranging: from Duke Libraries, where the event was held, to the Office of Alumni Affairs to the Nasher Art Museum to Duke Medicine to the Lemur Center.

Mine was one of 6 presentations made, and each used the Ingite format: 5 minutes and 20 slides, which auto-advance every 15 seconds.  The format is a bit of a challenge, and in preparing I think I now better understand what Olympic athletes go through: years of preparation for 10 second dash.  Ok, I didn’t really prepare for 4 years, only a month, but you get the picture.

I was asked to talk about how I got involved in iPhoneography, how I became an “Instagram sensation” (their words) and how that path led me to the RAW Artists Raleigh event.

I talked about stumbling across an online course on mobile photography while searching for a work-related tutorial on lynda.com and how, as a Duke employee, I had access to that resource, free of charge.  I mentioned the influence Richard Koci Hernandez had one me and how photography changed me and my path in life.

At the end of the meeting I received many compliments.  One person called it“inspiring.” Another told me he liked the way I “framed the story.”  Coming from a professional “communicator” that was high praise. But the one comment that stick out the most came from the event’s organizer.  She said, “I just love your story.”

I’d never really considered myself as “having a story.”   I’d always thought that I, like everyone else, was just going through life, experiencing the highs and lows and the mundane, going to work, coming home and trying my best to fulfill the responsibilities of a husband, father, friend and citizen and along the way trying to learn more about myself and the world.  But those words really resonated with me, and I realized on my way home that we ALL have “a story.”  Not one of us has traveled the same path.  We all have a distinct set of experiences that make up a history that no one else has.  The events of life, no matter where they have led you, are what make up your unique story.

I was fortunate to be presented with an opportunity to reflect on the events and people who have influenced me in the past year and a half, but I’m now going to look back further on my timeline and examine the larger story.  I want to encourage you to do the same thing and challenge you to be prepared to tell YOUR story.  Where did you start? Who did you meet along the way?  What did you learn? What did you see?  How did you get here?

Prepare to tell it, then tell it.  Tell it to yourself, your significant other, your kids, strangers.  I guarantee that you’ll be surprised by what a compelling tale it is and know that you will find people who say “I just love your story.” 

And don’t forget, you write your story every day. The exciting part of that is that while you are the author, you don’t know how the story will end.  There are plot twists and surprises ahead and that’s what make the story compelling.

So, what’s YOUR story?


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