Brand building through storytelling

As old habits die, new projects bloom

I’ve always thought of myself as a creature of habit. Same chiseled haircut for a couple of decades. Same low-sugar cereal for breakfast. Every summer, a new pair of vaguely Roman-looking sandals from Mephisto (perferably silver). Every Christmas morning, fruit salad and frittata while the boys’ choir at King’s College, Cambridge sings “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” (No North American choirs for me; I crave English accents and a seventeenth-century organ.)

I never set my iPod to shuffle; I don’t want surprises from a trove of thousands of songs. I want to hear the Stones’ “Torn and Frayed” one more time.

For the past decade I have carried successive incarnations of the same chic but far from indestructible black nylon knapsack from Paris, which rests as lightly on my aging shoulders as a lily pad on a pond. The last time I visited the knapsack purveyor, determined to replace the bedraggled one that cried out to be flung in the trash, she shook her head. “We haven’t carried those knapsacks for a while,” she said. “Our customers were ready to try something new.”

How could she?

My habits allow me to imagine that this wide world of uproar and downtown contains a tucked-away corner where everything is just as I like it, my personal VIP suite. Checkout, what checkout? Maybe I can hang out here forever if I never sneak an extra chocolate truffle or miss a Pilates class!

Kidding aside, there’s a risk to these unbending routines of mine. At 60 (just shy of 61), I’m drawn to role models whose wisdom years are rich in exploration. Journalist William Safire was in his 70s when he launched a new career as head of a medical research foundation; Mary Wesley published the first of seven enduringly successful novels at 71. Lately I’ve been asking, “What next?” That question led to another: “What’s the common thread linking everything I do that makes me proud?”

In my corner-office days, I didn’t have time to reflect on my greatest gifts or how they will shape my legacy. Now that I’m free of “metrics” and “deliverables,” I can ponder what it is I’ve been doing all these years and what my role will be from now on. Here’s my answer: I tap the power of stories to change lives and build community. I’ve done it on the page, at the podium and here at this site. Starting this fall, I have a new forum: workshops for women.

If you’ve been a regular here, you know about my writing workshop, Memoir That Tells Your Truth (launched last weekend to rave reviews, with more sessions in the works). Next up is Women’s Wisdom: Tapping the Power of Your Life Story, a joint project with my friend Marla Goldstone, a facilitator and coach.

Between launching two workshops, hiking in Cornwall and returning to my home town for an emotionally-charged school reunion, I’ve let a few good habits slip. After working out relentlessly since 1986, I’ve cut way back on time at at the gym. And this letter to you is my first in—yikes!—over a month. Did you miss me? Well, I’ve missed you, and I’ve been saving up stories to share. Back soon, I promise.

Okay, off to unwind with my iPod. I think I’ll put it on Shuffle.

Posted by Rona

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