Originally published 4th May 2020
A 3 minute video is available for this blog
Legend has it that at lunch one way, writer Ernest Hemingway bet the table ten dollars each that he could craft an entire story in six words. After the pot was assembled, Hemingway wrote “For sale: baby shoes, never worn” on a napkin, passed it round the table, and collected his winnings
Inspired by the story, in 2006 Smith magazine asked their readers to submit their life story in six words, they were inundated with submissions. They published 1,000 of them in a book which took its title from one of the submissions : “Not Quite What I Was Planning”. It sold millions.
Inspired in turn by the book, Emily Lloyd, invited visitors to her library in Minneapolis, to share something essential about themselves in 6 words.
The idea went viral, spilling out from the library and into dozens of storefronts, windows and art galleries across the city.
Minneapolis found that encapsulating and sharing what really matters to you in just six words captures people’s imagination.
Why? Because in an increasingly introspective, insular and self-obsessed world, it challanges us to reflect on what the world is like for others.
In a world short on time and low on engagement, it allows us to quickly get a glimpse of the world through other people’s eyes.
As Minneapolis found, six simple words enables whole communities to connect in a new and deeper way.
In my work across the private, public and charitable sector I frequently come across teams who on the one hand want to be more connected but on the other hand claim to be too busy to connect.
Getting each member to share their 6 word story with the group has never yet failed to square this circle.
Whether deeply profound or simply stated, heart-breakingly touching or side-splittingly funny, the 6 words that someone uses to describe their experience, perspective, motivation and/or desire is always transformational for the individual, the team and hence the whole enterprise.
So why not use it this week with your team: ask them for their 6 word life story, or the 6 words describing how life feels right now, or the 6 words that describe their dream or ambition.
Trust me, however you use it it will lead to richer relationships and deeper appreciation of each other.
But you don’t need to be part of a team to benefit. Your 6 word story is principally for you, helping you get clear on who you are, where you’re headed and why it matters. So what’s your six word story?