Tell my life story in 45 minutes. How difficult could that be? After all I’d been an eyewitness to every, single event. I knew the entire cast of characters. I was intimately familiar with the good, the bad, and the ugly from both the past and the present. With more years in my life than minutes allotted to recount them, I had plenty of material to work with. Still, preparing to give this speech had become a daunting task.
What should I leave out? What should I emphasize? What will the audience want to hear? Will they be able to relate to any of this, or merely be bored with it all? Should I spruce it up a bit? Stick to the facts, or go for the laughs? What important lessons could be learned from this exercise? How in the world did I get myself into this situation? If I claimed sudden illness, would they ask me to reschedule? Would I just be putting off the inevitable?
Calming myself down, I decided to stick to the basics of storytelling: beginning, middle, and end (that is end for now - I still have a few years left). Yes, I could talk about how my life began; what happened; and how things are, now. I was on a roll. Soon I had three pages of notes in outline form.
A few days later, at the appointed hour, I showed up with notes in hand. After a few preliminaries and introductions, I told my story. I don't remember exactly what I said, but I tried to stick to my outline. There were some nodding heads in the audience. There were a few laughs. There were even some tears shed (and not mine, I might add). Then, after talking for exactly 44 minutes, I heard myself say, "Thank-you."
Afterward, people told me parts of their own stories that were similar to mine. Quickly it became evident that all of us had more similarities than differences. I sincerely hope that I can remember this fact the next time I find myself thinking that I'm unique.