Jul 11 2012

Changing the Story in Family and Business

Listening is the beginning of a better story.  

In moments of transition we are faced with voices of judgment, cynicism and fear.  The voices we hear allow us to enter the process of transformation.  Opening up our mind, heart and will guides us through this process.  Listening and naming these voices will provide an opportunity to confront a story that is no longer true.

I had the opportunity to confront a story that was no longer true on a vacation with my wife celebrating our ten-year anniversary.  As we were sailing on the ocean in a miniature Catamaran, I turned the boat and my wife’s pink summer hat flew off and sunk 20 ft to the bottom of the ocean floor.  In that moment I heard the voice in my head, “Who cares… we can buy another hat”.  I then had the nerve to speak my thought out loud for my wife to hear and her feelings were not mutual.  However, the more we sailed together toward the shore, the more distant we became to each other … and the clearer it became to me that it wasn’t about the hat.  Rather, caring about how she felt about the hat was an opportunity for a deeper relationship

My next thought was surprising. Here was a practical way for me to create a better story.  I committed to finding my wife’s hat at the bottom of the ocean when we got to shore.  After two trips out to sea, we found the pink hat at the bottom of the ocean, 20 feet below the surface.  I swam down with snorkel gear and grabbed the pink hat; I smiled and laughed because this was symbolic of the story we wanted to tell about our future.  I declared my deep love for my wife by understanding her desire and committing the time and energy to fulfill that desire.  Breaking through the top of the ocean I held the pink hat above my head for my wife to see!

We lived the past several years with the intent of creating a new reality out of family business and successfully launching two business ventures.  However, neither business allowed us to continue to work together and maintain a healthy relationship. When we found ourselves in traumatic or challenging circumstances, I would burn out and my wife would dig her heels in and keep going… sometimes dragging me along the way. We have completed years of working on designing better ways to live together.  Through this process, I have learned about resiliency and vulnerability.  I find courage to name voices of fear through vulnerability, naming what is, in order to find out what may or may not be true.

Encountering stories often comes through hearing voices of projections and feeling pain.  This could be a voice of judgment or a projection we put on our friends, family and colleagues.  Have you ever heard the voice, “You made the wrong decision.” This voice is a judgment we place on ourselves after something does not meet our expectations.  Maybe that judgment is true, but it is in the future or in the past, and we have the opportunity to be present right now.  We have the opportunity to let go of stories that are no longer true.  To dive down into the ocean and find the pink hat adventure!

There is a new story line in our family; it is one of resiliency, transformation and hope.

What story is no longer true in your life?

What is your “pink hat” story?


(Scott works as an Advisor and Strategist with Delaware Valley Family Business Center.  He is the Co-Founder of One Village Coffee and Founder of MyOhai, a marketing agency.  Scott is finishing his graduate work in Leadership with Eastern Mennonite Seminary while he serves on a national committee with MCUSA.  Andrea works as an Operations Team Leader at Lacher & Associates.  Scott & Andrea have a unique process of assessing their marriage and life direction through self guided retreats where they ask questions and tell stories of hope.  They live in Souderton PA, with their daughter June Alice Hackman.)

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