I remember the moment from my 7th class when my English teacher was handing over the unit test papers. We had to bring our parents for some reason. So I went to the teacher along with my mom to collect the papers. She said Gowtham if you don’t work hard and if you don’t study well you will end up becoming an auto driver. Without putting in hard work you’ll not come close to what your parents imagine you doing in the future. Just the imagination of that story becoming a reality pushed me hard to study.
I put in more effort in a bid to not end up an auto driver and along the way my results improved as well. My result until that moment was very average. I scored 69% in 6th-grade school 72% in the seventh. But that one story had such a profound effect on me that I went on to score 80 in 8th and then passed out of school with 94% in 10th grade. That’s the power of stories and even more powerful are the stories we tell ourselves. Come let me tell you a few of the most compelling stories I told myself which landed me where I am today.
The Story Of The Lucrative Post IIT Life
Then I moved to Narayana for my pre-university education. The reason I chose MPC and joined a JEE batch was because of stories I was told. Many well-wishers told me that qualifying for IIT JEE and studying at an IIT will give me a manyfold better life than any other college will ever give me. And looking at my own family, we weren’t doing so well. So I told another story to myself. The story that I will work hard, crack IIT-JEE and will pull my family out of the current situation. The story almost drove me through the dark time at Narayana. I went on to score good marks in JEE.
Even got a seat allocated at IIT Kharagpur in the first round of counselling. But little did I know that I had to pay the fee after round 1 to continue for the further rounds of counselling. So, I was disqualified for the further process because I didn’t pay the fees which I wasn’t even aware. Although that was a bittersweet ending, I ended up at an equally amazing college at BITS Pilani and that changed everything. This wouldn’t have been possible if I didn’t tell the story of the good life to myself. I am not sure how life will pan out in the coming years, but what I can say for sure is that the stories we tell ourselves matter and they help you move ahead in life.
The Career Shaping Stories!
At BITS Pilani, I co-started the first all-terrain vehicle team called Grease Monkeys and fell in love with Automobiles. I loved building vehicles with my own hands and the entire responsibility of delivery. I told myself that this was so much fun and I should do this in life. That story manifested itself when I joined the Program Management team at TATA Motors. While I had a lot of fun doing it at such a big company, I said to myself that I need to accelerate the learning.
And at the time, I was very big on electric vehicles becoming mainstream sometime in the future or at least that’s the story I told myself. So with the intention of learning product development faster and to work on electric vehicles, I joined Ather Energy. And in October’2020 I told myself that I had a great time developing products. But I realized I didn’t understand the supply chain and operations world better. I felt understanding Supply chain and operations was a major part of becoming good at product development or at least that’s what I told myself. On the back of that narrative, I ended up at Zetwerk in October’2020.
The Bottomline Stories We Tell Ourselves
Very simple pattern emerges in all of what I spoke about above. A simple fact that stories have a lot of influence on how we do things and how we deal with life. The power of these narratives and the stories we tell ourselves is so profound on everything we do. They drive you to do the incredibly impossible tasks because you’re strongly believing in it and leave no stone unturned. Perhaps, if my teacher didn’t share that anecdote with me back in 7th class, who knew where I would be today.
Likewise, the story of leading a good life after IIT pushed me to work hard. Travelling 40 KMs every day and spending 13 hours in a classroom immersing myself in some of the toughest problems in maths and science was no mean feat. But my drive was directly proportional to the belief I had in the story. The story that life would be better after IIT.
The utility of stories doesn’t end here. To give you an example, I recently started this initiative called Green Ribbon to accelerate the adoption of upcycled and recycled products. It was a simple narrative that the world would be filled in plastic if we don’t reduce the amount of plastic reaching landfills. So the best way to do that is to recycle and upcycle the plastic waste into useful products.
So go to buy recycled and upcycled products. That’s it. That was the story. But it connected with people so much that within a few days, I onboarded 3 creator partners onto the platform. Although, I couldn’t bring it up to speed due to my limitations I know this is something big. The bottom line is stories sell.
Stories We Shouldn’t Tell Ourselves
Stories only matter when you actually believe in them. Otherwise, they’re just blank pages filled with black ink that doesn’t appeal to anyone at all. So consciously or subconsciously I’ve unlocked the power of these stories. But I have also realized that stories also lead to chaotic places in life if you don’t use them well. For example, you may take up a new job considering you’ll get ample time for yourself. But if in reality, it doesn’t give you as much flexibility you expected, then you’ll be perennially frustrated.
So, it is important to tell yourself stories that are fairly realistic given the circumstances. Of course, this isn’t applicable if you’re Elon Musk. Tell yourself the stories that you actually believe in and push through obstacles to realize them.
Famously, a lot of the startups have succeeded because the story was well told and the execution was in line with the story they narrated. The narrative was backed by employees, VCs customers and founders. If either of them didn’t believe in the story, the startup was bound to fail.
So stories are very powerful and have the potential to be life changers but only if they’re used well. So that’s all I wanted to say about the stories we tell ourselves.
That’s all for today folks. Thank you for sticking through to the end.
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This is post no.37 in the weekly blog post series. You can write to firstname.lastname@example.org for any feedback or collaboration. Alternatively, you can drop me a DM on Instagram.