When you first launch the “Medium” to write, you will see “Tell your story” blinking and staring at you.
I am always curious, why are we so drawn into stories? Why are stories so sticky? And how people can “come up” with so many of them? When we see someone eloquently telling stories, we admire them, appreciate them, and always wonder “how they did it?” and “how they got those stories?”, “is my life boring?”
You know, I was like you, lame-duck-boring-person, then after having some training and understanding the “pattern” behind that “mental chaos,” I am always wondering:
“Why I don’t have any interesting story to tell.”
That fear, I noticed, is typical among those ready to grow their communication skills, but they don’t’ know where to start?
Here is what I have learned so far and still learning (especially bringing emotions in my writings, that’s why my write-ups are so dull):
We are humans, and our life is full of events. Somewhere around in 2018, I started driving Lyft/Uber. I was in the phase of my life where I need to have some extra side-income. You need to follow some dreams, and for that, you need to go some extra miles. During that time, I collected a few interesting stories about my interactions with the passenger. It was a simple folder in an iOS Notes App. You don’t need to be fancy and don’t need to have unique apps or tools. Stay focus on writing and capturing those events. I write those interactions after every ride.
Continuing with my Lyft/Uber example, I start making notes about those passengers as characters in my events, such as a single mother struggling for her kids and working as a bartender. A drunk, middle-class man who just passed out while blurbing on the back seat. Then there was a person, who shouted at me and started calling my name, all kinds of curse words, just because I was not on the right side of the curb. The party goer group saw my brown skin and my first name on their app and assured me that “don’t worry, we will be not sending you back” (they assumed few things about me, mainly my immigration status). See, I just uncovered so many characters out of my small stint. I am dead sure you must have tons of characters if you focus and rewind those events and peel off the layer one by one. Go ahead, next time when you are at Costco, Walmart, or anywhere, take a note.
To be a reasonable observer, learn how to “listen,” as a human, we love to talk about ourself, and we need a lending ear. It takes practice, not that easy. Try this experiment, and if you have a toddler at your home, strike a conversation, and see how they will automatically become talkative, they will explain to you in their way what’s going and why certain toys are not their favorite. You will see some exciting dimensions from their observations. If you’re in the field of User Research, you may know how important it is to be a good listener, which will help you to bring all your five-senses attention to a present moment. Here is what you can do to be a good listener. Go out to your neighborhood park or in your backyard, and try to focus on nature’s sound (if you live in a city ). You cannot afford to be around nature, then sit next to the road, and focus on listening and seeing. You will see a beautiful pattern coming out of that road-side chaos. That’s the beauty of being the observer.
How did that “event” concluded, is there any outcome you can extract from that event? You can easily reach the outcome by observing your behavior, your reaction to that event. For example, when I had that half-drunk, half-homeless in my car, who was my passenger and then for some reason, he cancels the ride while in my Lyft. Guess what I did? I parked my car safely on Mission St, near Metreon Theatre in San Francisco, and asked him, politely “Sir, you just canceled the ride. According to the rules, I have to ask you to leave my car immediately”. Well, guess what? That thing went a bit, not too much, out of control in a few seconds, and he starts curing me again, telling me my job is to take him home, and I am not a “good businessman.” Guess what? He was right and still is. I am not a superb business-person. I again composed myself and then saw a police car right across the street. With my stern voice, I also ask that passenger, “Sir, are you coming out of my car, or you want me to call the police who are right across the street?”. Guess what happened next? He quietly came out from the car but kept his cursing on a full-volume. I get back into my car, took a deep breath, and then start driving home, which is almost 55 miles away from the San Francisco Downtown. I live in the San Francisco remote suburbs. The outcome, you may ask?
“Take a deep breath when things seem out of control.”
I took down that observation into my notes and put one more story in my mental library.
How many stories have you collected so far?
Hi! There, I am Mudassir Azeemi, a culturally aware product person with 10+ years of experience. I am currently working on a mission-critical application at Wells Fargo, leading the design system effort for Commercial Electronic Office (CEO) Portal. And I teach at UC Berkeley at UX/UI Bootcamp as a lead instructor. I brought the Urdu language to Apple’s iOS 2 billion devices! My mantra is finding patterns in chaos. Feel free to connect with me on Linkedin if you’d like to chat or to say hi! I am also mentoring via ADPList.org. You can also subscribe to my newsletter.