In a really good story, the main character goes on a journey to find something that he desperately needs. Often the thing he desperately needs most is a personal character change. The liar becomes honest. The alcoholic becomes sober. The deadbeat dad becomes the loving father his children need. The distant husband becomes the relentless pursuer of his wife’s heart. The guy who was lazy becomes the most industrious fella around.
Storytelling works because it mirrors what is supposed to be true about reality. Human beings find in themselves a need to change. We aren’t perfect. We have flaws. We need to be more than we are today. And the journey doesn’t end as long as we’re alive.
But what happens when the story stops? Not because of a sudden death, but because the journey became more about repairing the past than moving into the future. You see, we’re meant to change. It’s good for us, and our story is better when we do. But when it comes to living, we can take one of two postures, and which one we take determines our future.
We can spend our lives salvaging the past or cultivating the future.
And that’s the problem. Too many times I catch myself picking up the pieces of my last mistake because I just keep making the mistakes instead of moving forward. Opportunities pass by because I wasn’t ready. How could I be? I was in salvaging mode.
In salvaging mode, you never really feel like you’re making any traction, and you never really feel like you can get ahead because you’re relentlessly behind, picking up the pieces of the choices you continue to make.
At some point, you have to wake up and realize that opportunities are passing you by because you’re in salvaging mode. Salvaging sounds good, but salvaging only makes the most of the past to make the best of the present. Cultivating learns from the past and builds from it into the present with a constant view of the future.
Salvaging brings you to today. Cultivating brings you to tomorrow and beyond.
That’s the great thing about a story. It’s what we resonate with. All the best stories are stories of characters who start out normal, descend into salvaging mode, and through the journey discover a life of cultivating a better future.
That’s the kind of story I want to design.
Question: Do you find yourself living more in salvaging mode or cultivating mode?