Almost four years ago I was a small business owner. Hustling hard to strategically scale up my marketing agency. I had a dedicated team of young professionals who were not only good at what they do, but good human beings. The energy and excitement we felt in the early days of agency-life was electric.
Early in the evolution of my business I was blessed by two local business leaders, Carol and Paula. They saw something in me that they wanted to support and needs within the business community they thought I could meet. They hired me to lead a business networking group in a 4-part workshop on marketing best practices and strategy. Little did they know, their support for me and my business would lead to numerous exciting opportunities and lasting connections.
As I stood up to give my presentation I passed out pens bearing my business logo and explained how they told a story. I shared that in my first career I was a police officer and only allowed to write in black ink. The one time I wrote a speeding ticket in blue ink the judge called me out in a courtroom full of people and told me that only he wrote in blue ink – not me. So, when I exited the profession and had the chance to buy a pen, I made sure it was not black – in fact I bought two options: lime green and orange. They were also a felt tip pen, something I could have never used to write a summons because the carbon copies wouldn’t have worked. I didn’t buy the Paper Mate Flair pens from a place of bitterness but rather to amuse myself and chuckle about how drastically my work-place world had changed.
But it was bigger than that. In telling that story I welcomed my audience into a little bit of my background and creative mindset. I used storytelling to create connections as we got to know each other in that group context. I remember getting chuckles from the crowd and felt myself relax in the process. The workshop went great and I felt amazing energy from the group that attended. The follow up that I received from appreciative and eager community members helped encourage me forward as a fresh entrepreneur. But there is one person I connected with, as a direct result of those Paper Mate flair tip pens, that will forever be special: Chris Chittenden.
Soon after the conclusion of the workshop I received an excited and eager text message from Chris. It included a picture of my Paper Mate flair tip pen and an enthusiastic statement about how my favorite pens were also her favorite pens. She requested time to sit down over coffee and discuss a marketing need she was experiencing. So we set the time, met up at Tillerman’s Coffee, and so many amazing things happened next…
Authentic Connections Change Us
As I spoke to Chris I learned that she used to live in the Dominican Republic. In fact, she helped start a ministry there. Yes, New Hope Girls. Chris was my initial connection point to the organization I now serve through my work as executive manager.
In that conversation I found a kindred spirit who has a heart for selfless love. Someone who will serve for those she has never even met. A friend who will speak honestly about struggle and generously with kind words. She is faith-driven and so great to process deep, complex feelings and questions with. And now, she is someone who is cheering me on as I continue my adventure with New Hope Girls.
Who would have thought a semi-silly story about a pen would have resulted in such a powerful connection!? The reality is that when we are authentic we will draw others into our worlds in a way that results in unexpected beauty. We will have serendipitous stories to tell about the way our lives become knit together with others. But it will not be a coincidence – you’ll realize you were meant to walk through this world with a sense of shared admiration and mutual encouragement.
Consider your Paper Mate Flair pen — the little detail in your life that tells a warm, welcoming and honest story about who you are and how you relate to the world around you.
What do you think? (leave a comment!)