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  • Andrew Scott

Helpful Stories

I was reflecting on sales of Shifting Stories this week. The graph of relative sales position on Amazon looks like this:

Combined with the direct sales (via this website and person-to-person) and the data from the publisher (which has a slight time-delay built in) the story is one of slow and steady. I tweeted: ‘Two obvious stories available to me about book sales: they haven't slowed down; they haven't speeded up. Guess which is more helpful…

Of course, that is a slightly question-begging tweet; and the question it begs is: ‘More helpful for what?’ If I want to help myself to feel upbeat and positive, then ‘they haven’t slowed down’ is a helpful story. However, if I wish to galvanise myself to action, to accelerate sales, then ‘they haven't speeded up’ might be the more helpful one.

Reflecting on all this, I realised that my preferred story for the future is: ‘Sales have really speeded up!’ That clearly isn’t true, at present, and I am not in favour of lying to myself. However, it is still a story worthy of consideration, as there have been periods when it was true, and I may be able to learn something from them; and also there may be much I can do to start to make it come true; and then to focus on sustaining that new story as it does come true. For example, I could publicise the positive reviews, I have received:

I might even go so far as to quote some (even as I write that, I am aware of an inner story about bragging starting to rear its head. I choose to acknowledge and then ignore it! Instead, I shall engage with the story that nobody lights a lamp to hide it under a bushel...)

And of course there are other actions I can (and probably should, and might even actually) take to help make that story come true.

My central thesis is that we always have more than one story available to us about the same reality; and that it is valuable - and indeed it leads to change - if we focus on the more helpful stories. But the notion of helpful is itself an interesting one to explore; and on occasions many stories - even contradictory ones - may be helpful.

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