We become the stories we tell ourselves

Milton S. Hershey
Image via Wikipedia

I am a possibilitarian. I decided that after watching a really interesting talk by Nick Nissley which he delivered at  TedXCalgary last year.  He called the talk  “A Story About Leadership for Humanity 3.0”  The key word here is “story” because Nick explains that he has spent a number of years looking at the place of narrative in leadership.

I have a great interest in all of this because I believe that we have more in us than many of us will ever know. I believe that we have the potential to become the kind of people doing the kind of thing that is our gift,  which fulfils our potential.

For many of us though we become the kind of people that we tell ourselves and which others tell us we are.  In this talk Nick tells us his own personal story. He tells us how he was born into poverty, that he lost his mother when very young and that by the time he was a teenager he was in trouble with the authorities. They decided to take him away from his family and send him to a school which was to transform his life. The school was the Milton Hershey school and they had been founded by a great social entrepreneur who had made his fortune running the famous chocolate business.

This school has always had a philosophy that a child becomes the story they tell themselves. If they believe that they are worthless and are never destined to become anything in life then very probably they will achieve nothing. If they believe that they have value, that they have potential  that they can learn and succeed then very often they will.

Nick is a living example of the Hershey philosophy. To get a really good feel for their ideals and to see how the school functions in the present day see the wonderful documentary that was made about the school “ Living the Legacy: The Untold Story of Milton Hershey School”.

Hershey was a possibilitarian. Nick makes the great point in his talk that, at the end of his highly successful life, he was asked about the vision that he had for his chocolate company and he said that he didn’t have a vision for his company.. his vision he said, was to solve poverty in America….. one child at a time.

Possibilitarians believe that all humans have potential and that, if they tell themselves a positive story, they may very well achieve it. Nick Nissley is the living proof of that. As a teacher I wonder what stories our children tell themselves, how many schools are like the Milton Hershey School and say, you can achieve your potential.. tell yourself a positive story.

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