Opening hearts and minds: Telling ourselves a different story

By Suzen Fiskin
Reader Columnist

If I were to ask you to tell me about yourself, odds are that you would launch into the story of your life. It’s probably the same tale you’ve honed and shared over the decades. We all do it.

What if we chose to experience our lives differently? What if we decided that we wanted to get beyond our history and move onto something more uplifting, more exciting, more inspired?

One way to start that new path is to stop telling our old stories. Stop sharing the dramas of our childhood. Move past memories of who did what to whom, and create a different reality.

Check out these three people who refused to be bound by the tales they were told, and who made a difference in the lives of many others by telling themselves a different story.

Andy Didorosi was a 25 year old entrepreneur in Detroit, a city reeling with General Motors’ departure. It’s like a ghost town with 70,000 abandoned buildings, 31,000 homes, and 90,000 vacant lots. Poverty and crime abound. Even the city declared bankruptcy in 2013.

Not exactly the environment most people would think of for creating a thriving business!

Andy was ticked off when the city nixed building the promised light rail down a busy corridor. He knew that people still needed transportation to get to their jobs and schools. Rather than bailing from his crippled home town, Andy told himself a different story. Rather than seeing Detroit as a relic, he saw a place “full of resources waiting to be activated.”

He mustered up the cash to buy an old bus and had an artist friend paint it in wild colors. He started the Detroit Bus Company as the only driver, charging just enough to keep it running, take care of his humble personal needs, and stash a bit of cash to reinvest in his company.

Today, Andy’s company has taken over a 90,000-square foot factory warehouse. The DBC uses 10,000 sq. ft. of the space and shares the rest with up and coming artists. They offer free door-to-door service to kids, giving them a safe, reliable way to get to classes. They run historical city tours, rent out buses, and have routes in many areas of the city.

“Our mission is to get every Detroiter a ride to where they need to go. Bar none.” And they do because one guy believed “I wanted to put the city back on wheels.” And he did.

Next we have a young man named Jack Andraka who was a high school freshman in Maryland. A close family friend died rather suddenly of pancreatic cancer. When Jack asked why the cancer wasn’t detected earlier, he was told that this strain of cancer was very hard to detect early on. The lab tests were very expensive, slow and hadn’t been updated for 50 years.

Jack believed there had to be a better way. This 14-year- old boy decided to find an early marker for pancreatic cancer. The test had to be cheap, quick and available to everyone. He approached the problem with an entirely new point of view and came up with a solution. He emailed 200 scientists at universities to develop his research and received 199 rejections. What could a 14-year-old kid know?

One professor at nearby John Hopkins University said yes, and Jack’s theories were proven correct. This dipstick paper test is 168,000 times faster and 26,000 times cheaper than the old diagnostic. It also works to detect ovarian and lung cancer.

Jack won a $75,000 American Ingenuity Award at age 15 and will change an untold number of lives because he told himself the story that he could find a better way.

Our last story is about a girl in Pakistan. In 2009, her educator father offered his 11- year-old daughter’s services to the BBC. Malala wrote a blog about what it was like to be a girl in school under the Taliban occupation. She would discretely pass her handwritten articles to a go-between to keep her identity secret.

Malala believes that every girl has the right to an education. “I am the 66 million girls in the world denied an education.” When 12-year-old Malala’s identity became public, instead of hiding, she stepped up and gave TV and print interviews. She and her family received death threats on a regular basis.

When riding on a school bus two years later, a Taliban gunman boarded the vehicle and pointed his gun at the children, “Which one is Malala?” When he found her, he shot her in the head. She almost died.

Once again, this amazing young woman refused to be stopped. Since her recovery, she speaks all over the globe, and has been on Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World” every year since 2013. She has won dozens of awards and honors.

On her 16th birthday in 2013, she spoke at the United Nations. “The terrorists thought they would change my aims and stop my ambitions, but nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born … I am not against anyone, neither am I here to speak in terms of personal revenge against the Taliban or any other terrorist group. I’m here to speak up for the right of education for every child. I want education for the sons and daughters of the Taliban and all terrorists and extremists.”

In 2014, she won the Nobel Peace Prize, the youngest winner in history. In her words, “There’s a moment when you have to choose whether to be silent or to stand up.”

Malala is my hero. Andy and Jack are inspirational. All of them told themselves a different story on the inside than everyone told them on the outside, and all of them have changed lives.

Stories are the way wisdom has all ways been shared throughout the ages. We all have the power to choose different stories for ourselves and our world. Imagine what we can co-create . . . Now hold that thought!

Suzen Fiskin is a marketing maven, life coach, and inspirational speaker. She’s also the author of the book, “Playboy Mansion Memoirs.” If you have any questions or comments, here’s how to find her – (208)572-0009 or [email protected]

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