My Story: Why I do what I do

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Ghostwriter + Founder, Word Symmetry

Hi, my name is Jennifer Faulkner and I’m the founder of Word Symmetry. I specialise in the art of story and how we can connect in a more meaningful way with our audience – with each other and with ourselves.

You see, I, like many people, subscribed to someone else’s ideal.

I believed that for my life to have meaning I needed to be successful. And my idea of success was created by some intelligent marketing professional somewhere: it was the prestigious career, big white house, a jeep in the driveway, a 2.3 family, and a dog – preferably a Labrador or Golden Retriever.

That certainly wasn’t my own imagining. I grew up on a farm in a single-parent, low-income household and loved nothing more than to run around barefoot chasing butterflies and climbing trees.

But, my mum told me I could become anything I wanted to be, so I became a lawyer. Even in my university days, working at a mid-tier firm in Melbourne, there was one woman in particular who wore these beautifully-tailored, really-expensive suits and I thought, ‘I want to be like her’. Yet, as I walked around watching all the solicitors in their colourless glass offices, there was another voice that whispered, ‘What the hell am I doing?’

How long do we need to try to convince ourselves of something that might not necessarily be true?

The short answer – as long as it takes.

Ten years in, I was desperately unhappy. There I was in my South Yarra apartment with floor-to-ceiling windows and city views. It was a beautiful autumn day, with a blue sky, punctuated by soft white clouds, a gentle fresh breeze. I’d just arrived home from a walk down Toorak Road and I tried to end my life.

Yes, I was successful, but it certainly didn’t give my life meaning. It actually took me another 10 years to really understand what was missing. I mean I understood it intellectually, but it took me a little while for my body to catch up!

My entire adult life had been spent void of meaningful connection.

The connection to nature that brought me so much joy as a child was replaced by a concrete jungle with artificial lighting and recycled air. Instead of butterflies to chase, there was shop after shop of pretty and expensive things. My personal relationships were superficial and detached. My professional relationships were formal and detached. I longed for something deeper, though I neither knew what that was nor how to find it.

For me, that missing ingredient was story. But deeper than that, it was the meaningful connection we humans feel when we witness someone’s story. We are emotional creatures whether we like it or not. There needs to be emotion in order for us to connect. Movements are driven by emotion, interlaced with fact. And the number one way to create a movement is to share your story.

Jennifer FaulknerBut! You need to have done the work. You need to become your own alchemist to turn your pain into gold. You need to become your own expert to understand what it is you are here to do. And then become your own gardener to tend to those ideas, nourish the soil where they’ve been planted, clip the branches that reach out too far in the wrong direction and know that growth doesn’t always happen above the surface. We are constantly evolving.

So there I was, 10 years on with my own communications agency and something was missing. The night I realised the industry valued clicks and sales over meaningful connection, I was done. I completely shut down the advertising arm of my business and immersed myself in a complete restructure. It was a scary time because that was my main source of income. But, I refuse to sacrifice my values for someone else’s strategy. And I value meaningful connection.

So I made it my mission to learn everything I could about how to weave heart into strategy. What does that look like? How does it feel? Because I care about the impact humanity is having on the planet and the one thing that is driving mass-consumerism, disharmony, addiction and destruction is lack of connection.

I went on retreat with aboriginal elders where I learned the value of community, culture and story. I invested in courses and mentoring, studied creative writing at UCLA and learned storytelling from filmmakers. It’s something I think I’ll always be learning about.

It’s something our ancestors have done for millennia – sitting around sharing stories. It’s how we connect, it’s how we pass on our wisdom, it’s how we raise responsible adults and have meaningful relationships.

How do we use story to create a successful business and become catalysts for change?

It starts with the question: Who are you?

At the core of it all, underneath the labels and identities you’ve acquired over your lifetime, who are you? Where does your heart break? What is the voice inside of you rising up to say? What do you long for and what does that have to teach you?

These questions are all counterintuitive to what we are being taught to do, because they require stillness. Building a business requires action. Intention requires stillness. Can you sit in the discomfort of non-doing? Can you accept contraction as a natural and welcome part of your life? Visualise the ocean. It reaches towards the shore and then contracts. The breath expands and then contracts.

Because of story’s ability to fascinate, you might tend to over-think it or not believe you have a story worth telling. And that is because you’re focused on the end result: you’re placing your value in someone else’s story. You’re focused on a perception of how the person you’re sharing your story with may or may not feel, think or respond. That is the door for all your limiting beliefs and fears to flow in and block you.

Bring your attention back to what you know to be true. Trust it. Cultivate it until your deeper knowing is louder than your fears. Meaningful connection isn’t about the size of your story, it’s about the truth in it.

Let me give you an example. I come from a family of non-communicators – and yes, I definitely appreciated the irony when I opened my own communications agency! One of mum’s ingrained beliefs is that she’s not smart enough or doesn’t have anything of value to say, and so she doesn’t say much at all.

The other day we were talking about a memoir I’d asked her to write. She told me about a memory of when she was a little girl. Grandad was driving and Nanny Wight (my grandmother) was knitting. The faster Grandad drove, the faster Nanny knitted. Finally, she said, “Slow down Dad, Mum can’t keep up!”

We laughed together and it was the most meaningful connection mum and I had had in a long time. She might have thought it was insignificant but it wasn’t to me, and if she’d kept it in, I never would have had that moment.

So what I help people with is drawing out the meaningful elements of their life experience so they work with what they already know and weave in the strategy where it’s needed, not the other way around. Absolutely, build your team and get people in to help you but not at the expense of your truth. Get your stories down so your team can draw on them for consistently engaging messaging and momentum.

We can’t just subscribe to someone else’s strategy if we haven’t done the work to bring our message forward. Because otherwise it’s only ever going to be someone else’s message.

And that’s not what you’re here for.

I want you to become known as the person you know yourself to be.

If you feel called to work with me, you’ll find some information about my services here.