Living the Story You Were Meant to Live

Our "guy" in the story that follows. Photo credit: Jorge Quinteros

Our "guy" in the story that follows. Photo credit: Jorge Quinteros

Perhaps you know this story or one like it:

Guy works as a bond trader in Chicago. Guy gets laid off. Guy is forced to contemplate what to do next. Guy weighs his schooling, his training, what he thought he was supposed to be before the pink slip arrived. Uncertainty has disrupted this guy’s routine.  

 But do you know the next chapter of this story?

As much as we desire to rewrite our narrative, especially when it feels like it’s going off the rails, we need to realize that the previous chapters are already inked. Good or bad, those chapters are now part of our recorded history. And believe it or not, this is a good thing.

What we’ve already done or lived through informs what we’ll do next or do differently. Perhaps the guy in this story really wasn’t cut out to be bond trader. Or perhaps he was just a victim of bad timing and a plummeting market. Either way, he no longer has to ask himself what if when it comes to being a bond trader.  

When a chapter closes, we need to muster the effort to focus on writing the narrative ahead of us – and perhaps because of our setbacks, we get to look at the blank pages ahead with a new sense of possibility versus some indefinite obligation (e.g., I will be a bond trader until…)   

So here’s where we pick up our guy’s story. This is his pivot:

Guy moves around to other cities. Guy starts taking photos of random people on the street. Guy eventually starts interviewing his subjects and adding quotes and short stories alongside their photographs.

And while this guy is content and committed to his pivot, as unconventional as it seems for a former bond trader, he must wrestle with the questions he receives from the doubter and the critic – including the voice in his own head: How delusional do you have to be to think you’re going to be a successful photographer with no experience?

But here’s the silver lining that exists in all of our stories – yours, mine and this guy taking photographs:

Every great story contains conflict.

All of us wait to see the hero or the heroine emerge. We want to see justice prevail. In order for those things to happen, a villain is present. Trouble ensues. Struggle becomes evident. This isn’t just the stuff of classic books or blockbuster movies, it’s also the story of our own lives.  

The questions we have to ask are: will we allow the conflicts to crush us or will we have what it takes to pick up the pieces, to persevere, and craft a better story other than the one we find ourselves in? Will we take the pen of life and write a narrative for ourselves that is worthy and just and inspiring – because we know, deep down, it is exactly what we were meant to do?    

Let’s finish out the story:

Our guy begins posting his photos and brief stories to a blog, and then to Facebook. He finds there is interest in his work. He begins to amass followers and likes at an incredible clip. This unlikely amateur photographer has found a way to emotionally connect with people around the world through a brief story and a single photo. He’s no longer a bond trader. This is the chapter he’s writing for himself.  

Our guy in this story is Brandon Stanton, the guy behind Humans of New York. When adversity hit, he, like all of us, had to make a decision. He decided to pursue his joy – photography. Not every story turns out this way. Not everyone perseveres. And certainly not everyone goes on to become an internet phenomenon. But the thing about Brandon’s story is that riches, book deals and stardom weren’t the motivation. He did it for the love of discovery and the adventure he carved out for himself. He found a way to develop his interviewing style to evolve the way he would share his work with the world.  

To me and my colleague Jeremy, Brandon’s story is perhaps one of the most notable and current examples of what a Joy Venture represents. Our motivation for starting Joy Venture is a simple one: to share stories of dreamers and doers who are actively discovering, developing and spreading their joy with the world. Our podcast will feature people just like Brandon – people that we believe have inspiring stories to tell, who we think you should meet, including some who have faced adversity only to find true joy awaiting on the other side.  

Here’s the other thing:

You don’t have to wait until adversity hits to make your pivot, to do that thing that you know you were meant to do.

Start slow. Discover and develop your joy in the off hours. See if it’s sustainable. Find your tribe, those who lift you up and believe in your vision. Immerse yourself in that thing or idea that’s pining within you and see where it takes you.

When a bond trader can pivot and become a photographer and storyteller with no formal training, it’s fair for us to ask – what story am I meant to live out and tell?  Brandon’s story is inspiring only because he chose to write a new narrative – the one he was meant to live right now.

Are you pursuing your Joy Venture? What life are you meant to live right now?

Watch this clip for a bit more inspiration and to learn about Brandon’s story and his approach to Humans of New York.