It was late one night in Vienna when I was walking the streets with a colleague – hopping from one pub to the next – trying out different beers in this beautiful European city. We were there attending a technical conference, and there was nothing much to do after dark except make the most of this time exploring the hosting city. As we walked the streets late into the night, we talked about various things ranging from work, to hobby, to technology in general, and so on. It was then that my colleague asked this question: “So, what is your story?”
I was never asked this before, therefore a prepared answer was not available. I remember asking him what that meant. Was this a trick question? After being told that the question meant exactly what it said, i.e. he wanted to know if I had a story to tell about my life – a story that captured the essence of what the journey has been so far, what have been my influences so far, what and who am I motivated by, what events changed the course of my journey, and most importantly, what am I headed towards. That last part is as important as all the other parts put together. That one thing will say a lot about what I care about and why am I doing what I am doing, and what guides my actions.
This is powerful stuff and I have thought about this question a lot since. Now I do not make a major decision in life without invoking this question and thinking about how this decision will shape the answer to that question. It has also influenced my day-to-day actions – sort of helping me answer the question: what do you wake up for?
If I am ever asked this question again, I have an answer this time. Maybe a long answer, but an answer nonetheless. And that colleague of mine is part of the answer.