Success Lesson: Have Fun Storming the Castle

Humans are wired for stories from our earliest years. We hear them, read them, tell them, and live them. The stories of our lives and successes are always in progress.

Think about your favorite story. Go ahead. I will wait right here while you play the mental reel of how it makes you feel. Is it a scary story? A love story? A dramatic adventure?

One of my favorite stories is The Princess Bride movie, which happens to be celebrating its 30th anniversary this weekend. Go see it in the theater if you can, or at least screen it at home. Westley's is the quintessential success story, from lowly farm boy to defeating death with the power of true love and rescuing his dream girl. What makes the story so compelling is not its happily-ever-after ending but the challenges along the way. The swashbuckling. The Rodents of Unusual Size. The Machine. Miracle Max.

A basic creative writing formula is to set the scene, introduce some characters, then scare them up a tree (conflict) and throw rocks at the tree (more conflict) again and again. Conflict, then, is the heart of the story.

After reviving Westley from being mostly dead, Miracle Max sends Westley off to wrap up the adventure. Max and his wife encourage Westley to "Have fun storming the castle!" Who does that? Not just storming a castle but having fun at it?

It is hard to see the fun during the heart of the storm, but all the drama of life's episodes give us great stories to tell. Without the conflict, success falls flat. Early in my teaching career I had to deal with a hostile 1st grader chasing me with a hockey stick head and a clear intent to whack my head like a puck. In that moment, the experience was traumatic. Alright, I will be honest. Hockey sticks still give me the shivers. The point of the story is what does not kill us makes us warier and more nimble in the future. That incident unlocked the proverbial eyes in the back of my head and made me quicker on my toes.

What challenges have shaped -- and are shaping -- your success story? What value do they add to your skills? Tell me your storming-the-castle stories. Unless they involve hockey sticks.