The Privacy of Memory

We lose a little of ourselves when we outsource our memory to Google.

But not in the obvious way that we think of.

What we lose in the privacy (some would say inaccuracy) of memory is the ability to forget.

And to be forgotten.

The privacy of memory and the palaces that we build in our minds of truths, facts, lies and stories is more valuable than we know to preserving the best parts of our fragile humanity.

In the rush to electronically preserve the truth in non-debatable, and factual ways, we are losing the pleasure (and the privilege) of the privacy of choosing what we want to remember—and what we have the grace, forgiveness and ability to forget.

When we can call out each other using facts we like that work for us (and avoid or dismiss the facts that don’t), our social media communications and interactions become about expressing the rawest of emotions with immediacy, in the face of overwhelming facts that are preserved as eminent, and indisputable truth.

Google can’t help us here. Neither can artificial intelligence. Neither can another social communication platform.

Only human beings can preserve the privacy of memory in relationship with other human beings.

HIT Piece 11.22.2016

The power of stories is undeniable, particularly around the Thanksgiving holiday.

Stories about the Pilgrims.

Stories about the country today.

Stories about the country yesterday.

Stories about the neighborhood.

Stories about the family.

Thanksgiving is a curious holiday, because at its root, it is about thanking God (who the Pilgrims believed in, by the way) and about sharing the overflow (which the Pilgrims did with each other and the Native tribes that surrounded them).

Gratitude and sharing are at the core of the stories we tell each other on Thanksgiving.

But it is hard to be full of gratitude (or even to share for that matter) when there is conflict, strife, oppression (psychological or otherwise) or when there are outside signals that create meaningless internal noise.

The distractions from getting to the root of your story, are a story in and of themselves. But those distractions, many of which are focused on conflict, strife, and oppression, are not the core story of the holiday.

Thankfulness is a story.

Gratitude is an attitude. And a story.

Sharing is a story.

The power of the stories we tell—and the power of the stories we don’t tell—lies at the core of giving thanks, being grateful, and sharing with others.

[Advice] Curses Are Stories

Stories have immense power and we are delusional if we think that we are going to change them with good intentions, by throwing more money at them, by passing laws or even by ignoring their power.

Curses are stories.

As are myths, legends, gossip, rumors, and even tall tales.

It takes more than just raw talent or brute force to break a story. Many stories are resilient, not because of the content of the stories themselves (that’s another matter altogether) but because of the feelings that those stories generate.

Stories of conflict, despair, defeat, disappointment, are even more powerful, because it’s easier to convince people of a negative outcome than a positive one. Parties in conflict believe that their negative story is the only story possible out of a range of stories, and because they believe that, they continue to perpetuate the same story repeatedly.

But then, ever so often, a story has the power to change, from a negative one, to a positive one.

Usually this happens after the people hearing the story, absorbing the story, and repeating the story, either surrender, lose hope, or move onto to another story altogether. When a story changes from a negative to a positive, it usually takes one person (and usually that person is a man) to lay out a vision of another path, another story that can supersede the one that is ingrained in listener’s ears, hearts, and minds.

In the realm of politics (where stories—or narratives, if you will—drive votes) the name for the person who used to lay out the vision and tell a different story, and then doggedly pursue that story, was a statesman, or a visionary.

Part of the trouble with the modern (and post-modern) world, is that when every individual has a right to their own narrative (but not their own facts) the power of a story becomes even harder to break. It becomes integrated so deeply into identities, behaviors, and lived out choices, that it seems as if there could never be another version of the same story.

Or even, another version of a different story. And when every individual has a right to their own narrative, it becomes almost impossible for a single statesman to step forward and offer a unifying vision, because they aren’t granted the authority to do so by the same audience who desperately longs for a different story.

This is both a positive and negative development. It is corrosive because, without a sense from the individualized mass audience consuming the story that the story can change—it doesn’t. It is positive because it means that each individualized person can believe differently, act differently, and tell a different story without permission from above.

Stories have immense power. And the only way that we can change them is by becoming the visionaries we need to be to change the stories we tell ourselves.

And each other.

[Advice] Listening to the Linchpins

There are all of these stories out there.

A woman works in the billing department of a major company. She is passionate about her work, but she is also knowledgeable about tax laws. She sells vitamin supplements as a side hustle, and owns a piece of rental property. Her kids help her with the work on the rental property and she is able to buy them new Nikes.

A women owned her own business for ten years because she went to business school because her father wanted her to. She was always passionate about working with people. After ten years of operating and owning a business, she put that project aside to work in a company with people.

A man works to feed vulnerable populations at scale on a daily basis. He believes in the work so much, that he is running for political office as well.

A man knows more about food safety than you and I will ever know. He has trouble convincing his family though, that they should listen to him in his knowledge and take his advice. They all get sick following an outdoor picnic at a family reunion where the food was out, starting a cascade of conflict via text messages after the fact.

All of these people are linchpins. They create value and connection with the people around them, in order to grow their worlds. They are taking risks to expand their voices and the only thing that is stopping them from going further is themselves.

Listen to the stories around you.

The stories of the linchpins.

Because the chorus of stories is growing louder and louder and expanding out further and further and touching more and more lives in ways that matter.

[Opinion] Storytelling in Your Dispute

Stories come from mental models, or frames.

Many stories are so deeply felt, so deeply ideated, that they transform in conflicts from mental models and frames into marks of identity.

And then you’re not having a conflict where someone else’s narrative is driving the conflict.

You’re having a conflict with someone else’s deeply held identity.

And people will always fight to protect their identity, because to lose that identity would mean abandoning all the stories that have been told before.

There are people who would rather lose the conflict on their identity, rather than change their stories to understand current narratives and events.

Misunderstanding and “misunderestimating” someone else’s identity, through mocking it, dismissing it, ignoring its power, or reacting to it with fear rather than faith, will always lead to you being surprised by the outcome of the conflict.

HIT Piece 7.19.2016

Building a business…while black…

Writing…while black…

Driving…while black…

Tweeting…while black…

Parenting…while black…

Doing physics…while black…

Banking…while black…

Teaching…while black…

All of these are stories about identity. The problem is, where the emphasis is in my story may not match where the emphasis is in your story, for me.

And since I get to define my story (and then you get to decide if you believe that story or not) where I put the emphasis matters more than where the emphasis is placed for me.

Stories are powerful and they aren’t true or false, they are just real. And when where I place my emphasis, creates friction when it rubs up against where you place your emphasis on my story, then conflicts, miscommunications, and misunderstandings become par for the course. And should come as no surprise.

Yet, somehow, you are constantly surprised by where I place the emphasis in my story.

[Strategy] “Why” is the New Black

“Why” is the new black.

I keep saying this, in trainings mostly, and what it means is that–what lies at the core of most problems, disputes, disagreements, frustrations, and “differences of opinion” in the workplace—is the inability of adults to ask other adults the question “Why?”

The reasons for not engaging in this way are numerous, but the largest on is that supervisors, managers, and even fellow employees, have been trained subtly through the power of social proofing and liking—along with groupthink— to believe that asking “why” as a way to explore motivations (either intrinsic or extrinsic) is the province better-trained, more highly compensated “others” higher up the hierarchical ladder.

Supervisors, managers, and employees also want the reassurance that if they ask exploratory questions in a Socratic manner, that such questioning will lead to resolution in their favor and against the other party. This is, of course, an unknowable outcome, and so it’s just easier to avoid the whole thing and adopt a “Do as I say because I told you to” position. One that leans on authority and extrinsic motivators.

Unfortunately, (or if you are a person of courage, fortunately) the Industrial Revolution is over. The era of supervisors, managers, and leaders merely leaning on authority to get widgets made faster and cheaper has passed as well. And the era of calling everyone’s bluff is now upon us.

Increasingly, people are returning to the idea (that was rampant in the world before the Industrial Revolution brought prosperity to the masses) that labor has to matter. Jobs, work, and labor are all discretely different and we have spent 150 years muddling the boundaries. But, in a 21st century where more and more people who would have been tagged as merely “employees” are asking “Why?” to get to the meaning and mattering behind widget based tasks, the boundaries are only going to become sharper.

For supervisors, managers, and employees struggling within the transition from the brave, old, familiar world to the brave, new, unfamiliar world, getting rid of the desire for reassurance, developing patience, and exploring motivation Socratically by asking “Why?” is the only way forward.

Otherwise, a lot of middle management in a lot of organizations will be hollowed out and replaced, because performing emotional labor will become secondary in value to the immediate revenues that lower paid, more compliant people, algorithms, or robotics can provide.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT:

[Advice] Conflicting Narratives

Storytelling, when a name is put to it, is the act of getting across to other people who we are, why we matter, what our thoughts and feelings are and what we value.

This process happens from the time that we begin to learn to talk (and sometimes before) and continues throughout our lives, creating narratives, and strings of narratives, everywhere we turn.

Many people claim that they don’t have a narrative, or that they don’t view their lives and the things that happen to them, in the context of a storytelling triangle, or arc. Instead, many people claim that things “just kind of happen” to them.

This lack of agency over the narratives in our own lives leads to frustration, stress, feelings of futility, despair, and at the furthest end of the spectrum, depression and nihilism. This lack of agency over the narratives in our own lives, can lead to some of us starting and perpetuating dysfunctional communication patterns and engaging in destructive conflict. Because, after all, if there is no narrative, no purpose, and if life events truly are “one damn thing after another” then what is the point?

But here’s something to consider:

  • Every story reveals the storyteller’s desire to create meaning.
  • Every story reveals the storyteller’s desire to create mattering.
  • Every story reveals the hearer’s desire to create relationship.
  • Every story reveals the hearer’s desire to connect to the teller of the story.

When told, the five most common workplace stories, reveal all of the desires for both the hearer (the consumer) of the story and the teller (the creator) of the story. When these desires conflict—and they tend to around values, behaviors, and choices revealed through stories—then the process of change begins in either the hearer or the teller.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT:

[ICYMI] Stories We Tell Other People

The stories that we tell other people in our lives (the cook, the waitress, the kids, partner, the co-workers, and the judge) tend to be of a different variety.

  • They tend to be “me” focused (as in “Can you believe that THIS thing happened to ME!”).
  • They tend to be really focused on convincing other people of the rightness of our position (as in “I’m a [insert positive adjective of your choice here] person, I don’t deserve this! Don’t you agree?”).
  • They tend to be structured to imprint over other people’s emotional content that they are generating about us and the story that they are hearing (primarily by using emotionally laden words, phrases, vocal tones and speech patterns).

The stories that we tell other people about the conflicts in our lives are focused around figuring out who’s on our side and who isn’t. Not about what was right, what was wrong or what was out of our control in the conflict.

Who are you trying to convince with your conflict story?

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA

Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT:

[ICYMI] Stories We Tell Ourselves

The stories we tell ourselves about conflicts and our roles in them, tend to have three characteristics in common:

Stories We Tell Ourselves

  • They tend to be incredibly personal,
  • They tend to begin with the word “I,”
  • They tend to primarily be focused on self versus others.

And, with the rate of personal self talk averaging around 300-1000 words per minute, per day, there’s a lot of storytelling going on out there about the world and our place in it.

Is it any wonder that we have such trouble hearing other people’s conflict stories above our own noise?

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA

Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT:
HSCT’s website: