A Bar Napkin and Six Words

A client recently called to ask for some help developing an “elevator pitch” for a new business. If you’re not familiar with the concept, it’s a simple one:  if you’re in an elevator and someone steps in (usually a key influencer for your success), what would you say?  What’s the message you’d convey if you only had that short period of captive time with your audience?  My response:  elevators are too slow!  Today’s world is incredibly distracted and fast-paced. Information and story fragments are thrown at us constantly.  We’re bombarded and, as a result, have become effective editors to tune out everything except those things that reallymatter to us. Consider this:  a resume was typically viewed for 3-4 minutes about ten years ago. Today?  3-7 seconds!

But what happens to the message when you’re forced to abbreviate it to just a phrase, a few seconds or 140 characters?  When we’re forced to drill down our sales pitch, vision, strategy or our reason-for-being message into 140 characters or less, do we lose what makes us special and unique?  Does it all start to sound sort of the same?I’ve been giving a lot of thought to this and brought it up in conversation with my colleague and fellow storyteller, pointed me to Six-Word Memoirs to demonstrate that just six words can have deep, personal meaning.

So, what if you only had 6 words to tell the story of your life?  According to legend, Ernest Hemingway was challenged in a bar bet to write his memoir using this “short short novel” method. No one knows if he ever did it, but Smith Magazine challenged people to take it on, resulting in a project with over 250,000 memoirs.   It’s minimalism at its best.  Check out these powerful stories from people, some well-known and others, not so much:

“Father: ‘Anything but journalism.’ I rebelled.”  –– Malcolm Gladwell

“Live man’s life in woman’s body!”  – Diane von Furstenberg

“God, how long was I asleep?”  – Christopher Rumsey

“Wanted a pony, got a goldfish.” – Gretchen Cline

“I picked passion. Now I’m poor.”  – Kathleen E. Whitlock

And, my own:

Attended anti-perfection class. It worked.

I even challenged myself to get simpler and came up with this one.  If you know me, it really does get to the heart of my life so far:

Home is right here.

Give it a whirl.  Take out a pencil and paper – a bar napkin if you want.  What six words describe your life?



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