Sabrina Zolkifi is a talented friend of mine who is fascinated by storytelling. Sabrina and I met while presenting at Pechakucha Singapore in 2012. By day she is a journalist and you can read more of here work here
A few months ago, at the end of a long meeting with a start up based here in Singapore, I’m in the middle of my goodbyes when the founder stops me dead in my tracks and asks, “So Sabrina, what gets you out of bed in the morning?”
I wasn’t expected that curveball – especially at the end of a long day – and instead of retorting with a cheeky response (“Coffee, and the urgent need to pee, clearly”), I looked him dead in the eye and told him the truth: “I don’t know.”
Now, it’s not that I’m unmotivated and have no passions. I do, but right at that moment, fuelled by the desire to be as honest with him as I could on such short notice, I realised I had never really thought about it. Sensing my internal conflict, he gently prods, “What is your purpose in life?” Geez man, I’m 24. I’m still trying to sort that out! I told him to let me have a think about it, and that I’d text him the next day once I’ve figured out the whole meaning of my existence. No sweat. … if didn’t get in touch with him for two weeks.
It wasn’t until an (almost) serendipitous dinner half a month later that I really figured out what it is I want to do in life. I had figured out my purpose: I wanted to tell stories. To be honest, while I’m surprised the answer didn’t come to me immediately after our first meeting, it does make sense considering I didn’t know I wanted to be a writer until I was already one. Sure, I had written and produced a play at The Arts House by the age of 22, but I always considered writing as a hobby – sometime I did to unwind, or take my mind off work. It hadn’t hit me then that I was able to marry what I loved to do, with what I was being paid to do.
It’s been three years since I stumbled into journalism, and while reporting on the HR industry isn’t exactly everyone’s idea of story time, I know that at some level, I’m helping organisations tell their story to employees and candidates, and that, that might in some way, validate their existence as more than just a profit and loss, supply and demand slave. Some of the people I’ve had the pleasure of working with are some of the most passionate people I’ve met, and sharing their stories, regardless of whether it were HRrelated or not, has been some of the biggest and best perks of my job. And then of course, there are the hours outside my 9-6.
Every couple of months, I host an event called Pecha Kucha Night (where I co-presented with Parin and where he christened me “French” for reasons still beyond me). PKN is an awesome platform for people to come together and share their ideas, and I’ve always pitched it as a creative show-and-tell. In the year that I’ve been involved with PKN, we’re helped artists, entrepreneurs, students and leaders tell their stories – but sometimes the best stories are shared after the slides are done, and the stage is cleared. I’ve spent hours in the crowds, hearing tales of that one time someone got lost in the jungles of Asia Pacific and were attacked by tribesmen, or that other time someone hitchhiked his entire away across Europe with just $100 in his pocket.
There is also a side project called Sidebar, where together with the Clyde to my corporate Bonnie Suffian Hakim, we help smaller start ups tell their story and build a solid brand. So far, we've worked with university networking site UniLuncher.sg, which connects Singapore-based college kids over lunch in the bids of inspiring and creating new and exciting relationships. And speaking of Suffian, Sidebar's also been helping him with the creation and promotion of his new book Harris bin Potter, which is a local twist to, well duh, Harry Potter. So if you've ever once wondered what the Potter story would be like had be been born Malay and in Singapore, you can click here and find out: https://publishizer.com/harrisbin-potter-and-the-stoned-philosopher/ Sidebar's still in it’s super duper infancy stages, but we’re getting there.
Anyway, as we’ve grown older, I think a lot of us have come to confuse fact sharing with story telling. Take it from story telling guru E. M. Foster. He once said, “A fact is, ‘the queen died and then the king died.’ A story is, ‘the queen died and the king died of a broken heart.’” You don’t have to be in front of a crowd to tell a story that changes the way they see things. Stories are being made and told every day, in the office, during commutes, and even now, as I am telling my story telling story to you. So go do something today that will make a great story tomorrow!