Things like this always get me; I’m reading a book that I really could careless about and then, bam, 137 pages in I connect with the bigger idea. I’ve been reading Dave Carroll’s United Breaks Guitars, which describes his personal journey of turning a negative customer service experience with United Airlines into a viral YouTube video phenomenon. To be honest, the book wasn’t my favorite in the beginning; there was a lot of discussion about guitars (something I personally don’t have an affinity for) and it didn’t seem to say more than simply what he experienced and creates as a response. However, once I got through the entire experience, Carroll started to address the wider implications of social media and connectedness in our modern world. This is what caught my interest.
He related writing his song “United Breaks Guitars” to running a small business— where everyone is a potential customer. Carroll emphasizes that the best strategy isn’t marketing your product or idea to one particular clientele but rather creating a product that many types of people can connect with because it is authentically you. He emphasized that stories and individual experiences are what are important and provide a point of connection between many different people, from many different walks of life. It can be seen in this very book; I could careless about his deep love for his Taylor guitar BUT I did identify with his method of trying to bring people together to change something he thought was wrong with the service industry, and I also identified with his wider theme that having the courage to share your experience which might just change the world.
I found myself relating his story to my own. Some people accredit me as “that girl with the amazing senior project” and talk about how “I am sponsoring twenty-five Kenyan children’s education” but in reality I am just the story that brought people together. The truth is much bigger than just me; the truth encompasses the faculty at Fredericksburg Academy, my family, the Royal Kids School, E3 Kids International, my amazing donors, and even stranger who may stumble upon this blog. The important thing is that none of it would have been possible without all my donors who rallied around my story and passion to make my vision of giving my class a better future possible. Carroll says that for him nothing would have changed without the millions of people who took the time to watch his video series, and for me none of it would have been possible without the people who took the time to listen to my story. While I didn’t necessarily relate to Carroll’s customer service experience, I did relate to the importance of backing your creations with an authentic story.
I think Carroll does a good job encouraging that no matter what your story is, it is worth sharing. And that goes along with what I’ve always told the seventh graders I work with, “Just do something.” It doesn’t matter if you don’t think your story will have an earth-shattering, world-changing effect – it is still worth sharing and you have no idea who might identify with it. Having the courage to put your ideas and dreams out there is the first step, and who knows where it might lead you. For me, sharing my dream of sending 18 amazing Kenyan children to school for one year turned into sponsoring 25 because of the generosity of many. This connectedness is what drives our world and is something we shouldn’t take lightly as we consider the best ways to create meaningful change in many different situations around the world.