The Power of a Single Voice

Earlier this week, I discovered Chimamanda Adichie's TED talk titled The Danger of a Single Story.  As she so beautifully states, “the single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”

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That same day, I came across Adichie's talk (h/t YA author Julie Berry), I learned about  A Challenge to Digital Influencers:  Join the #One4One game.   As Forbes blogger Deanna Zandt writes, “a bunch of us who work in the tech and information industries are tired of pointing out that women and people of color are missing from lists, from panels, from articles about the industry, and that it’s the same six straight white guys having conversations about the future of media, technology and, well, everything.”  But rather than lobbing in yet another e-mail to the compilers of digital influencer lists, Deanna Zandt, Melissa Pierce, and Andrew Rasiej, decided to create their own list of influencers, with this simple call to action:  name one influencer whose identity is radically different from yours (if you are a man, name a woman, for example) as your #One4One.  I happily nominated Denise Jacobs, a veteran web developer, expert on creativity, and with whom I sit on the Advisory Board at Just Family. If you'd like to play, here's a sample tweet:  A Challenge to Digital Influencers: Join The #One4One Game http://onforb.es/LYLrHi Mine is @_______.

As people have read Dare, Dream, Do, some have asked me why so many stories.  Adichie's story helps me articulate why.  If I had included only my story, the message could easily have been construed as ‘how to have a successful career’, rather than a book about the why, what and how of dreaming.

There is danger in a voice, and a single story — but when we share our stories and voices — there is a singular power.

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“We are impressionable and vulnerable in the face of a story.” – Chimamanda Adichie #one4one

How

[stories] are told, who tells them, when they are told, how many stories are told, are really dependent on power.” – Chimamanda Adichie #one4one

“Stories matter.  Stories can be used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize… repair and heal dignity.” — Chimamanda Adichie #one4one

Jennifer Thomas | Finding Inspiration in Others’ Stories

September 27, 2010
Somewhere over Missouri

Dear Friend,

I am on a plane next to a snoring stranger, and I have just finished your book. I have carted it with me across continents and oceans and it has magically changed my solitary seats in 5F and 22 B (I hated that one) into rooms full of intelligent and inspiring women, all sharing their dreams and ideas. I enjoyed it so much I read it twice.

You know how much I love to read fiction. I go in deep and get shamelessly lost, vicariously wandering in triumphs and tragedies that aren’t mine. I love losing my prosaic self.

Reading Dare, Dream, Do felt a lot like that, but better and more honest. It told an inspiring story, but urged and invited me to actually join the protagonists. It insisted that I dream, “I am the princess.” “I got the magic powers.” “I am the one who climbs mountains.” What fun!!!

It is a wonderful book and has left me inspired. I have taken lots and lots of notes and made some real promises to myself that I intend to find the courage to fulfill. But perhaps more importantly it shone a light on dreams that I have already dreamed and achieved. Acknowledging those explicitly to myself felt great, and gives me incentive to push forward.

At the end of my second go ‘round I made a list of women I will want to give it to. It is a list that might require me to take on a part time job, but I can think of so many friends who are chock full of potential it could unlock. I will have to get your manifesto of a well-lived life into their hands somehow.

Thanks for encouraging so many women to tell their stories and for having a strong vision of how they linked together in a noble narrative. I am blessed to know you.

With much love and gratitude,
Jen

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What is your story? 

Are you sharing your story with others? 

If you'd like to share your story in this space, please email me and follow the Submission Guidelines.

***

This is a letter that Jen Thomas wrote after reading an earlier draft of the book.  She asked me to save it and post it around the time of the book's publication. Jennifer previously shared her story here: Louis XIV Lives Inside My Head Jennifer Thomas received Bachelors degrees in Italian and Art History and pursued graduate studies in Art History at the Institute of Fine Arts at NYU.  When finally faced with the need to support herself, she turned to major-gift fundraising and worked with an educational non-profit in NYC and MGH in Boston.  Occasionally she still creates and conducts travel study tours to Italy for both family and friends.  Jennifer is the mother of four boys, including 5 year-old twins, and lives outside of Boston, MA.


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