While having lunch with a number of writers, Ernest Hemingway claimed he could write a short story that was only six words long.

When the lofty group of writers scoffed at the notion, he invited each of them to put ten dollars on the table, saying that if he was wrong he’d match it. But if he was right he’d keep the money.

He quickly wrote six words down on a napkin and passed it around: “For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn.” 

Of course, he won the bet because his “story” had a perfect beginning, middle, and end.

I first learned about six-word memoirs in a LinkedIn post. Amazed that over 14,000 people contributed to the post, I concluded there must be something to this kind of writing.

After further thought and research, I wrote a soon-to-be-launched book that essentially teaches people how to rewrite their leadership story. It opens with a parable that shows how to overcome the fear that holds you back from your desires, and how to unlock the courage you need to live a more meaningful future.

On the subject of meaning, Victor Frankl’s epic book Man’s Search for Meaning chronicled his experiences as an Auschwitz concentration camp inmate during World War II. He proposed that people’s primary core desire in life isn’t pleasure, as Freud maintained, but the discovery and pursuit of what is thought of as meaningful to an individual.

If Frankl were to be asked what his six-word leadership story would be, he’d likely reply with a quote he used at the beginning of his book:

“A Why Bear’s Almost Any How” ~Nietzsche

Similarly, Joseph Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces discussed the journey of the archetypal hero found in mythologies who conquers the doubt and fear of the unknown to achieve a deeper purpose and life of significance and meaning.

Do you have a leadership journey you feel can bring greater significance and meaning to your life?

A study has been done to understand the key to achieving a happy and purposeful life. The Harvard Grant Study, followed 268 male Harvard undergraduates for 75 years, collecting data on various aspects of their lives at regular intervals. The study had the following five universal conclusions:

  1. “Love is really all that matters”– Love is the key to a happy and fulfilling life.
  2. “It’s more than money and power”– Acquiring more money and power doesn’t correlate to greater happiness.
  3. “Regardless we can all become happier”– One man went into the Grant study with fairly bleak prospects for life satisfaction. But at the end of his life, he was one of the happiest because he spent his life searching for love.
  4. “Connection is crucial for satisfaction”-– Strong relationships are the strongest predictor of life satisfaction.
  5. “Challenges and perspective make you happier” -– The journey to maturity, from narcissism to connection, has to do with the way we deal with challenges.

The bottom line of the study – ‘Being connected with purpose, relationships, love’ is important to live a happy life.

What’s your leadership story in 6 words?

Want to have a go? – please post your 6-word life story below in the comments below…