Find your red thread, and follow it to freedom.
I used storytelling to work out that I was a storyteller. Meta, I know, but bear with me.
Have you done loads of things in your life? Different activities, projects, hobbies, gigs, jobs? It’s hard for some of us to fit ourselves into a cookie cutter. For years the question at a party, “What do you do?” would have me reaching for a cigarette in confusion. And I didn’t even smoke.
The world can be hard and competitive. And that’s from my privileged position as a white male middle-class Londoner. But often barriers are within. A lack of clarity and a breakdown of traditional job structures besets the FOMO flexi generation. For those of us making our own way, we sometimes get tired. We wish, sometimes, we’d chosen a “normal” career. Then, we’d know who we are, where we are in life, and where we might actually be going.
But part of me knows I wouldn’t be happy that way. I crave stimulation, creativity, new challenges — and don’t love having a boss (who does?).
I’ve lived all over the world and done a wild range of stuff, from running seminars for hundreds of kids at schools and editing magazines, to writing scripts for Japanese TV, publishing poetry translations, making documentaries, and writing copy for top global brands.
But when I moved back to London from Tokyo, I found the job market horribly difficult. People seemed more strict about who you are. To cut down on risk among hundreds of applicants, they’d choose someone who’d done pretty much the same job before. They weren’t taking a punt on some maverick just in from overseas.
Still, the main issue was in my head. I didn’t know what I was or what I wanted. Therefore, I couldn’t sell myself. You can’t sell something if you don’t know what it is.
The problem was that I was looking forward in confusion, when I should have taken a look backwards. I needed a RED THREAD.
What is a red thread? My favourite explanation is that it was the ball of string Ariadne gave to Theseus, so he could find his way out of the Labyrinth. That’s Ariadne, beautiful princess, daughter of King Minos of Crete, who betrayed her father to help her lover escape.
I didn’t need a princess to give me my ball of string, though.
Just looking back at my path made me realise my red thread was storytelling. Guiding experiences, editing magazines, making TV, writing for brands… It was all about spinning stories people could engage with.
This realisation, combined with the double disaster of Brexit and Trump, pushed me to a greater decision: I enshrined my own story in a brand.
I started Good Point as an ethical storytelling agency, and an umbrella for my passions and activities. This gave me the strength to grasp the red thread and swing, Tarzan-like, over the Labyrinth to freedom.
Freedom is control over where you’re going. To know where that is, you have to know where you’re coming from. That’s the red thread. Follow it for your own unique, powerful story.
Ethical storyteller David Labi is the founder and director of Good Point.