Whether you’re a college grad, young professional or in mid-career, chances are you’ve already faced challenges that seemed overwhelming. Throughout your career, you’ll continue to face opportunities to choose one path or another, but without clear, meaningful goals — and the gumption to pursue them — you may find your path veering from the life you really want.
This is one of the key messages of the debut book by Sharon Price John, “Stories and Heart: Unlock the Power of Personal Stories to Create a Life You Love,” which illustrates core principles that helped her succeed — from climbing a daunting tree in childhood to leading some of world’s best-known brands, offering personal lessons and insights in an approachable manner and understandable format. As president and chief executive officer of the beloved publicly traded company Build-A-Bear Workshop for nearly a decade, John successfully led the 25-year-old organization through the “retail apocalypse” and global pandemic to emerge as a reimagined corporation that delivered the most profitable year in its history in 2021, followed by the recently announced expectation to repeat that feat for the company’s 2022 fiscal year.
Beyond offering candid stories that educate and inspire, she guides readers through her framework for using their own personal stories to enact meaningful change in their lives. In addition to each chapter’s “Story,” a related “Question from the Heart” and personal exploratory exercise helps provide actionable guidelines to creating a life you love, with an invitation for readers to challenge their own mindset through the lens of each experience shared.
Your own stories reveal your values and goals
Originally hailing from a small town in Tennessee, John learned early that she had a natural sense of determination to achieve what she wanted in life, although her perseverance was challenged by life circumstances, including overcoming obstacles like having zero connections in New York’s advertising world when pursuing her first job in the Big Apple. She shares her stories together with concrete exercises to help you focus on your life goals, determine the core values important to you — plus techniques to help you overcome hurdles, like those inner voices that may discourage you from taking the next steps in your career.
“The goal is for this book to be as much a journey for you as it was for me,” John explains. “This is an opportunity for you to think about what matters in your life while hopefully revealing an appreciation and understanding that your personal stories and the meaning you have woven around them not only impact your journey, but can be predictive of it.”
Reflective exercises John guides readers through include:
- Brainstorming goals for the next five years.
- Listing wishes for lifelong experiences.
- Identifying values that are most important to you.
- Rejecting the negative voices in your head.
- Understanding how perfectionism can block achievement.
- Redefining failures.
- Listening to your own instincts.
- Imagining your goals being met — and taking specific actions to get there.
Harnessing your gumption to achieve what you want
“If you’re unfamiliar with the term, the word ‘gumption’ is a little different from determination. Gumption is a mix of drive, passion and creativity — not just sheer will,” adds John. “This is where the concept of being dedicated to your goals becomes important. The power to create a life you love is within you.”
In “Stories and Heart,” John shares that beyond identifying the specific life goals most important to you, the next crucial step is learning to harness your dedication, faith and gumption to take concrete actions in pursuit of those goals — even when you’re unsure of the outcome. Taking positive action toward those goals, even in small steps, provides the fuel necessary to achieve them.
“When we identify what it is we really want, our ability to have conviction in achieving those goals increases. It is pretty incredible the things we can achieve when we understand the power of directing our efforts toward a specific desire or outcome,” John explains. “Real momentum in life starts when you clarify and begin taking steps, with conviction, toward something desirable.”