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Everyone is the hero of their own story.


When former Saturday Night Live cast-member Mike Myers was promoting his original Austin Powers movie, he did an interview with Parade magazine.  The reporter asked him why his Dr. Evil character was still so lovable.  He said that his mother, who was very active in the theater, told him, “Remember: the villain is always the hero of their own story.”

I’ve altered the quote slightly to make it more universal.

In Business:

When you think about it, this quote is actually very similar to “The customer is always right,” which, in my opinion, does more harm than good, especially to the small business owner.

For example, let’s say a woman opens a bakery, fully embracing the old adage, “The customer is always right.”  It doesn’t take long before she starts hearing all the wacky ideas from her customers about what baked goods she should sell: doughnuts with gravy on top, chocolate-covered quiche, onion upside-down cake, and so on.

She starts thinking, “The customer is always right?  What a load of baloney!”

Pretty soon, she completely rejects the entire notion — even scoffs and sarcastically laughs at it now — and never gives any credence to any suggestions or feedback she gets from any of her customers.

“This is what I’m offering,” she thinks to herself.  “If you don’t like it, then leave.”  And they do.

I’ve always thought the old adage stops short and could do with a makeover. 

It would be better to say, “In their own mind, the customer is always right,” or “The customer always thinks they’re right.”  That puts the responsibility back on you, the business owner and expert, to determine if the customer is actually right or not. 

It keeps you in the game, open to new ideas and evaluating them, instead of throwing the baby out with the bathwater and summarily dismissing the whole concept that your customers could actually help you improve your business.

“Everyone is the hero of their own story” is a better way to think about customer service, suggestions, and reviews. You should even apply it to the negative ones.

In Life:

 It can go one of two ways for a hero.  If they triumph over whatever adversity or obstacle stands in their way, they are “victors.”  But failing means they are “victims” of those obstacles.

Everyone’s favorite stories to tell other people are the hero/victor stories.  But their favorite stories to tell themselves are the hero/victim stories.

You can see people’s faces light up when they launch into a hero/victor story.  It can be something as big as “I ran into a burning building and saved a baby,” or as small as “This guy thought he was going to get my parking space, but I got in there right before him.”

People don’t light up when they tell their hero-victim stories.  It’s usually just some excuse-making tale that revolves around them being well-intentioned and evil forces getting in their way.  These range from, “I was going to become a doctor and help people, but my parents/teachers/friends didn’t believe in me,” to “I was going to eat healthy today, but somebody brought in another office birthday cake and I had to be sociable.”

Once you realize everyone is the hero of their own story, your job becomes two-fold. 

First, it’s up to you to examine the stories you tell, particularly the ones you tell yourself, and try to keep your hero/victim stories to a minimum. 

Second, realize that all the stories you get from other people are hero stories, and if you ever want to persuade them to take a certain action or just get along with them in general, don’t ever try to recast them as anything but heroes in their stories.

This will go a long, long way in creating successful relationships with anyone you meet.

So remember…

Everyone is the hero of their own story.

— Mike Myers (Mother)

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