The Storied Self: How to Use Journaling as Your Atlas to Success

Read time: 7min           Speed Read: 1 min

Driving  over the bay at 5 years old, my mom asks my brother and I,  “What do you see?”
I responded, “Clouds…”
She asked,“What else?”
“Clouds and.. and… buildings!”
“… the blue sky and trees and people and lights-oh I see someone and they have a doggy!”
She asked us everything about what we observed and why we thought those things were the way they were. She finished with,

“Look how much else you see when you look beyond what’s right in front of you!”

Fast forward to when I was 16. In the dark, I waded into the water with two pretty girls in their underwear at a party on the beach.

Living in a single-parent household, my Dad wasn’t there to help me learn how to talk to women, or date. After a certain girl wrapped me around her finger, used me as a doormat and drug me through the mud, I decided something had to change- I couldn’t continue to be at effect.

I went online and watched videos of guys picking up women and read hundreds of articles and books like “The Game” by Neil Strauss. Living in a tourist town during summer, there was a new group of girls having a party on the beach every weekend, and every weekend I would be out there trying something new. This carried over particularly well to my personal life and all social situations. I was more confident with rejection, and with myself. After the night was over, I would calibrate- shouldn’t have said this, could have said that, it’s probably not good to bring up xyz. Through this process of try, analyze and calibrate, try again, I learned  how to be a fun, attractive guy.

As a boy, I dreamed of being a Florida Gator. After high school when I didn’t get into UF, I had to seriously examine how I approached learning if I ever intended to get a degree there. My plan was to attend a neighboring state college and then transfer after I got my AA- it was my last chance. After applying the techniques Simon Sinek used for business to my entire life, I asked myself-

“Who do I want to be? What characteristics do I want to have? What do I have to do to obtain that ideal version of myself? What do I have to believe about myself to be that person?”

Taking a second to stop and think changed my life. I got my AA with a 4.0 GPA and I’m currently pursuing a valuable degree that I love at UF.

What’s the common thread? How do these stories relate?

They all have to do with the value of stopping to reflect.

Whatever small degree of success I’ve had, has ALWAYS started with me reflecting deeply on an idea, event or condition. Whatever degree of failure I’ve managed to step in has been the result of me ignoring this process and wandering through that part of my life aimlessly.

Do you guys remember when Alice from Alice in Wonderland asked the Cheshire Cat:

“Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
The Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.
Alice: I don’t much care where.
The Cat: Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.

Alice will end up somewhere, just probably not where she wants. Success in life is about 2 things:

  1. Knowing who and where you are.
  2. Knowing who and where you want to be.

If you don’t know where you’re at, you can’t go in the right direction. If you KNOW where you’re at but don’t know how to get to where you want to be, you’re still lost. You can’t satisfy either requirement without reflection.

“The unexamined life is not worth living.” -Socrates

Reflection will allow you to shed the negative traits of your former self and grow into whoever you want by using the space between your ears. It will help you become happier. It can teach you to become a better  boyfriend or girlfriend. It can allow you to formulate a viable plan to travel to places and see things you could have only previously dreamed of.

“Okay, so reflection is useful. But how do I USE it to become successful?”

Read on…

Enter: The Storied Self.

As Tony stated, we all have stories. Stories from our past that we use to decide who we are today.

This semester I took a class with professor Jade Williams, titled “The Storied Self.” One part of the class involved finding those stories and events that make us who we are and examining them at face value. The other part of the class was there to bring us to the realization that we have a future that we can affect, and by changing our minds, our decisions, our outlook, and reflecting upon what we want for ourselves, we have the ability to create an amazing story, even if our story thus far hasn’t been exactly legendary.

What was the medium we used to dig up and create new legends for ourselves?

Journaling and Success

Names you may have heard once or twice- they ALL kept journals.

  • Theodore Roosevelt
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Charles Darwin
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • Lewis and Clark
  • Andrew Carnegie
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Captain Cook
  • Winston Churchill
  • Sir Edmund Hilary
  • Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton


Choose Your Weapon:


My Journal

I use the above: Moleskine
But you can use:

Whatever you choose, don’t skimp on price or quality. You’ve got to love your journal- you’ll be writing in it a lot and it’s going to contain your deepest thoughts. Put some consideration into what feels right. My journal flips back- a lot of people like normal pages flipping off to the side.

Rules of Journaling


In my class the example was used, “If you ever want to kill someone in your journal, you’re allowed to.”  Draw in it. Scribble. Go crazy. Write about everything and anything on your mind. Remember: you don’t write because you have something to say, you write to FIND OUT what you have to say. No restrictions on yourself or your writing allowed, and don’t be afraid that someone might find it or read it.

Many tend to think of a diary where you recount day by day experiences, but a journal can be so much more than that as well.
Try focusing on SHOWING instead of telling.


Telling: I went to the store. Then I came home. Then I had some pretty good food.

Showing: After starving all day, I drove FOREVER through traffic to get to the store. As I ran through the bread section the aroma wafted through the air and made my stomach growl loud enough to cause a small earthquake. RIGHT when I got home I made the most delicious sandwich that’s ever existed with sweet tomatoes and some honey ham that just melted in your mouth… etc etc.

Telling is an accurate logical account of events. Showing focuses on feeling. Embellishment is okay because you’re trying to show how you felt in that moment, not what exactly happened. Using the 5 senses helps a lot.

For additional how-to journaling tips and GREAT prompting questions go pick this book up: Writing and Being by Lynn Nelson

Journaling: My Success in 3 Months


First of all, I just feel happier by reflecting on my life through journaling. Studies have shown than there are both emotional and physical health benefits to writing in your journal.

At the beginning of Space Jam, R. Kelly sang a song that went:

“…There are miracles in life I must achieve
But first I know it starts inside of me, oh
If I can see it, then I can be it
If I just believe it, there’s nothing to it,
I believe I can fly.”

If I can visualize something in my mind, I can make it real. So in my journal, I drew this picture of me before doing my latest transformation.Screen Shot 2013-04-19 at 1.45.16 PM

The photo on the right is me after the transformation. Not perfect but… pretty close!

At one point over the last 3 months I watched a video where one of my favorite authors cautioned people from trying to make sure everything is in its perfect place before taking action to change your life. He noted that conditions will NEVER be perfect, and instead you should start now, and work your life around this new action. In my journal I reflected on what I was making excuses for in the name of “waiting for the right time”.

Skydiving was definitely one of those things with regard to money. So the next day I signed up for the AFF course where you learn to solo skydive over 7 jumps. I found a way to afford it NOW by paying jump by jump instead of all at once and tomorrow is jump number 3. Because I journaled about it, my life is more interesting and I’ve made some really cool new friends along the way.


My TOP SECRET journal entires (VERY personal- you’ve been warned!)

Thanks for reading and I have no doubt this is going to be a game changer for some of you!

Click here for another cool journaling blog post!

Posted on April 19th, 2013

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