Yesterday I turned 40. Yep. On September 3rd, 1968, at 8:20 p.m., a much younger, less gray A.B. and Jane Clark screeched into Mercy Hospital panting, sweating and screaming because their newest son, A.B. Jr. (never stuck) was about to join the world. Habited nun/nurses shushed my mother and assured her that everything was going to be fine and proceeded to tell my father to go to yonder waiting room and have a cigarette. It was 1968.

“No, really,” my mother demanded, “he’s coming NOW!” And the whole world began to spin. So, the Nuns shuffled my dad off to a smoky waiting room and the elevator was called.

In a flurry of screaming, cussing, crying, kicking and faith, there I was – too impatient to wait for the elevator, let alone a Doctor. And within my first few independent breaths, I looked up at my mother, with a swollen, tender gaze and smiled at her. Then I began to poop.

Beautiful. “sigh…” Now, that’s how the story has been relayed to me – give or take – 39 times over my life.

Last night, the story was told for the 40th time. But this time it had a different audience. Sure, it was still the same, old story; but this time it was directed to my own children – 6, 9 and 13. As they listened to a much longer version (every agonizing moment), their eyes grew larger. They gasped when I told them that the umbilical cord was wrapped around my neck and my entire head was purple from lack of oxygen (maybe some foreshadowing to my future?). They looked at me in astonishment as I told of the race against time to get the fragile newborn up to the neonatal unit and into the nursery incubator before it was too late. And finally, when I dropped the punch line, they laughed, rolled their eyes and batted at me with their open hands when the story was over – just like I had with my mother every single time she told it.

My son raised his head and with huge grin said, “I’ve GOT to tell that to my teacher!”

“Poo” jokes go over pretty well in my house.

Why do I tell you this story? Because it’s part of my personal brand and it’s my birthday and I can do whatever I want.

Really. I’m 40 and I hate/love it. Back in November, I wrote a short list of what I was thankful for, and I’d planned on doing that here (“40 reasons I’m glad to be 40” was the working title). But as I thought about it, my Thanksgiving list still applies. So this story stays…

40 or not, this post is about stories – the tale of our lives that define who we are. From a branding standpoint, your story is your brand. All good stories have peaks and valleys. All brands have good and bad. So as you look back on the story of your brand, maybe you can find some good tales to pass on to your employees. Pass them on to your clients. Pass them on to your children – for once the story is told, the recipient becomes part of it and it will live on forever.

I can’t wait until conferences…

Keep Cooking!
Andrew (the old fart)