Day 25 of 40 Days of Story: Be on the Lookout for Unexpected Guides.

Have you ever had a conversation with a random stranger–maybe in the Trader Joe’s checkout line or at some coffee shop—and the person says the exact thing you needed to hear? The stranger’s throw away comment becomes this profound piece of advice that makes clear your path or confirms the direction you knew you must go but had felt stuck.


I am a firm believer in Unexpected Guides. I like to call these interactions sacred encounters. My life has been marked by them. However, the more I’m tied to my technology and pack my schedule the more I’m in endanger of missing out on them.


Guides—unexpected or sought after—play a vital role in story. These guides show up to help our protagonists do or decide something they couldn’t on their own. Guides never do the hard work or make the difficult decisions for the protagonists but they open up insights and spark inspiration.


We all need guides. Our stories are designed to have guides enter into them.


Recently a guide showed up in my story…but I almost missed her.


I had big meeting for my new company. It was with a top exec at a massive corporate. The meeting had been on the books for a month, each day a little more anticipation grew. By the time the meeting day came the stakes felt severe; this could finally be a gateway to revenue…or a death-nail in the coffin.


That morning rain seemed to pour from every crack of clouds. For over a week I had been sick. I was post-contagious but had yet regained my energy. I arrived early (not always my MO, more on that later).  With time to spare I struck up a conversation with the woman at the security desk. She directed me to where I could go get coffee.


I was tempted to dash to get more caffeine and pray to God it would free me from my fog. My mind was as cloudy as the sky. There was a certain aspect of the business I couldn’t get clear on–our technology wasn’t fully built and it felt like we only had half a product. Yet that shouldn’t be a problem—the nature of startup is iteration. You build, adjust, pivot en route. It’s natural, unless you’re perfectionist. And that day I woke up with the worst perfectionist hangover.


After the woman at the security desk pointed me to coffee, she asked why I had come. I told her about my new company and this big meeting. She lit up. She said, “Take me with you. I can sell anything.” I immediately believed her.


The next thing I knew I was practicing my pitch with her. She’d counter with great questions. When she seemed satisfied—and it was time for my meeting—she said I was ready. Then she left me with this advice: “SWUH.”


What, I asked?


“Sell What You Have.”


That was exactly what I needed to hear. I thanked my unexpected guide. I got her name: Taylor. I took a quick picture. It felt like a sacred encounter, indeed. I then entered the meeting with a renewed excitement about what I had to offer and a certainty in the contribution we could make now.

I am so grateful for Taylor’s words, curiosity and contagious confidence. I am also thankful I showed up to that meeting with margin. For some reason I opted for a conversation instead of more coffee, for an interaction with a stranger over looking at my phone.


I don’t always choose so wisely. But I thank God I did that day. And I desire to be on the lookout for unexpected guides more and more.


This week we’re going to explore more about the role guides play in our story. We’ll look at how to seek out guides and how to serve others in that role as well.


For now, I’d love to hear your own experience with an unexpected guide. Who has come across your path and told or showed you something you needed?


I can’t wait to hear!