“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

I've always loved telling stories.  In grade school, I scribbled away at picture books.  In high school, I wanted to write novels.  And in college, I directed plays.  Theater intrigued me because it demanded collaboration.  Actors, designers, dancers, and electricians all came in with their own stories – their own ways of talking, attitudes, perspectives. But to shape a narrative that touched an audience, all those different people had to harmonize.  Until I understood the people, there was no play.  In my career, I never want to lose sight of that simple point: Great big stories depend on lots of little ones.

Shortly after college, I was far away from the theater – working in Manhattan skyscrapers and suburban office parks; my desk strewn with board reports and org charts.  But when evening fell, and I watched from afar as commuters' cars emptied the corporate parking lot, radio on and windows rolled up, I would think back to those theater days.

I knew that behind each of those car windows, there was a person playing back their day.  Some folks were driving home with a grin, remembering a success, a joke made in passing, an unexpected kindness.  Others were angry about a call with a customer, nervous for a presentation to an executive, uncertain about how to manage a new hire; all of them reliving moments, writing their own stories about the day just past.

It's easy to ignore all these little stories – but in my career, I want to stay focused on them.  A company’s big narrative isn't only written by management gurus, in corporate retreat workshops, or on project plans.  In the end, a company's great achievements are just so many little stories that – with time and work, with resilience and leadership – add up.

— Adam Zalisk