Finding the Deeper Story - Skip to content

Finding the Deeper Story


reverse mortgage newsYou say dementia, I say invention.

Alan Shelton, author of Awakened Leadership, founder of the Globalish Institute and creator of Story Theory, was offered the ultimate opportunity to live into his hard-won personal awareness on the occasion of his beloved grandmother’s 96th birthday. Having been raised with his grandparents, he was especially close to them, and carried many happy memories of his grandma through the years.

As Shelton approached her to give her a kiss at the family birthday gathering, she looked him in the eye and asked, “Who are you?” When Shelton replied that he was her grandson, she fired back, “I don’t have a grandson.”

This moment was a marker, explains Shelton: a chance to choose which storyline one will follow. Since story is a living container, when a marker arises it’s possible to alter the plot line; that’s the transformational nature of story theory. Most people, for example, would have dug in their emotional heels and insisted their grandmother did indeed have a grandson.

Since one of the hallmarks of authenticity is acknowledging the time is always now, and our viewpoints are fluid, Shelton rested in the heart knowledge of the love he and his grandmother had long shared, and said simply, “Grandma, you have a grandson now.” A deep recognition passed between them. Whether or not his grandmother could hold the concept of what a grandson was, her heart was one with the boy she’d served for so many years.

This is a radical — yet not new — perspective any business professional can embrace, including reverse mortgage originators. Shelton teaches awakened leadership and story theory to executives at major corporations worldwide, and coaches early-stage companies to expand the possibilities of what their venture can look like. It’s elemental work that entails turning long-held beliefs and behaviors on their ear, and being willing to live a radical authenticity in every moment.

While not necessarily an easy path to walk, in these transformative times, when people of every age and life stage are ripe for more meaningful connection, finding the deeper story with seniors can result in not only enhanced business, but more satisfying outcomes for everyone involved — because, as Shelton demonstrates in his life and in his work, there is no distinction between leadership and personal maturity.

When your clients and prospects feel this level of connection and service from you, everyone will experience the joy that flows from “letting life live you,” says Shelton. It’s much easier than efforting — and will make you an even more effective HECM professional than you already are.


Leave a Comment


  1. What a beautiful story.

  2. excellent and so very true. something as hecm professionals we should always keep in mind with our customers and in our own lives. thank you.

  3. Thank you, Linda! Beyond the story itself, I believe Shelton’s breakthrough work suggests an expanded approach for all of us who serve seniors.

  4. I appreciate your response, Susan!

  5. “Whether or not his grandmother could hold the concept of what a grandson was, her heart was one with the boy she’d served for so many years.” While the quote is a sweet sentiment, the truth is no one knows what was going on in the mind of that grandmother.

    The point of the story should not be about the grandmother but rather how to handle the situation with love, care, concern, and dignity for the grandmother. Conclusions about the grandmother are momentary and will usually change with time. How we handle these situations says everything about us. Eventually even with the most loving, caring people working with such seniors especially those with Alzheimer’s, outside help will normally be required.

    My mother had a friend from grade school who had an amazing marriage for over 50 years. That couple had several children and almost a dozen grandchildren. They were the easiest people to be around even though the husband was a building speculator in central California. His custom made homes had always made a profit even though he never got rich.

    Then one day when my mother’s friend was in her early 70’s she came tearing into the living room screaming why was she there. When the husband ran into the living room and tried to calm her, she yelled out: “Who are you?” For several years everything was so, so with the wife who took longer and longer to recover from these outbursts. At last she rarely recognized her husband even after substantial coaching. She would tell him things like: “Who are you? No, I will never believe YOU are my husband. I KNOW that I would never have married anyone as old as you.” And this at times in front of her children and some of her grandchildren.

    Life is not a fairy story but we all can become better prepared to handle such situations. And, yes, one day many of us will be that grandmother in the article.

  6. Cynic,

    I think that given the many years Alan Shelton spent developing Story Theory, he is in a position to know whether or not it’s effective — and handling the situation with love, care, concern and dignity for the elder involved is exactly the point. You might want to read some of the articles on his website, or his book, both of which are linked in the post.

  7. Excellent article – for those of us who sit at the kitchen table to meet with our clients and we listen and observe – we make a difference. Those originators who are in “call centers” and need to make their quota, miss so much. Not every call should turn into “application” – I appreciate your articles!

  8. Diana ~

    Thanks so much for your comment! Yes, there is nothing to compare with the personal touch ~ and the discernment (and wisdom) that comes with knowing your potential clients.


Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Must Read:


Recent Stories