I was cleaning my desk last weekend and came across this Mother’s Day gift that my son had made for me. Isn’t it sweet and amusing? In his mind this who I am and how he relates to me. Even within this limited framework, my son has painted a picture of my story – I do love to read and work out, but my favorite flower is tulip and not daisy and those blue shoes are fabulous!
I have said it before and it bears repeating, we are all storytellers. Yes, even you! Even at a young age we love to build stories about people around us.
I have made several large transitions in my life and my career, and often the underlying personal story that instigated these changes has not been apparent to everyone around me. Recently, I have learnt and absorbed a wealth of useful information on the art of storytelling that is sure to benefit you.
Read on to uncover the reasons why your story matters and how you too can narrate a memorable story.
What is in a Story?
At a recent networking event, small business owners introduced themselves. Each person detailed a list of their credentials and their expectations from the event. One lone business woman stood out as she gave a bold and clear description of her purpose. I don’t recall exact details, but I remember she was in Mobile Web Development because she told an anecdote as part of her introduction. I will always remember her story even if I don’t remember her name and that is great marketing for her business.
Our stories define us. To know someone is to know their story. When we want someone to know us, we share stories of our families, our academic years, and development of our beliefs. Many don’t realize that it is equally important to be armed with a story of our dreams and our vision. Because we carry our story everywhere we go, we need to be able to relay it in such a way that it resonates and sets us apart from the rest of the crowd.
A good story is not a chronological list of the events in your life. It is how those events have transformed you. What have you learned from them? Your story is not your job description, where you live or what you do everyday. Please stop using those parameters to describe yourself! Instead tell everyone why you do what you do? Why do you live where you live? Tell them why your job or what you do for a living is important.
I believe in the power of the story because of a rather painful experience. In 2005, at the end of a corporate training class, I was required to make a presentation about my (then) chosen career, Data Warehousing. I was asked to select a fictional character to narrate my story. I chose a character that was marginally related to the subject if only through his name, Data from Star Trek. In retrospect I should have paid greater attention to that analogy. It stuck with me for several years.
For those of you unfamiliar with Star Trek, Data was an Android Science Officer aboard the Enterprise. He was well known for his impressive computational capabilities. I chose him for his vast encyclopedic knowledge and his ability to remain detached from any situation while working towards a resolution. Any analyst will tell you that is indeed a valuable skill to be detached when processes, systems or people fail. However, I felt confined to a one dimensional unemotional role, like android Data who aspired to be human. No wonder I chose that analogy!
For a while, I became the “Data” girl; the one who was an expert on facts and numbers. This changed everyone’s perception including mine. I remained in that role far longer than I should have because I managed to convince myself through that story. It took several Aha moments to break me out of that role. Always be aware of the hidden message in your story! Tell a story that reflects what is in your heart and not one that satisfies your mind!
People take on the shapes of the songs and the stories that surround them, especially if they don’t have their own song.
I no longer use fictional characters to describe my current story. The stories of business coaches and writers resonate with me – Marie Forleo, Chris Guillebeau and Farnoosh Brock. Their reasons for gravitating towards writing or coaching as a means to serving the world, inspire me towards my dreams.
Simply put, you need to be deeply aware of your story. Do you know what your story is? How is it shaped by your values, talents and vision? Will your story still hold true if circumstances in your life were to change? Is your story worth fighting for?
11 Reasons Why Your Story Matters
In this Social era where we are bombarded with hundreds of messages in a day, sharing your unique story becomes essential to your survival. Here are a few reasons why your story matters – to you, your audience, and the rest of the world.
If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.
- Stories enable you to build your self confidence and self worth. When viewed in isolation, our lives and careers are a set of discrete events. Knowing that events in your life have an overall purpose and plan will boost your self confidence.
- Stories persist while facts are forgotten. Over a 30 minute presentation I became the Data girl. To this day there are people who remember that story even if it is no longer true. Develop a heartfelt authentic story that will linger in the minds of people long after you have left their lives.
- There is a saying that goes if you don’t find your dream, someone will put you to work on theirs. The same goes for your story. If you are not actively shaping your story, chances are someone else will try to do it for you.
- Stories are like beacons in the night. When you broadcast your message, they will guide you towards like minded peers and role models.
- People don’t support a list of goals or numbers; they support a compelling story. A story helps your audience (managers, peers, blog readers) identify with you as a person.
- An auxiliary to #5, once you have shared your story, your intentions are transparent. You create social accountability that is sure to boost your credibility and reputation.
- What have you been hiding about yourself? What can you reveal through a story that was not known before? Something as simple as a powerful word you purposefully use may transform your audience’s reality.
- Stories trump revenue reports. They represent your trials and tribulations. They recount your successes and failures. Many blogs publish income reports as a means to draw readers. I believe instead in publishing goal reports. Your story can be a goal report. Tell everyone about obstacles you have faced and how you have emerged victorious!
- You must let go of your past to achieve clarity on your true story. If you are living in the past or harboring regrets, you won’t recognize alternate paths that have been cleared for you. Mistakes or failures are nothing but an ending that you had hoped for but didn’t come to pass. This is your chance to conceive a new ending. Rewrite your story; invent your next act.
- Your story might spark a revolution and create history. Evita Peron, who evinced the largest display of public support for a female leader through her descamisados speech, inspired a new generation of female leaders in Latin America.
- Your story is your personal legend. It is your enduring legacy and gift to this world. You may be one in 7 billion, but you are also one in 7 billion. Don’t hide your uniqueness; share your story.
It’s [your Personal Legend] what you have always wanted to accomplish. Everyone, when they are young, knows what their Personal Legend is. At that point in their lives, everything is clear and everything is possible. They are not afraid to dream, and to yearn for everything they would like to see happen to them in their lives. But, as time passes, a mysterious force begins to convince them that it will be impossible for them to realize their Personal Legend.
10 Proven Ways to Convey Your Story
So, you believe that your story must be told and you are eager to do so. But you are not sure how to narrate it in a memorable fashion. Have you made the same mistake as me and shared a story from your mind rather than the one that resides in the depths of your heart? Have you been recounting a diluted version of your story to others? I don’t advocate any tall tales, but it is time to add some zest to your story!
Here are 10 proven ways to design a strong story that resonates:
- Care about your audience! What are their motivations and dreams? Understand their desires to tailor your story.
- Inspire them. Tell them about your Aha moment and the triggers that pivoted you towards your current path.
- Impart the wisdom from your mentors or influencers. How did they alter your worldview?
- Excite their imagination. What do you aspire to change in your current environment? How will that change affect your audience’s life?
- Illuminate the dark side. Who is the villain in your story? Why is he the bad guy?
- Divulge some of the challenges you have faced along the way. How can others benefit from them?
- Consider your audience’s priorities. Weave them into your story.
- Expose something your audience fears or loathes. Will your story assuage their fears?
- Exploit all the tools in your arsenal. Which ones will influence your audience? Use words, imagery, songs, verses, and videos, anything that accentuates your story.
- Captivate them. Give them Something They will Always Remember.
I think the best stories always end up being about the people rather than the event, which is to say character-driven.
Don’t identify yourself with just a skill, a job title or a single goal. Give everyone you meet a chance to want to know you better. Give them a glimpse of your story.
What is your story? Why does it matter? How you can you proclaim it so that it resonates?