This past week, I had a conversation with a man who is struggling to build a business around his coaching work. Now, this is a guy who has a heart the size of Jupiter, as well as great skills and a keen intuition. He’s doing fine but is still working on how to make his work stand out in a field that has—to put this gently—a great deal of competition.
I spoke to him about bringing out more storytelling (as I often do). In a situation like his, it’s naturally important to have a good and clear offering. But it’s also important to help people remember you, and to humanize yourself so people feel comfortable giving your services a try. And in terms of helping YOU be the one who stands out when a potential client is looking for the right fit for themselves, a story is going to take you much further than an alphabet soup of credentials or some massive photos of you staring out at them from every page.
He said something that I hear several times every week: “But I don’t have a story. I wouldn’t even know what to say.”
(Note to all of us: When you hear something that often from people, pay attention. That’s an elbow in the ribs from the universe. Dig into it and explore.)
I hear from people who claim they don’t have any stories to tell about their business, their work, or themselves. In response, I often borrow this response from Lauren Lee Anderson of the branding agency Moonshot: “Just because you aren’t actively telling your story doesn’t mean you don’t have one. If you’re in the world, the world has a story about you.”
Think about the second half of that quote: Imagine there’s an omniscient being, one with really nice penmanship, that’s been tracking your path from birth to where you stand right now with your vocation. Not just the mechanics of it (acquiring skills, deciding on a domain name, etc.) but your inner path as well. She’s got a thick volume—the story of You—documenting the choice points that brought you here: the fears, the excitement, the vision of what your life would be life, the stumbles, the getting-back-ups, and a thousand other things.
Now consider the ridiculous opposite: We did not just appear in our office chair one morning through spontaneous generation, fully formed, complete with the vision, skillset and mindset we needed for our work. Right?
The world has a story about you. That story is in your head and your heart, and bringing it out can help you to connect with more people and grow your work.
Some thought-joggers for those who don’t think they have a story:
- There’s a story behind why you do what you do. Of the thousands of vocations (or art forms, or services, or products) you could’ve chosen, you clicked into this one at some point, with a sound like placing a jigsaw puzzle piece. How? Why?
- There’s a story behind how you obtained the skills to do what you do, likely peppered with stops and starts, fears and triumphs over fear, self-doubt, and celebrations.
- There’s a story behind why you gravitate to certain people as customers and clients and mentors and partners, and not others. Your worldview matters.
- There’s a story behind why you’re working for yourself (or want to) and not on an assembly line churning out endless widgets or memos or someone else’s dreams.
- …and so much more.
That’s just a brief topline. Tomorrow I’ll share a list of specific ideas that you might want to explore for yourself. Once you gather these bits of story, you can incorporate into all the ways and spaces in which you tell people about what you do. See you then.