What’s the first thing you do when you meet someone new? You ask him to tell you his story. But few people know how to do this well.
They give too much back story, drone on for 20 or 30 minutes, list arbitrary details that mean nothing to you, and putter out at the end, leaving you wondering what was the point. It can leave you feeling confused and unfulfilled.
This is not okay. Because you have a story to tell, and it deserves to be told well.
You need to practice. You need to become an expert at telling your own story. Consider some of the basic elements of any good story and how they apply to your story:
- What’s the conflict?
- Who’s the hero?
- Where is the suspense?
- How will the conflict resolve?
- What’s the point?
- Why does it matter to me?
Classic stories, myths, and fairy tales tend to happen in three acts. They raise each of the above questions and then answer them. The conflict gets worse for the protagonist before it gets better.
The movement of the hero undergoes a major complication at some point before he starts winning again. All seems lost before redemption happens. And so, you must apply these same elements to your own tale.
Here are three reasons why your becoming an expert of your own story is essential:
1. Nobody cares about your resume
For many professional fields, the resume is dead. This is especially true for creatives.
What people want to know is your story. What happens when I Google you? What does your “bio” say?
Future employers want to know: What are your life experiences, and how have they shaped you? You need to be ready to tell them.
2. Story is the new marketing
Think about the organizations you know that are really making a difference. Chances are, they’re telling a compelling story. I can think of several that immediately come to mind:
- TOMS Shoes began with a story that Blake told and continues every time someone buys a pair of shoes.
- Charity:Water starts with the story of a birthday party and still offers you the chance to donate your birthday to help people lacking clean drinking water.
- Apple‘s story is about the underdog eventually beating out the competitor who wronged him. Every customer gets to live out this same story each time they buy a Mac or iPhone.
Do you see a pattern here? Influential organizations and individuals tell a story that is so compelling others can’t help but want to join it.
3. You don’t know your story as well as you think
Telling your story helps you make sense of your life — why certain events happened the way they did. You begin to examine what has happened to and through you.
You begin to make sense of who you are.
Telling your story can be incredibly therapeutic, and the practice often leads to greater confidence and understanding of self. Most people don’t take the time to do this. They take their stories for granted; they don’t steward them.
Take the time to learn your story. We need it. And we need you to tell it. If we’re going to be changed by it, you need to tell your story well.
So, how about a little exercise?
In three sentences or less, what’s your story? Make sure it has a hook, conflict, and a reflection.
Leave a comment below to share your story, and tweet out it out using the hash tag #mystoryis.