Don’t Think You Have a Story?

3E Story Blogathon Post #4 by Walter Akana

For Day 4 of the 3E Story Blogathon Walter Akana shares an inspiring post on why everyone of us has a story, though it may not always have big triumphs,  drama or overcoming of big adversities. Yet each story is meaningful to us and others, as it conveys to the world our unique experience of life and the insights which we got from the situations we came across.                                                

If you’re like most people, you really enjoy a great story! More often than not, what you most like is the suspense, drama, and triumph that accompany the central character’s efforts to overcome adversity or simply to deal with a difficult situation. In fact, part of the reason stories can be so engaging, is that we tend to identify with the protagonist so much that we feel we have a personal stake in his or her success. 

On some level, we do. 

According to Lisa Cron, author of Wired for Story

“Story is what enabled us to imagine what might happen in the future, and so prepare for it … we’re wired to turn to story to teach us the way of the world.” 

So, on a very fundamental level, story allows us to find meaning and apply it to our own challenges and aspirations for a better life. We identify with the protagonist not so much because we want them to succeed, but because we want to succeed. 

Increasingly, this fundamental idea is putting emphasis on brand as story. As well, it’s why we see personal brand story emerging as a critical element of true differentiation. After all, no one else has your story. Yet, what is really important in uncovering and telling your story is to realize it’s not for you at all. 

Rather, it’s a way for your audience to find something in your experience that resonates for them, especially in ways that give them self-acceptance and perhaps hope. In fact, as Seth Godin points out in a recent blog post, brands are instrumental in helping us love ourselves. When your story engages your audience emotionally not only do they identify with you, but they begin to feel a bond with you! So, your brand story is the vehicle to foster emotional connection between you and your audiences. 

But what if your story is, well, kind of ordinary? Tweet This

Recently, I noticed that a member of an online community, let’s call her Jane, did not have an “about” page. Given that she runs an inspirational website, I wondered about her story. What inspired her? When I pointed this out, she told me she had no story, adding, “I'm pretty ordinary and 'normal'. No huge obstacles or triumphs here really.” And to back up her position she referred to a post by Alexandra Franzen who acknowledges the power of triumph over adversity and then asks, 

“ …what about those of us who haven’t overcome adversity? Are we allowed to be healers, mentors & teachers, too? Are our stories worth sharing? Do we have any credibility?” 

Unfortunately, Jane had taken this as permission to not have a story. So, I suggested she think about her story as one that turned on a moment of insight which shaped her future – even if that insight seemed to be a only a small spike in her relatively ordinary life. 

Surprisingly, a few weeks later, she wrote me to say she had created an “about” page and had told her story. When I read it, I realized that she had indeed been raised by a conservative family, and that her life could actually be called relatively uneventful. 

Well, except for one thing. 

At one point in life, she faced the relatively normal problem of having to lose weight. So, she joined a program to help her. Pretty normal.Yet, in a powerful moment of clarity, she found an inspiration that she knew could make a difference in her success, and when it did, she knew she had to share it with others. It’s exactly what she’s doing today, and it’s what makes her the authentic and credible brand that she is to the community she is building on line! 

So, if you don’t think you have a story, think again. Think about what you do and the value you bring to others, and then ask yourself why you do it. And as you begin to surface some answers, ask why again….and again… Probe until you find the moment of insight – however ordinary or dramatic – that put you on the path to serving the people you serve in the way that only you can. 

Walter Akana is a career and life strategist, who brings a unique blend of training and experience in coaching, personal branding, and online identity to guide mid-career clients who are hungry for change. Using proven discovery methods, as well as his own finely-tuned perceptions, he helps clients uncover their own “brand DNA,” and then convey who they are in a way that allows them to truly stand out. Passionate about learning, self-development, and self-direction, he brings a distinctive philosophy to running his life, and to working with clients: It’s your life, own it!  Learn more about Walter here.


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