Work-Life 10/19/2016

Don’t Tell Me About Yourself. Tell Me Your Story.

By Leslie Juvin-Acker

As a business person, do you find yourself struggling to sell yourself? Do you feel uncomfortable having to talk about yourself? Dread having to come up with a list of your personal features and benefits? All of these things take deep personal insight and belief in order to confidently present ourselves.

But, what if there was a different way? One that was less painful, more rewarding, and clearer from the get go? Why don’t you get lost in a story?

Leslie, now you’ve gone off the deep end. Get lost in a story?

Yes! Get lost in a story. Look at what you’re going through at the moment. All of the confusing and painful twists and turns. They don’t make much sense when you’re going through it. But, what if you got a chance to peek at the end and suddenly everything made sense? That the moral lesson was made suddenly clear? Look for “what for?”

When we have what for the whys and how’s become all the clearer.

I ask my clients to look at the what fors in their life. They come in, stressed to make ends meet, saying that they just want to pay the bills, feel better, stop making the long commute, and stop dreading the people that they’re around. They want to deal with the plot points instead of the story that setting them up instead.

When you’ve got something greater to achieve, it makes the plot vehicles that get the star (you) to the next level of character development much more essential and valuable.

So, you say in Example A in an interview: “I am good at photography, graphic design” and I’m passionate about skateboarding.” You’re just listing qualities, which are obviously clear and defined, but you’re missing the “what for?”

The what for matters. It’s what binds who you are with action. It’s what inspires others to join you in the journey (to hire you, work with you, and work for you).

Instead, you could say in Example B, “I believe in telling a visual story of skateboarding because getting an inside look at skaters living their lives their way can inspire others to do the same.So, I take pictures and assemble graphics and tell their stories with these tools. They help advance the sport, bring more people into the culture, and defines a personality unique to the brands that I have had the joy of contributing to for the last ten years. Being part of the evolution and the revolution excites me and gets me going every day to look at the world with fresh eyes.”

Which person would you hire? Example A makes you have to do the work, pull the energy out of yourself to figure out how to use them. Example B, on the other hand, takes you into their world, their story, and intrigues you in such a way that you want to know more about them and the ideas of how to collaborate with them instantly start bubbling within you.

You can feel the pulse in Example B. The life - the purpose - and in the story you see the qualities, the benefits, the how’s, and whys. By storytelling, your qualities and benefits reveal themselves in such a subtle way that you don’t have to sell them.

By focusing on what you want to accomplish on the grand scale, the means seem to present themselves in a way that you see their value, despite their challenging nature. The circumstances set you up for success, instead of sabotage your progress.

So, are you the victim of circumstance or the master of your universe? The first example puts yourself out there, but only does half the work. You’re opening yourself up to anything, including those situations that aren’t the best suited for you. But, by seeking the value in all experiences and focusing on the overall moral of the story, you control the story’s plot and ultimately your role.

Take a look at your own story. Do you get caught up in the plot points without looking at their benefit? Do you talk about yourself as if you were reading off the ingredients section of a cereal box? Take a deeper look at the journey that you’re on. Look for the intrigue, the drama, and examine the character of the most important player - you! Find the what for and you’ll find the whys and how’s.

Your new story begins today. Write it. Tell it. Share it. Live it.