Tell Your Kick-Ass Story and Influence the World

Written by Scott October 27, 2010

The Best Story Wins

“Is what you wrote today worth reading about tomorrow?”

-Danny Patterson

No one buys anything without a good story.

Your product won’t sell, you won’t get a date and you’ll be no different than the 100 other people who apply for that dream job–unless you have a story that kicks ass.

So what’s your story? What put you where you are? Made you you? Why would anyone want to hear it?

We all have a kick-ass story that sells right now. You just have to find it and tell it. (read mine at the end of this post)

Right now is the best time to write your story and start getting people to listen.

Your story tells people to pay attention to what you say or read what you write. It’s why they should trust you over the millions of other people saying similar things. The story is crucial. Let’s build it.

Take 15 minutes or even an hour or more to think through the following. I bet you have more to tell than you think.

6 Core steps to building a story that sells:

1. Think about what you’d want to hear. Know what is worth telling and keep to the very best juice you have. We all have boring parts. Would you want to hear those from others? Then leave them out. Think of the things in your life that are unique, that would hook your audience. Maybe an award, quitting a sweet job to pursue a passion, moving out of the country, living off 100 things or less like Everett Bogueor seeking out wild adventures like Tyler Tervooren. Your everyday activities may grab others more than you’d think.

2. What were your best and worst moments? These are the events that form us. They are also the things people want to hear. When were you most proud? You got a job, won a race, picked up on your dream date, sold a company. And even more important, what about the low points? You were rejected, fired or had a business that failed. Every one of these shapes us.

The seemingly awful events at the time can be the most important. There was this dream Product Marketing job I wanted out of university. I busted my ass in all the interviews. I had nailed it. Then I got the rejection call. I was crushed…until I realized I would have never ended up starting a business in Spain the following year if I got the job I thought I wanted. A few experiences like this make rejection a lot less scary. Use them to inspire others.

3. Ask people close to you. They’ll see things you won’t. Ask them to be brutally honest about what they think is most intriguing about your story and your background. Our mind is too biased to think clearly about ourselves. We need the help of those who know us better than anyone. This means your significant other, best friend, boss and family at the least. Be sure they’re honest and not just blowing smoke–that’s why you stick to those really close to you.

4. Take notes. I carry a journal around with me everywhere (My favorite is a Moleskine). A lot of what’s inside are the above ideas. The big events in my life, good and bad, that have shaped me. I spend a few minutes each week keeping track of the prior week’s accomplishments that I’m most proud of, as well as the things that didn’t work out. I review this each year. Your story unfolds every day and you want to capture it all. Keep your experiences in one place. The story will start to become obvious.

5. Start telling it. Don’t miss a chance to share and hone your story. Test different versions out daily if you can–whenever you meet someone new or are asked for a background piece or bio. If you have a website or blog, now’s the time to modify it. Take your 5-10 biggest standouts from the above and stick to those. You’ll have a slightly different version depending on your audience (personal, intimate, professional) and any recent experiences, but the core stays the same.

6. Be Honest. You don’t have to tell it all but be sure what you do tell is true. People will see straight through anything short of genuine. Enough said.

Do things because they make you come alive, not just to build a story.

We often make decisions for their story. “I’ll take this job I hate because it’ll be good on my resume for the job I really want later on.” This thinking is terribly flawed.

Everything we do adds to the tale, but that does not mean we spend our lives building our resumes only to hopefully do what we want later on (especially since later usually doesn’t come).

Do them because they light your hair on fire. Because they excite you and better open up who you are. These are the best additions.

With all this story talk, here’s a taste of mine.

After university, I was rejected from my dream job, so I traveled to Spain to run with the bulls. My 7-week trip turned into a year, where I co-founded an English teaching company for businessmen, and lead tours through Morocco and Portugal on the weekends. Spaniards prioritized enjoyment over money and I realized life did not have to be lived the way it was in the states. I sold the business only to move back and fall into corporate hell, which I couldn’t stand a day over 7 months. I fired myself in search of something I could actually screw up. I stumbled on a preventive health care startup, with a product I actually cared about, and spent two years running their Market Validation team and learning what made a business tick.

Now I wanted something of my own that better leveraged my time, gave me balance, helped others and lit a fire in my belly. So I launched a value investment fund (an area I’d studied for years) in the heart of the 2008/2009 crash. Good thing my fire was lit, because it was a terrifying start, but looking back the timing couldn’t have been better. Working for someone else in the space never crossed my mind because the lack of balance, ethics and wide-spread greed disgusted me (they probably wouldn’t have hired me anyway). I now own my calendar and balance is mine. I couldn’t ask for more two years later.

Meanwhile my desire to learn and help people on a more personal level kept me up at night. I began teaching speed reading and writing and coaching on helping people find their freedom. I’ve since written for some of the biggest blogs and websites out there. My success is measured on whether I can help even one person. So far so good.

I also constantly test physical and mental limits to expand my reality of what’s possible-for myself and my readers. This year has included trying out a vegan diet for a month (I’ve since stuck to 95% of it), running an ultra marathon in barefoot shoes, summiting Mt. Shasta, swimming from Alcatraz and across the San Francisco Bay and gaining 10 lbs of muscle in 90 days with no supplements or meat. Along the journey I bought an engagement ring from Warren Buffett (he owns a sweet jewelry store in Omaha) and married my girlfriend of seven years. This is my greatest success to date.

Now I know the meaning of two valuable concepts: Happiness and Location Independence.

The full version can be found here (halfway down the page).

Own your story. Influence the world.

Once you know your story, the world will feel it. In your voice, in your posture and in your words. You’ll speak with unmatched energy. And this is the biggest influencer of all. A cool site I recently found, Spread Your Influence, has a few more awesome ideas.

When a story is yours and only yours, people will notice and they will listen. Relentless passion is the best competitive advantage known to man. That’s difficult to have without a story you own in your soul.

You have lived the experiences worthy of a book. We all have. It just comes down to choosing the right chapters.

Find your story. Tell it, live it and spread it. The world could use the entertainment.

What’s your story? Tell us in the comments section. This would be an awesome way to get us all fired up. Every story starts with a sentence. Leave one below.

Other Resources to Help You Along the Way:

Be Your Own Most Valuable Brand and Sell Yourself to Anyone: 13 Steps

Discovering Happiness through Purpose in 3 Natural Steps

Photo courtesy of jurveston
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