As marketers, we brand our businesses and brand ourselves through stories. We tell the world how we got to where we are today…
What private hells we endured in the honing of our crafts,
What it took for us to finally create the solutions to the nagging problems we now can solve for the rest of the world,
Or of the pivotal days that pushed us – unceremoniously — off the ledge, and qualified us to talk other potential jumpers down from that very same ledge.
These brand stories represent our ascent into the world of entrepreneurship. And they create bonds with our customers that lead to sales… that foster success.
But what about the stories we don’t tell everyone else?
What about the stories that we tell ourselves, instead?
The ones that hold us back? Hold us down? Hold us hostage to our own self-sabotage and destructive habits?
At some point in your life, you began to believe things about yourself, and you wove those things into stories (by now they might possibly be proper legends) that you repeat to yourself over and over again.
Maybe it was when you were a kid and everyone made fun of your wiry hair, and you developed the “I’m a weirdo” story.
Maybe it happened during your divorce, or when you walked away from a job, and you wrote the “quitter” story.
Or when your dad moved to California and left you behind, so you wrote the “I’m not worthy” story.
Or when you were ten and you competed in track and field, and it was hot and you were sweaty, and you couldn’t find it in yourself to really give it your all because you liked the shoes more than you liked the sport… so you just settled for fourth place in every single race. And you wrote the, “I’ll never be a winner” story.
(Oh, wait… those are my stories.)
Come on. I know you have them, too. We all do.
Are you the one who feels held down in a relationship?
Or disorganized and always late?
A lousy salesperson?
Horrible at math?
A binge drinker?
Crappy at follow-through?
Almost any time you find yourself stuck in a rut, it’s about one of your stories.
When you’re kicking your feet to move forward, and it turns out you’re just treading water? It’s a story.
When the whole world is wrong and you’re right? Big fat story.
I’ll be the first to admit, I haven’t always been fully conscious of the stories I tell myself. I wasn’t hip to the fact that I’d built a prison of mediocrity and was holding myself captive inside it.
But lately, because I’ve been working toward some monumental shifts in my business and my future, I’ve had my eyes and ears open to the bullshit I tell myself. And it’s some gnarly shit.
And here’s the real clincher (for my stories, and for yours, as well): more often than not, none of them are actually true any more. As it turns out, they’re just convenient.
I’ve been spending my story time with Tina Kulias. She’s expertly guiding me through the old heave-ho… the out-with-the-old, in with the new. (She’s amazing, by the way.)
And she asked me an interesting question the other day about one of my lame stories:
“What are you getting from it? What is the story allowing you to do? You wouldn’t be telling yourself this old story if it didn’t give you something.”
Well, there I was.
Called out on the carpet.
Forced to say, right out loud, that I was not actually a quitter. I was just telling myself I was, again and again and again, because it allowed me to choose not-finishing over potentially failing. Allowed me to walk away from the game before the score could be published in the newspaper. That quitter story? It let me lay back. Lay around. Lay the groundwork for one more thing I could take to a level just below the one I wanted to reach.
Day by day, I’m seeing my stories more clearly. I’m watching them unfold. And as a brand strategist, I’m fascinated by the way I’ve manipulated my own perception of me. By the way I’ve persuaded myself I’m something I’m not, in service of something I don’t even want.
What about you?
What old stories are you telling?
And what are they giving you? What are they allowing you to not be? How are they saving you from the terrifying glory of who you really could be?
Anyway…. I’m re-writing mine. New character developments, plot twists, alternative endings, some epic journeys.
Join me? Together, we could write a hell of a series. Who knows? We might even get called to write a screenplay – about a life more amazing than anyone could ever imagine.
Got a story idea?
Share with me in the comments below.
(And if it’s your brand story you’re working on — the one you tell the world? Then join me at my webinar this Thursday. We’ll talk about how to make real connections with your “readers.” How to tell a story for your business that knocks their socks off.)