I saw something today that reaffirmed my understanding of how the world’s most innovative, daring and creative people approach life and influence everything within their surrounding environments.
I was at Soho House Chicago this morning and on the wall is a simple, minimalist poster that says the following:
“Everyone’s got a story. But some people suck at telling stories“
It’s a bit harsh but so true and I firmly believe that this simple two sentence declaration defines the difference between those who accept the status of their world and those who strive to influence it.
Let’s back up a bit because that’s a broad declaration and is a bit like something commonly spoken by one of today’s social media “be your best you” gurus.
To influence your world, you need to tell a story that has impact.
Storytelling is today’s attention currency. If you can garner attention, you’re on your way to making an impact.
The more stories you have to tell, the more attention you can garner because you can relate to others, entertain, inspire and inform. Those who have stories to tell AND deliver them in an authentic and visceral manner have unlimited ability to exert influence. In this day and age, influence provides the keys to the kingdom. It allows you to sell anything, befriend anyone, create anything and most important of all, create evangelists on your behalf who can then spread your value to all corners of the world.
And I’m not only talking about influence within the realm of your corporate career or as an entrepreneur. Influence gets you what you want in life. It enables you to fill your life with people who inspire you, gets you the best seat in the house and allows you to spread whatever makes you happy to others (aka fulfillment).
So, how do you tell a great, persuasive story?
Well, before you ask yourself that, you need a story to tell. This is very important! Here is where most people get hung up and fall into what you see so much of online. It’s the reason you see people online selling courses, writing books, creating blogs, and more where they honestly have nothing of real substance to relay. Rather, they are selling what they think people want to hear. Simply put, they have no actual experiences or stories to tell and so they resort to what so many gurus do – they sell the dream.
Dreams are good, but if there aren’t any stories or experiences behind them, they are just that – dreams, and people can smell bullsh*t a mile away.
Don’t get hung up in this cycle.
When I first jumped into entrepreneurship, I too fell into this idea that I could start from scratch and sell a dream with no real substance behind it. I could simply create something and sell the finish line it represented.
Boy was I wrong.
I tried everything. Selling T-shirts, online courses, blogs (before PRSUIT), consulting, etc… But few bit. Do you know why? Because I had no story to tell or experiences to relay. Simply put, I had no authentic value to offer. I manufactured what I thought people I wanted to hear and as a result I sold little and create zero lasting influence.
Where am I going with this?
If you want to tell a great story, you have to have a story to tell. Plain and simple.
Now, I can’t tell you how to find stories to tell, but I can tell you quite simply how I myself have managed myself to find the beginnings of personal narratives that are sure to offer plenty of experiences to live through and savor. Obviously there no limit to the ways in which you can accrue experiences, but for me, it has come down to the following:
To accrue life experiences, you have to travel, network, be uncomfortable, learn and inform, be open, and fail.
The idea here is to actively seek out experiences in life. You will not come across them in your life if you work your 9 to 5 religiously and stick to the same old routine – – well it won’t be that interesting of a story at least. That is a very simplified version of my idea of an experience-based lifestyle and definitely deserves an article itself, but you get the point – to offer value, you need experiences. Simply thinking about potential experiences and then trying to sell that vision or story isn’t going to cut it.
How to tell your story.
When I say storytelling, I’m not talking about writing a novel or creating clever copy for an ad campaign. Great storytelling is all about conveying your unique perspective. It is all about conveying a truth and using that truth to get what you want (influence).
It can be as simple as explaining your point of view on something in the office, communicating a sales pitch to a potential client, negotiating to buy a car or chatting with a new prospective friend you just met. Whatever it is, your potential influence in your current scenario revolves around your ability to relay perspective in a way that also reflects empathy and to do so as authentically as possible.
I am not one to sit here and tell you that I have totally figured out how to do this, but I have learned quite a few things about the best way to do so.
Here are 3 things I have realized are paramount to telling your story and creating lasting influence in the process.
It’s OK to be wrong.
In a work or personal setting, you don’t always have to be right. Shocker, I know!
Some of the most intelligent, driven and successful people I know admit all the time that they don’t know the answer to something. You don’t have to tell a perfect story in selling yourself, your product or your vision. Admit your shortcomings and lead with curiosity to overcome them. The ultimate influencer Tony Robbins leads with the fact that he doesn’t have it all figured out, is not a guru and tells his story as such.
In my capacity in corporate sales, it took me a while to realize that the best sellers are those who are open and transparent with their narrative. Sell what you have, admit what you don’t and work to fill the gap.
Now, as an entrepreneur, I rely on this understanding in telling my story and when building my influence. In building PRSUIT, I openly admit that I don’t know everything when it comes to online marketing, advertising, etc., but I do have a passion for learning it. This has gone a long way for me and has created some very authentic and strong relationships with those who find this transparency valuable.
Don’t please the crowd or sell the dream.
This is the biggest pitfall I see. It’s far too easy to sell the dream, but it’s not easy to deliver on what you promise when you do so. This is the biggest beef I have with today’s gurus in that they tend to sell what people want to hear but they themselves don’t have the answer to the problem or the blueprint to attain the dream (which is OK… but they don’t admit it!). People buy what these gurus are selling but ultimately end up disappointed once they realize the gurus are just like them – unsure and uncertain.
The most powerful influencers on the planet are successful because they sell the dream but they also sell their humility in working towards that dream.
The same applies in your life when you are trying to get your way or assert your influence on someone or something.
Have an idea for the next great app? Tell how it will change the world AND how it will do it. Acknowledge the challenge and reflect on how your path to get there is unique.
Want to work your way up the ladder at your job? Tell your manager this and explain all the little things you are doing to get there. Don’t just sell a blanket claim.
I have learned that authenticity goes a long way. A long, long way.
You can try to change yourself all you want (which is a good thing!), but you should always leverage your core personality traits and lean on those when telling your story.
When I first started in sales, I didn’t have the requisite knowledge base or industry understanding to be a truly effective seller. So out of necessity, I relied on being the most outgoing, social seller on the block. This flopped as that was not the real me. I should have relied on my ability to learn quickly (I have always been quite book smart) rather than creating a story around something I truly was not.
I only became truly effective once I committed to learning the ins and outs of my industry, casting aside the fake facade I had adopted and instead led with being a smart, technical and very knowledgeable seller. That was my true story and should have always been. That is the story I tell now and has allowed me to be immeasurably more successful. Lesson: be your self when telling your story.