Breaking Bad in Business — When Is Sharing Your Personal Stories TMI, And When Is It Solid Gold? The Key’s in Self Pity v. Self Awareness

Famed performer Amanda Lepore of NY, captured in the elevator in Atlanta's W Hotel at the Ready for the Stage event.

Famed performer Amanda Lepore of NY, captured in the elevator in Atlanta’s W Hotel where I stayed for the Ready for the Stage event. Perhaps she is a metaphor for TMI — in the business world!

“Rachel, are we supposed to feel sorry for you?”

Now substitute your name for mine.

How’d you like to get a comment like that? Would it freak you out?

This was printed in the Los Angeles Times Book Review in a scathing review of my first book, Go West Young F*cked-Up Chick. What softened the blow was that on the opposite page, my book appeared on the paper’s Bestseller List.

The Bestseller list rocked!

The review hurt.

I was young. It was my first book. I confess I harbored a grudge against this reviewer for years. She used to avoid me at literary soirees, afraid I’d sock her. (Maybe because I’d mentioned I would hit her if I had the chance to other writers so she’d be sure to hear. The power of suggestion!)

Now, years later, I see she reacted to something in the book. Something in me, then. I had less distance on my material. I tried to drain out any suggestion of self pity, but I wasn’t totally successful. I didn’t have the maturity, or the insight.

I did, though, have the balls to put my story out there. And as you can tell from the title, it was definitely my voice.

What’s holding you back? Don’t let fear stop you from sharing your story. You’ve got to tap into your true voice, use that voice to tell your story — then dig a channel from there to sales. These are the Three New Pillars of Business:  Voice, Story, Sales.

My more recent book, Love Junkie:  A Memoir, is drained of self pity. It charts the emotional journey of a woman who’s got a problem with love, sex and relationships, and it’s damaging her whole life. It traces the trip from self-loathing to self-love. And it’s resonated with countless men and women, many of whom have written me heartbreaking and powerful notes of thanks. That is what makes writing with raw honesty worthwhile.

Now, I’m in a phase of achieving a whole new level of self-worth. Self-value. In my case — and I bet in yours — it’s connected to business. Something I used to think was a dirty word. What are you worth? What is your value? How do you price yourself and your services?

How do you share your stories?

The way you share your stories is inextricably bound up with how you value yourself.

Are you hiding? If you’re not telling your story, using your distinct voice — guess what — you’re hiding. And, you’re invisible. You are lost in a sea of sameness. Plus, you’re boring us — and yourself — to tears. Not the good kind either.

I know what it takes to write with emotional honesty. To craft those personal narratives so they’re compelling.

Now, through Writers On Fire, I serve entrepreneurs and small business owners. I help them identify and share their personal stories on the page and the stage. Their job is to make ’em laugh, make ’em cry. And entertain.

Same same like writing. Or any form of art.

Just like Dan Pink said, Right-Brainers are going to take over the world. So if you’re an entrepreneur, best get your narrative and artistic groove on. And if you’re an artist, best get your entrepreneurial groove on. We shall all meet in the middle and blow up the old paradigms.

Think of craft — of mining a story, then shaping it — as strategy. Narrative strategy.

Business strategy.

The benefit is — besides increased sales — increased self awareness.

That’s another word for personal growth. Ever wonder why writing is a tool in all deep personal growth work? Time to embrace it. And realize — if you write from the artist’s angle — you’re going to awaken your senses, as well as yourself. If that’s not sexy!

I’m fascinated and moved by how split you small business owners and entrepreneurs often are. You have two selves. You learned to tamp down your true voices, your painful and triumphant journeys, so you’d appear polished. Poised. Successful.

Then you forgot who you were. Or maybe…you never even explored your identity.

Is this you?

Recently I worked with a new client. She’s brilliant with networking, and sees instantly how to map out other people’s success. She’s got 26 years of corporate work under her belt, and she’s already a stunning public speaker.

But she wasn’t yet reaching the audience on an emotional level and this was affecting sales. Why?

She’d never shared a personal story.

Then she got an opportunity to speak about transition for a local group of women.

We worked together on her presentation. Came up with some pivotal stories on her journey that showcased her own struggles, and triumphs. Some of these stories she shared with me she’d never shared with anyone. She reconnected with those events, those emotions — and I held the space for her to do so.

After this work, she was able to choose the ones that fit this presentation. She was clear on which stirred up more emotion. We decided which stories and details were TMI, and which were critical to showcasing her own ability to change. And she was game to experiment and see if she could share them in public without breaking down.

We crafted the stories and the presentation so it would have an arc. So it would drop audience members right in to the movie of her life. Give them an experience. Reach their emotions. Keep them in suspense.

I plan to feature this client in another blog. Consider this post a taster. Suffice to say, though, sharing personally had a tremendous impact on the room. As she said,

“One woman cried the whole time…I had the whole room with me…From the first line of my presentation, they were leaning forward in their seats…There was so much emotion in the room.”

Out of 40 attendees, 17 signed up to speak to my client and take advantage of her complimentary call.

Just the other day, I saw this client at my business coach Suzanne Evans groundbreaking event with Sage Events, Ready for the Stage in Atlanta. The client was infinitely more confident, and you could see people responding powerfully to this self-proclaimed introvert. In reconnecting with her own mess-to-message journey, in seeing and sharing its value — she’d learned more about herself. She claimed her heroine’s journey. Now she was unstoppable.

In today’s world, there’s a whole lotta noise. If you want to emotionally engage people, enroll them in your programs and your vision — you’ve got to tell stories. Tell the truth. Mine your own rich material.

You’ve got to be revealing.

How much is the trick.

Tell us how you’ve shared personal stories in your presentations, or sales calls — your blogs, Tweets, Facebook posts or videos. Or how you’ve been afraid to. Did this post speak to you? We hope it inspires. We want you to be as powerful — and as unique — as you can be. We can’t wait to hear your tales.

Yrs in truth,


P.S. If you’re interested in booking a complimentary 20-minute Message Makeover, get ’em while they last! We’ve had outrageous response and have been full up for the past month plus. Now we have some openings and are taking people first come first served who also fill out an application form. Shoot us an e-mail at with Message Makeover in the header if you’re interested.

P.P.S. Amanda wasn’t there to attend the fabulous Suzanne Evans and Sage Events Ready for the Stage event I went to. But she was ready for the stage!




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9 Responses to Breaking Bad in Business — When Is Sharing Your Personal Stories TMI, And When Is It Solid Gold? The Key’s in Self Pity v. Self Awareness

  1. Dominica Applegate August 27, 2013 at 8:15 am #

    Another post that makes me swear I will stop ghost writing and get to my own story…..

    Thank you so much Rachel!

  2. Jennifer Bourn August 29, 2013 at 7:57 pm #

    Rachel – Oh I so resonate with your post! When I first started my blog, I was so worried about sharing personal stuff. I kept it all business, very professional, all informational, totally polished … and it was so boring! It was boring to write and boring to read, and my posts while helpful, really garnered zero traction with my audience.

    Then one day a friend pushed me to share a story I was telling her about an experience I had — to write about it on my blog. I was so hesitant, but I went for it … and that day EVERYTHING changed!

    It is amazing what can happen when you authentically share your story!

  3. Elaine Wellman August 30, 2013 at 11:12 am #

    Rachel thanks for sharing how this works. So many entreprenuers want to appear something that they’re not and it’s definitely a fine line between being honest and vulnerable … and TMI. I am certainly learning that by finding and shraing my voice, I’ll connect more with my tribe.

  4. Cindy Ratzlaff August 30, 2013 at 11:44 am #

    There’s real magic in weaving your personal story into your brand. Thank you for sharing what you learned from your first book and how distance from your story is so important so that you can share a well crafted, purposeful glimpse of you instead of TMI. Love that.

  5. Deb Dorchak August 31, 2013 at 8:51 pm #

    Such a very fine line, isn’t it? Especially for those of us who are so private to begin with. For me, there’s the business side and the fiction side. The fiction side makes it far more easier to reveal pieces of me because they’re scattered and hidden in characters that are connected to those parts. On the blogs and dealing with clients, I have various degrees for exactly how much I’ll share, mainly because it’s not all about me. Give me an interview and yeah, you’ll get some surprising answers, but a business call? Not so much.

    Part of it’s the way I was raised, you know, you don’t air your dirty laundry like a flag before the whole world. The other part is having come from the beginnings of online business, where privacy and alternate ID were used instead of real names. There was also the warnings of never post your image on the ‘net. Even now, on Facebook, Twitter and other networks, I’m still guarded and don’t discuss a lot of things that are too close or too personal (and especially not religion or politics!). Is it cowardice or common sense? Does the world really need to know everything?

    Now, if I thought my personal real life story was outstandingly interesting or relevant, I might be persuaded to tell it. For the time being, the fictional stories are far more interesting.

  6. Kerry Swetmon September 2, 2013 at 6:59 pm #

    Oh My God! I’m hiding. Ugh! I mean, I kinda knew that but…Here it is, in black & white. So many swirling thoughts on this post, Rachel. I need to start journaling more (as in, more than a few times/year). Thanks for speaking directly into my soul:)

  7. Pamela Wills September 2, 2013 at 8:15 pm #

    Rachel your voice is so clear and strong I feel like you’re sitting right here with me, having this conversation over a great bottle of red!
    I feel you on the early writing TMI thing, though my stings were certainly less illustrious than bestseller status! Writing more often, writing at a more mature age (*cough*) plus weeding through the many raw experiences to find the ones that best fit the purpose at hand have all contributed to a certain ease and flow.
    BUT, without what you call narrative strategy and really digging deep for my voice (thanks in large part to an amazing and brilliant call with YOU recently!) is what makes the true magic!
    I’m so totally with you, let’s all blow those old paradigms to smithereens!!! =)

  8. Wendi Kelly-Creative Clarity Coaching September 3, 2013 at 7:11 am #

    This observation is so intriguing:

    “I’m fascinated and moved by how split you small business owners and entrepreneurs often are. You have two selves.”

    There is so much of the “Fake it ’til you make it” mentality going on in the entrepreneur world that it swallows up vulnerability and authenticity. It creates fear and that sense of not knowing who we are, and what we are capable of. . Fake it too long and you lose self-worth and self- respect. The two sides split sooo far apart that it’s a lot of work to get them talking again.

    Great post Rachel. And I know you have a big purpose to play in helping people put their two sides back together again.

  9. rockville centre house lockout October 27, 2013 at 12:10 pm #

    You really make it seem so easy along with your presentation however I to find this topic to be really one thing that I believe I’d by no means understand. It kind of feels too complex and very large for me. I’m having a look forward in your next post, I’ll try to get the dangle of it!

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