I hear these questions all the time. From private clients. And from people in my group programs.
They’re good questions. Important questions. So I’m going to do my best to answer them. Or at least start the conversation.
Let me share some behind-the-scenes of the work I do – while maintaining the anonymity of the clients.
The other day, a client came to me for help with a breakout session he had coming up. He’d invested a lot of money to attend this business conference and to give this talk, and he wanted it to convert well. He had a vision of everyone in the room signing up for his offer. This client had heard good things about how I helped people with their talks. So he engaged me for a Signature Story BlastOff Intensive. He said he wasn’t sure what I did, or what a BlastOff was, but he intuitively knew it would be “good for him.”
This client is very comfortable in his head. He knows his topic inside-out, backwards, forwards – and sideways. He had a vision for how the talk should be. It was methodical, jampacked with information — and completely devoid of anything personal. No matter how good his information would be – and it would be stellar – he wouldn’t stand out from other experts in his field.
He also wouldn’t convert as well as he could.
These days, our audiences desire and expect more. Expertise is no longer enough. You must emotionally engage and entertain. That’s personal story.
You must move yourself first before you can move others.
Once I showed him how personal story would help him stand out, and how it could connect to business and his message, he opened up about his background. Turns out he had a dramatic, chaotic childhood that he managed to triumph over through humor, making good decisions — and escaping.
When he told this story – something shifted in him. His voice deepened. His demeanor softened. I witnessed his authentic self emerge. For the first time, he saw how his life story directly affected who he was today, how he built his business – and clarified his mission in a new and unmistakable way.
I suggested a way he could tell the story and open the breakout session.
He paused for a long time. Considering.
“I don’t feel comfortable talking about that. I might hurt my father.”
I told him that was fine. That he didn’t have to. We came up with an alternative moment from his life that still captured who he was in vivid, captivating detail.
First, though, he needed to share the whole story, the real story – with someone – so he could unburden himself of the secret, of the shame. And integrate the different parts of himself. I was honored he chose me.
Story will set you free.
If you have a story that’s inside you, that needs to come out – share it with a professional whom you trust. Someone who can hold the space, who understands the art of memoir. Who won’t judge. And then you can decide how much you do or don’t share publicly. Once you decide, then you can shape that story so it serves your business – and connects with your clients – and doesn’t compromise you or your loved ones.
Nobody can decide how much you should share, what your values are, what the costs might be if you take the risk. Thing is, you can’t skip over the telling part. If you leapfrog over the true story – you will stay stuck. You will stay at a certain level. Because you are denying a part of yourself, your history, that will unlock the larger narrative.
Only once you know, acknowledge – and share – your true story – with at least one person — will you be able to rewrite it.
Sometimes – sharing your story in a group is the way to go.
I’ve seen this work powerfully in my group program, Fire + Flow: Your Money Making Story Bootcamp. It’s 8 weeks of intense work around your signature story. We work on finding your authentic voice, and your core story through a proven seven-step process.
The key to this bootcamp working is the same as with private clients. People share stories, and others learn to listen. Deeply. Without judgment. With open hearts and minds.
So while the weekly recorded webinars are chock-full of teachings and the opportunity to ask questions, and the worksheets provide the chance to practice – the private Facebook group is where the magic happens.
I make sure to set the same tone I set with private clients. What happens in Fire + Flow, stays in Fire + Flow. We all agree to keep everything discreet. And we promise to encourage and support each other along the way.
One bootcamper shared a traumatic experience from her past that haunted her.
She told us she’d never shared the story before. She couldn’t believe she was telling us. You could sense the liberation in her posts. The wonder. The fear.
It started out completely raw.
She wrote it one way. Then another. She wrote it long. She edited it down. She kept telling it.
She was afraid to hurt her mother. Her father. Her children. Her husband of today.
The story needed to come out.
All along the way, people gave her support. And also constructive feedback. I would dive in and applaud her courage, then make editorial suggestions.
Ultimately, she figured out how the original story could work to serve her clients. She even created a business inspired by the incident, the lessons it taught her, and how she coped through artistic expression.
She also made choices about how much she would share, how she would share, and she carefully weighed the consideration of people who mattered to her.
There is an art to personal story. There is a right way to do it. It’s critical to understand the techniques so you can shape your material – even difficult material – in a way that expresses your truth, and does so with grace.
There are still no guarantees. Sharing personal story is always a risk. I have many personal stories about this from my own publications that I will tell another time. What I can say is that you cannot predict who will react how. One solution is to show people the work before it’s published and either let them give their approval, or not. If that is important enough for you. Make sure it doesn’t compromise your truth, or vision if possible.
Here’s another thing to think about: Once you get more visible, you cannot control who thinks what. If you want to be successful, you must be willing to be seen, and to polarize. Some will love you. Some will hate you. What you don’t want is indifference. Sharing personal story publicly is courageous, it’s generous – and it’s also necessary in business these days.
So make sure you learn the right way to do it. And that you share your story – the real story — with someone you trust.
There were so many other stories in that bootcamp. Such a range of humanity, of businesses, of stories. Some had struggled in the past with health issues. Others were even struggling during the bootcamp. Others from the corporate world were unleashing their creativity – sometimes for the first time. All walked that exciting and dangerous tightrope between what was public and what was private. It was truly a meeting place, an intersection full of sparks and inspiration – where artists and entrepreneurs came together in search of their signature stories.
What they found was themselves.
[If this post resonates with you, and you’re ready to explore your signature story — join us in Round Two of Fire + Flow: Your Money Making Story bootcamp. We start May 28th, 2014. There are a few spots left. Register here to secure your spot: http://yourmoneymakingstory.com