How To Tell Your Story When You Have No Story To Tell

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Photo by Dmitry Ratushny on Unsplash

Many years ago, I watched as an author was interviewed about her new book. The book was about loneliness. Judging by the number of attendees, the topic was a popular one.

“Why did you choose this topic?” the interviewer asked.

The author seemed caught off-guard.

“My agent suggested it,” she blurted out. “She said it’s a hot topic right now.”

It’s hard to imagine a worse story. But I couldn’t help feeling sorry for that author.

A lot of marketing consultants are insisting, “Tell your story.” What’s implied is, “Share a soul-baring, heart-wrenching story of how you got here.”

But sometimes you just don’t have a first-person story to tell. Like that author, we take action for purely mundane reasons that aren’t worth sharing.

One of my clients went to an event where a well-known marketing coach claimed, “You can’t run a business till you tell your story.”

No story? “Make one up!” he’d demand.

My client left early. She decided this coach had outworn his reputation.

3 Reasons You Don’t Have A Story.

Beth started a business while she was working full-time. She simply put out the word that she was available to organize kitchens, offices and cluttered closets.

Beth had always enjoyed organizing since she was a child; she didn’t have a story of her own clutter. She didn’t have much of a business story because her business grew almost effortlessly by word of mouth.

Stan spent years trying different side hustles but kept a full-time day job. He was beginning to achieve success as a relationship coach, but he didn’t feel clients would be reassured by a story of “struggling for many years…”

Anita was a gifted seminar leader and speaker but her business was growing slowly. She believed she needed a story that ended, “I’m now speaking to large audiences and enjoy a six-figure income …” However, she was still growing her business and her accountant advised her not to divulge her income anytime, ever.

Stories To Tell When You Don’t Have A Good Story

Beth, Stan and Anita don’t want to share their stories. And they shouldn’t.

Here’s what can they do instead.

Solution #1: Instead of “How I Got Here,” they can write, “What Makes Me Uniquely Qualified To Serve My Clients.”

For instance, Beth might share, “Even when I was a kid, I loved putting my toys away in little boxes. As a college freshman, I was the one who helped everybody figure out how to live in a tiny dorm room — we even found room for our refrigerators. My job as a financial analyst called for organization of 500 separate pieces of paper that contributed to our annual report. So the third time a neighbor asked me to help organize her closet, I decided it was time for a business. And here’s what I can do for you…”

These stories lend credibility, especially if you’re in a field where you want to stand out.

Solution #2: Instead of “My Story,” share what you have done for your clients.

Anita could share a story about how one seminar changed someone’s life.

“At this seminar, people were reluctant to contribute their experiences. I realized the corporate culture frowned on admitting a mistake.

“I created an exercise on the spot to help the participants feel more comfortable and also showed them a way to describe their experiences that would be consistent with the culture. I’m still getting emails about the impact of that event.”

If you’ve helped at least one client — free or paid — you’ve got a story. In fact, you’ve got your story.

Solution #3: Instead of an origin story, share a passion story.

The most impactful “why” story answers a slightly different question: “Why are you so passionate about what you do? Why do you go the extra mile?”

For example, let’s return to Stan, the relationship coach. Stan watched his best friend go through a bitter divorce and then struggle with the midlife dating scene. He ended up helping his friend and realized many newly-divorced people were struggling to build new relationships. They needed coaching, not therapy. Stan’s story showed why he cared and why his unique brand of coaching was particularly helpful.

Your story doesn’t have to be a first-person narrative. It doesn’t even have to be about you.

When it comes to choosing a story, begin by asking, “What do I want to accomplish with this story? Do I want to demonstrate a skill? Show why I’m better than the competition? Gain credibility?”

There’s no need to make up a story. You‘ve got a true story waiting to be told. Focus on your triumphs and your best moments — not your mistakes. Focus on the impact you had on others. And focus on why nobody else could have done what you did.

There’s your story.

Cathy Goodwin is an author, speaker and business consultant. Her book, Grow Your Business One Story At A Time, is now available on Amazon. Click here to get access and download.

Originally published at on November 12, 2019.

Helping entrepreneurs and independent professionals grow their businesses one story at a time.

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