Finding the Heart of Your Story

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Smon Sinek, image courtesy of Start With Why

Smon Sinek, image courtesy of Start With Why

People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.
— Simon Sinek, Start with Why

Let's Find Your Why

If you and your organization aren't crystal clear why you're so dedicated and passionate about the work you do no one else will be either. Leadership guru Simon Sinek is so convinced of the need to "start with why" he wrote a best selling book and created website dedicated to it.

And when Sinek speaks people listen. His TEDxPuget Sound talk "How Great Leaders Inspire Action" has garnered over 28 million views and is one of the most watched TED talks of all time.

Imagine having a video on growing biking, walking and public transit that receives that many views! Sinek is so passionate about helping you find your why, he has a new book coming out about it in 2017.

But you don't have to wait for Simon to start getting clear on your why. I'm going to help you get there right here right now.

Bernadette Jiwa is one of my favorite "go to" marketing writers on the art of marketing from a place of authenticity and storytelling in our modern digital age.
Included with her book "difference" is the one page "difference map," a marketing and business development tool that helps you to create value, to develop products and services that people want, and that matter to your customers. If you're not ready to buy the book yet you can still go to the link above and download her free one page "difference map" exercise. It's worth it.

The questions Jiwa asks, like these below, give you an opportunity to stop and delve into the heart of your why:

  • Purpose: Why do we exist?“
  • People: Who is This For?"
  • Personal: How Can We Change How People Feel?"

Since beginning to do this exercise on my own, and with our creative team, our messaging at Pedal Love has become far more clear, engaging and powerful.  Now I ask anyone I’m consulting with to go through this exercise with me as well.

Own Your Struggle

One of the biggest ways we limit the emotional engagement of our stories and communications is that we focus only on our accomplishments - either personal or as an organization - rather than the challenges we overcame on the way. I know I've certainly done this, haven't you? Often we hide the heart of our story because we feel there's something embarrassing or shameful there.

For years, like many, I didn't think of myself as a true bike advocate because I didn't ride enough. I work from home so I don't actually commute by bike, and frankly I walk, and take the bus just as much as I ride my bike. So I felt a bit like a fraud.

But then I decided that maybe there was power in this. By opening up and being honest about how I felt I found out something very interesting. Many people (especially women) don't feel like they can truly claim the title of cyclist, or bicyclist, or advocate of bicycling, because they don't ride enough, often enough, far enough, or they don't ride enough om the right kind of bike. Why do they feel this way? There is a strong sense of proud tribalism in bicycling, especially in the sport riders and hard core commuters.

Certainly those who train hard or ride far to get to work daily have much to be proud of for their physical prowess, but leading with that sense of pride as bike advocates, and the bike industry, can mean many others either feel like frauds, or unwelcome to be part of the conversation. It means many people aren't feeling unwelcome. This is an issue we need to better face head on, and I'll delve into further in Part III of the Storytelling Toolkit.

Let's get back to owning your own struggle.  According to best selling author and executive coach Carmine Gallo, author of the recent best seller "The Storyteller's Secret," the real power of your story is in your struggling and overcoming, not simply in your success. With this is mind I have a series of questions I'd like you to ask yourself and your organization:

1. Why are you doing this work you’re doing? What about gets you up in the morning? What is that story?

2. What does your work make possible? How does it make someone’s life better?  Who has your work helped personally?

3. Why are the members of your staff and your board doing what they’re doing? How can these personal stories illustrate the broader picture of what your organization is doing?

People want to understand both your why and your how, not just your what. Consider that your:

  • Elevator pitches
  • Live presentations
  • Letters and written reports
  • Email newsletters
  • Social media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat etc.

As part of building a strong, safe and dynamic storytelling culture for yourself and your organization begin collecting these emotionally engaging stories in writing, video and audio to share in your communications.

Coming Next: Creating a Safe Storytelling Culture

Recently I had the privilege of hosting a 90 minute version of my new "Finding the Heart of Your Story" workshop for the California Bicycle Coalition's Executive Board retreat. If you want to create a truly authentic storytelling culture for yourself and your organization it's crucial to set aside time and space not only find the heart of your stories, but to develop and hone them as well.

Next I'll share how you can do this by hosting your own "Finding the Heart of Your Story" hands on exercises.

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Copyright 2016 by Melissa Balmer