Power StoriesBy Valerie Khoo | Oct 22, 12 09:20 AM
You can harness the power of storytelling to boost your profile, build your career and change your life.
When you want to make big changes in your life, never underestimate the power of a humble story. You might wonder how a simple story could possibly change your life, career or business but, in fact, it’s one of the most powerful tools at your disposal.
Yes, that’s right, a story. The right stories can inspire people to conquer mountains, galvanise armies into action and motivate teams to win. But the problem is that storytelling is a skill that’s been slowly declining in recent years.
In a world dominated by PowerPoint presentations and staid memos, the art of storytelling has gone by the wayside. This isn’t helped by the fact that many of us have moved away from real life watercooler conversations to online exchanges only consisting of 140 characters.
Well, it’s time to bring back the art – and power – of storytelling. That’s why I wrote the book Power Stories: The 8 Stories You MUST Tell to Build an Epic Business. It’s for entrepreneurs, game-changers, intrapreneurs and anyone who wants to make epic change in their life or career. I wrote it because I’m passionate about how storytelling can transform the way you work – and live.
Why are stories so important?
Stories can be the difference between whether or not you score a deal with a new client. They can be the difference between convincing a jury to convict someone – or set them free. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you need data, evidence and research to really convince other people of an idea
or recommendation. Sure those things are important but we’ve been conditioned to think that numbers, spreadsheets and graphs are the key. We’ve been told many times: “The numbers speak for themselves”, when in reality the numbers only tell half the story.
Use the right data in a good story – and that is a powerful combination that can sway decisions, influence behaviour and, in some cases, change the world. Data can convince the mind. But you need a story framing that data to reach people’s hearts, to touch their emotions and make them
truly believe in what you have to say.
Let’s look at a very basic example. Say I’m housesitting your apartment while you’re on holidays. If you tell me to turn on the alarm when I leave the house, I’ll intellectually understand what you’re saying. I may even remember to do it.
But if you package that in a story about how you once forgot to turn on the alarm and came home to a ransacked house where burglars stole the necklace your grandmother gave you before she died, I’ll remember that. And I’m much more likely to make sure I turn on the alarm. An instruction is far more powerful when there’s a story attached to it. Our brains absorb and retain stories more readily than lists of numbers, instructions or reams of data.
As human beings, we’re hardwired to tell stories. From the beginning, stories were the primary mode of communication – information was passed on from one generation to the next through cave paintings, hieroglyphics and tribal gatherings. We make sense of our world through the stories we tell – and the ones we hear. There are several Power Stories you should have in your arsenal but let’s look at where you can use some immediately.
To build your career or business
When you’re asked about your job, what kind of story do you tell? Do you stick with your job description or perhaps even provide a verbal reflection of what’s on your LinkedIn profile? These facts might be important but outlining the salient points on your resume isn’t the most inspiring discussion the world.
This is where you should pull out your Passion Story. As the name suggests, this is the story that
explains what you’re passionate about. In fact, it’s one of the most powerful stories you can tell.
Your Passion Story helps makes sense of the list of roles you’ve held since you started your career. It provides people with a context around the various jobs you’ve had. And, unlike a clinical resume, it’s a story that’s inherently exciting and inspiring. For example, I once asked celebrity make-up artist Fotini Hatzis about what she was truly passionate about. Fotini not only works with big name actors but also successful businesswomen who want tips on how to look fabulous, professional – and natural. Fotini’s answer didn’t revolve around foundation, GHD straighteners or eye shadow. She said: “I love it when I can see that I’ve made a difference in someone’s life. Some women walk out transformed. They might seem like successful businesswomen but the change in their selfesteem can be enormous, and long-lasting, when they become more confident about how they look. That’s what I love – when I know that I’ve made a difference.”
Your Passion Story is so powerful because when you talk about what you’re truly passionate about, it’s infectious. People can see that you’re genuinely motivated and they understand your “why” – that is, why you do what you do. It helps your resume make sense. But, too often, people neglect to tell this story. They assume that their bio will speak for itself.
This Passion Story is just the tip of the iceberg. You need several Power Stories in your arsenal in order to get ahead. For example, if you want to boost your profile, you need to hone your Leader’s Story. That is, the story that will position you as an expert or leader in your area or industry.
If you want coverage in the media, then it’s vital to nail your Media Story. To become a favourite among journalists, you want to know how to tell stories that will generate you the most positive publicity.
Storytelling in business is a skill that’s rarely taught – and often forgotten. But when you get it right, you can inspire and engage people more than any pie chart or spreadsheet ever will. Stories foster a deeply human connection – and your Power Stories are already right under yournose, ready to be told.
Change your story, change your life
What story are you telling yourself? I’m talking about the story that gives you a compass and helps you make decisions in life. Are you an ambitious woman who wants to make your mark on the world – or are you someone who is just making the most of the cards you’ve been dealt?
When you learn how to reframe your story, you can shape it into one that can help you achieve your goals and kick even higher ones. The beauty is that you’re the editor of your own story. Like a choose-your-own-adventure book, you can determine the next step in the plot and you can decide whether it has a happy ending. But in order to do this, you need to understand the simple art of storytelling – and how your stories can change your life. Your first step is to determine what Power Stories you need to tell in order to get ahead. What's your story?
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Power Stories: The 8 Stories You MUST Tell to Build an Epic Business by Valerie Khoo is published by Wiley. Valerie is editor of Latte magazine, managing director of the Sydney Writers’ Centre, and an adviser and mentor to startups and businesses. Here's a special bonus offer for the book for Business Chicks members