We are all writing the stories of our own lives. What is questionable is whether or not we are conscious of it. It is so easy to get into the mindset that our lives are happening to us, but owning that we get to decide how to respond and what to do next is incredibly empowering.
If only it were that easy practice.
A few years ago I was on a retreat with Catherine Orr and Elena Rue, the women behind the video storytelling organization StoryMineMedia. Over the course of our weekend together, they worked with me to tell the story of Point Road Studios. And I have to admit it was an uncomfortable experience. Largely because I was so close to the story that it was hard to really see it. Thankfully they used a process that helped me see the forest through the proverbial trees.
While there are many strategies that Catherine and Elena used to help shape my story, the three that really stuck with me in the years that have followed are this:
How to Tell Your Story
1) Start with the end goal in mind
2) Speak freely and from the heart
3) Bring in a fresh perspective
Starting with the end goal in mind was pretty intuitive to me. In short, you want to think about the purpose behind your story. When you think about your whole life, your purpose may be a little free form – e.g. I want to live a life that I’m proud of, I want to make a difference in the world, I want to feel happy/fulfilled. When you think about a story you are telling for your organization or a specific initiative, chances are that you might have a more specific end goal in mind – e.g. building brand/initiative awareness, increasing sales, growing your audience, driving bottom line impact.
What I noticed about myself over this weekend was that I had a very clear sense for my own personal story, but it was harder for me to separate my own story from Point Road’s story. I also had no idea where or how I might use a video to share my story. As a result, I found that I had a lot more questions than answers about what my end goal might be.
Catherine and Elena were really great about helping me see as far as I could at that moment in time and then letting me hold (with a lot of grace) the ambiguity on what I didn’t see. From there they shifted me pretty quickly into step 2 – speaking freely and from the heart. And the fun (if a little scary!) part was this this next part was all filmed.
Having already helped me think through step 1, Catherine and Elena had come up with a series of interview questions to ask me about while filming me. They gave me good direction on how to shape my responses so it would work in a video format and they did a great job at helping me feel at ease in front of a camera (something I wasn’t used to!).
At the end of our interview, I honestly still didn’t see the story. And this is why I think step 3 – bringing in a fresh perspective – is so critical. Elena and Catherine put together the transcripts of the shoot and had their own take on what the themes to the story were. I had read the very same transcripts and felt lost. I think, again, because I was just so close to the story. A fresh perspective brings with is a great editorial eye. Without being attached to or caught up in the story, this person can highlight what themes are emerging, what feels distracting, and where they might be curious to learn more.
The story StoryMineMedia started to create for me on that summery weekend back in 2014 now lives in the About page of the new pointroadstudios.com – and you can see it here too:
What’s especially striking to me now – almost 3 years later – is that a lot of what I said in the initial interview is still very much in line with what I would say today. But my understanding of the words has deepened. In many ways, I think time has allowed me to catch up with my thoughts.
I hope as you step into your weekends (and beyond!) that you will carve out time to think about what your story is. What is the purpose behind it? How do you want to tell it? And who might help support you in the process?
Psst: If you want some help along the way, you may enjoy the 4-part podcast series I hosted over the summer on storytelling. You can find the first episode here.