30x30x30 Blogathon Post #25: June 25th – Walter Akana
On Day 25 of the Personal Branding Blogathon I am happy to have my good friend and fellow Reach colleague Walter Akana share his insight on the power of tapping into your story to communicate your personal brand. Walter is committed to helping his clients use story in their brand discovery process and he sees story as the DNA of our brand. His about page on his website is a great example of how he has personally used story to communicate his own brand.
Enjoy Walter’s post and tell us your story!
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Based On A True Story
Stories are powerful. On some level, I think virtually everyone believes this. And yet, if I were to say, “Your story is powerful,” you, like most people, might become a bit self-conscious and tend to downplay the power of your story.
Yet, any time we relate a personal experience, we are telling a part of our story. And even if not crafted with the skill of an expert storyteller, our story gives the listener a window into our life and a glimpse of who we are. And when those views reveal common experiences, they foster a bond or emotional connection.
For most of us, this process is so natural as to be nearly imperceptible. We experience the benefits of stories without a whole lot of thought about the nature of story, and why stories are so deeply woven into our every day experience. Interestingly, the science of storytelling tells us that we are “hard-wired” for stories. So much so that they have emotional and cognitive effects that shape our beliefs and our choices.
“Stories shape our lives – especially the ones we tell ourselves.” Tweet This!
In a compelling blog post, Seth Godin discusses the power of narrative to keep our lives consistent and predictable. He points out that making a life change that could lead to more effectiveness and success is often so risky that most people will choose to double down on the story. In his words:
“If you went to bed as a loyal company man or an impatient entrepreneur or as the put-upon retiree or the lady who lunches, chances are you wake up that way as well. Which is certainly safe and easy and consistent and non-confusing. But is it helping?”
He goes on to say:
“The truth though, is that doing what you’ve been doing is going to get you what you’ve been getting. If the narrative is getting in the way, if the archetypes you’ve been modeling and the worldview you’ve been nursing no longer match the culture, the economy or your goals, something’s got to give.”
So, if you still don’t believe your story has power, think again!!
Controlling the Narrative
While Seth’s intent is to challenge you to change for the better, his view may seem pessimistic. Yet, as the craft of screenwriting suggests, a narrative – any narrative – is driven by selecting, interpreting, and arranging events to lead to a specific conclusion. Of course, not all narratives drive frustration. The stories that successful people tell themselves drive behaviors that make them successful. Although this doesn’t mean they are in control of the narrative – even though they are living it. Yet, increasingly, navigating on autopilot is a choice we can ill afford.
Today, in our social media driven conversational age, people seek to connect, partner, and do business with people who “get it” and therefore “get them.” And the way they determine this is via the story we convey! So, controlling our narrative has become critical, and to be able to do so requires self-knowledge. As creative writing instructor Robert McKee points out, “Self Knowledge is key – life plus deep reflection on our reactions to life. [Italics his].”
Applied to personal branding, this suggests we need to go deeper than a conveying a one-sentence personal brand statement arrived at from the examination of the 360 feedback and introspective exercises. While these are certainly important, it is critical to examine the life events that support our brand. And in doing this, to look not only at accomplishments but also failures and key life turning points that shape the vision, purpose, values, passions, beliefs, and skill sets that we bring to creating value. An outstanding example of just such a reflection is Steve Jobs’ Stanford Commencement Speech.
For most of us, sharing anything other than our biggest strengths and most significant accomplishments is counterintuitive. It seems to fly in the face of everything we’ve been taught about selling ourselves. Yet, in his recent book, The Rare Find: Spotting Exceptional Talent Before Everyone Else, George Anders points out that it’s a mistake to hide our stumbles since they very often reveal our resilience or ability to overcome setbacks.
Your Story is Your Brand
Taken as a whole, our failures as well as our achievements make up our brand DNA. That is, they form the code that makes us who we authentically are. Of course we need to convey our story in a way that makes clear our strengths and our value. And yet, we become who we are not by success alone, but also through our mistakes, our misgivings, our struggles, and our comebacks. Providing a glimpse of these humanizes us and gives a more complete picture of who we are.
Business storyteller, and founder of Get Storied, Michael Margolis, has said that your story is your brand. It’s true. Essentially, if personal brand is about being unique, there is nothing more unique than your story. Yet, more than that, your story – including your significant “ups” and “downs” – gives you a kind of credibility that not only rings true for your audience but makes them want to connect with you. Because, after all, your brand is based on a true story!!
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