My mom was a sculptor. I remember seeing her working the clay in the early morning light. Her face was forceful yet serene during the creative ritual of folding and refolding, mashing and smoothing the mixture as she added the right amounts of clay and water. Finally she’d smile—the clay had begun to take on her vitality; it was ready to become a woman’s torso; a roadrunner in pursuit of a snake; an Indian dancer clad in gold. The sculptor works the clay to get the consistency right, to work out any air bubbles. This is a physical process, but it’s also a mental warm up - getting ready to mold the clay. Like clay, storytelling is malleable, plastic, alive. Most stories won’t come out right the first time you tell them (or the second or third time, for that matter), but that’s okay! You can change it.

One of the biggest challenges I face when coaching new clients is getting them to open up and tell their stories, imperfections and all. They want the story to be perfect the first time around. Through our work together, they discover that stories are living, breathing things that will change and improve over time.

Here are a few steps to make your stories come alive:

  • When you feel that your story isn’t perfect, tell it anyways! Tell it to yourself, tell it to your cat, your dog, a friendly tree. If you’re feeling self-conscious about talking to yourself while walking down the street, just put in your earbuds or Bluetooth. People will think you’re talking on your cell phone!
  • Once you’ve built some confidence telling your story to sympathetic trees, it’s time to find a friend or two (5-10 really, but who’s counting?). Tell them your story and ask for feedback. What caught their attention? What parts dragged and need to be cut out? Tell them that they can’t hurt your feelings, and that the worst feedback is no feedback (generic “I liked it” or “it was ok” responses do not count as feedback). Take in what they tell you and use what works for you. And most importantly, keep telling the story. Practice makes perfect.
  • Now you’re ready for primetime! Tell your story in front of a networking group, open a presentation with it, use it in a media interview. You have the confidence to tell a compelling story.

Stories aren’t written in stone (at least not for the last few thousand years!). Successful stories are vital, malleable, and alive. Remember, when your story…

  • brings passion
  • has a clear point of view
  • articulates the challenge
  • and delivers a new solution

…you can change the world!