–Brandon Sanderson, fantasy and science fiction writer
The Idea: We all have a story. It explains our past and inspires our future; it is, was, and will be essential to who we become. As Harvard’s Dr. Howard Gardner says, “stories constitute the single most powerful weapon in a leader’s arsenal.” The research suggests we almost exclusively operate within a ‘story mindset.’ Leaders who are not afraid to enter someone’s story understand the power of empathy. But leaders who are not afraid to share their own story understand the power of vulnerability. The future belongs to the storytellers.
You are a story – are you willing to share it?“Stories create community, enable us to see through the eyes of other people, and open us to the claims of others”, says Peter Forbes, photographer and author. When emotions get too complicated, it is time to rely on a story to simplify the moment. Jimmy Neil Smith, Director of the International Storytelling Center, points out that “We are all storytellers. We all live in a network of stories. There isn’t a stronger connection between people than storytelling.” People with a story can’t be ignored.
The Two Unbreakable Laws
Unbreakable law #1: Who you are is more important than what you do. I could share the details of my business but to truly understand me you must gain a view into my earlier years: navigating a home with alcohol abuse, stumbling with social anxiety, and coping with the early death of my mother. That history informs much of my philosophy – more than my resume ever has.
Most people want to know more about you than your occupation, reputation, or investment portfolio. They would rather know what has inspired you to be the person you are. What has shaped you and what are the life challenges that motivate you? Do you want to share your story well? Don’t disregard the big moments in your life that have shaped you.
Unbreakable law #2: Vulnerability beats bravado every single time. Speech class taught us wrong: theatrics may earn you short-term style points with your audience, but a relaxed, honest and conversational style connects on a much deeper level. Your story reveals your identity. It must be simply communicated and conveyed at the appropriate point in a relationship. If it is shared too soon, it becomes uncomfortable. If too late (or never), you lose an opportunity to deepen your relationship. Take the time to think through and articulate the truth of your personal story.
A story is a dialogue, not a monologue. By sharing your story, you are inviting others to share theirs. It is one of the best investment strategies you will ever make.