Looking back at your business journey, you know how you got started, you remember the highs and the lows, and you know the people you met who made the most difference. Every detail and bump in the road creates your narrative and positions you as the perfect person to do what you do.
Keeping their founder’s story private is a mistake many entrepreneurs make, but entrepreneur and author Mark Leruste is on a mission to turn this around. As founder of Ministry of Purpose, award-winning host of The Unconventionalists podcast, keynote speaker and author of Glow in the Dark: how sharing your personal story can transform your business and change your life, Leruste inspires people to have the confidence to share their personal stories in a way that is authentic and empowering.
Most people don’t share their story because they think it’s dull. They think no one cares and they can’t see the benefit. Leruste knows they are wrong. “People are just too damn close to their story that they don't see the mountain of value they're standing on,” he said.
Here are the three reasons that sharing your personal story can transform your business and change your life.
Stories make people pay attention
“We are hard-wired to pay attention, engage with and retain stories,” explained Leruste. “Since the first primitive language-like systems emerged over 2 million years ago, storytelling has been a vital part of sharing and retaining information to survive and thrive as a species.” Your biology wants you to do it, and other people are programmed to want to hear what you have to say.
Leruste describes storytelling as, “the ultimate hack” for grabbing attention and making sales. But why is it so powerful? Apparently, it’s down to neuroscience.
In his book, Leruste explains the research of Doctor Uri Hasson, a neuroscientist at Princeton University, who studies how we tell and hear stories. One study explains how an effective story may allow two brains to sync. “According to Hasson, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) experiments show that initially, the brainwave activities of a storyteller and a listener are different, as you’d expect them to be. But as the storyteller shares their story the MRI shows that the brainwaves of the listener begin to match the brainwaves of the storyteller.”
Leruste’s research, including of Hasson’s findings, led him to believe that storytelling is, “the oldest and most powerful tool in your entrepreneurial toolbox” because telling your story creates a connection between you and the listener. It helps them understand your hopes and dreams and understand where you come from. They relate to you, they empathize. They can feel inspired and persuaded by your message.
Your story is your only true unique selling point
Nearly everything in your business can be copied. Competitors can figure out your secret recipe, duplicate your content, products and services and emulate your sales strategy, but they cannot copy your founder’s story. That belongs only to you, so it makes sense to leverage it.
“In today’s noisy digital world, people buy from people they know, like and trust,” explains Leruste. “And personal storytelling is the best way to emotionally connect and engage with your audience to create that sense of trust with you.” Leruste knows that “people connect far better with another human than with a faceless brand or logo.”
How often have you read the about page of a website to learn about the husband-and-wife team who risked everything to create their products and build their business? These stories are popularized by savvy business owners because they work. Even as these brands grow and become acquired, the tales remain. Ben & Jerry’s still tells the story of school friends Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield opening their first scoop shop in a Vermont gas station in 1978 despite being bought by Unilever in 2000. It’s the same for Quaker Oats, Spanx, Cadbury and Starbucks. The story is remembered long after the business changes hands.
“It would be crazy for you not to leverage the most valuable asset you possess to stand out from the crowd,” said Leruste. Criminal, almost. You wouldn’t waste your profits or not put your best team members to work in your business. But you’re leaving cash and impact on the table when you stay in the shadows.
Sharing your story heals you and inspires others
Leruste highlights the work of comedians in talking openly about, “their flaws, imperfections and embarrassing moments in a very public setting.” This, he said, is what builds their tribe of superfans. “Kevin Hart attracts more than 50,000 fans to watch his Sunday stand-up,” because “we are all desperate for that sense of relief that we’re not alone in our earthly struggles.” Leruste believes that hearing someone else talk about their shortcomings reminds us that we aren’t as terrible as we sometimes believe we are.
“Most people don’t realise that there is a tremendous gift in the process of owning and sharing your personal story, warts and all,” said Leruste. When you do, “you will experience the ultimate freedom, which is that no one can hurt you when you have nothing to hide.”
In his work with entrepreneurs and business leaders, Leruste meets people who are afraid of what the world will think or say if they find out who they really are. “God forbid anyone should know that you sometimes have an off-day or that your life isn’t as perfect as your Instagram feed or that you don’t have it all figured out,” he challenged.
When someone fully owns their story, it’s magnetic and compelling. “The reason why we are attracted to people who unashamedly own their story is that, deep down, we too want to drop the mask and just be our authentic selves, especially in a professional or business context.” Seeing someone else do it makes it okay for us to show up.
Transform your business and life by stepping into the spotlight
Leruste wants you to make your choice. “Do you spend your time and energy hiding away and controlling people’s perception of you, for the sake of feeling safe and having a false sense of control?” Or do you choose to spend that same time and energy, “figuring out the moments in your past that can inspire, resonate and make you memorable?”
The latter, he said, will mean you can impact the lives of yourself and others in the most positive way. Make people stand up and listen, leverage your true USP and help others become better versions of themselves by sharing your journey with your networks, prospects and customers.
Image Credit: Getty Images
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