It was the day before Christmas and Nora was not in a festive mood. In fact, Nora had been in a bad mood for over a month.
The strain of working from home with two small children and an unemployed partner had pushed her to the brink a few times. She was exhausted. The parts of Christmas she loved had been cancelled – no carols, no visiting friends or family, no parties. All the hard work she’d invested in her consultancy business since March had barely managed to keep it afloat. Right now, Nora doubted whether she has the stamina to keep it going much longer.
A wave of anxiety washed over her as she stared at the blank screen. Nora shut her laptop and hurried out of the room. She could easily explain why her motivation was gone, she assured herself, zipping up her jacket.
“How can I plan for next year in a world getting more unpredictable by the day?”
Dusk was falling as Nora headed for the nearby park. A walk there normally calmed her worries. But today her mind raced faster then she could walk, so after 20 minutes of being pursued by her worst fears, she turned for home.
The Christmas tree caught her attention as she rushed past the local square. The lights were turned on now and their warm glow had a strangely calming effect on Nora. She walked over to the bench opposite the Christmas tree and sat down. For the first time in weeks, the endless chatter in her head stopped.
“You do have a choice, you know. Instead of filling your mind with stories about the past and the future that make you agitated and despairing, you just have to be in the moment. Live the story unfolding now!”
Nora wasn’t aware of anybody sitting beside her until she heard the voice.
She turned to look at the woman, who continued to stare straight ahead. Nora followed the woman’s eyes until both of them were sitting side by side, looking into the lights.
“How can I live a story that is all about losing everything I’ve worked for”, Nora asked, watching the small beams of light illuminate the green branches,
To break the silence between them, Nora explained just how hard she’d worked, for years now, and how this on-going uncertainty had exhausted her and crippled her ability to think and act.
The Christmas lights shone brighter into the deepening darkness. The woman’s voice seemed to come from the glow of the lights in front of Nora.
“All you have to do is this. Just show up for yourself every day, do today’s work – without planning for tomorrow, without an agenda for next year, without trying to fix what’s not yours to fix. That’s the story to live now. Can you do that?”
Nora wanted to tell that woman how wrong she was; how she didn’t know what it was like to struggle every day; how planning ahead was what helped her cope.
She didn’t say anything.
Nora knew she’d tried everything since March, only to see her efforts come to nothing, like sandcastles washed away on a beach at high tide.
“I don’t know if I can really do that. I feel so lost,” she mumbled eventually.
She stared into the yellow lights looking for an answer to the question that filled her head – how do I get through this uncertainty?
“You just show up, like I said, and live the uncertainty of today, instead of trying to control it, or run from it, or deny it. That’s how you create the new story that is unfolding right now,” came the soft reply.
Nora looked around her.
“Who are you?” she asked when she saw that the bench beside her was empty.
“I’m the spirit of Christmas” came the reply. “I’m always around at Christmas, even during a pandemic.”
Nora slowly got up from the bench.
“Happy Christmas to you” she whispered into the darkness.
Turning for home she was certain she could hear bells ringing in the distance.Learn More
Your brand story is not just one story.
You brand is made up of multiple stories and each one plays a crucial role in connecting you with the right audience.
Why do we think of our brand story as a singular story?
Because we are bombarded with advice that reduces branding to a single brand story. Your personal story – “Tell your story!” – is the advice dished out by every branding and storytelling consultant. As I’ve pointed out here, it’s bad advice for a number of reasons.
So, everyone rushes to tell their Brand Story – their Hero’s Journey, a story formula so predictable, it falls straight into the black hole of ‘heard it before’! The most common one is the final instalment of the journey, i.e. how, after many struggles & challenges, you are now successful. And that success is measurable in your current earnings – at least 6 digits, more likely 7 digits.
Are you a unique personal brand or an iteration of a standard template?
If you want to tell an individual personal story, skip the template and tell a story about what makes you unique & what is relevant to your clients.
Here’s one possibility. Tell the story of how you embody your values. For example, a lot of professionals brand themselves as ‘honest’, ‘caring’, ‘authentic’, etc. Instead of making a list of values, choose a value and tells them that story because it actually shows them something about you that could build trust and credibility.
Your personal story is just one story & your brand story is not reducible to that story
Your brand story is where your story intersects with other stories.
It’s also your clients’ story – the story of a problem they struggle with & how it impacts on their business.
It’s also the story of how you can help them solve that problem.
And it includes the outcome you create for them after working together.
Which story will get the attention of your potential clients?
The one in which they find themselves most easily. The one that makes them say, “Yes, that’s me!”, “That’s where I’m stuck!”, “That’s what I want!”
Your personal story is one of the stories that makes up your brand story. If you want to attract a new audience, it’s not the story to lead with.Learn More