This post is all about dissecting how you got to be where you are today. It draws heavily on another post I wrote about uncovering your origin story and putting it to work for you. Go back and give that a read to understand more about how every experience that you have plays a role in shaping who you are, what you do, and how you work today.
It’s a simple enough premise—right? The thing is, despite its simplicity, there’s an incredible amount of power in learning how to best communicate your origin story and connect it to your current personal or business brand. If you really take the time to map out the experiences that have led to today, you’ll uncover an incredibly compelling story that can motivate the way you work and inspire your customers to take action.
Step 1: Make Space for Reflection
I invite you to find at least a half day (ideally a whole one) and schedule a meeting with yourself. Get out of your typical work environment and take yourself on mini-retreat. Find a new coffee shop, carve out a cozy nook at the local library, or splurge for a day rental on an office at a co-working space. Hold the time as non-negotiable on your calendar. Don’t squeeze in any meetings, don’t check email, just give yourself the gift of four to eight hours of time to reflect.
Step 2: Gather Your Supplies
Remember how exciting a new box of sharp, never-before-used crayons was when you started a new school year as a kid? Sure, you could have been just as creative with the nubby ones from the classroom stash, but the fresh ones felt full of potential.
While you don’t necessarily need these supplies to reflect on your origin story, I highly suggest bringing them along. They’ll help you tap into your memory, your creative mind, and your sense of purpose when it comes to this exploration. Here’s what I’d recommend you gather:
A drawing pad or a small stack of plain white copier paper
A lined notebook
Your absolute favorite pen
Either colored pencils, colored markers, or colored pens
A few packs of sticky notes
A laptop or tablet
Step 3: Do the Work
Begin by reading, or re-reading, the Power of Your Origin Story post. After you’ve finished, click here to sign up for my email list and get the link to download the Origin Story Exercise, which involves mapping key experiences in your life. Complete the steps in the exercise and then continue on with this challenge. . ..
Once your roadmap is complete, take some time to identify which of the experiences along your road are most significant to shaping who you are today. I suggest writing one experience per sticky note so that you can rearrange and reorder them as you begin to develop your personal brand narrative.
As a small business owner, your personal brand can play a big role in your company’s brand. This is especially true of sole proprietors but applies to anyone who wants to make authentic connections with their customers.
Now, use additional sticky notes to catalog anything else that you think is important to incorporate when telling your story. Try thinking about how you introduce yourself or talk about your work to friends, family, or people you meet at non-work social events. In those instances, you aren’t aiming to sell anyone anything, so you are more likely to focus on parts of your work and parts of your “how you got started” story that mean the most to you. This unmasked version of you is where the passion lies and it’s the perfect place to dig for details that will make your origin story come alive.
Step 4: Write
Once you have all of your gems identified on sticky notes, use them to outline your personal bio or about statement and get writing!
Whether with pen and paper or on your device, start getting words on the page that feel true. Don’t worry at first about polish, it will only slow you down. The best way to get going is to let the words pour from your pen or your fingertips. You can comb through after to clarify and connect points, add missing pieces, and make edits.
After your preliminary, messy draft is down, walk away. Go get a coffee, make a phone call, play around on the internet—anything that will give your brain a break. Once you are feeling refreshed you can decide whether you want to call it a day and review your draft another day entirely.
Having some distance can be incredibly illuminating. When you do go back for your next pass at the language, don’t be too attached to what you have written. Give yourself permission to tear things apart and reassemble them in whatever way seems most fitting. Good editing makes good writing. I also suggest that you let someone you trust, but who isn’t too close to you, provide you feedback. The benefit of an outside set of eyes can’t be underestimated.
Of course, if writing is all too overwhelming or difficult for you, sometimes it makes sense to enlist the help of a professional for this final step. Either way, the discoveries that you have made through the origin story exercise will be invaluable as you communicate your story to your customers, followers, and other audiences. These people want to see the real you and it is always more inspiring to understand why and how someone does what they do.
Remember, to sign up for emails to access the Origin Story Exercise download and to ensure that you don’t miss the rest of the challenges in this new year’s series.