Telling Your Story, Sharing your Why - Christine Kane

There once lived a cockroach in New York City that played a huge role in my success as an entrepreneur, and in my belief of the power of storytelling. 

Listen in as I share a bit from my why story of the day I met that little bastard, the way he changed the trajectory of my career, and how sharing the horrifying tale at shows helped sell as many CDs as my music. 

You’ll also meet Gwen (not her real name), a client who followed her gut to share her ‘why’ story in a meeting (great idea!), and hear the tough lessons she learned when she unleashed it without a plan (less great idea). 

Using Gwen’s story as an example, we’ll walk through key elements of crafting a good why story, and take a look at where and when to share it. We’ll identify the fine line between vulnerability and oversharing, and I’ll introduce you to the concept of turning your why story into a signature story. 

We’ll go over exactly what a signature story is and I’ll explain the importance of using it in your marketing. Plus, I’ll teach you how your own ‘why’ story can help you connect more to your business and yourself.

Episode Transcript

Everyone who is creating a story should consider the components of any good story.

Welcome to The Soul-Sourced™ Podcast, unconventional business advice for the highly creative, secretly sensitive and wildly ambitious entrepreneur. I’m your host, Christine Kane. Let’s do this.

Welcome to The Soul-Sourced™ Business Podcast. As you know, I am Christine Kane, but I also need to let you know, I do this podcast from my home now that we are all remote and, uh, here at Uplevel, we’re still all working from home. But what that means is that there are always background noises. And I will give you a little bit of a, a warning that, uh, let’s see, there are Carolina wrens on my deck who have made a nest in the chiminea area that I put out there in the fall, and they got in there before I could move it back down under the house, so I left it there because I want the babies to survive and thrive. So they’re out there and they’re making all kinds of racket right now because the mom and dad are feeding them. And then of course, we have Finnegan playing with Pearl, the kitten, and they are running all over the house at this moment. Those will be our background noises.

As we dive into our topic, which is all about telling your story, sharing your story, sharing your why, and how to think about it in terms of your marketing. And this is a big topic, but it came to light recently. A client of mine who I am going to call Gwen, that is not her name, but she and I walked through her story. And why it came up right now is that she just did a proposal. And she is in, I’m just going to say she’s in urban development, which isn’t fully descriptive of what she does, but the point of it is that she does proposals and she does big proposals for boards and her team and her show up, and basically the norm in her world is that you share your credentials and then you move forward into the proposal and it’s all super left brain and wired up a certain way.

And recently she did a proposal where she decided to dive a little bit more into her “why” behind all of her credentials, and she does have credentials and she just got a $150,000 contract. That’s the kind of clients we’re talking about here. So she she’s talking, you know, pretty big contracts and pretty important situations in various cities and communities. And typically, and this is where that whole, you know, Soul-Sourced™ Entrepreneur, secretly subtitle comes to light. Typically you are expected to deliver your credentials. And in a moment of Quickstar Denas, the entrepreneur in her did a proposal and shared her personal “why” as part of the proposal, rather than doing what her partner had done, which was just share the credentials and move on. And she chose an alternate route. And what we walked through after all was said and done was, is there a way that I can do this That actually doesn’t feel like me just winging it? And is there a reason to do this? Should I do this in a world where typically people are very wired up to just get the left brain, the credibility factors, and you can do a bunch of bragging and then share the plan you’ve come up with the proposal, you’ve come up with.

And the reason I wanted to talk about this today is that it’s not just about Gwen’s business. It’s not just about, you know, making a, a pitch or a proposal. It really is about the importance of your why, and when it comes to play in your marketing and when it should come to play in your marketing, I am a big proponent of using stories in marketing. And now that I wrote a book and have published a book, I realize even more how important it is to share stories in your marketing.

One way I saw this come to light was, and I’ve talked about this before, but as a musician, when I would do shows on stage a lot of times, and I did, I rehearsed my stories, I had a lot of stage banter. I got a lot of feedback from people saying things like you should be a comedian. That’s because I told little stories before my songs. And I found it was a really enjoyable way of introducing the song without saying here’s a song I wrote because I would just find ways of sharing stories. And what I found was that when people came to the sales table at the end of the night, they wouldn’t remember the song. They would remember the story I told before the song. And that’s because that is how our brains are wired is that we remember stories. And after that, when I started a coaching business, the first program I ever, uh, shared an offered an open to the public was a life coaching based program called Uplevel Your Life, which is how my business Uplevel got started.

And when I opened up that program, I told a story that to this day, people still talk about, I told a story that I now lovingly call the cockroach story. It is a true story from my days in music, when I was performing in New York city. And it was probably a lot low point in my music career. It was something that happened prior to me hiring my first coach, and so therefore it had all kinds of reasons for why I would introduce it as part of Uplevel your life. Because up until the point I started working with a coach, I was just letting life happened to me. And it all culminated in this moment where I had a wonderful run in with a cockroach one night. I’m not going to go into my story about it because you can look it up and find it. I actually, in Uplevel cafe, which we are about to open, open the doors of, there is an entire training on how to create what I call a signature story. And I do share, I, in, in the end I have examples of signature stories and I do share my cockroach story there. If you’re interested in learning more about signature stories, you can go to Uplevelcafe.com and you can get on the waiting list. If it’s open, it will be open, but the jumpstarts are the trainings that are in Uplevel cafe and they go into all different aspects of your marketing. And that’s what signature story is, is the piece of your marketing.

But the point is, is that Gwen was talking about how unconventional it is to be sharing a story and how do I do this? And so I’m going to talk a little bit about the, the story, the why story in particular, like why Gwen does what she does and how it applies to you and where you use it in your marketing and a few do’s and don’ts about telling that story and sharing that story and bringing your “why” to the surface.

First off, I think it is truly valuable in any business situation for you to consider the why behind your business and what you do and understand that not everyone has a big “why”. And some people have confessed to me, “I just wanted to make money”. And that’s fine. So don’t worry about it if you don’t have a lie. But what I find more often than not is that there are people like me, for instance, with my cockroach story, who have a compelling story that really turned them around and really shifted how they look at their life at their circumstances. And that story kind of changed their entire trajectory and really propelled them into the service they now provide, and this is true with Gwen.

Now, even though Gwen went into different training and she studied, and maybe didn’t even have an idea, at that time, that this is what was driving her forward, that her, her story behind it all was driving her forward. Eventually it starts to, I really do believe that the idea of being Soul-Sourced™ is very real in our businesses and in our work. And when Gwen started to work with me and began to do what I call mining for the “why” and mining for your marketing and mining for your messages, you start to realize very quickly that we’re not figuring things out. We’re not grabbing things out of the sky. We’re not making shit up. We’re actually diving to find our marketing messages. And that’s exactly where your signature story comes from.

So in terms of Gwen’s situation, it has started to, like many of our little Soul-Sourced™ pieces and parts of ourselves, her why story started to reveal itself. And it started to become more and more important for how she talks with her clients and how she shares things. And so at this proposal meeting, it became very evident that this was something she wanted to share. And so she did what many of us do when we’re entrepreneurs and when we’re in the moment, when something strikes us, we just do it. We kind of wing it, we share the story. And then afterwards she was questioning whether or not it was a good thing to have done. Now, the, the question is a little skewed at this point, because it’s conflating the strategy with the choice to do it in the moment. And what we want to do is kind of separate those two. So first off the strategy of the “why” story and telling your story is always going to be, uh, a really strong thing to do in your marketing, whether it is your about page on your website, or even your homepage on your website, that shares why you do what you do.

And it’s also great when you are doing a proposal live. It’s great when you’re on stage doing your signature talk, it’s, it’s something that’s very, very important that all of us understand strategically that our “why” story is part of it. And if you read any nonfiction book, anything, you know, any book that you’ve ever loved, the intro, the opening chapters, there is always going to be the story about why this book even exists and why this author is the one to tell this story. And so that’s the first thing to start thinking about your business, why you, why this audience, why does this matter? And this is where your story starts to come in. And if you’re like, Gwen, it may start to reveal itself when you hadn’t even maybe considered it and how you would share it.

And so what I want to do here in the, in the brief time that we have together, is not go into, like, how do you tell the story? Because there are so many trainings out there, including the signature story training in Uplevel Cafe. There’s so many ways that we learn to grow and develop stories. And whether it’s laying out a nonfiction book, uh, your memoir, or, uh, a comedian talking about how to lay out a joke, uh, there are so many, uh, strategic elements for how to do that. And you can learn from all of them, but for marketing purposes, what we really want to consider is when you’re going to set up the moment of telling your story, you want to have prepared what that story is. So with Gwen, her story, I think this is a great thing for her to do. And I think it brings an element of surprise and brings an element of meaning and what it does when you bring an element of meaning to a very stodgy situation or a potentially stodgy situation, is what I think that it really does and what Glen stands to really gain from this is that in a world or an industry where there can be a lot of, you know, talk on systems and processes, and we can get very, very wound up and geared toward just the system and the process. What Gwen stands to gain from this is that her story, the energy of it, and the energy of depth that she brings to it, it’s like we say it Uplevel, go deeper than you’ve ever gone to rise higher than you ever dreamed. That’s our tagline, whatever you want to call it. That’s our message. What she stands to do with her depth of her stories that she stands to elevate the why of everyone in the room, if she does it well.

Now, this brings me to the doing it well, part of it. And I’ve created some do’s and don’ts when it comes to you, considering your story and sharing your why and how you do it. And this is the danger of being what I call secretly sensitive. And this, if this is the first time you’re ever listening to this podcast, I am the author of a book called The Soul-Sourced™ Entrepreneur. And the tagline of that book has raised some eyebrows and gotten a little bit of criticism from people who don’t really think that entrepreneurs are secretly sensitive, but it is called an unconventional success plan for the highly creative, secretly sensitive and wildly ambitious.

And so what that means is that there is that sensitive part of us, which I happen to think is the biggest strength in our marketing. However, there’s a caveat with that, and that is a lot of us feel like we are super, very special and that we just drag our sensitivity all over the place. This is not what Gwen was doing by the way. I want to make sure that you understand that. But what we tend to do when we’re sensitive is we sense that we can bring something to the equation that needs to be in the equation. But if we’re not bringing some strategy to that sensitivity, what we can do is, and this is where I’m going to be doing my do’s and don’ts, is that we can take a really great strategy and we can turn into something that just absolutely dies. It’s like, you, you we’ve all had those moments, by the way, I too have had those, uh, I’m lucky in that I was on stage 300 nights a year, 250 nights a year. So when I had those moments where the story just crashed and burned, I had one luxury in that I could just go play the next song and I didn’t get to like sit there and sweat. And I also had the very next night when I was going to be on stage again. And so you learn by doing a whole lot of gigs and performances you learn.

So when, when you’re someone like Gwen, and you’re doing these proposals now, you’re, you know, you’re high stakes, we’re talking six figures on the line here. And so it can be really, really scary to test that. And so I applaud the testing of it and the improv and the idea of it. But there are some do’s and don’ts when it comes to telling your story. And I’m going to walk through some of the do’s first, because I think these will provide some parameters so that you understand that when I do some of this stuff, like when I told my, my cockroach story, the first time I wrote it all out, like I wrote the whole thing out.

And that’s our first do, is that a lot of us, we get an idea, and the idea itself is way more fun than the act than the actual carrying out of that idea, just ask anyone who’s ever written a book. Like the idea is always phenomenal. Like, Oh my story, I’m realizing how powerful it is. And then you got to sit down and write it, and then you realize, Oh, maybe it’s not so powerful because writing is really a drag, but I’m going to encourage you to write it out anyway. And this is where you’re going to have to create multiple drafts because in a situation like Gwen’s, you’ve got about two minutes to get that thing out. You don’t get to ramble on. You’re gonna, you’re gonna have to tell it succinctly. And you’re going to have to hit on some main points. And you’re going to have to recognize that there may be some cynics in your audience. There may be some people who aren’t, you know, fours on the Enneagram, who aren’t feeling the sensitivity, and you’re going to have to understand that that story needs to be very strategically written out in order to go deep so it can elevate those people, like elevate them to the meaning that they bring to the world, to the importance of their work in the world.

And that brings me to the second do, and that is, every story needs to have a clear purpose to it. And one of the things I said to Gwen was, you really want to list what are three takeaways that your story has to convey to these people? And so having that clear purpose really is something that you got to think about, like, why does this mean anything? What are the takeaways I want to give them?

And this brings me to the next “do” when it comes to creating a story and that “do” is that you want to create what I call a cocktail. And that cocktail is what we call the vulnerability credibility cocktail. And what that means is that, whereas your story, it’s great that it goes deep into the vulnerable vulnerability aspect, we also need to counter that with credibility. So for instance, my, my cockroach story, it’s a moment of me having probably one of the worst days in my history of playing music, where all I did was I said yes to everything because I felt so worthless and I was lucky to even be playing music.

I, I had, my, my agent had overbooked me. I threw in one final show at the bottom line in New York city. And I carved out no space for myself. I ended up at a youth hostel in the East village, and that was when the cockroach walked across my face. Now that sounds like very, like if I just left it there and said, and then my life sucked from that point on, you know, I had to turn it around and I had to counter it with credibility. And the fact that I, you know, grew from that and all the things that I had created seven CDs and a DVD and the DVD, one a Tele Award and, and all the things that I did do and the people I toured with. So you want to make sure you’re countering that so people aren’t just left with the sad, vulnerable part of it, there has to be a bit of a credibility.

And so with someone like Gwen, you could lead with the credibility. She could lead with all of their credentials and the things they’ve done and then dip into. But you know what, there’s a deeper reason I do what I do. And I’m going to share that now. And so that way we’re setting people up. So all of that is to say that your, your story, you, you want to be looking for those elements of vulnerability and credibility to present to people, especially for people who don’t want to get dragged down into the muck.

And our next “do” is kind of what I just alluded to, and that is you want to find and seek out in your life or in that story, one concrete moment of transformation, one concrete moment of insight. And that means that every story has a turnaround. And so with my, when I, when I refer to my cockroach story, the turnaround for me was afterwards, I had gotten, I ended up having strep throat that night. I, there was so many elements of that story that were so awful and that went so bad, ’cause I lost my voice on stage and it all culminated in the cockroach moment. But there has to be like at that moment, what was the turnaround? And for me, I can actually remember being on the streets of New York the next day, sick as a dog, get it, waiting for the cab to take me to my flight and truly saying to myself, this must change. Like I can’t, I can’t do this anymore. I’m supposedly living my dream and I am not treating myself like I’m living my dream. And it was all the things that ultimately made me go and seek out a coach and really shift how I did my business and how I showed up for my work, and most importantly, how I showed up for myself.

Now, I get it for those of us who have read every one of these “why” stories and understand them, there’s that part of you that says life isn’t that linear it, you know, it is, there are different things that happen and you don’t just like decide to change and then it all works. And I’m very clear in my storytelling that, no, it doesn’t just turn into an upward trajectory because you have that insight. But there is a moment for all of us where we really do say there is a turnaround. And what you want to find is that concrete moment. And this is where someone like Gwen might have to dig a little deeper because her “why” of urban development really speaks to her childhood story and where she came from and her background and why this matters so much to her.

And so her, she may have to find one instance, one situation she found herself in, one thing, and look at it and how, even though there were multiple reasons, multiple layers. For the storytelling purpose, for the strategy of the story, she’s got to be able to let all that go. Even though she wants to say a million other things about it, she’s going to have to hone in for the purpose of craft of story, to the one thing that, that audience that listener can anchor to so that they can say, Oh, the cockroach story, Oh, you know, like the way my, my people have done over and over again though. The thing that makes their brain grab on and go, wow, that was powerful.

And then, to our next “do”, everyone who is creating a story should consider the components of any good story, because it’s not just you telling it. And it’s not just about all the different, you know, fractal elements of that story and all the different things that they all should really know about it. The, like with my cockroach story, for instance, there were so many things I wanted to tell people. I wanted to tell them about how my agent had overbooked me and that the bottom line was doing this big show and that it was a big, huge opportunity for me and that I was on stage with a bunch of huge name people. And like I had so many different parts and pieces that led up to it, but I had to really limit it, so cause I, the listener is involved and they don’t care about all that stuff. What are the key components of this story?

And so in, in the jumpstart, in Uplevel Cafe, I share six components of any signature story, but just to list a few of them, every a, a good story often has a hero and a villain. And so it doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a person, who’s a villain. There can be a situation that’s the villain. Like in my situation, the, the villain was having no boundaries and, you know, really having zero self-esteem in how I treated myself. And every story also has a transformation moment. And, um, every story has that, you know, that insight and what was learned from it. And then you somehow have to tie all that up into how that becomes the why for your business. I’ve heard people, listen to me talk about signature stories and they’ll create a story that has absolutely no relevance to the why of their business. And whereas it might be a cool story and it might even be told, well, it really has to anchor to the why of what you’re doing in that moment. So my cockroach story, isn’t the why of my whole business now, but it was the why of Uplevel Your Life and why I took on some of these, um, these life coaching challenges and hired somebody and started to invest in myself in a different way, because I realized, and I don’t think I realized it at that moment, but I realized that I had to stop just letting life happen to me. And I had to start understanding who I was, you know, that’s what, that’s, what kind of speaks to what Uplevel Your Life, that entire coaching, um, program was all about. And I, I worked with many thousands of people in that program at this point, cause I’m, that was the very first, uh, coaching training I ever created way back in, uh, 2008 back when I was still a musician when I was doing retreats. But for Gwen, her, she has to tie it up into the why and make a very strong pitch for why that matters and why she’s the one to serve these people in this urban setting that she serving them in.

And then the last “do” I want to make sure that you take on and for those of us who like to be in the moment, and for those of us who think it’s all about just the feels of the moment you got to practice, you have to practice it aloud, especially if you are saying this aloud, if you are somebody who’s going to be doing this on stage, if you’re somebody who’s going to be doing this in pitches or on Zoom, even we’re on Zoom, you might have the luxury of having a script in front of you, which I would say, if you are doing it on Zoom, use a script, pull up that thing in Evernote and read it because you have the luxury of having those notes right in front of you while also still appearing to look at the green light and talking to people, so I would say, go for it, use that script, but that still doesn’t, um, excuse you from practicing it because practicing it aloud is really going to tune you into what works and what doesn’t. Because if you find yourself getting bored, then it may point to something that’s sagging in your, your story and when you’re sharing your why.

Okay. So that brings me to the “don’ts” of this. And the first “don’t” is something I already talked about. And that is that when you’re composing this story strategically, when you’re first writing the shitty first draft of it, it’s fine to go into every last little element of backstory. But what you’re going to realize is that there are many elements of every story that we can tell where, you know, well, though there was this person involved in, Oh, but I didn’t really have this degree at that point. And they should really know, I hadn’t yet gotten the full on degree and I was going to get it, but I hadn’t, you know? They don’t care. You have to pull out all of the stuff that makes you ramble, and doesn’t really contribute to the end point that isn’t a strategic part of the story.

A lot of us want everyone to know every last little piece in part and, and make sure they get it all, but a really good story, you have to consider the listener. They don’t care. Get to the point. Go into the key elements. And when you’re, this is why writing it out is so important, so important. And that brings me to the next “don’t”, which is going to sound a little bit like the one I just talked about, but it’s not. And that “don’t” is, do not bleed on people. Don’t bleed on people. And what that is, that’s expressly said for those of us who are the, the self-proclaimed secretly sensitive people who have businesses. And one of the hard things that comes with that territory is that we want everyone to know how very secretly sensitive we are. Oh, when I’ve read the highly sensitive book and I am an introvert and they should all know this.

And most, most of my listeners don’t do that too much, but a lot of us, when it comes to telling our stories, we take it into the depth of hell to the point that we bleed. We talked, we go too heavy into our darkness and, Oh my God, if you could have seen me that night, and I could truly tell you my cockroach story night, there was a point where I can laugh about it now, because it was a long time ago and who cares? But like I was on, I lost my cell phone. Like this was in the days of early cell phones. I’d left it in a cab. I was on a payphone talking to my dear friend Sal and I’m crying and I’m weeping and the rain is pouring down. Like none of that, even though that was part of the story and it added a dramatic element.

I did not share that part of the story because it waters into the bleeding on people moment and that’s not good. So just, you really want to not take people into just how sensitive you are. So be really careful of that. And don’t make the story about your sensitivity and specialness. This story is really there to elevate the listener into the why, like why you do your business, elevate them up into how this turned you around, focus more on the transformation, on the insight, on the reason why this now makes you fully equipped to teach this stuff. And I, you know, you hear me do this all the time. It’s why I’m a really good business coach for a certain kind of person. And that certain kind of person tends to often, you know, have those moments of secretly sensitive. And, and I’ve had to slog through becoming a very good owner of a business, a very strong entrepreneur and a very good salesperson and a very good marketer because I wasn’t born with it.

That’s the elevating moment, but I will still go there and tell some of the harsh stories like that were really hard on me. And that’s what you want to make sure you’re not anchoring to the specialist, the sensitivity you’re anchoring them to the elevation. And that’s where your, your meaning, your purpose, your why really, really comes out in this business you’ve created in the marketing that you do. And this is really the language of influence. You’re getting people on your side. You’re getting people to understand why this is important.

And the last “don’t” I want to share is it, this is not in any way to say that Gwen did the wrong thing, but it’s fine when we wing it the first time, but I’m going to say, don’t wing it with your story, with your “why” story over and over and over again. All of us have times where we wing things, because if you, if you know how I teach entrepreneurship, I talk a lot about the Colby A Index and being a quick start. I talk a lot about the Enneagram. In fact, I use both of those frameworks in how I coach the each individual entrepreneur and how they set their business up.

But a lot of times we think, well, I’m a Quickstart and therefore I have to wing it, or, well I’m sensitive and so it has to just be in the moment when I feel it, or don’t feel it. And strategically, as a business owner, you have to learn that winging It is great for getting something started, but it’s not great for making it reoccur. And you have to be able to face the tedium and you have to be able to really strategically create something that can really talk to people. And then the part of you that is that improv artist, that is the one who wings it, you’ve got this really strong structure that you can play in, like, cause you know your story so well, that each time you tell it, you bring that energy of improv of quick start to it and then it feels like a different story every time. But that part of you at least can stand on the fact that you’ve created a groundwork and a framework because practiced it so many times and you feel so comfortable. I call it the dog park. So the dog park, meaning that you have, like your dog gets to be fully on dogness at the dog park, like, yay, I get to be a dog and I can run. And I’ve got this fencing around me that keeps me safe and protected. That’s what our strategy does for us in our storytelling. We have this fencing that we can hold on to, but we can run and be our quick-start excited, improv, sensitive selves, but we’ve already set up the structure because we’ve sat down and we’ve really mapped it out and really thought about it.

Okay. That was a really different way of teaching telling your story in a signature story and sharing your why that’s some of the background of it. And for those of you who do want to dive in a little bit more, I did create a really cool Jumpstart. That’s that’s what we call our trainings in the strategy track of Up-level Cafe. We’re about to open the doors of Uplevel Cafe. I would love to be able to say I have an exact date, but we’re getting, now we’re at the point where we’re, we’re testing every email we’re testing every angle of it. We’re, we’re shaping it up so that it’s a really great customer experience for our members. And, um, that’s going to be up soon, but if you want to be the first to know, we have a waiting list at uplevelcafe.com and Uplevel Cafe has all kinds of trainings, like the signature story of marketing trainings and team trainings and all kinds of things in what we call the strategy, track of business. And then there’s also a whole mindset and soul component in what we call the Soul Track of your business. And to that end, I know nobody who teaches business in that way. And so it’s a very, very different group of people, very, very different, um, form of training in a way to grow your business and Uplevel your business as we call it here at Uplevel. So everyone thank you for listening. Thanks for being here. I’ll see you in Uplevel Cafe and I will see you next week.