In the forthcoming holiday season, many of us will be attending parties, get-togethers, dinners and potlucks with people we rarely see. When they ask, “How are you doing?” you’ll need to be ready with a good story, even if it’s a one-liner.
When you feel awkward about your own story, you’ll be on the defensive. Holiday cheer? Forget it.
Even worse, strangers can spot someone who’s feeling uncomfortable. They’ll pounce, just the way my new cat pounces on the senior cat who’s scared and squeaky. (“A chew toy!” she tells herself. “What a nice surprise!”) Instead of teeth and claws, they’ll tear you up with well-meaning advice.
Not to worry: it’s all about telling the right story. And I’m not talking about stories that are as fake as the snowflakes that decorate your local mall. I mean finding the story that reflects your truth and your reality.
The “linear journey” story: just one path
”I’ve had a fairly successful business for several years but find myself losing my fire and enthusiasm. I just got an opportunity to take a full-time job. It sounds really good right now. But I feel like I’m going backwards…as if I’d failed.”
The person who posted this story viewed career stories the way most people are taught — as a traditional journey story with a beginning, middle and end.
The hero embarks on a path to reach success. She opens her business. She gets clients. She hits some obstacles. The business grows. Good things start to happen. The obstacles become bigger … and different. She needs new strategies to overcome them.
In this linear story, the hero ends up with a big bank account, a well-respected brand, dynamic supportive colleagues and of course a thriving business.
But not all stories fit this linear structure.
The “side hustle” story: parallel paths.
Murder mysteries often develop with parallel plots. In the main plot, the detective (pro or amateur) tries to figure out whodunit. But there’s almost always a side plot where the hero solves a challenged related to love, money and/or personal growth.
In business, the parallel journey becomes a side hustle: something you do in addition to your “main” career or business. For someone in the corporate world, a side hustle represents the closest thing they’ll have to career insurance. Layoffs? Downsizing? No problem. That little side business of selling Amazon FBA products now morphs into a full-blown business that supports you and pays the bills. Click here for a brand-new book on side hustles.
Some people do better when they’ve got multiple journeys going at the same time. If I can get nerdy for a moment, there’s actually some sociological research on the concept of role accumulation.
True, you can experience stressful role overload when you’re a parent, spouse, worker, caregiver, volunteer and more. But often adding a role actually reduces stress and makes you more productive. You gain confidence and competence from one role that spills over to the other.
When I was finishing graduate school I had a lucrative side hustle — teaching in the Cal State system. My horrified professors thought I’d never finish my dissertation. Actually I was happier and more productive. When things were going south in graduate school, my teaching inevitably felt rewarding; when my students complained about their workload (“Read the book? You must be kidding!”), my research felt like a vacation.
The “new destination” story: add a plot twist.
Alternatively, you can change your story by changing your destination. You create a plot twist when you cross the platform and get on a new train.
That’s the story of the business owner who felt like a failure. She was ready to trade in her old ticket for a new adventure.
When a story plot bogs down, authors raise the stakes. They throw in a thunderstorm, a long lost relative, a new dead body or a surprise party.
And when your business journey bogs down, it’s time to introduce something new … which might be a job, a new business or a sabbatical. I just met the owner of a successful tech company here in Philadelphia. After several years in the business, he’d had enough. So some years ago, he sold his company and moved to Japan to teach English. He came back with a working knowledge of Japanese, a Japanese wife and a fresh sense of purpose. He owns another company and he’s happy with himself and his business.
What’s your business journey story?
You can probably think of other variations of your business journey story. Your story might include a detour, which might turn out to move you forward on your ultimate journey. Or your detour could become a trap, an obstacle or a distraction. Want to share your story? Hit “reply” and send it over.
If you’d like to hear a dozen stories of business owners who moved from corporate to self-employment, and from one business to another, check out Pivot Your Business program. Twelve business owners share their stories — you’ll get suspenseful plots, surprising insights and astonishing transformations.
And if you’d like to grow your business with stories, let’s set up a consultation — you, me and the phone. Past clients say it completely transformed their marketing. Learn more here.