Why You Do What You Do

Back in June, barely two weeks after starting my retail education business, I ran into Mark Sullivan at Fleet Feet Sports’ conference in Huntington Beach. Mark runs Formula4 Media and organizes the biggest trade show in the industry, The Running Event (TRE). I half-jokingly asked him what a greenhorn like me needed to do to get a speaking gig at his big show. I remember him looking up from his cell phone and telling me that coincidentally, he still had one spot available. Mark said he wanted to do a “training camp” that focused on the back, front, and outside of the house, and if I had any ideas I could send him a proposal the following week. I had ideas. Plenty of them. I sent my proposal that night. He accepted.

It took me nearly six months to develop the Storytelling workshop I led at TRE where more than ninety motivated attendees filled a room of round tables for three hours of activity. Since we started at 11:00am, I feared that our break for lunch would lose a handful of participants. But everyone came back, plates of food in-hand, ready to keep on rocking.

I’ve been to a ton of conference trainings. Good ones and not so good ones. At TRE I did my best to mirror what employees do with customers—facilitate deeper connections. I asked coworkers to sit apart from each other, then incorporated numerous activities which required everyone to tell their own story. I firmly believe that when we know and understand each others’ story, we are better equipped to work together.

Another way to put it is this—if you know what makes someone’s heart sing, it’s easier to relate to them. To connect with them. This, in turn, makes you like them more, too. Storytelling is the starting point.

And sure, “storytelling” might simply be a metaphor, but it’s also the particular action(s) we take to create trust, loyalty, and commitment. We tell our stories and create cohesion.

In one of the breakouts, I asked people to write down their personal why. I wanted them to externalize the specific reason(s) they do what they do. They shared their answers with their tablemates, and while doing so, the room grew louder and louder.

That’s what passion does. It energizes.

Later, while I was cleaning up the room, I noticed that lots of people left their notes behind. I collected them up and spent time reading each one. I was blown away by the responses. Each genuine story, even in this abbreviated form, hit me right in the feels.

Never forget the power of your story. It’s the foundation for everything you do. Everything. It’s what makes you interesting. And not just to your colleagues, but to your customers, too.

Tell you stories. You can’t afford not to.

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