To Find Story Gold, You Have to Dig Through Some Dirt

As you can tell, I’ve been writing about the “origin story” quite a bit lately. This is an important tale to have in your story library. It gives context and usually reveals the passion behind your service and product offerings. But, there is an enemy in our midst when seeking the power in our origin story. It’s called perfectionism.

I was reminded of this enemy recently as I was reading Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott for, oh, the 15th time. (Quick tip: If you ever suffer from writer’s blog — even if you are just trying to write a news release or a very important memo — consider picking up this book. It works wonders. See link to it below.)

The problem with trying to write the perfect message, the perfect business narrative, the perfect story right away is this: You can’t do it. If you are trying to “get it right” straight out of the gate you will only immobilize your creativity. First drafts, reminds Anne Lamott, aren’t mean to be good. They are meant to get your started.

Perfectionism also is the enemy of getting the most out of your people.

When it comes to developing that elevator pitch, a corporate presentation, a nonprofit fundraising pitch or a talk, do you let your people play, dig, get messy and get it all wrong at first? If not, you may be leaving some valuable nuggets on the table. Here is a quick exercise for developing your origin story (or any other story or message) sans the perfectionism:

  1. Get everyone in the conference room (or the coffee shop).
  2. Tell everyone take a stab at your organization’s “once upon a time” story. Ask them to write down at least four sentences that describe how your organization or business started and why. Have them describe the moment it all came together that caused this enterprise to exist.
  3. Have them read their first drafts out loud.
  4. Identify the golden nuggets that tell the truth, show how you are different and are compelling to your audiences. They are there.

From this exercise, you not only will get your people on board to find the real gold for your origin story, but you’ll also help them understand where the organization or company has come from and why. You can do this with any of the stories that we recommend you have in your arsenal.