The potential ‘danger zone’ of building your brand around your story

imageStories. Stories. Everywhere.  I enjoy a good story and have to admit that reading and hearing about someone’s rise from a rocky road to smoothdom is somewhat inspiring.  Yes indeed…it can make one feel as though anything could actually be possible, in spite of the challenges that life can throw our way.  So…I get it.  I get that use of story is a valuable tool for inspiring and motivating others.  I can see the benefit of sharing and also the implicit authenticity that accompanies this approach.

There seems to have been an increase in people stepping forward and claiming themselves via story sharing….to the extent that it is becoming an expected norm in certain arenas.  Have you noticed it?  I’ve noticed that this increase seems to have coincided with the rise of a particular entrepreneurial activity, where the individual is the brand….creating enterprise by working with ‘what’s in their hands’.  Now…I’m a fan of this ‘working with what’s in one’s hands’….honouring our bestowed gifts and living through our purpose.  Hallelujah.  I do believe that there is a caveat to building a brand around ourselves though….especially where our story is placed explicitly at the centre of this.

I’ve heard enough inspirational and motivational speakers share their story to know that one such downside is when even they appear fed up of sharing.  If I take this into my therapeutic knowledge for a minute, I would add that when we are ‘in’ our healing process, we need to tell our story….we feel compelled to.  Then there is a transitional period, where we don’t actually need to tell it…but feel that we need to tell it, just to ensure that people understand where we are ‘coming from’.  After that, we can feel that our story is holding us back…a bit like a mill stone….hence the undertone of ‘fedupness’ I referred to earlier.  I also believe that to an extent, the more we tell our experiences of tribulation and pain, it retains a level of ‘life’ within us and this is not always healthy or productive.  Let me be clear.  I am not saying that this is the case for all people who use their story to inspire and motivate others…but I do think it happens.  And I think it happens more often than people care to (or dare to) admit.

The potential ‘danger zone’ is when a person’s brand and their associated professional identity (and income) is built upon the foundation that their story provides.  Our relationship with our story…our experiences…our past, can change over time.  Hence, the brand that has been created needs to be able to grow and change too.  It needs to be able to release itself from it’s heritage if it chooses to….and not be trapped by it’s past life (or lives).  Please excuse me for referring to a brand as though it is alive, it’s just that at some point, a brand does develop an identity and this is alive and three dimensional in the minds and sometimes the hearts of it’s supporters, comissioners, competitors and purchasers.  More so, when the brand is a reflection of an individual.

No matter the message, when a person uses their story to reinforce their brand, they are igniting their past and catapulting it into their present.  Significantly in relation to this post, the past is offered a fast pass into the future….and in the future, our past may not be welcome (but we won’t necessarily know this yet). I am not advocating that we forget our roots, how far we’ve travelled and so on…these are merely musings.  One thing I recognised as important when I worked in a therapeutic community, was  in ‘showing that you know’.  It seemed to be helpful to those who needed to know that you knew, without you sharing the experiences that led to that knowledge.  It was a delicate and I now realise, highly skilled balance to maintain.  I am currently still in favour of ‘showing’ rather than ‘sharing’….although of course, this may change.  Watch this space……