Is your story big enough? The following passage from The Story Story describes a common speaker’s dilemma. Too many meaningful stories go untold because we fear they’re not as big as someone else’s.
“He’s got to be a motivational speaker,” said Walter. “The NSA holds a big convention every year. This is the National Speakers Association—the NSA that talks, not the NSA that listens. Some of the best speakers in the world attend, and so do a lot of up-and-coming newbies—which is all well and good. This convention is an absolute freak show. It’s full of brilliant and talented artists, scientists, thinkers, teachers, trainers, entrepreneurs, masters of inspirational hot air, narcissists, egomaniacs, and some of the most amazing and wonderful people you could ever meet. ‘Finding your story’ is a big theme within NSA, especially for new speakers who feel called to the platform but don’t necessarily have any idea what to speak about. You can have an absolutely outrageous story and then find the person you’re seated next to at dinner was born with no arms or legs, got burned in a fire, was wrongfully imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit, went blind, and then climbed Mt. Everest naked with his upper lip before spending seventy-two days in a life raft. He’ll sell you his international bestselling book, too. Someone at NSA will have you beat by a mile. Like I said, it’s a freak show. I have a good friend in the speaking business who’s in a wheelchair because of a plane crash. The joke he hears over and over—and it’s told as friendly sarcasm; people are not being insensitive—is that he’s lucky to have had his story find him. Everyone else has to figure out their stories and speaking topics on their own.
Is your story big enough? Why should you tell tales about life as a middle manager in a corporate cubicle farm when that other speaker talks about growing his startup company and taking it public?
Is your story big enough? Why should you talk about raising two children when your best friend has raised five and that other speaker builds orphanages?
Is your story big enough? Why should I tell my story about sailing across the Atlantic with a friend when Neal Petersen speaks about sailing around the world alone?
Is your story big enough? The answer is simple: A humble story, well-told, holds more power to change hearts and minds than an epic odyssey that values the storyteller over the listener. Stories and lessons are found as readily in the foothills as on the mountaintop.
Who are you to tell the story? A thinker, a feeler, an observer of life—a storyteller with an idea to share. Size doesn’t matter.