Do You Really Have Nothing to Say?
I was in a book group once with a group of University professors.
They all have three degrees on the wall. I ran away from college because I just couldn’t choose a major to stick with.
Talk about intimidation.
When professors talk, they use big words. It’s as if they speak to impress rather than express. I confess I don’t always understand what they say, where they’re going in conversation, or even what their point is.
I wonder if some of their students don’t have the same problem.
There is this unspoken air of pomposity in the room and it makes others feel like they don’t have anything valuable to contribute.
If you’ve ever felt that way, I have good news for you.
Are you experienced?
I remember hearing this weird tune come through the speakers of my brother’s stereo. It sounded like Hendrix on an acid trip. The most I’d ever done is get drunk, so I kind of got it.
I was also an artist, so I was used to looking at the world in weird ways.
The point of the song is in the title. Are you experienced? Do you have something in common with someone else?
If you’ve ever gotten hungry, felt sad, or cheered when you felt excited, you have something in common with almost everyone else on the planet.
That means you have something to say.
Who is your audience?
The best advice I ever heard for winning over an audience came from storytelling expert Marsha Shandur. You may not have had the same experience as others, but you’ve felt the same feelings. Wrap your story in emotion and people will listen.
Your audience might not be professors. It might not be firefighters. And maybe thinking in terms of those demographics isn’t helpful.
If you have a story to tell, you start by finding what is universal about it.
Are you looking for hope in the darkness? Or maybe how to make money in an economy that seems to be out of opportunities? Do you feel like a small shepherd facing a towering giant with a big mouth?
Your story is just a setting for the universal message it carries. Keep that in mind and you can touch more people.
Don’t expect to reach everybody
If everybody doesn’t read the best selling book of all time, they’re not all going to listen to your story.
That’s okay. And besides, that’s the way it is.
You can help dozens, hundreds, and even thousands of people. Better to have an engaged crowd than to see how high you can stack your numbers.
Genuine fans will want to hear the next chapter of your story — especially if you’re helping them write their next chapter.
Those are the people that matter, the ones you’re called to serve with your message.
Write your story now
Think of a lesson you’ve learned, and how it made a difference in your life.
Here’s a simple structure you can use to share it.
First, describe the problem. You want to hook your reader right away. If you don’t, you’ll lose her forever.
Start by invoking her emotions. Share the struggle. Help her feel your pain. Paint a picture of the canyon between where you are and where you want to be.
Second, build tension. This is where you share a few things you may have tried that failed. Be honest. Show some vulnerability. We love superheroes, but we have a hard time identifying with them.
Flawed people remind us of our own challenges — and when they overcome their struggles, we know we can , too.
Third, share the breakthrough. This is where the hero grabs the treasure. You can share as much as you want about how the treasure changed your life. Or you can share just enough to invite the hungry to feast with you in the next step.
Fourth, ask them to do something. You learn best when you apply what you learn. If we got more practical application from those who teach us when we’re young, we’d be better off.
What story will you tell? What lesson will you teach? Your experience matters to someone.
If you don’t share it, it might be lost forever.