I love the posts on LinkedIn, where the author asks their audience to share three things they wouldn’t know about them from reading their profile.
Perhaps it’s the storyteller in me (or I’m just really nosy!), but each comment provides the smallest insight into the person behind the professional brand.
Yes, sharing these things is an excellent exercise in engagement, but the storytelling runs much deeper than mere statistics.
What do personal stories tell us about a business?
The three examples above talk of determination, hidden talents, and resilience. Listening to a podcast by a mindset coach who pulled themselves back from a destitute position to run a thriving coaching business would inspire most people. You’d be more inclined to work with that person knowing they’ve also been at their lowest and fully relate to you and your issues.
Once you start sharing the ‘real-life’ stuff, you open yourself up to the power of storytelling.
I jumped on one of the ‘share three things’ thread recently and included the three months I spent living in a converted cowshed in the Catskill Mountains, NY. It received an interesting response. The author of the thread was intrigued, and their audience also got involved. Everyone needed to know more – they became invested in the why, how, and when of my story.
Living in a cowshed
At the sprightly age of 22, I signed up for the Camp America experience. Having been an avid reader of the Sweet Dreams series during my teens, I had a rose-coloured impression of what America was like. I believed that travelling across the world, alone, and working/living on a camp in the middle of the mountains would kick-start a future full of adventure.
Arriving in New York at 3 am, I was disappointed to notice that, in the dark, the city looked a lot like Birmingham – big buildings, homeless people, and noisy traffic. I had been looking for the New York City we see in the movies, but it wasn’t there.
Feeling (and looking) like a zombie, I sat on the stuffy minibus as it navigated the freeways and small towns towards the Catskill Mountains and our camp – Golden Acres – 4 hours away. My big dream of becoming an independent traveller was starting to wobble.
The camp wasn’t open to the public when we arrived, so we all had time to train before being let loose on real people. Most camps listed in Camp America are for children, but a family camp had signed me up as I worked in hospitality. It was my job to run the poolside bar and the main bar area.
Still reeling from lack of sleep and a journey that never seemed to end, we were taken to what would be our accommodation for the next three months. A converted cowshed!
It was a big ugly brown building at the bottom of the track. Far enough away that we (the staff) didn’t annoy the paying guests, but close enough so we’d make it for our shifts on time. There was one payphone (it was 1994), a large communal area, wood fire, kitchen space, girls’ and boys’ bathrooms, tiny rooms with bunk-beds and scratchy blankets, and a tin roof.
Our bedroom had a grill on the window, although the view of the forest and mountains was pretty impressive!
Suck it up. You’re a Wilson!
Despite the shock of our humble dwelling, we all settled into our new routines. Unfortunately, the brave solo traveller I hoped to be suffered from crippling homesickness. So much so that the camp owner later confided in me that she expected me to fly home within the first week.
I remember ringing my dad one afternoon in tears. He was always the man with all the answers. His response to my ‘I wanna come home!’ was ‘Suck it up, you’re a Wilson.’
Words of wisdom perhaps? My mindset shifted with his response, and I decided to throw myself into this incredible opportunity.
My Camp America experience ended up being one of the best of my life. I made incredible friendships, travelled to fabulous places (Woodstock!), and realised the power of facing your fears.
That cowshed is now one of my fondest memories, and it makes me smile whenever I think about it. We would all sit out on the tin roof at night, talking and laughing. Some of my campmates would play the guitar, and we would all sing along. The staff were international, and we all got on incredibly well, sharing stories from home, promising to visit every corner of the globe to stay in touch.
The value of connection
Fast forward twenty plus years, and through the power of social media, most of us have reconnected thanks to a Golden Acres Facebook Group. The camp no longer exists, and sadly our fabulous ‘boss’ has passed away, but the stories we continue to share will keep that wonderful quirky place alive forever.
What does a cowshed have to do with business?
I found myself smiling as I wrote this post, remembering all the fun times I had on camp. Sharing this story has reminded me of the dreams I had as a young woman. It’s helped me recall the need for stepping up and facing my fears.
What does my story say about me and my business?
Hopefully, you’ve realised I’m inquisitive, curious, driven, (possibly crazy!) and confident – values that drive my business and benefit my clients.
You’ve also seen how vulnerable I can be at times, and how seeking help is essential in my world.
Sharing your story, whether it’s through a fun exercise on your social media platform, a blog post, a podcast, or a book is a wonderful way to connect.
Now it’s your turn – what’s your story?
NB: This post was written for #storytellingwithpuck created by Stefano Capacchione, Creative Writer for his Storytelling initiative on LinkedIn.