Be the Hero

In a few weeks, the production of the musical Big Fish, will open in Wayzata. The play is a reconciliation story between Edward, the lead in the show, and his grown son, Will, and takes the audience through what estranged the two in the first place. Will grows up hearing outlandish stories from his father, which are Edward’s attempt to connect with Will and explain his “adventures” as a traveling salesman. In, “Be the Hero,” the opening number of the show, Edward tells Will:

Be the hero of your story if you can. Be the champion of the fight, not just the man. Don’t depend on other people to put paper next to pen. Be the hero of your story, boy, and then you can rise to be the hero once again.

We as professionals, as business owners, as companies, have the responsibility of telling our stories. How we go about telling it is up to us. In Big Fish, Edward encourages Will (and all of us) to find adventure and tell our stories, and to position ourselves as “the champion.” I attended a branding workshop recently that had a different take on “story.” The workshop was facilitated by Derek Sussner, Founder of Sussner Design, who follows the StoryBrand process based on the book by Donald Miller. According to Sussner and the StoryBrand process, companies too often position themselves as the heroes in their stories, when they should, in fact, position their customers and clients as the heroes. In this story, a business or brand acts as an advocate for the client, the real hero in the story. The “story” explains the problem or challenge that a company has identified and how it works to solve that problem for clients. How do you bring value? What is your unique selling proposition? Why do you do what you do? Your story should answer those questions.

Knowing our stories is just the tip of the iceberg; the real issue often becomes in actually telling our stories to others. Clarifying why you do what you do is of no use if you cannot engage with others and share that message. If we have a way of making the world a better place, but no one ever receives the message, we’ve accomplished nothing. We are generally comfortable evangelizing on others’ behalf, yet we struggle in telling our own stories. In the same week, I had conversations with two friends who were struggling with this issue. One is a graphic designer. She spends her days creating beautiful marketing pieces for her clients to help them tell their stories, but she has trouble articulating her own and sharing it with others so that they can share it on her behalf. The other is a financial advisor with fantastic knowledge that people want to receive, but cannot find his voice in how to share it. He won’t allow himself to simply tell his story in the many ways that people want to hear it.

Oftentimes, our own roadblocks are what prevent our stories from being told. We defer to self-deprecating humor and deflecting praise in an attempt at humility when we are really doing ourselves— and those who may benefit from hearing our stories— a disservice. We discredit ourselves in an effort to break down walls. We get hung up on sounding like braggarts when all we are really doing is sharing the why, how, and what of our companies and careers, and asking for ideas on how to share that story with others. It is on all of us to get past our own internal roadblocks and tell our stories. This is about more than just finding a brand message and value proposition; it is about a willingness to engage, to have conversations, and to share our passions and successes so others can evangelize on our behalf.

So what is your story? How are you the hero, how do you make heroes out of others, and how can you help others champion your cause on your behalf? Find your voice and tell your story. Be proud of your why, own your success, and share how you are making life easier for your clients and customers. . . . the real heroes in your story.


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