Ways to distinguish yourself #200 – Understand the story behind the story

Stories make it easy to communicate something but if the stories are flawed they can just communicate the wrong thing – and, in a compelling way.  In other words, stories can help and if you are not careful, they can hurt.

Think about what happened last week. You heard stories from political leaders, you heard stories from media, you heard stories from your boss, you heard stories from your colleagues and you heard stories from even your family members.

Stories are just that – stories. You can make a difference in your life if you can understand the story behind the story.

I am a big fan of Guy Kawasaki. Take the story of Truemors, one of his startups. There was a mixed response for the startup. Guy used the story of how he built the startup for less than $15K. Guy explained how much he spent on everything in great detail. The presentations were engaging (It was Guy who was presenting – so they had to be). In a way, Guy did what he did best – evangelized his new startup. And, it worked. The company saw a big growth in traffic numbers and was finally sold.

I happened to attend one of the presentations and listened to the Truemors story. There was an important point that was missing (not intentional but Guy must have thought it was too obvious to state) – that was the story behind the story. The background story was the story of the price that Guy had paid via his work over 25 years to build his brand. The truth is that Guy and his brand played a VERY big role in how Truemors fared in the marketplace.

It would require a lot of LUCK for someone else (without a brand like Guy’s brand) to attempt building a company like Truemors for less than $15K.

Subsequently Guy added that part of the story in the updated Truemors story in his book “Reality Check“. Honestly even after Guy mentioned that background story explicitly, there will be people who will skip through that and read only what they want to read – and try to repeat what Guy tried to do. Good luck to them.

My first job was a journalist (between ages thirteen and sixteen) and I wrote stories for a local newspaper. I was told repeatedly that I had to introduce “drama” in my writings. My boss would say that if the stories didn’t have drama the newspaper won’t sell.

Drama plays a big role in most of the stories that you hear – so much so that the story behind the story gets completely buried.

It is your job to uncover it.


Note 1: For links to the other 199 entries in the “Distinguish yourself” series, please visit my Squidoo lens on the same topic:
Squidoo Lens: Distinguish yourself

Note 2: The first 25 entries in the series have been packaged in a ChangeThis manifesto that was published on September 07, 2005. You can download that manifesto here:
ChangeThis Manifesto: 25 Ways to Distinguish Yourself (PDF, Free)

Note 3: My latest manifesto on ChangeThis was published on August 6, 2008. This is a photographic manifesto featuring 15 of my mini sagas (stories in exactly 50 words). Here is the link:

ChangeThis Manifesto: Mini Sagas – Bite Sized Lessons for Life and Business (PDF, Free)