How to tell your life story

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How to Tell Your Life Story

Humans love stories. They help us translate the data in our brains into meaning. What does this mean in practical terms? It’s means that it’s not really about your age, or net worth, or the number on the scale. It’s the sum total of life experiences that have led you to this point. It means that your life story is one of the most powerful assets you possess.

Many people are reluctant to tell their life story—either to their family, verbally, or in print– because they are worried about being seen as boring or self-centred.

The fact is that your life story is the most interesting thing about you.

If you want people to empathize or understand you, tell them a story. If you want them to learn what you’ve learned, tell them a story. If you want them to feel—even in some small way—what you’ve felt, tell them a story.

We all come from wildly disparate backgrounds, but we are united by our common experiences. We’ve all had broken hearts and big successes. We’re ultimately not interested in the what, but the why.

When you elect to write your memoirs, you give yourself ownership of your story and can speak directly from the heart. You also gain a greater understanding of your own life, which is a tremendous, and utterly unique, gift that you can pass on to others.

When you dig into the why of what you’ve done in your life, you transmit your values to the reader. You can’t dictate to others what they must believe, but if you can make them feel what you felt, you can convince them of the importance of your values. You may, for example, want to encourage your grandchildren to be industrious; through story you can inspire them to dream big dreams and put their talents to work in bringing them to life.

When you make people believe in your story, the resulting inspiration will help them incorporate new ideas and values into their own lives.

Telling Your Life Story: Where to Begin

It might seem like an overwhelming task to catalogue the years of your life into a meaningful narrative. What’s important? Where to begin?

Three ideas that might help you start telling your life story include:

1. Think of a tradition from your childhood that you still practice today. In what ways has the tradition changed, and in which ways has it stayed the same?
2. What do you consider your vocation? Your calling? Your biggest talent?
3. If you could write a letter to a long-lost or deceased friend or relative, what would you say? Would you talk about the past or the future?

When you approach the answers to these questions, remember that telling your life story is an act of sharing.

Often, people mistake the act of memorializing their life as vain or self-important; in reality, you are sharing your reflections with an audience that may be far in the future. You are not only recording the what, but explaining the why. You can relate your life story, but also your core values and motivations.

To engage your reader, be prepared to be vulnerable. We connect with others most deeply when we’re real with each other.

A story is not a collection of dates and facts, it is a generous act of engaging with others in our most fundamentally human way.

When you are prepared to explore your life, and the thinking or impulses behind the decisions you’ve made in your life, you reveal the values and principles that have shaped your life. It is this—the why behind who you are and what you’ve done—that will enable you to inspire those who come after you.

You have a compelling story. There is no other like it. Reach out and tell it.

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By Susan Cain

What’s your life story?

I don’t mean where you grew up, went to school, got your first job, etc. I mean what’s your STORY? What narrative have you constructed from the events of your life? And do you know that this is the single most important question you can ask yourself?

According to the fascinating field of “narrative psychology,” the stories we tell about ourselves are the key to our well-being. If you’ve interpreted the events of your life to mean that you’re unlucky or unwise, it’s hard to look optimistically at the future. Conversely, if you acknowledge that you’ve made mistakes and faced difficulties but seek (or have already glimpsed) redemption, you’ll feel a much greater sense of agency over your life.

That time you were laid off, for example, is it further proof that your career’s going nowhere? Or is it the best thing that ever happened, liberating you to find work that suits you better?

What about your divorce? Is it a sign you’re unlucky in love or a difficult passage to a more hopeful romance?

The idea is not to delude yourself that bad things are actually good. It is, instead, to find meaning in the progression from one event to the next. It is to recognize that everything constantly changes. In your life, you will move from triumph to heartbreak to boredom and back again, sometimes in the space of a single day. What are you to make of so many emotions, so many events?

The facts matter less than the narrative.

Once upon a time, an 18-year-old Frenchwoman named Sophie Serrano gave birth to a baby girl, who suffered from neonatal jaundice.

The baby spent her first days in an incubator under artificial light and was returned to her mother four days later. Unbeknownst to Sophie, it wasn’t her baby. It was another 4-day-old with jaundice. The nurse had switched the babies by accident.

Sophie named her daughter Manon. As she grew older, Manon looked nothing like her parents. She had darker skin and frizzy hair, and the neighbors started to gossip about her origins.

But Sophie never faltered. The nurse had explained that the artificial light used to treat jaundice could affect hair color. Even more, Sophie loved Manon. She knew the story of her life: her cries, her coos, her first words.

It was only when Sophie’s husband accused her of giving birth to another man’s baby that she went for paternity tests and discovered that her husband was right (sort of). The baby, then aged 10, wasn’t his, but she wasn’t Sophie’s either. She belonged to another set of parents, who had been raising Sophie’s biological daughter in a town several miles away.

It’s a typically fascinating “switched at birth” tale. But here’s where it takes an unexpected turn.

A meeting was arranged for the two mothers and their daughters. Sophie saw that her biological daughter looked just like her in a way that Manon did not and never would.

But she felt no connection to this other girl. It was Manon she had nursed, Manon whose nightmares she’d soothed, and Manon whose stories she knew. This other daughter looked just like Sophie—but what did that even mean, when she didn’t know her stories? The other mother felt the same way.

“It is not the blood that makes a family,” Ms. Serrano told The New York Times (where I read this story). “What makes a family is what we build together, what we tell each other.”

Our stories are everything. They are the heart of love and of meaning.

So what is your story? Are you telling the right one? And are you telling it to the right people?

Here are three sets of people to tell your stories to:

1. “Declare yourself” to your colleagues at work. Doug Conant, the much-admired former CEO of Campbell Soup and founder of Conant Leadership (and one of my favorite people), is an introvert who’s not inclined to schmooze and self-disclose. So he scheduled “Declare Yourself” meetings, one at a time, with each of his direct reports. The purpose of these meetings was to tell his employees his story: how he liked to work, his management philosophy, and the things and people that mattered to him most. (We at Quiet Revolution are partnering with Conant Leadership to develop a “Declare Yourself” tool that you can use with your colleagues. Stay tuned on that.)

2. Share your stories with your family. A few weeks ago, I told my 7-year-old son about a story I’m writing for kids. I mentioned that I’d been working on this story for months. “How come you never told me before?” he wanted to know. He was genuinely shocked—maybe even a little hurt—that I’d kept the plot points to myself. “I guess I didn’t think you’d be interested,” I told him truthfully. He is obsessed with soccer and ice hockey, and mine is a story of girls, time travel, and shyness. But it bothered him that I had a story I’d chosen not to mention. From now on, I’ll err on the side of sharing the things I dream up even if they have nothing to do with soccer balls and hockey pucks.

3. Tell your story to yourself—and make sure you tell the right one. If you’re having trouble constructing an honest yet positive life narrative, here is an exercise to help you. Just ask yourself these three things:

  • Can you think of an early part of your life when you felt strong and happy? If you had a difficult childhood or other challenges that prevent you from identifying this starting place, try thinking of the time when you were still cradled in the womb.
  • What was the challenge, or series of challenges, that came along to threaten your strength and peace?
  • Can you find meaning in these challenges? You don’t need a classic happy ending as long as you’ve found meaning. And don’t worry if you’re not there yet. Just think of the outcome you’d like to see one day. And remember the words of mythologist Joseph Campbell: “Where you stumble is where your treasure lies.”

Want to share your story? I’d love to hear them!

All Pro Dad

People have asked me several times whether I am interested in writing a book. I normally say no. In fact, I gave that answer the last time somebody asked at a dinner party. As my wife and I drove home, she asked why I have no interest in writing a book. I said, “I don’t think my story is worth writing in a book. Who will want to read it?” That’s when she said, “Everyone has a life story worthy of a book.”

I believe she’s right. Your life story is certainly worth telling. Even if it’s only for your children and grandchildren, it is valuable to record. Future generations can experience how you felt and reacted in your time. Whether you write your story down, record it, or simply tell your children about your life, the following 10 questions will help you get started.

1. Who Are You?

Where did you come from and where are you going? What are your passions and strongly held beliefs? Define the person you are and how you got to that point.

2. Where have you struggled?

We all suffer sometimes. What are the moments that challenged and molded you? Sharing your wounds enables others to connect with you emotionally.

3. What are you passionate about?

Your legacy is the footprint you made in the world. Display and explain the passion that led you to successful outcomes. What do you love the most? What makes your heart race and your temperature rise?

4. In what areas have you gained expertise?

We learn through experience. And with experience, we gain expertise. What solutions have you discovered? In what does your expertise lie? Where in life are you “the man?”

5. What is your worldview?

What is your “message” to the world? What are your philosophies and wisdom gained? Define a central message you most wish to convey and run it continuously throughout your story.

6. What is your honest story?

Keep your story on point. Keep it simple and keep it direct. Always be honest and sincere. Your life is interesting enough. No need for embellishment.

7. To whom do you owe gratitude?

No successful life is accomplished alone. Give credit to the people in your life who have helped you on your journey. Tell stories about the people who influenced you and lifted you up to the heights you have reached.

8. How do you relate to others?

How can you make yourself relatable to a later generation? How can you reach out into the future and lend a comforting hand? Some things in life never change. Matters of the heart, hopes, dreams, and fears—talk often of these.

9. What are your failures?

Do not be afraid to share your failures and shortcomings—especially how they helped you grow. These are as important as any great successes. No man is perfect and no life is perfect. Describe in humorous detail your many faults.

10. What have been the greatest moments of your life?

These are the moments you stood at a crossroads and made the right choice. This is the day your child was born. The moment you discovered God. The memories that make you smile and fill you with gratitude.

Sound off: What has been the greatest moment of your life?

Huddle Up Question

Huddle up and ask your kids, “What is your favorite memory?”

These quick, one-time-only exercises can teach us about ourselves and what we want—and how we can tell our story. The bonus? You might just end up with a book.

By Leigh Newman

1. Your 3-Sentence Life Story

What to write: Try to summarize your life in two or three sentences. Take your time. Think about your past. “But mostly think about who you are today and how you got that way,” says Roberta Temes, PhD, psychologist and author of How to Write a Memoir in 30 Days. “Maybe you want to focus on a certain relationship, maybe a certain theme. or maybe a feeling that has persisted for years.”

Consider these examples before putting pen to paper:

Loving mom who worked all the time, no dad. Never really got over lonely childhood.

Love my life, love my dog, love my kids. No room for a guy.

Finally sober. Exhausting journey. Many regrets.

Beautiful, close family. And then the accident.

Fears and phobias finally overcome, thanks to husband. Still not sure if I deserve him.

Why it helps: First off, if you want to write a memoir, this three-sentence description will form the structure of your book. In effect, it’s a supershort story of your life—a beginning, a middle and the now, if you will. Even if you have zero impulse to write another word, however, the exercise can show you how you view yourself, your past and your present, all of which can inform your future. Unless, of course, you change the narrative—a privilege granted to any writer.

2. Your Crucial Incident (or Incidents)

What to write: Choose one or more of the sentences below and write a page or two that begins with that particular sentence. Don’t worry about bringing up material that you are afraid might be too painful to explore, says Temes. “Please don’t bother with grammar or spelling or punctuation issues. “Just write for yourself and for your clarity of mind.”

Sentence 1: I was just a kid, but.

Sentence 2: I tried my best and.

Sentence 3: In that moment everything changed.

Sentence 4: It was shocking to find out that.

Sentence 5: It was the proudest day of my life. I couldn’t stop smiling when.

Why it helps: Sometimes we avoid the most obvious—and complicated—events that have happened to us, events that inform our whole life story. Let’s say your three-sentence exercise was Loving mom who worked all the time, no dad. Never really got over lonely childhood. Maybe you could try, “I was just a kid but. ” or “I tried my best but. ” Was there something else that happened that prevented you from getting over your lonely childhood? Did it happen when you were a child—or later? Did it involve parents? You don’t have to know the answers to these questions. Let the pre-written prompts guide you. “Don’t think and write,” says Temes. “Just write.”

3) Your Secret Why

What to write: Take a minute to think about the previous two exercises. Then, please finish this sentence; I’d like to really understand everything that led me to _______________.

Here are some examples (it’s okay to add an additional sentence or two):

I’d like to really understand everything that led me to marry Blake. He was so wrong for me and I don’t want to make another mistake.

I’d like to really understand everything that led me to choose architecture as my life’s work. Did it have to do with the way we lived when I was growing up?

I’d like to really understand everything that led me to become such a good mom, considering I had no role model.

I’d like to really understand everything that led me to never get along with my step-mother. Now that she’s gone I realize what a good person she was and how she tried to have a relationship with me.

Why it helps: There’s no need to do the actual examination and investigation now. Instead, just focus on identifying what it is you might delve into someday—in a memoir or in the pages of a journal or just in your mind. What truth is important for you to get at? You have a structure (your three sentences), you have a crucial event (that may have caused or contributed to that life story) and now you have a purpose—a reason for writing that will let you learn, enjoy and even be surprised by the story you’ve been waiting to tell yourself and—maybe, just maybe, the world, as well.

Roberta Temes, PhD, is the author of
How to Write a Memoir in 30 Days, which includes other exercises like these.

  • How to Tell Your Life Story

You might not often get a chance to tell the story of your life, but when you do how would you tell it? Recent research has shown that the way you tell the story of your life has an impact on your personality and your well-being.

In this post, we take a look at how our personal narratives dictate who we are and we look at ways we can alter how we interpret our life for the better.

What Is Narrative Psychology?

Personal narratives fall within the realm of narrative psychology. Narrative psychology is concerned with how humans create meaning from stories and how they portray themselves in the story of their life. Narrative psychologists are interested in how we choose to tell our personal narratives, how this changes over time, and what this reveals about our personality.

Why Is the Story of Your Life Important?

The story of your life isn’t only present when you tell it to others, it is also a personal narrative that exists within us whether we recognize it or not.

When we think about our past we are, in fact, telling ourselves the story of our life. How we interpret that story is, according to researchers at Western Washington University, reveals, constructs and sustains ourselves through time. And it is how we make sense of the world around us.

The story of your life is important because it is a product of events, interpretations, and facts that you have picked out from your years on this earth and pieced together to make meaning. What we choose to focus on, and how we tell it can reflect who we are.

How Can the Story of Your Life Impact Who You Are?

So, what does it mean that the story of our life reflects who we are? Let’s look at an example of a memory. Imagine that you had gone through a difficult time in your career. You were made redundant and left without a job. During this time you discovered that your real interests lay elsewhere and you found yourself pursuing a different and more fulfilling career path.

How would you tell this story? Would you focus on the negative part or would you interpret this time in your life as a positive turning point in your life?

Those who tell their life stories with more of a positive slant, that see light in the dark moments, are more likely to experience greater life satisfaction and better mental health. This is also true for those who give a sense of autonomy in their life story and mention meaningful relationships within their personal narrative.

On the other hand, reliving your experiences and telling stories containing more “contamination”, negativity and a lack of autonomy can relate to less life satisfaction and reduced well-being. This can also have an impact on the kind of person we continue to be and how we continue to view the world around us.

Adjusting Our Personal Narratives

In telling our own story we reveal how we see ourselves. It uncovers how we have interpreted events in our lives and whether or not we view them from a positive or a negative angle. Unsurprisingly, this has an impact on our well-being, life satisfaction, and our self-esteem. How many times have you compared your life with someone else and being left feeling inferior?

Such a thought pattern is unhelpful, and in re-framing our personal narrative we may be able to improve our outlook on life. One study of life stories asked volunteers to write their narrative in a more constructive way – following this these individuals showed greater goal persistence long after the experiment took place. This suggests that, in re-framing our personal narrative, we can improve our motivation and general satisfaction from day to day life.

Known as ‘narrative therapy’, individuals can be helped to re-interpret the story of their life and be assisted in seeing it in a more constructive and positive way.

In this respect, re-framing the story of your life is not dissimilar to the philosophical concept that life is what we make of it and that we construct our own realities. It is not surprising, therefore, that how we construct our own life affects who we are and how we view ourselves.

Take some time to think about the story of your life and how you have previously framed it for yourself and others.

See how any of the negative aspects could be re-framed into something that you learned from, whether it led you to meet a life-long friend or generally viewing it in a more constructive light.

Life certainly has its ups and downs and not all of it can be positive. But realizing when events are actually bad, or if you have just interpreted them in that way, will help you to learn about yourself, who you are and how you might be able to alter such perspectives for improved life satisfaction and well-being.

Where you stumble is where your treasure lies.

Posted May 11, 2011

When you look back at your life, do you assemble the events, and your reactions to them, into a cohesive narrative? Is it a cheerful tale, or a wistful one, or are you living an adventure story with hairpin plot twists and an unguessable ending?

At the Foley Center for the Study of Lives at Northwestern University, a psychologist named Dan McAdams studies the stories people tell about themselves. We all write our life stories as if we were novelists, McAdams believes, with beginnings, conflicts, turning points, and endings. And the way we characterize our past setbacks profoundly influences how satisfied we are with our current lives. Unhappy people tend to see setbacks as contaminants that ruined an otherwise good thing (“I was never the same after my wife left me”) while generative adults see them as blessings in disguise (“The divorce was the most painful thing that ever happened to me, but I’m so much happier with my new wife.”)

Those who live the most fully realized lives — giving back to their families, societies, and ultimately themselves — tend to find meaning in their obstacles. In a sense, McAdams has breathed new life into one of the great insights of Western mythology: that where we stumble is where our treasure lies. (The jewel lies between the dragon’s teeth, the golden key lays buried in the tangled thicket — that kind of thing.)

I’ve thought a lot about this idea in terms of my relationship to public speaking (which I’ve written about a lot, for example, in this post about the body’s Stop and Go systems, and my Year of Speaking Dangerously.) I would love to be the kind of person who assumes the spotlight without a second thought. I would love not to have endured the sleepless nights and abject horror that I’ve suffered too often in the days and hours before giving a talk. Yet I sense that there is meaning to be made from this shyness.

Where have you stumbled? Did you make something meaningful of it? If not, it might be worth revisiting.

Also, be sure to sign up for my newsletter. Get blog updates, plus a chance to win a half-hour coaching phone session with me. (Periodic drawings.)

For earlier posts on the Power of Introverts, please visit my website here.

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The internet is chock full of crazy schemes to raise cash. All you need to do is search on relevant keywords on Google to find every money-making trick in the book. Sadly most of them are hyped up scams where the only thing you are likely to earn is a bad back from sitting hunched over the computer clicking ads all day.

However, there is one way to make a healthy chunk of change that is legitimate and even fun to do: sell your real life story!

Most people have read real life stories in magazines you know the type, My Boyfriend is a Love Rat or I Won a Million and Spent the Lot.

3 Common Hurdles to Overcome

Sometimes the stories are sad; true live tales of love lost or parental bereavement. Sometimes the stories describe events in which the protagonist showed amazing courage or endurance and sometimes they are tales of recovery or triumph, but they all have one thing in common – true life stories touch the reader in ways that fiction cannot.

“But Nothing Ever Happens To Me!”

Many people reading this will scoff and say ‘But nothing ever happens to me! What would I write about?’, and yet everybody has their own unique experiences to share.

Were you bullied at school? Have you lost a ton of weight? Did you have to deal with a stressful /romantic/scary situation at work? You have no doubt lived through several experiences that have touched you deeply or changed you in some way.

And that is really the secret of a successful true life story. It is the tale of an ordinary person who has experienced something extraordinary and lived to write about it.

“But I Can’t Write!”

Told that if they get their experience down on paper it may be worth a considerable sum of money, many people will still protest, “But I can’t write….”. Thinking about the polished articles in magazines that they have read in the past, they instantly doubt their own ability to create something similar. What they don’t realise is that the real life stores you read in magazines have most likely been ghost written by an agency writer to get them ready for sale to a publication.

“Who Would Buy It?”

Popular magazines each have their own policy for accepting real life stories. Some offer a flat rate to everybody who has a half way decent tale to tell regardless of the importance or uniqueness of the situation. For example a story about surviving a murder attempt might sell for the same as a story about a romantic break up/make up.

However entertaining the romantic tale is, it could not match the story of murder for thrill factor and suspense. It does not seem fair that both stories should be offered the same payment.

Other magazines have a representative who is responsible for sourcing real life tales. The drawback is that these people have a budget and her job is as much about getting your story for as little amount of money as possible as it is in sourcing new material.

So what to do? Well, if you have a real life story to sell, get in touch with a content agency. With experience in the media business, the content agencies have contacts in the editorial departments of hundreds of publications. They know what kind of story sells and who will pay the most for it. As their agency fee is a percentage of your own, it is in the agency’s best interests to get you the best possible deal for your unique tale and what is more, they will have professional writers on staff to help you get the words down.

Have you ever listened to someone tell a story, over coffee or at a conference, and been absolutely bored to tears? Or worse: the story was interesting, but there doesn’t seem to be a point? Join the club.

How to Tell Your Life Story Photo credit: Julien Harneis (Creative Commons)

Maybe the meat of the story you heard was interesting, but for some reason you just couldn’t stay engaged. Or perhaps you heard an anecdote that completely blew you away, but when you tried to retell it, it didn’t have nearly the same impact. Why was that?

Chances are — whether you realized it or not — the person was using dynamic storytelling elements. We are all have stories to tell. And even if a person isn’t a professional author or speaker, we still need to learn to tell our stories well. Because in hearing other people’s stories (and telling our own), we often find understanding and acceptance. Stories help us feel not quite so alone in this world.

So if you need some help, here are three simple steps to how to tell a more compelling story:

1. Use a hook

A “hook” is your opener. It’s the attention-getter, the question or quote that immediately hooks your listener or reader. The more off-the-wall or mysterious, the better. Dare your audience to get lost in the story.

2. Tell the story

A story has natural momentum to it. If you simply state what happened in chronological order (many people actually neglect doing this), you will captivate your audience.

Ira Glass calls this the “anecdote” — a story in its purest form — and likens it to a train on which you’ve invited others to join. Those riding along can feel that you’re headed towards a destination.

Glass also says you need “bait” to keep your audience engaged. As he defines it, bait is a series of implicit or explicit questions you, the storyteller, raise. Just remember: any question you raise, you’ll need to answer. Otherwise, you’ll leave the listener in perpetual suspense and anxiety. And who has time to be any more anxious?

3. Reflect

Many people seem to tell stories just to tell them. But when you start asking why people share (and listen to) stories, often there is an objective. A reason. It may be to encourage or inspire or cause you to think differently. But still there is purpose to the telling.

At the end of your story, take a moment to reflect on what you shared. Answer any questions you’ve raised:

  • Why is this relevant?
  • What’s the moral or point?
  • Who is this message for?

Help us, the audience, understand what we’re supposed to get from the story. It doesn’t have to be cliche or cheesy. In fact, your reflection can even be subtle. Just make it count.

In the reflection, you must resolve any questions or conflicts that were raised. This is, essentially, your conclusion. Your resolution. This can be a great opportunity to revisit your hook. Wrap up with a mention of your attention-getter or a restatement of a quote, interesting fact, etc.

This is your chance to make sense of anything that seemed superfluous at the time. Bring it all home.

Your story is waiting…

I’ve helped lots of people tell their stories. And more often than not when a story is suffering, it’s due to neglecting one of these practices.

The teller jumps straight to the reflection or doesn’t take the time to grab the audience with a hook. Or he drones on and on anecdotally without explaining why he’s telling you the story in the first place. The result is confusion and even frustration. Your stories deserve better.

So does your audience.

Want to tell better stories? Check out the books (these are affiliate links) Save the Cat and STORY. They will help you hone this craft of storytelling.

How do you make your storytelling more compelling and dynamic? Share in the comments.

Jeff Goins

I am the best-selling author of five books, including the national bestsellers The Art of Work and Real Artists Don’t Starve. Each week, I send out a free newsletter with my best tips on writing, publishing, and helping your creative work succeed.

How to Tell Your Life Story

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How to Tell Your Life Story

Being a starving artist is a choice.

Bestselling author and creativity expert Jeff Goins dismantles the myth that being creative is a hindrance to success by revealing how an artistic temperament is, in fact, a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

For centuries, the myth of the starving artist has dominated our culture, seeping into the minds of creative people and stifling their pursuits. But the truth is that the world’s most successful artists did not starve. In fact, they capitalized on the power of their creative strength. In Real Artists Don’t Starve, Jeff Goins debunks the myth of the starving artist by unveiling the ideas that created it and replacing them with fourteen rules for artists to thrive.

How to Tell Your Life Story

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“I want to write my life story, but I don’t know where to start.”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this statement. Many people have a story to tell. It doesn’t matter if that story will never be on the New York Times best seller list. Maybe it’s a story that is only to be shared with family and friends, but it is important to the author just the same. If you are one of those people that wants to write your life’s story, but don’t know where to begin, keep reading to learn some tips on how to go about it.

1. Think about who is going to read your story

If you are just writing for your family, that story might be different than if you were writing your story to be read by the general public. Think about whether or not you want to change people’s names. If your life was a harsh one you may not want to include the real names of the people involved. You may also want to consider whether your life story could be written as fiction. There’s an old adage that “real life is better than fiction.” Maybe your true story could be written in fiction form making it more saleable for mass market.

2. Just start writing

Write down everything you can think of that you want to include in your life story. At this point the order doesn’t necessarily matter; getting the memories and the information down does.

3. Write the Scenes of Your Life

Write scenes of your life that you want to include in your story on different sheets of paper or index cards. This is one place I recommend using the old-fashioned way of writing by using pen and paper. Since all of your scenes are written out separately, you can later rearrange them into an order that that is appropriate for your book.

4. Decide How to Organize Your Story

Do you want to tell it in chronological order? Do you want to focus on one aspect of your life? Do you want to go back and forth between “the old days” and the present time? Once you decide on your order, then you can go back and rearrange what you have already written.

5. Choose a Theme

Is there something you want to enlighten people about? Perhaps your family owned a farm or a restaurant and you want to share your experiences through that.

6. Use Friends and Family

While you might not remember every detail about a certain event, I guarantee someone who was there does remember. Asking family and friends for ideas or details of a certain situation can give you a completely different perspective of the event or time in your life. That perspective might prove to be invaluable in your writing. Be prepared; once you get a group of family and friends together to reminisce, you will be shocked at how quickly the ideas come and how one idea can spark another and another and another.

7. Use Photos to Jog Your Memories

Sort through old pictures. These can help you remember little vignettes in your life or help to provide details about both people and settings.

8. Add a Range of Emotions

Don’t let your entire story be depressing. Even if your story was not a fairy tale, make sure to include some bright spots of hope or humor.

9. Use Audio or Video to Record Your Memories

Not necessarily a writer, but still want to record your story somehow? Don’t think that there’s no hope for you. Consider making audio or video recordings. Audio recordings can be especially helpful. You can take audio recordings to a writer/transcriptionist who can then type out your story in a logical order. Working closely with a writer as you verbally record your stories can be an alternative when you feel you are too close to the story.

10. Enjoy Therapeutic Writing

It’s possible that writing your life story could be therapeutic, offering closure on some not so bright spots of your personal history along with emotional and psychological healing. Maybe your life was just a circus act from the beginning and is funny. If writing your life story touches you while you are writing it, think about all the people you can touch when they read it.

Several lessons from one of my favorite writing craft books

How to Tell Your Life Story

A year or two ago, I read a book called The Memoir Project after hearing the author, Marion Roach Smith, speak at a writing conference.

Marion illustrated all of her writing advice with stories, recounting her experiences writing for The New York Times and NPR and her struggle to pen a memoir about her mother’s battle with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Marion is a powerful storyteller. I lost my own grandmother to Alzheimer’s, and Marion’s words drew me in and resonated with me.

Afterward, even though I previously didn’t have any intention of writing a memoir, I hurried to the book table to meet Marion and buy a copy of The Memoir Project. Marion was kind and encouraging and wrote in my book, “Tell your tale and write on.”

I dove into The Memoir Project on the flight home, and since then I’ve kept coming back to it for tips on how to improve my writing.

Don’t let the title fool you. This book isn’t just for memoirists.

Telling compelling stories adds another dimension to our writing. This fascinating Infographic shows how the human brain is hardwired to respond to storytelling differently than other forms of writing.

If you’re writing an article about Alzheimer’s, you could just quote studies and statistics. Or you could go one step further by including the stories of Alzheimer’s sufferers. The second method will impact your reader more than any study or stat could.

Whether you’re a blogger or any other kind of nonfiction writer, you can use the techniques of memoirists to connect with your readers on a deeper level.

You may not think that you have any stories to tell, but that’s not true. Everyone does. Marion suggests using a notebook to help you find and develop story ideas.

“Here’s a tip I learned from my husband, a fine former reporter and a really great newspaper editor: Get yourself a pack of inexpensive spiral pocket notebooks, and when you are taking in a landscape — whether emotional or physical — turn that notebook sideways, like a sketchbook. I know how crazy this sounds, but you won’t care after you see how effortlessly it signals your subconscious that you’re looking for something different…

Turn it vertically to report the who, what, when, and where of the topic. Go sideways for the why, where you deepen and broaden your view. Your subconscious loves little cues like this.”

You can carry the notebook with you so that you can jot down stories as you observe them in your daily life. Or you can use the notebook to help you remember the stories that happened to you years before.

One of the difficulties of writing about events that happened to you is that you often must rely only on your own memory. Marion gives some tips on how to tell an honest story while preserving your unique perspective.

“‘Here’s how I see it’ is a powerful phrase to keep in mind, as is ‘Here’s how it happened to me,’ or ‘Here’s how I felt.’ Make no claim that your version is the only one. If you do not shoot for the whole truth and nothing but the truth, we’re going to get along just fine. Understanding the difference is essential to your success.

…Foremost in memoir, we expect your voice. That’s the slant: your take on the world. It’s what we’re looking for when we buy your book, listen to you on the radio, pay for a magazine that features your essay, or read your blog.”

When you’ve chosen a story to tell and are ready to begin writing down the facts as you remember them, it’s important to pause and reflect on this question: What is your story about?

The answer to this question will help you determine the focus of your piece. It reminds me of the thesis statements I wrote for my essays in high school and college.

“What is your story about? Your answer to this might be something as precise as ‘revenge.’ That’s manageable. I would argue that something as small as a blog post or a personal essay can be reduced to one word…

What I had intended to explain was that right around the fourth paragraph, the writer must tell the reader what the piece is about — what’s at stake, what’s up in the air, what to value if it’s taken away.”

When you determine what your story is about, you will be able to hone in on a theme that can elevate your piece from being a story just about you. A universal and uplifting theme will make it relevant to your readers as well.

“Never write a story because you want to exact revenge or betray someone…Instead, while writing about the hideous aspects of life, you should attempt to teach us something about the behavior of those involved, about your behavior, about all human behavior. Let us into your story by shedding light on our own dilemmas, fears, happiness, or wide-eyed wonder.

…You have to give readers a reason for this thing to live on in their hearts and minds. Only then can we find your scene lively enough to enjoy, or learn from, or be appalled by.”

Marion also stresses the importance of stepping back from your story and examining it as if you were the reader. Does the story flow logically and chronologically? Is there anything you need to explain in more depth? Any parts of the story that need more context?

“I’ve lived these scenes, but you have not, and you won’t see how one idea links to the next unless I show you. Keep in mind that your story is deeply embedded in you and so well known to only you that unless you tell it with great care, we will not understand it, no matter how much it dazzles you.”

We live 1,440 minutes in one day, and our lives can change dramatically in a single moment. As we write our personal stories, we need to make sure we are only including the most important moments: the ones that drive our story forward.

Yes, you might have lots of interesting stories to tell, but make sure you only tell one at a time.

“The tell-all indicator that a memoir writer is in real trouble is the insistent phrase ‘But that’s how it happened!’ Writers who say this while the piece is getting a hard edit from someone else are sinking fast. How it happened is not what makes it interesting. That it happened at all — why it happened and where you go from there — is interesting.

…So those are the three rules of memoir. They ask you to tell the truth by making every page drive one story forward and have a context the reader can relate to.”

I share more editing tips in my post below.

How to Tell the Ten Best Stories of Your Life

What are your “ten best” stories? In this presentation you’ll see a step-by-step method to make the process of writing or recording a personal history easier and more fun.

Because I’ve had so many requests, I’ve decided to post a link to a presentation I gave at the Rootstech conference in Salt Lake City. (Deep breath — sigh. It’s always hard to watch oneself on video, don’t you think?) But it was a great session with some great questions at the end; we had a blast being there! I hope it will be helpful to those of you who are thinking about telling your stories.

How to Tell Your Life Story

Click on the photo to start the video.

There are so many great classes on the site at! I can’t wait to watch some of them that I missed at the conference. You can also download syllabi for all the classes from the whole conference from the site.

You can also download the syllabus of the class here.

And although it wasn’t recorded, Tom gave a terrific workshop at Rootstech entitled “60 Ideas in 60 Minutes.” You can download the syllabus here.

Please comment if you have any additional questions that I didn’t answer for you in the presentation!

See samples of our book by clicking on the cover photo.

What do you tell people when you first meet them? Like anyone else, I can tell my life story as a healthy version or a victim version.

I grew up in a home where we didn’t even have running water until I was in the 8 th grade. I knew nothing but poverty. As a 5-yr-How to Tell Your Life Storyold I was forced to get up at 5:30 AM to do my share of the farming chores. Most Christmases I got a new pair of blue jeans – my one gift for a non-joyous occasion. I was not allowed to wear neckties or fancy clothes. Because of my parents’ legalistic religious beliefs I was not allowed to go to movies, dances or sporting events. Our home was rigid and somber – little laughter. I received zero in financial help for college from my parents. I hated the cold weather in Ohio. If only I had been born into a family with more opportunity –

In my family we learned how to make good use of everything – nothing was wasted. We grew our own food and I created toys from things other families discarded. As a small boy I had the opportunity to experience real work and to begin my commitment to work that was meaningful – and profitable. With no TV or radio in our house I became an avid reader and that opened me up to a wealth of wisdom and knowledge that continues to serve me well today. I worked right through my college years and valued the education I was paying for myself. My father’s devotion to his religious views prompted me to deep study to formulate beliefs I could be equally committed to. Today I value the work ethic and the uncompromising integrity I learned in that strict Amish/Mennonite environment. As my own man I wore neckties until I came to the realization that there was more than legalism to provide reason for not wearing the silly things. The creativity and ingenuity I experienced as a child has served me in a thousand ways in helping me “see” opportunities others miss.

Both of those versions of my life are equally true. If you’d just met me, which of those stories would make you want to get to know me more? Which one do you think makes me more confident, happier and gives me more energy today?

Out of those stories also come the core message that I have leveraged into the business I have today:

  • Don’t be a victim
  • Accept responsibility for the life you have
  • See things in ways other people miss
  • Mindset is more important than circumstances
  • We can determine our own future

And central to everything I do is this:

The story you tell yourself reinforces where you are – and what your future will be.

What is your story? Even if you lost your job, your dog died, you’ve got heartburn and they repossessed the truck – what story do you want to be replaying in your mind to move to a higher level of success? What picture are you presenting to others? If you’re telling yourself an unhealthy story of your life it will perpetuate the same reality. Creating a healthy story could change the way you see your life – and the way others see and respond to you.

Oh yeah – that’s me in the white shirt in the picture……….probably had a home-made slingshot in my pocket.

(Story and principle expanded in Wisdom Meets Passion)

How to Tell Your Life Story

‘Your Life Story’ cards

Available in Multiple Languages

How to Tell Your Life Story

‘Your Life Story’ brochure

Available in Multiple Languages

Why have these talks?

Everything in our life, from the everyday to the extraordinary, is a story waiting to be told.

Our life journey encompasses so many experiences. It is a tapestry of milestones and memories that come to mind when we reflect on our lives.

However, our life story is much more than just the big moments. There are the important events that shape our lives – childhood, first job, meeting a partner, having children and travel. And then there are the influences along the way that add to the texture and colour of who we are, and what we value.

Even if you know most of the narrative of your loved one’s life, there are always things that you don’t know about or you may have forgotten.

Talking with your loved one about their life story, and recalling their fondest memories and life experiences can be lots of fun. Your family will enjoy discovering stories from their childhood, and hearing about their early adult life and the adventures and anecdotes along the way.

Sharing your life story encourages families to have conversations about life and what matters most. It is a wonderful way for us to reaffirm to our loved ones how much they have impacted our lives, and how much they have meant to us.

How to ‘Kick-Start’ the Conversation

Finding a way to start talking with your loved one is usually the most challenging part. Sometimes, using a visual prompt such as a photo album, souvenir or memento, can be a great way to start the conversation flowing naturally.

You can start by saying –

  • “I’d like to write about your life experiences. Will you help me?”.
  • “I was just thinking about what happened when my friend’s grandfather died, and it made me realise I want to make a record of your life story”.
  • “There’s no record of your childhood and early years, and I’d like to talk about them with you.”

To assist families with sharing the details and stories about their loved one’s life, we have created our 50 Conversation Starter cards – called ‘Your Life Story’. They are fun & easy to use, & come with a companion booklet ‘My Life Jounal’ to record answers. Just pick a card and ask the question. They are currently available in multiple languages including English, Chinese, Vietnamese, Polish and Spanish.

Why Record These Talks?

Every one of us has a story to tell and deep down most of us want to know that we, in some way, made a difference in this world. Sharing our life journey can help reacquaint us with our loved ones and help us get to know them in new and different ways.

When you purchase the ‘Your Life Story’ Conversation Starter cards, you will be provided with a PROMOCODE which allows you to download for free the companion booklet ‘My Life Journal’. You will have the options of either printing the booklet or using the online version to record answers.

You can create a treasured family keepsake by recording the answers to the questions in the booklet, which can be passed down to generations to come as a ‘Celebration of a Life’.

Additionally, you may wish to make an audio or video recording of your conversations. Choose whatever method best suits your family situation, and that feels the most comfortable for everyone.

How to Tell Your Life Story

Buy your set of ‘Your Life Story’ cards

For retailers, please contact us directly on 1300 966 110

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How to Rewrite Your Life Story

How to Tell Your Life Story

How to Tell Your Life Story

“We are the sum total of our experiences. Those experiences, be they positive or negative, make us the person we are, at any given point in our lives. And, like a flowing river, those same experiences, and those yet to come, continue to influence and reshape the person we are, and the person we become. None of us are the same as we were yesterday, nor will be tomorrow.”

Everyone has a story. Your story consists of various chapters that span the course of your lifetime. Those chapters run the gamut from happy to sad, traumatic to transformational, and everything in between. Your stories are what make up who you think you are and it’s what determines how you show up in this world.

Telling your story is something you do every day. You continually tell yourself the story in your own mind and other times you tell the story to others. Every conversation you have is, in some way, a reflection of a past experience. Your internal dialogue is infused with memories of things that happened before, and you’re either moving toward or away from recreating another version of that experience with nearly every thought you have, every word you say, and every action you take.

How You Create Your Stories

Everything you experience comes first through sensory perception—taste, touch, sight, sound, or smell—and generates some sort of feeling. The feeling then triggers a thought, which is subsequently identified as an emotion, labeling the experience as good or bad, right or wrong, happy or sad. In a sense, emotions are thoughts that you associate with feelings or physical sensations. At this point you begin to assign meaning to your life experiences: “My parents gave me away so that must mean there is something wrong with me”.

The various meanings that you make about your experiences become the threads that weave each chapter of your life into the fabric of your story. When you interpret your life experiences as being negative or disempowering, you form limiting beliefs about yourself. These limiting beliefs might sound like this:

  • “I’m not good enough,”
  • “I could never do that,”
  • “I’m stupid,”
  • “I’ll never have enough,” or
  • “I don’t deserve happiness.”

As a result of these limiting beliefs, fear, pain, and suffering move to the forefront of your awareness; you consciously strive to avoid anyone or anything that might cause you to re-experience those emotions.

The Negative Loop

Can you recall a time when you listened to the voice of fear and robbed yourself of your ability to move powerfully forward toward your vision or a goal? Have you ever complained to a friend or co-worker and found yourself in a downward spiral as you cited everything you could possibly find that was wrong with another person or your situation?

These behaviors of self-sabotage are, in part, an attempt to unconsciously protect yourself from having another experience that would reinforce the story of why you aren’t able to be, do, or have what you want in life. These unconscious drivers are what we call unresolved emotions. They have been repressed from earlier experiences, and they are what create unconscious limiting decisions that keep you stuck in the same old story, month after month, year after year.

How to Rewrite Your Story

The good news is that you are the author of your story. You are the one walking your path and navigating the terrain of your journey. You are the one who writes the story and you have the ability to change the narrative at any time. But where do you begin when you have a lifetime of imprinted memories (Sanskaras) and repressed emotions that drive your every thought, word, and action?

You can start by looking at how you interpreted your past experiences.

There are two types of interpretations—those that empower you and those that disempower you. As an example, there’s a story of two sisters who were both routinely abused by their father growing up. One of the sisters eventually turned to drugs, didn’t finish school, became homeless, and went from one abusive relationship to another. The other sister went on to college, had a successful career, and was in a loving relationship with someone who cherished her. Both girls were interviewed on national television, and when asked the question “How did you end up where you are today?” their response was the same: “After everything I went through, after everything I endured, how could I have turned out any differently?”

Frame Your Future in the Positive

The moral of this story is that you always have a choice in how you interpret events, circumstances, and interactions with others. You can choose to focus on the negative by looking at all that is wrong, which leads to more pain and suffering, or you can choose to look for what’s right—to find the gifts or the opportunities—which leads to more potential, and more joy, happiness, and fulfillment.

Rewriting your story requires that you take an honest look at where you blame other people or circumstances for the way your life has turned out. Do you hold a grudge for a promotion you didn’t get at work? Are you still bitter about a relationship that didn’t work out? If you find that you’re harboring resentment, ask yourself what you learned from that person or situation. Frame the story in the positive. Think about what gifts have manifested in your life as a result of you not having had your needs or wants met at that time.

As you become more adept at finding the opportunities in every challenge, you will begin to look on past experiences in a new light, and you will begin to rewrite your story. Everyone’s been denied something they wanted at one time or another, only to realize that hindsight is 20/20. Had you gotten what you thought was needed at the time, you may not have the gifts that you have today.

I was amazed when I read that 70 per cent of what we learn is through stories – but it makes perfect sense. We are hard-wired for narrative – it’s how the human brain works, how we make sense of the world and our lives. So if you want to connect with an audience through public speaking, then tell a story.

But why is it so important to tell YOUR story?

  • Stories draw upon our universal need for connection; in some fundamental sense we need stories.
  • One of the most powerful ways of inspiring others is by using the one tool you have that no one else has – your life story. Your individual experience of the world is the most valuable asset you possess.
  • And, despite what you may have been told in business, these days character trumps credentials.
  • Telling your story – with all its challenges, mistakes, failures, pain, setbacks as well as its joys, successes and victories – says something about what it means to be human. Telling your story can even inspire others to take the first step on their path to becoming a public speaker!

As a graduate of Ginger’s Inspiring Speakers programme and advocate of the power of story, I practise what I preach. The 10-minute speech I delivered at my Gala Finale was directly from my Book of Life – and I won the People’s Choice award. It proved to me that people switch off when they hear too much information, data or statistics. Punchy facts and figures that illustrate your argument are great – but if you add in a personal story, that becomes a dynamite mix.

Be Personal! What might surprise you is that the more personal the story, the more universal it becomes. If you allow yourself to be vulnerable and authentic the audience will be able to locate them
selves in your story – even if your life experience has been very different to theirs.

Simple is best! When deciding on which story or stories to tell, the key is to keep it simple. Don’t get bogged down in the detail – engage your inner editor and focus on the elements that will underline your message or engage the emotions of the audience – preferably both!

In future blogs I’ll be looking at mining for stories and sharing a few tips that I’ve picked up along the way during my 35 years as a multi-tasking journalist and editor. And if you need some one-to-one story TLC, book a session with me – details are here.

Everyone has a story to tell, and I’d love to hear yours!

Beverley Glick, Ginger’s Public Speaking Story Telling Coach

Want more on how to master the art of story telling?

If you’re eager to become a more inspiring, colorful, confident speaker, Ginger has a multitude of courses just right for you! From freebies to e-courses, books to workshops, jump in to Ginger. Click here for a full list of Ginger courses and resources.

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Everyone has an important story. Tell yours now, and it will be enough.

How to Tell Your Life Story

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How to Tell Your Life Story

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Why oral history is the easiest way to finish a life story

Our Name and Purpose

At Evalogue.Life, we are professional biographers specializing in oral history and family storytelling. As we engage in this work, we love sharing tips to help you tell your story. Often the stories we hear inspire us, so we regularly share those too.

We believe everyone has an important story to tell, so we enjoy posting free and professional tools we use on a daily basis. Immersed in this every day, we are in a position to ferret out useful tips for do-it-yourselfers. We are a small team, but have decades of storytelling experience, although every client teaches us something new.

Our name Evalogue is a nod to the word “epilogue,” and it is pronounced in the same manner. After a story ends an epilogue reflects on the meaning. Writing the story of one’s life is also a reflection.

Then why not call ourselves Epilogue? Well, because that word implies an ending. We believe the meaning of people’s lives go on even after we pass. Hence the “eva” part means forever and ever.

In short, our purpose is to inspire people and organizations to leave a lasting legacy of story.

We invite you to browse, take a class, or join our community of family history writers and organizations with purpose. Sign up for our weekly email or social media channels for regular tips and stories that have touched our lives or the lives of others.

Please reach out if you have questions or would like a little help. Your questions often teach us!

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Our purpose is to help you tell your story. As we do client work, we try out best practices then pass tips and stories along

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Looking for Evalogue.Life reviews and comments? We are delighted to share some client testimonials here, and would like to begin with a note about what

How to Tell Your Life Story

Free Oral History Interview Tutorial

We often hear that people want to do a family history interview, but they just don’t know how, so we created this super-simple mini course. It is

How to Tell Your Life Story

It’s not easy to write a first-person story in a way that will interest anyone other than your mother. In fact, “this happened to me” and “here’s what I think” posts are what earned blogging its narcissistic reputation.

But then a writer like Lisa McKay comes along and so eloquently shares her own personal story about her husband’s cancer diagnosis. Only she’s not writing in retrospect, with the insight of knowing how her story will end. Instead, she’s telling this tale as it unfolds.

Lisa points out just how hard this is to do in yesterday’s post, A Note from the Messy Middle:

I’ve been thinking this morning about … [how] good writing usually has beginning, a middle, and an end. It tells a story. It has a point; it’s not just an unfiltered brain dump.

We’re thrashing around in the middle of this story right now. Even though it only started just over three weeks ago, I can hardly remember that part anymore. The ending is still a long way off. And in the messy, map-less middle of this ugly story, all I’m pretty much capable of right now is an unfiltered brain dump.”

Except that anyone who reads the post knows it’s more than a brain dump, that Lisa manages to find a point even when writing from the messy middle. Her honesty about how she feels might even bring you to tears.

Lisa’s able to share her personal stories in ways that resonate with readers in part because she has practice under her belt; she’s the author of two memoirs, including her recent Love At The Speed Of Email , which chronicles how she fell in love with her husband Mike.

We don’t often feature individuals’ work here at The Write Life, but Lisa’s latest posts are solid examples of how to tell personal stories well, whether through a memoir or on a blog, a goal so many writers struggle to achieve. As you root for her family over the coming months, be sure to learn something from her writing, too.

What other bloggers tell personal stories well? Let us know in the comments!

About the Author: The Write Life Team

We’re a team of writers and editors here to help you create, connect and earn. To read more about us, visit The Write Life’s About page.

How to Tell Your Life Story

Alan Carniol is the Founder of, an online training program that helps job seekers deliver powerful answers that prove why they are the right person for the job. Follow Alan and Interview Success Formula on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Imagine sitting in a job interview. You’re already nervous. You know you have something to contribute. You really admire the company. However, when the interviewer asks you to tell them about yourself, you buckle. You realize telling your story in person is quite difficult. You stumble or forget the most important pieces of your personal story, potentially damaging your interview experience. Now what?

We create stories about ourselves in mere minutes online in social profiles or blog “about” pages. Why is it so hard to tell the same story in person? Perhaps the solution is to merge your two stories, your online self and offline self, together in order to optimize your image. The following are a few tips that can help you to craft a compelling personal story for job interviews.

Your Two Stories

“The online story — blog posts, articles, etc. — should validate the assertions and promises made in the offline story — resume — if you’re seeking to leave a positive and memorable impression in a job interview. For instance, if you’re presenting yourself in interviews as being an experienced sales executive who has delivered results for your employers, your online story should support this assertion,” Gomez says.

Further, blending the two stories will back up any career history claims you’ve made during the interview. “Online mentions of, references about, or discussion of your accomplishments will serve to legitimize your offline claims, and make it indisputable that you could be an invaluable addition to your interviewer’s organization.”


According to TheLadders job search expert Amanda Augustine, making the two as similar as possible can make telling your story more interesting.

“Your online presence and interview responses give you a chance to provide more color to your career history. You can go into more detail and really show your passion for a particular industry or company in ways that aren’t possible in a resume. However, the bottom line is that both stories should be similarly positioned,” Augustine says.

Look at your interview story as a way to “sell” your accomplishments, strengths and motivations to the interviewer. By doing so, you clearly show why you’re worthy of the position.

“Remember that as a job seeker, you must develop a personal advertising campaign to tell prospective employers and recruiters what you’re great at and passionate about, and how that’s of value to an organization. Your online presence, resume, and how you pitch yourself during networking events and interviews are all components of this campaign. Each of these components needs to tell one consistent story to build a strong personal brand,” Augustine explains.

Be Sure Your Story Checks Out

A recent JobVite survey indicated nearly four out of five hiring managers and recruiters check candidates’ social profiles. It’s possible you will be researched online before your interview. If your offline story does not match your online one, the interviewer may challenge you.

“Before an interview, make sure you Google your name so you know what any recruiter or hiring manager will see when they search for you (and trust me, they will). If any damaging results show up, now you have a chance to try and remove them or at least prepare a response for the interview. The worst thing you can do is look surprised or taken off guard when an interviewer challenges your story based on something they found online,” says Augustine.

It’s also important to spin the conversation back to your accomplishments if things start to go sour. According to George Dutch of JobJoy, flush out concern by asking what caught their attention and if they have any specific concerns about your capabilities.

“Understanding the interview as a risk assessment exercise helps you respond appropriately to these kinds of challenges. It’s not personal — they don’t know you — it’s them doing their due diligence,” Dutch says.

Creating your interview story in a digital era means more than telling the interviewer about yourself. Merge your online and offline stories to create a more cohesive story. Doing so helps the interviewer understand why you’re right for the job.

What do you think? What are some other ways to create your interview story in a digital era?

How to Tell Your Life StoryMany people think their lives aren’t interesting enough or worthy enough of being committed to paper, even in journals or on scraps of napkins (my preferred writing materials).

Whenever I tell people about the importance of journaling or leaving behind some sort of written record of their lives for their families, they usually say the same thing: “Oh, who’d want to read that?” or “My life isn’t that exciting” or “I don’t have much to say.”

But just like creativity is in our bones, writing down our lives isn’t just worthwhile.

It is within us and it’s a wonderful thing to do to process our world.

It’s even good for us. For instance, journaling provides a variety of health and wellness benefits.

One way to write our stories is through the six-word memoir.

I first discovered six-word memoirs while reading Gretchen Rubin’s interview with Larry Smith. Smith is the editor of SMITH magazine, home to the idea of writing your life in six words.

Then, I read about six-word memoirs on one of my favorite healthy living blogs and then I wrote about the concept on my body image blog Weightless.

According to their mission, “SMITH magazine celebrates the joy of passionate, personal storytelling.”

The inspiration for six-word memoirs came courtesy of a legend about Ernest Hemingway. As the story goes, Hemingway was once challenged to tell a story in six words. He came up with this:

Six-word memoirs are a profound and creative way to think about your life, your surroundings, your reality and ultimately yourself.

It’s an interesting, surprising and exciting strategy for self-expression.

There are many ways you can interpret six-word memoirs to make them your own.

You can write about your days in six words in your journal. You can process your emotions — whether that’s grief or giddiness — create a mantra, generate goals or contemplate your secret to happiness.

You can capture an experience or a memory in a single, succinct sentence. Write about how you see the world. Or how you’d love to see it.

(Six-word memoirs are also both exciting and challenging for wordy-warts like me!)

Smith writes a blog where he features a variety of six-word memoirs.

Here are some of my favorites from the blog that may spark your imagination:

“She’s my flashlight in the dark.” —Onion

“I would do it all again.” —Jason Madaus, Operation Iraqi Freedom, 2003-2009

“Finally realizing: I AM good enough.” —AddySue

“Laying with you but sleeping alone.”—1111pm

“Dining solo, but not without candlelight.” —Geo

“Everyone has scars. Everyone has stories.” —HearUsNow

My six-word memoir?

“Finding my voice, while learning self-love.”

What is your six-word memoir?
How would you capture a slice from your life in six words?

Why do we love our favorite stories? Do they need a beginning, middle and end, and a character who changes by the conclusion? Masters of storytelling explore new answers to age-old questions of the craft.

Our lives, our cultures, are composed of many overlapping stories. Novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice — and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding.

Filmmaker Andrew Stanton (“Toy Story,” “WALL-E”) shares what he knows about storytelling — starting at the end and working back to the beginning. Contains graphic language . (Note: this talk is not available for download.)

Author and activist Isabel Allende discusses women, creativity, the definition of feminism — and, of course, passion — in this talk.

J.J. Abrams traces his love for the unseen mystery –- a passion that’s evident in his films and TV shows, including Lost, Star Trek and the upcoming Star Wars VII — back to its magical beginnings.

Listening to stories widens the imagination; telling them lets us leap over cultural walls, embrace different experiences, feel what others feel. Elif Shafak builds on this simple idea to argue that fiction can overcome identity politics.

In this unmissable look at the magic of comics, Scott McCloud bends the presentation format into a cartoon-like experience, where colorful diversions whiz through childhood fascinations and imagined futures that our eyes can hear and touch.

© TED Conferences, LLC. All rights reserved.

What’s the first thing you do when you meet someone new? You ask him to tell you his story. But few people know how to do this well.

How to Tell Your Life Story

They give too much back story, drone on for 20 or 30 minutes, list arbitrary details that mean nothing to you, and putter out at the end, leaving you wondering what was the point. It can leave you feeling confused and unfulfilled.

This is not okay. Because you have a story to tell, and it deserves to be told well.

You need to practice. You need to become an expert at telling your own story. Consider some of the basic elements of any good story and how they apply to your story:

  • What’s the conflict?
  • Who’s the hero?
  • Where is the suspense?
  • How will the conflict resolve?
  • What’s the point?
  • Why does it matter to me?

Classic stories, myths, and fairy tales tend to happen in three acts. They raise each of the above questions and then answer them. The conflict gets worse for the protagonist before it gets better.

The movement of the hero undergoes a major complication at some point before he starts winning again. All seems lost before redemption happens. And so, you must apply these same elements to your own tale.

Here are three reasons why your becoming an expert of your own story is essential:

1. Nobody cares about your resume

For many professional fields, the resume is dead. This is especially true for creatives.

What people want to know is your story. What happens when I Google you? What does your “bio” say?

Future employers want to know: What are your life experiences, and how have they shaped you? You need to be ready to tell them.

2. Story is the new marketing

Think about the organizations you know that are really making a difference. Chances are, they’re telling a compelling story. I can think of several that immediately come to mind:

  • TOMS Shoes began with a story that Blake told and continues every time someone buys a pair of shoes.
  • Charity:Water starts with the story of a birthday party and still offers you the chance to donate your birthday to help people lacking clean drinking water.
  • Apple‘s story is about the underdog eventually beating out the competitor who wronged him. Every customer gets to live out this same story each time they buy a Mac or iPhone.

Do you see a pattern here? Influential organizations and individuals tell a story that is so compelling others can’t help but want to join it.

3. You don’t know your story as well as you think

Telling your story helps you make sense of your life — why certain events happened the way they did. You begin to examine what has happened to and through you.

You begin to make sense of who you are.

Telling your story can be incredibly therapeutic, and the practice often leads to greater confidence and understanding of self. Most people don’t take the time to do this. They take their stories for granted; they don’t steward them.

Take the time to learn your story. We need it. And we need you to tell it. If we’re going to be changed by it, you need to tell your story well.

So, how about a little exercise?

In three sentences or less, what’s your story? Make sure it has a hook, conflict, and a reflection.

Leave a comment below to share your story, and tweet out it out using the hash tag #mystoryis.

Jeff Goins

I am the best-selling author of five books, including the national bestsellers The Art of Work and Real Artists Don’t Starve. Each week, I send out a free newsletter with my best tips on writing, publishing, and helping your creative work succeed.

How to Tell Your Life Story

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How to Tell Your Life Story

Being a starving artist is a choice.

Bestselling author and creativity expert Jeff Goins dismantles the myth that being creative is a hindrance to success by revealing how an artistic temperament is, in fact, a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

For centuries, the myth of the starving artist has dominated our culture, seeping into the minds of creative people and stifling their pursuits. But the truth is that the world’s most successful artists did not starve. In fact, they capitalized on the power of their creative strength. In Real Artists Don’t Starve, Jeff Goins debunks the myth of the starving artist by unveiling the ideas that created it and replacing them with fourteen rules for artists to thrive.

How to Tell Your Life Story

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It’s the best of times. It’s the worst of times. We are at a renaissance moment in eCommerce-land. It has never been easier to start an online business to sell your products or services. And with an ever-expanding audience of people who are coming to expect products as unique as they are, learning how to tell your story on your business website is vital. Not to mention it will help you stand out against bigger, faster, potentially cheaper options from powerhouse, big-box companies.

If there is a problem — any problem — someone is contemplating a way to solve it and then mass-produce and mass-market that solution. (Artists even are seeing their creative works ripped off and mass-produced using AI.) In the clutter of products mass-generated by easy and automated replication, how can small businesses differentiate themselves from the noise? With a strong story.

How to tell your story on your website in 3 steps

You have something no other business has, and that is your story. Over the past year, I have come to realize that the best and only differentiating factor for small businesses is story. Story wins hearts. Story builds connection. Story creates a shared experience. Story gives customers a reason to love — and be loyal to — you and your company. And if you’re not sure how to tell your story, we’ve got some steps to get you started.

Talk about the people behind the business.

Focus on connecting with customers.

Include company values.

Your website is the best place for this information, because you own this territory. You bought the domain, you built the site, it is your home. People come to your website looking for information about your products and services, and in this article, we’ll look at how we can deliver so much more.

1. Talk about the people behind the business

Your story is unique to you. It is as unique as a fingerprint. No matter what companies make similar products to yours, no one has your story, no one has your perspectives, no one has your challenges, and no one has your triumphs.

For example, over at our website,, we take a brief moment to introduce ourselves in a way that humanizes our business:

“Russ (the other half of Outlaw Soaps) and I moved to Oakland shortly after the Outlaw Soaps launch on March 15, 2013. We adopted Roxy, our dog, on May 10th, 2013. We started out in a big concrete warehouse in a pretty crappy part of Oakland, with workshop downstairs. Russ was the building manager, so we got free rent.”

We go on to talk about our transition from that crappy part of Oakland to Colfax, Calif. — which we adore — but the main point is, we put a face to our business with our story. People can meet Russ and Danielle. They can follow us on Facebook, get a sneak peak at who we are, and form a lasting connection. These are all important things when learning how to tell your story, because people buy into your words — sometimes before they even buy the product.

Speaking of forming lasting connections …

2. Focus on connecting with customers

The natural first place people go to read about your business is your About page. When we first built ours, we focused on why we valued the ingredients we use, and how we learned to make soap … stuff like that.

A couple years ago, we changed it to emphasize the importance of creating a connection — a shared experience — with our customers. We want our customers (and potential customers) to feel an affinity to our spirit and our attitude first, and our historical records second. We wanted to let our customers know we are one of them, that we go camping and light campfires, we shoot at cans with BB guns, and we have a rambunctious, devil-may-care approach to life.

Our products are not going to make you tidier or smell pretty. We don’t value clean fingernails, and we’re pretty sure our customers don’t either. We want to create a common bond with our customers.

And it’s not fake. This is who we really are. Take a look for yourself:

Outlaw Soaps a company for adventurous people, by adventurous people. We live like the products we make: we love campfire, whiskey, and ill-advised explosions … standing a little too close, but being sure to wear fire-proof clothes.

We know there’s a time for quiet conversations and a time for asking your friend to hold your beer because you’ve got a great idea. (note: it’s never a great idea … and that’s why there’s YouTube)

Russ and I have built a business around what we find fun and interesting. It’s not for everyone … We get a lot of bruises in the regular course of life. Our hair is usually a mess. I probably have dirty fingernails.

But it’s our life, and it’s pretty damn fun.

Now, I have to put the caveat in here that we don’t include the boring details of our lives. We’re not always out camping and swigging whiskey. But those are the important parts of the shared connections we are looking to build with our customers.

3. Include company values

Once we’ve shared a bit about ourselves, we go on to talk about our company foundations (including our commitment to outdoors and adventure), and finally how we believe in the importance of things that are made in the USA.

Like is drawn to like. Shared values help your customers make informed buying decisions and inspire trust in your products or services.

If you value the entrepreneurial spirit and pioneers like our business does — and if you’re a small business owner, you probably should — then say so. In fact, 94 percent of people like to do business with SMBs. Showing off your true grit, what you believe in and why it matters to you, helps hammer in that connection we just discussed.

“We want our customers to get out there and try stuff, challenge routines, and focus on living life to the limits.”

There’s nothing in there that says, “buy our soaps!” because that’s not what this is about. Right here, in this moment, our focus is on expressing our values so our customers understand the reason behind why we do what we do.

Tell your authentic story

We often hear from customers who say they loved reading our story and feel proud to support a company like ours. And the wonderful thing about having an authentic story is that we know they mean us. Hopefully these three tips can help you learn how to tell your story on your website so you can start making valuable, authentic connections with your customers.

Editor’s note: Need a website to tell your story and sell your goods? Check out GoDaddy GoCentral Online Store. With professional layouts and industry-specific designs at your disposal, you can build a site that is uniquely you.

[Can you impress us in 1500 words or less? Enter the Short Short Story Competition today! Deadline January 15, 2018]

by Richard Campbell

Writing your life story sounds easy. After all, you know your life better than anyone else. In fact you know lots of things, way too many things to ever get it all on paper. That’s a relief. But what do you write? Where do you begin?

Here’s a process to get you kick-started on your own life story. Answer the following ten questions, and the answers to the writing prompts will be the framework to your story.

1. Fork in the Road

As we go through life, we experience many forks in the road – turning points – that interrupt the normal flow of everyday living. They often include our first day of school, graduation, loss of a family member or close friend, winning a sports event, a first job, our wedding, birth of a child, a divorce, retirement, and so on. Most of us would have hundreds to choose from, some far more dramatic than others. Often our best stories lie in the seemingly minor forks in the road experiences. What was one of your early forks in the road life experiences?

2. Family Ties

Many of our key life experiences revolve around our families. These include the one we were raised in, and the one we may have now. Some of us have lost our families along the way. There’s always a story to tell. What is yours?

3. Money Talks

Our financial status can change over time. Often it doesn’t. How has wealth or the lack of it impacted your own life? Was money a strong motivator and did it change your worldview?

4. Occupational Hazards

What was your life’s work? Did you hold down several positions or did you stay focused on raising a family as your work mission? Did you work solely in order to pay bills or did you work because it was your passion?

Last Updated: Apr 15, 2020

How to Tell Your Life Story

The advice to “tell your story” has probably been around as long as the admission essay itself. But since when have high school students been afforded the time and feedback to practice telling their stories? And how are you supposed to approach this advice? What parts of your story are you supposed to share in your college essay, how, and why?

Writing about yourself

When I left teaching high school English a little more than two years ago, the curriculum even then was too packed with everyday academic concerns and standardized testing preparation to invite seniors to practice personal narrative with the same level of structured feedback that they received for academic writing. I have heard from high school teachers that this condition has only intensified since the rollout of the Common Core.

The five-paragraph essays and thesis statements they are accustomed to writing for class do students little good in personal writing, including on their college applications. These are inventions designed for American students to practice national conventions of argumentation—despite the fact that expectations for academic writing change from high school to college. Yet they are what high school students have to work with when put on the spot in their college applications.

In a way the college admission game is a standardized assessment, but it differs in that students are suddenly supposed to write not academically but personally. Given this lack of training in personal writing and the stresses of college admission, it’s important that students find a structured yet creative way to tell their own stories when dealing with low word counts.

Top tips for telling your story

Only you, the student, can determine what is worth writing about

While family may have suggestions, it’s ultimately your story to tell and how.

In personal writing, there is no need to justify why you are writing about one thing or another

This is the academic habit of proving a thesis. When it seeps into personal writing, it limits the creative potential of the personal essay.

Choose one or two narrative moments and tell them in the moment

These moments are representative of your story.

It’s important to accept that any story you attempt to tell will necessarily be incomplete

Avoid the temptation of recounting your memory “exactly” as you remember it. Rather, remember that you are being assessed on the quality of your personal essay, not the quality of your memory. So use the memory as a starting point for the essay, but make sure you end up with a narrative that stands solidly and creatively on its own.

Try free writing without a prompt and without worrying about the word count—at least at first

A narrative will likely suit at least two of your college’s prompts. Give it a try and see how it unfolds!

Enjoy the process of self-exploration

The college personal statement is a strange beast. To my knowledge, college applicants are the only personal essayists who have to write about themselves because someone else expects them to and because big stakes are riding on it. From the birth of the personal essay—typically traced to Michel de Montaigne in the 16th century—the tradition of the genre is self-exploration and discovery, the personal somehow tied to universally human concerns, driven by the curiosity to know more about both. Yet this American rite of passage has given rise to a peculiar kind of de facto national literature.

In short, despite students’ ever-intensifying pressures, schedules, and responsibilities, I hope that by engaging with the genre of the personal essay, students can write for themselves with this sense of curiosity—first, for themselves.

Seeking more application essay advice? We can help! Explore all of our blogs and articles on application essays.

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How to Tell Your Life Story

Tim O’Brien once said, “Storytelling is the essential human activity. The harder the situation, the more essential it is.” This applies to everything in life, especially data.

Contently reinforced this point, when it quoted Myles Harrison, saying, “Just like you wouldn’t expect an author to write a book without a plot, or an entrepreneur to launch a new venture without a business plan, you can’t expect to march blindly into creating a report or article using data without knowing what you want to say.”

With the average American being hit with around 34 gigabytes of content daily, the only way to make yours’ stick is by creating content that has substance and is backed up with objective data.

How are key stakeholders supposed to make data-driven decisions when they are only given a boatload of data and no story to easily connect the dots for them?

Don’t tell your audience all the data points you have. Show them. This is the key to telling a compelling story.

In this post, we are going to walk you through the eight steps it takes to tell a compelling story through data.

Six Steps to Telling a Story With Data

Brand storytelling would be much more fascinating if marketers thought more like journalists, who use publicly available data to provide new angles and insights to things that affect people’s lives.

By using data, which people deem trustworthy, in your stories, it makes your brand more credible to readers. Here is a six step process for creating compelling stories with data.

1. Find an irresistible story.

All compelling data driven stories begin by asking a good question – one with quantifiable dimension.

In order to reach a good question, consider asking yourself one of the following two questions:

  • What are my customers’ greatest questions?
  • What are their biggest businesses’ challenges?

Content Marketing Institute (CMI) provides a good example of executing this.

Let’s say you’re in the healthcare space, and you know your audience is concerned with finding accurate, reliable health information online. One story you can consider creating would be a piece on how patients use online healthcare records in your city and how often they access this information. The specific question your content might address here would look like this: “Why consumer demand of health IT outstrips supply.”

2. Remember your audience.

Once you find your question, consider what your audience already knows about this topic. According to HBR, the data visualization needs to be framed around the level of information your readers already have, whether it’s correct or incorrect.

Here are the five different types of possible audience members, as outlined by HBR.


The novice is new to the subject being discussed, but they do not want it overtly elementary.


The generalist is aware of the content’s topic, and they’re looking for a general comprehension of it, broken down into major themes.


This audience member seeks an in-depth, actionable understanding of the specifics. They want details.


The expert wants less storytelling and more details.


Executives have little time, and so they want to absorb the significant points of the data with conclusions of weighted probabilities.

3. Research to find data.

Now, it is time to find your data. This can be difficult for newbies, who do not sprout from a journalism or research-heavy background, but not to worry, we are going tell you how to find good data for your story.

Determine the data information you need.

In the healthcare example, provided by CMI, in order to tell the story effectively, you would need data that shows:

  • How many patients have asked for their health records online
  • How many doctors or facilities have the technology to undertake such requests
  • How many have actually done this

Search for the data.

Google makes it extremely easy to find credible data. You just need to know where to search. Here are a few places to begin:

4. Vet your data sources.

Remember, the goal of using data to tell a story is to increase your content’s credibility and to validate your brand’s storytelling; therefore, it is vital that the data source be trustworthy to audience members.

Typically, academic journals, college websites (.edu addresses) and research reports from professional institutions are good places to source data from. Most blogs, unless highly authoritative and recognized, are not good sources of data.

5. Filter your findings.

Filtering your data is like interviewing a source for your blog post or article. In order to tell the story or to reach the conclusion you want readers to take away, you need to ask the right questions in order to get the responses you want.

In step one, you already decided which question(s) you want to answer for readers, but you may have forgotten them by the time you conduct research. It is very easy to get carried away and find too much data, which will only overwhelm your audience.

So make sure you filter your data findings, asking yourself: Is this vital to telling a compelling story and convincing my audience of whatever I’m trying to convince them of.

6. Decide on a data visualization.

How will you display your data story visually, making it easy-to-digest for your readers?

Bar charts, pie charts, infographics and mappings are all examples of ways to visually display your data. Decide on which format will work best for the type of data you have.

Remember, the more interesting and interactive the visualization, the more time readers are going to spend on it.

Regardless of how you choose to display it, you must keep it simple. A good way to ensure your audience responds to your data visualizations, is to test out different types and see which one gets the most engagement. Then you can keep utilizing that format in the future.

7. Craft the story.

Shaping your data-driven story requires a combination of creative and analytical staff members. The analytical people will collect and filter the data while the creatives will find the story that is dying to be told.

Make sure to be original, providing a new spin or unique point of view that has not been touched on before. A good technique to read about for this is the Skyscraper Technique content marketers use.

8. Gather feedback.

Before launching your story, ask a project outsider for feedback on the piece. What do they think about it?

You will find that you may have to distill the data down even further or use a good ole’ handy thesaurus to find words that would tell the story more effectively.


As Robert Harris once said, storytelling has a narcotic power. Entrance your audience and make them believe what you want by telling a killer, data-driven story.

Everyone has a story he or she thinks is amazing and should be the next blockbuster film. True-life stories are popular because people like to imagine what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes. There are some incredible tales of courage, triumph and heartbreak that are all part of the human experience. Cash in on your life story by selling it to Hollywood. Hopefully it will someday be on the big screen and then everyone will know who you are.

Write your story out into a brief one-to-two-page synopsis, which tells who the main characters are, what the basic premise (problem, struggle and resolution) is and shows off the tone of the film. Register this document with the Writers Guild of America so it is protected. Registration costs $20 and is good for five years.

Write a query letter to producers with a one-to-two sentence logline and a couple of paragraphs as to why you’re submitting it, your personal background and any other important relevant details.

Go through the listing of producers and read which ones are looking for stories in the same genre as yours. “Fade In” magazine offers a great directory of producers, which is updated three times a year. Create a list and mail or email your query letter and synopsis to all of these producers.

Wait for a phone call, email or letter requesting a meeting. If you do get a response, it can take weeks or even months. Typically, if regular postal mail is used, any response will take at least two to three weeks. If you’ve used email, it may take up to a week after sending out your query to receive a response. Expect to hear back from around 10 percent of your submissions if you have a decent idea, more if your idea is stellar and your query letter is spectacular. If you do have someone email or call you with interest in reading more or meeting with you, arrange a meeting. Prepare for the meeting by making sure you have the story rock solid and will be able to answer any questions the producer might have. If the producer shows interest in your story and wants to make an offer immediately, call an agent. You can find lists of agencies online or in one of the guides published by “Fade In” magazine.

Sign an agreement with an agent or manager. Agents typically receive 10 percent of any money you make selling your work and managers make 15 percent of your paycheck. The agent will negotiate your contract to get you the best deal for your true story. This can take weeks or months to finalize if it gets to the actual negotiation stage. The chances of having a script bought are extremely low, but you should continue to persevere and try to get your story sold. Sometimes it just takes a lot of patience and some good-old fashioned luck to make things happen. If it does, sign the contract with the production company.

Sell your story to top magazines and newspapers

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How to Tell Your Life Story

Everything we do for you is TOTALLY FREE OF CHARGE!! There’s no catch. How? Why? You ask. We’ve sold front page stories to newspapers like The Sun, the Daily Mail and the Daily Mirror, that’s our bread and butter, that’s what we’re good at. And we’ve placed hundreds of real-life stories with magazines like Bella, Closer, Take A Break, Chat and That’s Life. Ferrari Press Agency is a team of experienced and talented journalists who can tell your story in the best possible way and sell it on your behalf, either to a national newspaper like the Daily Mirror, or to a magazine like Bella, or often both. We’re not MR 20 PER CENT like many agencies you might have found on the internet. We get the best possible fee for your story, and we can even get you on TV telling your story – if you want.

How much is my story worth?

It could be worth anything from between £100 to £5,000 but we’ll always be straight with you and tell you immediately how much we think you’re likely to get for it. You will come across many websites and agencies promising they can get you more money than anyone else but their promises are as hollow as the estate agent who over-values your house just so you put it up ‘For Sale’ with them.

It’s your story we’re selling so you get the money from the magazine or newspaper. We will always make sure you are happy with the story, and happy with the amount of money you will receive, before we agree a deal with anyone on your behalf. Depending on the strength and appeal of your story, we can also handle requests from TV and radio stations who might want to interview you.

Earn up to £6000 For your story!

“It was very hard for me to talk about losing my daughter, but Ferrari’s Carol Staples treated me with great care and made the experience much less difficult than I’d feared.”

Tina Leigh, 58
Tina campaigned for tougher sentences for killer drivers following her 14-year-old daughter’s death. Tina’s story was placed with the Daily
Express and a Sunday newspaper

How to Tell Your Life Story

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In the past few weeks I’ve spoken to sales and business professionals who have expressed their frustration with PowerPoint. Although they use PowerPoint to deliver information, they’re bored with their slides, they don’t like delivering the presentations and they certainly don’t like watching PowerPoint presentations. PowerPoint is not inherently evil. It’s actually a great tool if you use it not to deliver information but to tell a story instead.

The best way to explain how to use PowerPoint as a storytelling tool is to show you. I’ve spent the past eight months interviewing business owners and brand marketers for a new book on location-based mobile marketing. When it came time to create a presentation based on the topic I worked with an outside presentation design agency because, while I believe I’m a good storyteller, I don’t make my living designing slides. A second set of eyes is a good thing.

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Here is the presentation that we created together followed by several tips. The call-outs on the slide summarize what I would say when delivering the presentation in person.

  1. Draft the narrative. Don’t start by opening PowerPoint. Think about the narrative first. What’s your title? Does the content lend itself to a list? What stories are you going to tell? What are the key messages? Answer these questions on a notepad.
  2. Compile photos and images. Interesting PowerPoint presentations have more images than words. Compile the photos that you will use to support the narrative (your design firm will need these early in the process).

Stay away from clip-art and keep to high-quality images such as those offer by Use faces whenever possible. The brain responds more favorably to faces than it does to abstract images.

  • Create video clips. I also include multimedia video clips in my presentations. It breaks up the slides. While you’re creating the content in step one, think about existing videos you can insert or develop your own. You can see a sample video in my foursquare presentation that we created just for the presentation.
  • Storyboard the slides. We’re on step four and have yet to open PowerPoint! In this step, begin to visualize your deck. Use a notebook, sketchpad or whiteboard. It doesn’t matter if you’re good at drawing. I can’t draw a stick figure to save my life but this step will help you and your team develop compelling visuals.
  • Create the presentation. Now you can open PowerPoint and begin transferring the narrative, content, video, images and sketches to the actual slides.
  • Rehearse the entire presentation. Remember slides complement the story but you are the storyteller. Stand up, hold the clicker and practice. If you’re delivering a new presentation I would recommend that you practice it ten times before delivering it for real. By the 10 th time, you’ll have it nailed.
  • Hire a professional. If you simply do not have an eye for design, please don’t leave your critical presentation in the hands of a 12-year-old because it’s free and he just took a PowerPoint class. I know a lot about slide design but my outside designers still blow me away with their insight. Don’t jeopardize a lucrative project because you didn’t want to pay for a pro.
  • Stand apart from your competition. Impress your audience by crafting, designing and delivering a style of presentation they’ve never seen.

    Carmine Gallo is the communications coach for the world’s most admired brands. He is a popular keynote speaker and author of several books including the international bestsellers, The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs and The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs. His new book, The Power of Foursquare, reveals how businesses can use mobile social media to attract, reward, and engage customers in ways that were never possible. Follow him on Twitter: carminegallo