Over the years, I’ve met thousands of interesting people; royalty, celebrities, politicians, pioneers, and more. Some have no specific claim to fame, and they represent diversity in age, ethnicity, religious belief, political affiliation, and background. Many have life stories that most people would consider fascinating and full of adventure. Many don’t. But there is one common denominator, one aspect of their lives that is equally interesting. EVERY ONE OF THEM has a story. They all have experiences that stimulate our senses, ignite our emotions, and inspire our intellect. But in all my travels, and after thousands of conversations, I learned a simple truth. Most of the individuals don’t think that their story is very interesting. Perhaps I should be puzzled by that, and to be honest, I realize that I’m equally ‘guilty’.
As a professional communicator, I’m almost EXPECTED to tell my story, details of which I’ve shared thousands of times to almost 2 million people over the years. Parts of my story have been posted on websites, used in my introduction, printed in news articles, and shared on television news stories. This is my life as I have lived it, so I don’t think of it as particularly awe-inspiring. At 18, I left my home country of Jamaica to start a new life in New York City, with USD$40 in my pocket. I didn’t give a second thought to my circumstances, and simply did what I had to do start and build a new life. Over the years, as I’ve shared my story, I’ve seen looks of amazement and admiration, both at speaking events, and in private conversations. Many people find my story fascinating, but I don’t. Now I’m not being falsely modest. Those few details represent the start of my life’s journey here in the USA . It is a continuing journey, and one which to which I have become accustomed. It’s just my life. And that, my friends, is the essence of my message today. “IT’S JUST MY LIFE” is the reason why my life may seem fairly mundane to me, yet fascinating to others. ‘”IT’S JUST MY LIFE” is also the reason why so many people don’t think that THEIR story is particularly interesting, and it’s quite possible that you feel the same way. Well…I admit it; I was WRONG, and if you feel the same way, I submit that you’re also wrong. Thankfully, I’ve learned that while my life may seem mundane to me, it is magnificent to others. That’s right; ONE PERSON’S MUNDANE IS ANOTHER PERSON’S MAGNIFICENT!
Now I realize that my life experience is in many ways quite unique, but isn’t that true for all of us? You may not have left the land of your birth to begin life in a foreign country, but your daily experiences, the relationships you’ve built, and the life lessons you have learned could be just what someone NEEDS to hear for inspiration, comfort, education and encouragement. PLEASE don’t underestimate the power of YOUR story! Please understand that your story doesn’t have to be sensational to be impactful. Even though your life may SEEM mundane to you, to someone else, it can be MAGNIFICENT. Your experiences…and the lessons learned from them…could be EXACTLY what some else needs to hear. Our lives are replete with stories that others NEED to hear; let’s not be afraid to share them thinking that nobody will care. Perhaps you have heard someone say, “It’s not a big deal really. That’s normal.” when asked about some aspect of their life. Maybe you have said those words yourself, wondering, “What’s all the fuss about? Nothing special here.” That’s because we have a different perspective. To us, it’s mundane; to someone else, it’s magnificent.
Here is an example. Over the past 23 years I have had the privilege of travelling through 48 states in the USA, six Canadian provinces, and five continents. Many people I meet make remarks like, “WOW! Amazing! It must be AWESOME to travel so much and see the world!” At the height of my travels, I found myself traveling 100,000 miles each year, for 100 days, delivering as many as 200 speeches. To many, that was glamorous, and I was often asked to speak of visits to exotic locations around the globe. For many who have had to travel that much, the experience becomes tiresome very quickly. Another plane, another delay, another rental car, another hotel, living out of a suitcase, another week away from the family, another series of late-night ‘fast food’ or take-away meals, and on and on. It became routine…EXTREMELY mundane. To others, it’s MAGNIFICENT. You might be surprised to know that some of your most interesting stories can spring from the ‘routine’ of your life.
The simple lesson that I had to learn is one that I am happy to share. When you can see your life and experience through someone else’s lens, it can change your perspective. This 38-year-old 7-Up commercial featuring boxing champion Sugar Ray Leonard and his son helps to explain. Notice the response Sugar Ray Leonard Jr. gives when adoring fans realize that the champ is there: “Nah…that’s just my dad!”
Ray Jr.’s “Nah…that’s just my dad!” is very much the same as our, “It’s just my life.” Just as those eager children in the commercial would LOVE to hear what it was like to live with THE CHAMP, your eager audience wants to hear from you. In your eyes, your story may be MUNDANE, but to your eager audience, it can be MAGNIFICENT. You must TELL YOUR STORY!
Some of our most interesting stories come from our relationships…with family in particular. Think about the last few times that your family got together. Perhaps it was to celebrate a birthday, holiday, or festival. Maybe you took a family vacation or weekend trip. Think about the situations and the individuals that made you all cry or laugh, and the memories that you created. It’s highly likely that the experiences that you remember will be similar to those of members of your audience. Why? We can all relate to the idea of FAMILY in some way. You can take it a step further and contact family members and ask, “Remember when we…” and let them tell you THEIR memory of your time together. You may well find that you have heartwarming, amusing and touching memories that will serve your audiences well. But that will only happen if you TELL YOUR STORY.
Q. “I’m a bit confused. I’ve heard about this ‘I/YOU RATIO’, and that my speeches shouldn’t have too much ‘I’. But if you’re asking me to tell MY story, how can I avoid talking about ME?”
A. The idea behind the ‘I/YOU RATIO’ is that of telling your story with a FOCUS on the audience. Your story tells your experience, but it’s important that the lessons learned become clear to your audience. It’s also critical that your audience is able to relate to your story and feel an emotional connection to your experience. If your story is all about what YOU experienced, YOU accomplished, how YOU triumphed, and how good YOU are, and if it can be perceived as egotistical, manipulative and self-serving, then what’s in it for your audience? If, however your story shows what you LEARNED…especially from someone else…then your story becomes a better VEHICLE for delivering a powerful, and potentially life-changing message. They key becomes HOW you tell your story. Make sure that the audience benefits. With that perspective, you can’t help but deliver a message that is applicable to, and focused on your audience. Then, without guilt, you will be eager and equipped to TELL YOUR STORY.
I’m excited to work with my friend and fellow World Champion Darren LaCroix to present the ONLY East Coast Stage Time University event, UNFORGETTABLE PRESENTATIONS in Atlanta, GA on December 7 & 8! If you want to stand out as a presenter, this event is for YOU. Limited seating is available LIVE, VIRTUALLY and for VIPs, who will get personal attention and coaching at the event. This is a ONE-TIME-ONLY event! Join us, and leave with version 1.0 of your UNFORGETTABLE PRESENTATION.
ALSO Mark your calendar for UPCOMING MASTER WORKSHOPS from Stage Time University!
Let us help you to make your presentations UNFORGETTABLE!