Why You Do What You Do

Back in June, barely two weeks after starting my retail education business, I ran into Mark Sullivan at Fleet Feet Sports’ conference in Huntington Beach. Mark runs Formula4 Media and organizes the biggest trade show in the industry, The Running Event (TRE). I half-jokingly asked him what a greenhorn like me needed to do to get a speaking gig his big show. I remember him looking up from his cell phone and telling me that coincidentally, he still had one spot available. Mark said he wanted to do a “training camp” that focused on the back, front, and outside of the house, and if I had any ideas I could send him a proposal the following week. I had ideas. Plenty of them, in fact. I sent my proposal that night. He accepted.

It took me nearly six months to develop the Storytelling workshop I led at TRE where more than ninety motivated attendees filled a room of round tables for three and a half hours of content and activity. Since we started at 11:00am, I feared that our break for lunch would lose a handful of participants. But they all came back, plates of food in-hand, ready to keep on rocking.

I’ve been to a ton of conference trainings. Good ones and not so good ones. At TRE I did my best to mirror what employees do with customers—facilitate deeper connections. I asked coworkers to sit apart from each other, then incorporated numerous activities which required everyone to tell their story. And not just their store’s story, but also their personal story. I firmly believe that when we know and understand each others’ story, we are better equipped to work well together.

Another way to put it is this—if you know what makes someone’s heart sing, it’s easier to relate to them. To connect with them. To take on their inspired vibe. You don’t even have to like what they like, but you damn sure dig their passion. This, in turn, makes you like them more, too. Storytelling is the starting point.

And sure, storytelling might simply be the metaphor here, but it’s also the particular action we take to create trust, loyalty, and commitment within our team. We tell our stories to each other and create cohesion.

In one of the breakouts, I asked people to write down their personal why. I wanted them to not only think about it, but also externalize the specific reason(s) they do what they do. They shared their answers with their tablemates, and as they did, the room grew louder and louder.

That’s what passion does. It energizes.

When class was over and I was cleaning up the room, I noticed that lots of people left their notes behind. After reading a few, I collected them all and spent time really taking in each one. I was blown away by their responses. Each genuine story, even in this abbreviated form, got me right in the feels.

See some for yourself. And never forget the power of your story. It’s the foundation for everything you do. Everything. It’s what makes you interesting. And not just to your colleagues, but to your customers, too.

Tell you stories. You can’t afford not to.


One Comment

  1. Mary Beth Abordo

    How perfectly wonderful! This essay is just what I needed to inspire me for a Monday before Christmas Break. I certainly wish our Teacher Inservices and Staff Meetings were more like the meeting you led. Can you imagine what the world would be like if schools were tuned into student and teacher passions?

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