In our Instagrammable age, the corporate world happened upon the tell-all liberation of a good hard-luck story and sucked it dry. The Oprah-fication of faceless middle-management offered a confessional outlet for all kinds of adversity; everyone from the lowly finance-bro to the big daddies of business got involved. Even Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook maven and erstwhile reptilian cave-dweller, appeared (for a fleeting moment) almost normal after scoring an Oscar-winning film to disclose his humble, disjointed backstory to the world. In the process, however, some began to question the meaning of all this profundity: if you find yourself but one pitiful tree in a whole forest of tragedy, is your history really as sad as you claim it to be?

The answer is no. But whilst it’s no longer hip to air your dirty laundry for the perusal of strangers on LinkedIn, there’s a better way to tell your story: namely, to own it. After all, what’s more honest than playing the corporate game on your own terms?

Woah, you might think. Wait a second. That’s different from showing my clients who I really am. They must vicariously experience my childhood trauma. They must understand that my deep-seated love of business began with Fisher-Price and ends only in death. They must know that I’ve struggled too, that I’m worthy. That they KNOW HOW I FEEL INSIDE. And you’d be right. But the truth is that when stories of narrowly-avoided arrested development are two-a-penny, you need something a little cleverer to help you stand out from the crowd. How do I do that, you ask. Simple: Put the family photo album away and find yourself a business storyteller. Just like us.

how to own your story


We’re all about decluttering narratives and cutting straight to the beating heart of what makes you tick: we don’t need sob stories to sell the best possible edition of you to clients, investors, or whoever else might wonder what it is that makes you different. Want to know how we do it? Here are three tips to show you what it means to have us in your corner.

Tip 1) Acknowledge that you are enough

Owning your story means that you take control of what it means to be you. A cynic might call this ‘post truth’; there have been various cases of ‘reinvention’ that take this autonomy to queasy extremes (Rachel Dolezal, anyone?). But deciding not to let it all hang out doesn’t make you dishonest or misleading. It means you’ve synthesised yourself into a few key qualities, you know where you found them, and how you’ve developed them as weapons in your arsenal of professionalism. Take a look at one of our clients, Matthias Willenbacher, green energy pioneer and founder of Wiwin. He recently saw one of his company’s investments, solar-powered car manufacturers Sono Motors GmbH, ring the Nasdaq Opening Bell, a sure-fire sign of great things to come for any company. Three years ago, however, Matthias went back to his roots, co-creating with us a video explaining his life story and humble origins.

Watch the video for yourself and see: Matthias doesn’t blind us with science. He identifies his best qualities and explains where he discovered them; his passion for sustainability came from growing up on a farm. He found his enterprising nature in wanting to discover a revolutionary way to harvest the raw, organic life that surrounded him. He honed his practical skills building a solar panel on his grandparents’ barn roof. Matthias shows us all we need to know about his work ethic, his technical brilliance, and his spirit of adventure in three key examples, without telling us anything at all. He keeps us guessing. The moral of our tale? If you want to own your story, don’t give too much away. (At least not for free.)

Tip 2) Rediscover your heroes

This is an easy one; the cause and effect game. Nothing says passion like family. If not family, then friends. If not friends, then a childhood revelation. If not a childhood revelation? A birthday party, a holiday, a trip to a museum, a visit from God, anything! My point? Find what made you want to do what you do today and tell people what it is. It doesn’t have to be some lachrymose expression of personal tragedy. It’s enough to let clients know that yes, you’re human, and yes, you feel things too. Sometimes an air of mystery is all it takes to get them interested. Look at Matthias Willenbacher: what are the processes involved with creating a wind turbine? What does that tell us about someone who produces renewable energy for their grandparents’ farm? Matthias doesn’t need to appear as if he’s overcome adversity: he’s applied himself in a way that makes you trust him, and for most colleagues, clients, and investors, that’s enough. Owning your story is all about decency without sentiment, about seeing evidence of dedication beyond histrionics or tales of woe. It’s about decluttering your narratives so not only can you see why you matter, but others can too.

Tip 3) Play the game your way

Owning your story can feel like a big step out of your comfort zone. For many people it is. But, as business relations become an increasingly uneasy kinship between the corporate and the personal, it’s important to ensure that the confessional culture we see time and time again as a sales technique is put back into our hands. That said, it’s still up to you: as business storytellers, we can craft a narrative for you like we did for Matthias. First, however, you need to decide who you are in the professional world. Be open, but not too open. Be honest, but hold something back for the people that really know you. Ensure everything you say proves something about you, be it personal growth, evidence of success, or deep-seated passion for whatever your field of expertise might be. It’s not about ‘selling yourself’ or any other kind of jargon-y cliché. It’s about offering insight into what you do in a crisis or how you handle a deadline. It’s putting all your cards on the table, but keeping an ace up your sleeve; this is business for the modern age.

So, there you have it. Seems pretty simple to me. A final piece of advice? Declutter your narratives, own your story, and show people who you are in a way that cuts the noise and sells you on what you deserve to be known for: your talent.

(Author: Anna Hanlon)

Interested in the Own your Story program? Please drop us a line