Years ago, I attended a personal branding workshop where we were taught in order to "hook" our audiences, to draw them in, and to show that we were trustworthy, authentic, and credible, we should create our "Turning Point Story."
The "Turning Point Story" was to be told when we introduce ourselves, and the plot takes place during a time in our lives when we were down on our luck, going astray, lost, confused or hopeless. The plot has a twist where we miraculously stumble upon the solution that changed it all (and surprise - is the solution we offer our clients!) and then went on to live happily ever after.
During the workshop, and for months after, I struggled writing out that dang story. I could have reflected on any time in my life that was a downward turn - the time that I was working 80 hours a week as a manager and was on the brink of burnout, or the time that I got divorced, or the time that I started my own business with a severance check, a hope, and a prayer. But I couldn't turn these stories into a dramatic plot twist. They were just events in my life that I had to go through to get to where I am today. I would never change a thing about my life. I made some mistakes along the way - but don't we all? We all would get a better personal time in the obstacle course of life if we got a second run through.
Fast forward, about a year later, I went on a wilderness retreat. I was there to learn more about map and compass skills and winter survival training, as I was studying for my Maine Guides Licence. The Guide that was leading our group told us about his experience, how many expeditions he's led, and reassured us that he was a confident and competent leader. By the end of his introduction, rich with stories of his adventures, I think I would have followed this guy into the gates of hell knowing I'd be safe and I'd have a good time.
If that guide had said, "Before I was a Registered Maine Guide, I was just like you, I'd get lost getting out of a paper sack"... If he had told us all about his trials and tribulations, all his near misses, all the times that he struggled, I would have hopped in my car and looked for the first Motel 6. It was then I decided I was never meant to have a turning point story, a "hero's struggle" or any other part of my biography that instilled doubt or fear into my audience - and neither should you!
When you get up on stage, if you have a "rags to riches story" or a personal triumph story - by golly, inspire your audience with it! If you went from earning $1000 a year, to $1000 a day, and your audience finds that inspirational, sure - share that! If you came back from the brink of death, and are now living, breathing, and exuding perfect health - shout that from the mountaintops! But if you are like the rest of us, your story may be pretty ho-hum and bland. You plodded along, made a few mistakes along the way, and now are at a place where you feel the hike was worth the view, Don't feel you have to come up with a daring tale of how you fought off bears, creditors, or risk of life or limb to get there. Simply turn around, and show others the way.