Your NeverEnding Story

One of the most common things I'm asked during presentations and one-on-one engagements is 'when do I know my story is done?' It's a valid question, at some point the story you're creating does need to have some sort of finality, but it's also a trap.

We live in a culture that wants to move fast and break things. Failing is all the rage and pivoting means hard decisions were made. In the startup word this type of behavior is celebrated and CEO's love to talk about it during panels that highlight their origin stories. The bigger problem is this mentality spreads into everything else, including the need to 'hack our story,' and create a pitch deck that wins investors, but takes little time to create. 

I don't want to sound like a curmudgeon here. There's a lot of validity to this type of thinking and many businesses who aren't able to do fail fast and pivot fall apart, but the reality is it doesn't work for everything. And that especially means your story.

The reality is your story is never finished. It's a living organism that morphs into different shapes depending on where you are in your life and what you're hoping your story will do for you. When you're starting a business your story is a daily, if not hourly, iterative process. One day you might be talking about the potential of signing a big partner, and the next day you're shifting to how the partnership is going to need to take resources and vision to pull off.

There's this idea that investors want something that's canned, yet also care about the story more than the numbers. Almost all the pitch decks I see, and some of the ones I help create, have a similar formula and arc to them, and while it's necessary, it's also frustrating. 

The approach I find from many founders is 'just squeeze it in there and I'll figure out how to explain it later.' Which needs to happen at some level, but isn't the way a master storyteller works. The magic of a story is in the understood nuance of the narrative and emotions that are embedded sometimes obviously and sometimes subconsciously.

So if you're trying to figure out your story, or tell the story of your business, give yourself a bit of a break and don't try to write the next great American novel. Think about where you're story is at today, where you want it to go, and how that narrative can be told with room to expand.

And give yourself time. There is no way to hack this. It is easy for some to get 80% of the way there, but that last 5%, the part that makes it stand out and people notice, is usually 2x the work for the first 95%. 

Upcoming Workshops

Want to learn more? Check out the workshop I'm doing with Pitch Lab at General Assembly on November 13. We'll be focusing on how comedy can help you be a more engaging storyteller!

* Thanks for reading. I didn't do this in the past, but it's time to just admit it-- I'm dyslexic, can hardly spell my own name at times, and miss basic grammar every once in a while. So, please forgive me if there's a typo. What I do know is how to tell a story, which luckily for me doesn't always require writing.