What’s your why? How to tell your origin story

Why do you do what you do? Simon Sinek argues people do not buy from you because of what you do, they buy because of why you do it. Being able to tell your origin story helps you connect with your customers. If they understand why you are where you are, doing what you do, they are more likely to buy in to your world view.

Why does why work?

When a product or service has a mission behind it, it becomes much more powerful than just buying something functional. How do you choose between half a dozen things which look or sound the same? You choose the one you feel an affinity for.

Here’s Simon Sinek’s TED talk on How Great Leaders Inspire Action in which he explains his theory of the golden circle. It’s well worth a watch, and I also recommend his book Start With Why.

We love to know how things came to be

When I was little I had a red Walkman. I took it everywhere. My parents gave me story tapes to listen to in the back of the car. Some of them were professional recordings and some of them were stories they recorded themselves telling. One of the tapes was Just So Stories which told how the leopard got its spots and the rhinoceros got his skin. My 5-year-old loves a version of these on CBeebies called Tinga Tinga Tales.

What happened to change someone into the person they are now? What led you to this point? No-one does something without a reason. Here’s how The Story Cave came to be:

I worked as a newspaper journalist for 15 years and then took redundancy while I was on maternity leave with my second baby. I trained with Digital Mums which gave me the confidence to go it alone as a freelancer. When I started talking to other people at networking events, I found many people didn’t know what their stories are or how to use them. I now help people harness the power of stories to connect with their customers and get a wider audience for their work and ideas.

How did the leopard get their spots? We're fascinated by origin stories. Photo by Leo D'Amico on Unsplash
How did the leopard get their spots? We're fascinated by origin stories

What are the steps to creating an origin story?

How do you start your origin story? Where do you start it? Set the scene at a point of drama. A turning point which led you onto the path you are on now. You might have had a change of circumstances or perhaps you identified something which needed fixing. Maybe you had a vision of the world working in a different way.

The person you are telling the story to needs to be able to put themselves in the action at that point in time. Give them enough details to set the scene and let them empathise with your predicament. How did it affect you? How did you feel?

What happened next? It’s unlikely you immediately went into production or found a solution right away. Perhaps you had doubts. Or you tried a couple of avenues and they didn’t quite do what you wanted. Give a quick overview of the hurdles you faced.

Was there an ‘aha! moment’? Or an experience which led you to a breakthrough? What transformed your circumstances and enabled you to follow your why? What effect did it have on you and the people you want to help?

Remember the key to good storytelling is to make it relatable and draw on emotion. It must resonate with your audience. They need to invest in the lows and highs and see that your why is part of their why too.

What’s your origin story? Let me know in the comments.

Rachel Extance (photo by Jemima Willcox)

Rachel Extance helps business tell their stories so they can reach a wider audience for their work and ideas. A professional journalist, she knows how to write stories people find relevant and engaging. If you would like help to get your message across, need someone who can write articles for you regularly, or you would like actionable ideas for how to tell more people about what you do, get in touch by emailing rachel@extance.co.uk or contact her on social media.

1 thought on “What’s your why? How to tell your origin story”

  1. I enjoyed how you weaved together start with why, and your story of the redwalkman, and your go it alone moment as a freelancer!

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