January 27, 2023

Looking back on your business trip, you know how you started, remember the highs and lows, and know the people you met who made the most difference. Every detail and every bump in the road creates your story and positions you as the perfect person to do what you do.

Keeping their founder’s story private is a mistake many entrepreneurs make, but entrepreneur and author Mark Leruste is on a mission to turn this around. As the founder of Ministry of Purpose, award-winning host of The Unconventionalists podcast, keynote speaker and author of Glow in the Dark: How Sharing Your Personal Story Can Transform Your Business and Change Your Life, Leruste inspires people to have the confidence to their personal stories in a way that is authentic and empowering.

Most people don’t share their story because they think it’s boring. They think no one cares and don’t see the benefit. Leruste knows they are wrong. “People are just so damn close to their story that they don’t see the mountain of value they’re standing on,” he said.

Here are three reasons why sharing your personal story can change your business and your life.

Stories make people pay attention

“We are committed to paying attention, telling stories and holding on,” explains Leruste. “Since the first primitive language-like systems emerged over 2 million years ago, storytelling has been an essential part of sharing and preserving information to survive and thrive as a species.” Your biology wants you to do it, and other people are programmed to want to hear what you have to say.

Leruste describes storytelling as “the ultimate hack” for grabbing attention and selling. But why is it so powerful? Apparently it’s because of neuroscience.

In his book, Leruste explains the research of Dr. Uri Hasson, a neuroscientist at Princeton University who studies how we tell and hear stories. A study explains how an effective story can make two brains synchronize. “According to Hasson, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) experiments show that initially the brainwave activities of a storyteller and a listener are different, as you might expect. But as the narrator shares his story, the MRI shows that the brain waves of the listener match the brain waves of the narrator.”

Leruste’s research, including Hasson’s findings, led him to believe that storytelling is “the oldest and most powerful tool in your entrepreneurial toolbox” because telling your story creates a connection between you and the listener. It helps them understand your hopes and dreams and understand where you are coming from. They relate to you, they empathize. They can feel inspired and convinced by your message.

Your story is your one and only unique selling point

Almost everything in your company can be copied. Competitors can figure out your secret recipe, duplicate your content, products and services and mimic your sales strategy, but they can’t copy your founder’s story. That’s only yours, so it makes sense to take advantage of it.

“In today’s noisy digital world, people buy from people they know, like and trust,” explains Leruste. “And telling personal stories is the best way to emotionally connect and engage with your audience to create that sense of trust in you.” Leruste knows that “people connect much better with another human being than with a faceless brand or logo.”

How many times have you read the about page of a website to learn more about the husband-and-wife team that risked everything to create their products and build their business? These stories are popularized by savvy entrepreneurs because they work. Even as these brands grow and are acquired, the stories remain. Ben & Jerry’s still tells the story of school friends Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield who opened their first scoop shop in a Vermont gas station in 1978, despite being bought by Unilever in 2000. The same goes for Quaker Oats, Spanx, Cadbury and Starbucks. The story is remembered long after the company changed hands.

“It would be crazy if you didn’t use your most valuable asset to stand out from the crowd,” Leruste said. Criminal, almost. You wouldn’t waste your profits or put your best team members to work in your company. But you leave cash and impact on the table if you stay in the shadows.

Sharing your story heals you and inspires others

Leruste highlights the work of comedians by talking openly about “their flaws, imperfections and embarrassing moments in a very public setting.” This, he said, is what builds their tribe of superfans. “Kevin Hart draws over 50,000 fans to watch his Sunday stand-up,” because “we’re all desperate for that sense of relief that we’re not alone in our earthly struggle.” Leruste believes that hearing from someone else about their shortcomings reminds us that we’re not as terrible as we sometimes think we are.

“Most people don’t realize there’s a huge gift in the process of owning and sharing your personal story, warts and all,” Leruste said. When you do, “you experience the ultimate freedom, which is that no one can hurt you if you have nothing to hide.”

In his work with entrepreneurs and business leaders, Leruste meets people who fear what the world will think or say when they find out who they really are. “God forbid anyone has to know that sometimes you have an off day or your life isn’t as perfect as your Instagram feed or you don’t get it all,” he challenged.

When someone has full ownership of their story, it’s magnetic and compelling. “The reason we’re attracted to people who are unapologetic about telling their stories is that deep down, we also want to drop the mask and just be our authentic selves, especially in a professional or business context.” If we see someone else doing it, it’s okay for us to show up.

Transform your business and life by being in the spotlight

Leruste wants you to make your choice. “Do you waste your time and energy hiding and controlling people’s perceptions of you in order to feel safe and have a false sense of control?” Or do you choose to spend that same time and energy “figuring out the moments in your past that can inspire, resonate, and make you memorable?”

The latter, he said, means you can influence the lives of yourself and others in the most positive way. Get people to stand up and listen, leverage your true USP and help others become a better version of themselves by sharing your journey with your networks, prospects and customers.

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