My Road to Storytelling
I never expected to be here. Telling stories? Me? No chance. I have always been a very shy introvert. The one sitting in the back of the room afraid to speak up and looking for a place to hide. But I always loved stories. They were just the stories other people told. It never occurred to me that I even had a story to tell.
Listening to the stories of my Great Uncle Paul must have had more influence than I realized. He was full of stories about his early life– life with his brothers on the ranch and their parents and grandparents. He was a genealogy buff and created a family tree going back to 1793. Stories of witch trials, life in Baraboo, Wisconsin, coming across the plains in a Conestoga wagon, being one of the last of the 49er’s to make it to California. And of course, my heroine, aunt Juliette Brier who came through Death Valley with her family to start a new life in California.
Uncle Paul was an attorney and total extrovert. He loved to have the entire room under his spell as he retold these family stories. But, they were Uncle Paul’s stories. He was the teller; I was the listener. I never imagined that I would could become a storyteller.
When I was considering a career, I thought about becoming a lab tech or librarian. Jobs where I could work with Petri dishes or books and not have to interact with anyone else.
Did something magical happen when I made a trip to Ireland (where my mother’s parents were born) and decided to kiss the Blarney Stone?
Who knows? But as we have all experienced, life has a way of changing our well-designed plans. I left my job in the lab and ended up working for a software company where I agreed to teach their five day workshop on accounting software implementation. Egads! What was I thinking? Standing up in front of a classroom for five days when I had trouble even introducing myself at a meeting? The first class may have been a bit rocky, but I made it through and learned that I enjoyed teaching!
Knowing the constraints of the small business owner was ingrained in me. My grandfather started a tire business in 1916 and dad joined as a partner when he graduated from college. I was always a reader especially biographies and historical fiction. I longed to visit those places I read about. But money was tight so there were no glamorous trips for us. When younger we did the same family vacations: alternating one week camping at Lake Tahoe with three-day whirlwind trips to Disneyland. As a small business owner you know how it is. Everything revolves around the business schedule. My travel dreams stayed just dreams.
Years later I finally was able to visit places I had read about, I was “home.” I also found that travel got me out of my “everyday” self. Why else would a person who feared heights and risky situations jump off a mountain overlooking Interlaken. Switzerland and assume that this would be fun?
Eventually my rather tortured career path led me to marketing consulting, both privately and as a business advisor with several Small Business Development Centers in Northern California. I came to realize how my experiences provided me a rich trove of ideas and information to share. I realized that weaving stories into my work with clients had become so natural I didn’t even know I was doing it. I realized I loved to give workshops! I knew I had changed when one attendee wrote on the class evaluation, “You are such a great presenter. You are a natural!” Whoa! Who would have thought?
Looking back, I realize that stories have been an underlying theme throughout my life. I also realize how much others need to learn this skill so they can share their passion and expertise and grow their businesses.
Ironically, I was an encorepreneur long before I knew that was an option! I know the road and now find fulfillment helping others navigate the rocky starts and unexpected curves of starting a solo business after a successful career.
I have come a long way from the girl behind the Bunsen burner looking to stay in the background. Not now. I know too many business owners who need to learn that they have stories they must tell if they want to reach their ideal customers. Thank you Uncle Paul for showing me the way.