The email was titled “Mentorship Program.”
A local CEO had completed a 20x turnaround of the city’s largest employer. He was selling out and retiring but wanted to leave a legacy behind.
I was interested.
The only problem: I didn’t have any money.
I tore a blank check out of the gym’s checkbook anyway, folded it in my pocket and drove across town to meet with this powerful CEO. It was winter, and my worn-out tires kept sliding on the icy roads on the way to his office.
I told myself that I’d write out the check, and if his advice was any good, I’d make the money back before the bank was asked to clear it. But really, I was justifying my first fraud: writing a check on an overdrawn account.
After two hours of talking with Denis, I was exhausted. I knew I’d need a nap later, but before I left, I asked, “What do I owe you?”
He looked at the ceiling for a few moments. I stood there sweating.
“Five hundred dollars.” he said, coming back to meet my gaze.
“I don’t have it,” I said. I couldn’t stop myself. After meeting his questions with honesty and transparency for over two hours, I just didn’t have the energy to lie.
“I know you don’t,” he said. “That’s why I’m so sure you’ll do your homework.”
He chose the price knowing that, if I hustled, I could just barely make it. And I did: three days later, I called him and said:
“Cash the check.”
Learning to Spin Yarns
In the first post in this series, I told you how important it was to tell stories.
The most common question I get when I talk about storytelling is this:
“But what should I say?”
Today, I’ll tell you exactly what to say. I’ll give you a checklist to get you through the next 30 days. And tomorrow, I’ll tell you how to share your stories so that people will see and hear them.
Download your Storytelling Worksheet here.
The stories you should tell first depend on what stage of the entrepreneurial journey you’re in.
If you’re in the Founder Phase—the first stage—you should tell your own story first.
Write your story on a blog. Why did you start exercising? Why did you start coaching? What made you want to open a gym?
You can also record your story on video if you prefer and upload it to YouTube. But then post it on your blog. Blogs and videos are “B-level media,” and that’s where you should focus for now.
If you’re in the Farmer Phase, you should tell your clients’ stories first. One of Seth Godin’s credos is “people like us do things like this.” Highlight your clients’ stories (I’ve linked to some samples in the Storytelling Worksheet).
Ask them questions, in person:
“What brought you to my gym in the first place?”
“What would you tell the person you were one year ago?”
“What’s your favorite story about my gym?”
Publish the stories on your blog or on YouTube.
If you’re in the Tinker Phase, you need to tell stories about the mission.
Why do you care about getting people fit?
Why do you care about your city?
Why does this mission keep you awake at night?
The hardest part of all this is just starting. I’ve been telling people to publish their own media since 2012. Few actually do. But telling good stories improves your retention, makes your ads work better, helps your clients trust you more and is the only way to build your own business in the long run.
For more, read: “How to Change Your Story.”