Saturday, October 21, 2006

Believing better stories

This piece is written in service of the idea that your story is important and you can guide your next chapters, at least on this enterprise stuff, the way you want.

I like Ode Magazine a lot. Jurrian Kemp is the Editor. Mr. Kemp set up their April 2006 issue around story telling. Seth Godin's recent book, All Marketers Are Liars: The Power of Telling Authentic Stories in a Low-Trust World, was featured prominently on the cover. The take away line from Seth's exerpt is "The only predictable marketing strategy today is a simple one: Be authentic. Do what you say you're going to do."

I could not agree with that more. Nothing else will work. Everything else will ultimately fail. Period. You have to approach your enterprise with that attitude or you're toast. Short term, of course, you can fool a few people, but it's not sustainable. Don't go there.

The need to be authentic with yourself is equally critical. You need to follow your own common sense and honor your insight when you've found the contribution you can make. You do not need to fit into anyone elses view of how your enterprise should look. Stick to your own knitting. Excluding the IRS, do not automatically accept any rules for participating in start ups and emerging enterprises.

A great New Yorker cartoon from BEK a while back showed two non-descript ladies, one of whom is at home, trying on a goofy new dress. The caption read, "It looked cute when I saw it on someone pretty." In the October 2006 issue of the New Yorker, a great article on the gem trade in Madagascar quotes a dealer as saying, "In the gem business we have very little sausage. It's all sizzle."

When you're pitched any kind of plan for how you should succeed, or what you need to do, parse it out carefully. Don't think you can take some shiny idea from the world of commerce and adopt it wholesale. You're being sold. Find the shiny idea in you and work out the commercial pathways in a manner that's sustainable for you and your enterprise.

There are problems to fix all over. Pick one you feel you can make a contribution to, then have at it.

Jurriaan Kamp, the Ode Editor had his own excellent piece in that April '06 issue. I think it informs this discussion well. He states: "Every day 40,000 people around the planet die of hunger because we believe in the wrong stories. The undisputed fact is that enough food and wealth is generated each year for everyone in the world, even for our large, ever-expanding population. Yet we believe in the story that poverty and hunger are inevitable, that it will take decades to solve those problems. But that story is not the truth. It's clear there are solutions readily available, and I believe it is our duty to tell those stories. I think we can do much better."

"The better stories are not an illusion: they are a choice, a calling. The truth is that every day, everywhere in the world at every moment, people are solving problems and finding answers to the challenges of making the world fairer, cleaner and more beautiful. Stories about those people and their iniatives are the better stories."

If you consider starting your own enterprise, the stories you believe will strongly influence your outcome. Make your own story because nobody - nobody - can tell it better than you can. Ignore the pitches and the fast answers. Sure there are lessons to be learned from many directions, but your way forward is your story to write. Get yourself a blank piece of paper. Write it down. Then believe it. Then do it.

Jurrian Kemp's full article in Ode

Ode Magazine

Seth Godin's article in Ode. "Either you’re going to tell stories that move people, or you will become irrelevant."

Seth Godin's blog for All Marketers are Liars

Photo above is of the Shafer Trail in Canyonlands National Park. Don't do this trail without careful consideration.

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