Last week, I talked about the power of using your story to build your personal brand.

Today, as promised, I’m sharing a really easy process to help you find the gold in your personal history and use it to inspire, support, encourage and motivate others.

I’ve used this simple tool to help hundreds of people to stand out from the crowd, show they’re walking their talk and harness the power of authentic storytelling to prove their mettle, knowhow and credibility.


You will need:

  • One big sheet of paper
  • Pens (you can go as colourful as you like – I’m a big Sharpie fan!) 
  • An open heart
  • An open mind
  • That’s it.

First things first…

Across the middle of your paper, you’re going to draw a long, horizontal line. Write ‘Born’ (or your birth date – up to you) at the far left and ‘Today’ at the other.

Next, I want you to think about all those moments in your life that have felt to be pivotal. It’s really important not to play the comparison game here – these are moments that feel important to you, it matters not whether others might count them as such.

I want you to remember, too, that moments that feel huge in our childhood might be a walk in the park as an adult; as a toddler, we might be distraught over our favourite yellow crayon snapping in half, whereas our adult self would just buy a new one!

Working in roughly chronological order, note down all the pivotal moments you perceived as NEGATIVE below the line.

When you’ve done that, in roughly chronological order again, note down any pivotal moments you perceived as POSITIVE above the line.

And then, if there are any moments left that you know are important, but feel kinda ‘meh’, stick ‘em right in the middle.

Done that? Awesome stuff!

Your next step is to start at the bottom and, point by point, ask the following questions of yourself for each situation.

  1. Why did this happen for me? Not ‘to’ me, but ‘FOR’ me. How did I grow from this? What did I learn? What were the changes this created for me? What did it make possible?
  1. How have my learnings from this experience contributed to the awesome business person I am today?

You might need to think long and hard about these questions; some of the answers might not come straight away, but sit with them anyway and allow those seedlings to take root.

Of course, if there are some situations that still feel too raw for you to think about, feel free to leave them on ice and move to an easier memory. As the saying goes, write from the scar, not from the wound.

This part of the exercise alone might conjure up some awesome content for you. We start at the bottom because stories of triumph over adversity, personal challenge and growth are always the easiest to write. The important thing is to focus on the growth, not on the challenge – it’s a classic hero’s journey scenario, even if you hadn’t previously realised you’d walked one!

I can almost guarantee, if you’ve overcome any kind of struggle in your life, the story you relay will be relatable to others, and talking about how you grew from that place will draw people into your personal brand.

Another thing to look out for is patterns. Spotting common threads through your timeline might also make for some wonderful content!

Slow down, Shakespeare…

Before you charge ahead and share your wonderful adventures on your social channels, you need to run through a few safety checks…

  1. Ask yourself if the story is ‘safe’ for you to share. In telling that tale, are you likely to unfairly identify anyone else? Do you need to check with them first? Is there a way to put the story into soft focus, so nobody can tell who the other cast members are? And, of course, is it legal? Make sure everything’s absolutely safe and watertight before you start putting it out for the world and her wife to see.
  2. Is there any other reason you shouldn’t share that part of your story? If you’ve never shared anything about yourself before, you might want to ease yourself in gently. You don’t need to actually share in chronological order – pick the easiest snippet to start with.
  3. Remember you don’t need to go into graphic detail – sometimes less is more. You can give enough detail for people to paint their own pictures, without going into deep ‘trigger’ detail. For instance, I can talk about domestic abuse without going into the specifics of some of my worst moments. I don’t need to do that; being gratuitous would add nothing to the story of overcoming, and growing from, adversity.

Once you’ve repeated the exercise with the top and middle lines, you may find you have a huge bank of experiences to speak from – all of which serve to show the world who you are AND inspire, motivate and support countless others.

In looking at how each situation has helped you to learn and grow, you might also find some of your points nudge up from the bottom line to the middle or top. The power of perspective cannot be overestimated!

Of course, this is just one storytelling tool among thousands; I’ve found this timeline tool can take us pretty deep, pretty quickly, so make sure you’re feeling in a safe, supportive space before giving it a go.

One more thing… this exercise can be one of those onion layer clichés; just when you think you’ve written it all out, other memories have a wonderful habit of popping out of the closet! It’s a never-ending project.

Other Storytelling Tips

Remember to mix it up, particularly on social; don’t ever mass ‘spam’ the same post across all channels and be sure to share different kinds of content on relevant topics.

You might want to include parts of your personal journey alongside commentary on industry happenings, world news and trending topics, as well as adding the occasional bit of humour, a ‘how to’ post or some client testimonials.

Try different kinds of content as well – written social posts, blogs, articles, video and audio, pre-recorded or live.

I hope that gives you plenty of food for thought. Need more of a steer? Feel free to hit reply and let’s see if we can signpost you to more resources or, maybe, get you booked in for some coaching.

Until next time,