Where does your story begin?
That story of you becoming the exceptional human being you were meant to be. That story that gave you a sense of real purpose. The story of your imperfection or struggle that turned out to be your true gift.
You may not have thought about your life through this unique lens, but everyone has their own origin story—and so do you.
It can be a specific moment, a series of experiences throughout a period of time, or even a chance conversation with someone who enlightened you in some way. Whatever that defining incident was, it somehow served as a catalyst or a shift in your thinking that set you on your way.
Your origin story has significant impact. Not only to you, but to others. Your story can inspire and motivate people into action. Your story can help you connect more intimately to your colleagues and associates. But first, your story has to be told… and, too often, we are reluctant to revisit and share such personal details.
Sometimes the vulnerability seems overwhelming. Other times we may not feel our story is valuable. But until it’s shared, you will never know how useful your origin story can be to your brand.
I recently started sharing glimpses of my origin story. My journey began on the asphalt playground of a parochial grade school in an LA suburb. Here’s a transcript of this experience taken from the pilot episode of my podcast.
“Hey, it's Jess Ponce and thank you very much for joining me here on The A Factor Podcast. We're going to learn a lot of things including myself because I don't know everything about communication, but I have been studying it for years and I'm excited to share my thinking of my thoughts and to hear yours as well. I'm also nervous and you might think, well, why is this guy nervous? I'm nervous because I actually have to speak and like you, I have anxiety and fears about putting myself out there. For me, my story started when I was a young boy. Now here I was this happy, jolly, chubby kid on the playground at St. Francis of Rome in Azusa. That's where I grew up. It's a parochial school that was divided into two different areas. One side had the first through fourth grade. Then there was the fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth graders who were on the other side of the school. We had different areas that we had to play in. And here I am, this chubby, jolly, little kid in first grade out on the playground and I had to go restroom. But our restroom in the small boy’s area was closes. I had to go across the playground into where the older kids were at. And as I'm coming out of the restroom, there is a group of eighth grade girls that called me over. Now I'm really excited because I'm in first grade and eighth grader seemed so old; they seemed so mature to me. They had a really simple question and this simple question would actually be sort of a life changing question for me. And that was, what's your name? I said, ‘My name is Jesse Ponce.’ They all started to laugh. Now that seemed really kind of odd. They asked me a question and I gave them answer, and I wondered why. But then as I sat there, a second girl said, what's your name? And again, I said, ‘My name is Jesse Ponce.’ And they laughed even more. Now I was pretty confused because I didn't quite understand what was happening. And then soon it became very apparent as a third girl came up and said, what's your name? And instead of me responding to somebody else and she said, ‘His name is this “jeshie ponsay,” with a very pronounced lisp.’ I realized that these eight grade girls, these people that I looked up to, that I was excited to speak to, were making fun of me. Now I have had people make fun of different things about me. Everything from being a little chubby kid to maybe not being the most masculine of boys, or maybe the way that I walked, but to critique the way that I spoke -- really hurt, and that is because I was a very expressive child. I always wanted to say things. I had observations of the world and points of view that I was encouraged to share by my family.”
Being mocked at an early age about the way I spoke set me on the path I undertake today. I am a lifelong student of communication. My study about the words we use, how we use them and express ourselves, and the desire to show up at our personal best started on that playground.
I was determined not to be ridiculed – and not talking wasn’t an option – so that meant I had to learn how to use and optimize verbal and non-verbal communication. I studied word use, messaging, and intent. After years of studying this and working in the media, an industry based in messaging, I share these experiences with others. I coach, write, speak, and consult about communication, public speaking, and personal branding. But this is all made real and personal because of my early childhood experience.
Likewise, you have an origin story that makes you exceptional. You have an experience, event, or someone that helped influence your talents and contributions. Your story might be a loving anecdote. It might be a heartfelt tale of struggle. Or, it might be truly dramatic tragedy. Whatever the experience is, your story needs to be heard.
So, I challenge you now to think of your own origin story. Write it. Share it.
To help you, here are three tips:
1. Be vulnerable. Nobody wants to look bad, but honesty is truly one of the attractive qualities we have as people.
2. Be detailed. Make sure to paint a picture of the experience. Include as much context as possible, so your listener really gets pulled into your narrative.
3. Be bold. Playing small or feeling insignificant about the event does you and others no good. Trust me...what you have to say is valuable.
And I want to hear from you. Email me or reach out to me via social media with your story. I will help you sculpt it and share it with you on an upcoming podcast of The A Factor. Start working on your story now. You’re valuable.
It’s time to be seen, be heard, and breakthrough.