Why your story matters
Over the last few months, I have had the opportunity to interview some incredible founders, leaders, and volunteers of small businesses and nonprofit organizations. These leaders have created organizations specifically to solve a social issue - hunger, educational disparities, keeping girls in school, using coffee to create jobs and the list goes on. Every time I think about one of those stories, my eyes begin to water because at the core of humanity is the desire to change the world or at least leave the world a little better than we found it. One of my guests, a South African man, created an organization that helps girls stay in school by providing them with hygiene items. Can you believe he built this entire organization after overhearing a conversation between his mother and niece? One conversation has now touched the lives of over 1.5 million girls in South Africa. I want to ask you a question. How many people can you impact with your story?
Each organization, team, customer, and community has a unique story, and it starts with your why. Simon Sinek so eloquently wrote in his book, Start With Why, that "people don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it”.
Our stories connect people to the causes that are meaningful to us. I like to be a part of a movement. The energy of people coming together to support a good cause excites me. So when a new shoe company called Toms came on the scene, it was love from the moment I heard their mission. For every shoe you purchase they give a new pair of shoes to a child in need. The shoes aren't fancy or anything to write home to mom about, but the mission was. One simple purchase could impact a child I had never met. I wanted to be a part of that. They became the go-to shoes for my family over the next couple of years. Not only did it become a staple in my household, but I told everyone about them. They only had four or five simple colors at that time, but I didn't need them to have different colors; they had already won my heart and wallet with their story. Our stories (individually and collectively) allow our customers, employees and those we serve the opportunity to join the impact journey with us.
Our stories remove the mountains of impossibility and allow others exposure to what is possible. Richard Mabaso, the founder of Caring4Girls, has summited Mount Kilimanjaro seven times, taking climbers from all over the world with him. The climb is a fundraiser for the organization. I've been to quite a few fundraisers, but none of them included climbing 19,341 feet above sea level. The air at the top of the mountain is so thin you can hardly breathe. The weather can change quickly and there is the chance of high-altitude sickness, which is the single biggest reason for failed summit attempts. Approximately only 65 percent of climbers reach the summit of Kilimanjaro. In 2015, one of the climbers was asked why she was climbing, and she answered, "I'm climbing so that many young girls will at least have one less mountain to climb." Our organizations and teams will experience mountains, but we can keep going because someone else's story motivated us.
Is it enough to tell your story, even if it only impacts one person? My guess would be yes. When I started researching my podcast's target audience, I knew the age group would be between 34 and 45 and I wanted it to focus on telling people’s stories to inspire others. It's appropriate for any age, but elementary school children were not my primary target. So, you could understand my surprise when a woman, who listens to the podcast, called me and said, "Portia, you have a new listener." I'm beginning to grin from ear to ear because I thought she was going to say she had been raving to all of her friends and business partners about how much she enjoyed it. To my surprise, my new listener would be a nine-year-old fourth grade boy. Apparently, he thinks my podcast is pretty good, and I give excellent advice. When I created the podcast, I knew 40-year-olds would get it, but I never imagined the message of impact would get a fourth grader's attention. My podcast may have inspired him, but he inspires me. When I'm tired and sometimes want to give up, I think about my nine-year-old listener. When I forget the reason why I do what I do, I think about that phone call. One day, that nine-year-old will be 19, then 29, then 39, and so on; and I can only hope that maybe one story has inspired him to impact others with his story. That's why our stories matter, because they are making an impact one person at a time. So, I'll ask you again, is it enough to tell your story if only one person is impacted? The answer is yes!
Our organizations, teams, customers, and communities deserve to hear our stories because they serve as a connection to our mission, provide the mechanism to push someone to keep going and a reminder that we are not alone. Keep sharing your story, you have no idea who it will impact.
Voya is collaborating with Portia Scott through the Voya Just Right Advantage™ program to deliver value-add education to minority, women, veteran, disability and LGBTQ-owned small businesses and not-for-profits. These communities have felt a disproportionate impact from the pandemic, and Voya is providing extra support and help.
Portia is the host of the Wake Up & Show Up podcast, speaker and vision execution partner on a mission to inspire and empower individuals with the tools they need to make their goals clear and plan of action clearer.
Read more Voya Insights posts by Portia Scott
Portia Scott and Portia Scott Media, LLC are not affiliated with the Voya family of companies. Portia Scott Media, LLC has received compensation from Voya for participation in educational programing supporting Voya’s Just Right Advantage Program.
Products and services offered through the Voya® family of companies.