Great Stories Are Truly Revealing
As you get older, people tend to cut you some slack if you happen to tell the same story more than once, as long as it is a good story. When I was a kid, there was no better place to hear a good story than on the farm with my great-grandfather, the Rev. E.E. Franklin. He lived the kind of life that was made to tell stories.
My great-grandfather was born well before radios, cars or telephones, but lived long enough to see the space shuttle. When the Beatles invaded America, he was in his 70s. He went on real hunting safaris in Africa, raised cattle on his Indiana farm, and as a younger man, preached and led rural Methodist congregations in song with his trombone.
He was married to my great-grandmother for 76 years.
In his 90s, he could shoot his age in golf and he lived to be 105. He also got to meet two great-great grandchildren (my oldest daughters), providing a rare opportunity to have five generations together at once.
And he loved to tell us stories about his adventures, his faith and his family. But the best story I ever heard him tell summarized what his life was all about. It really was his defining story.
You see, at an age when most people are long retired, my great-grandfather made a decision regarding a small piece of farmland that would impact generations of our family. He was bidding for a prime piece of farmland against a much younger man who was looking to use it as a farm and home for his young family. My great-grandfather wanted it as an investment property.
When he learned about the other bidder and his situation, he pulled out of the negotiations and instead chose a much less desirable tract in the middle of nowhere. He knew it did not have near the potential of the other property, but after praying about it, he knew that he did not want to stand in the way of a man trying to provide for his family. So he didn’t.
My great-grandfather may have done the right thing for the other family, but he was certainly wrong about the other property. A short time later, the state of Indiana came knocking. What was mediocre farmland was suddenly very valuable commercial property as the state wanted to create an interchange right on top of where the interstate ran through the farm.
When all was said and done, my great-grandfather was a wealthy man who lived as humbly as before and contributed generously to many worthy causes, including my college education.
For my great-grandfather, this was not a story about luck or sudden fortune. He would have been just as content had that farm simply stayed a farm. This story, and all his stories, were ultimately about God’s provision, his love of family and his desire to make a difference.
Each story revealed the same thing — who he was. The same should be true for our business stories. It is great to tell people what we are doing or share nuggets of wisdom, but every story should reveal a little bit of who we are — our distinctives and our motivation for coming to work every day.
Move past the features of what you do, and tell a story about the real benefits of what you provide. Reveal who you are, and your customers will respond.