I don’t know if it is just the fact I am getting older or social media has opened up more channels, but I love a good story. One day I started to think about some of my purchases over the past few years and the thought hit me: Many of my purchases are based on a good story.
My first venture into this storied path was my pair of TOMS shoes. I heard Blake Mycoskie speak at a Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit and loved his energy and one-for-one business model. For every pair of shoes sold, another pair is given to someone who likely never owned a pair. A great story, filled with higher purpose and a solid social cause. From here, I even organized our office to participate in their One Day Without Shoes. Walking across our parking lot and into the local burger joint with no shoes produced some funny looks. We all just smiled. I love a good story.
My next venture into the one-for-one model was Warby Parker. I saw their story on CBS Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood. Their spirited business model of buying glasses easily on the web was intriguing, especially since it was coupled with giving someone a pair of glasses who was in need and without the means to get them. Just imagine the clarity gained by someone. After watching the show, I sent a tweet congratulating them on a great story and effort. Guess what? They responded. So they have a good story and they listen. I wear my Warby Parker sunglasses with pride.
And then last year I read about Shinola. In Detroit, they build watches, bikes, and other goods. Creating good manufacturing jobs in the United States is a noble purpose, although some may say it is just a marketing move. In the end, there are new jobs created in an area needing hope. Jobs create hope and manufacturing jobs create much more than just hope. I now wear my Shinola watch with a sense of place. I am a pushover for a good story.
And then on to my Happy Socks. In my early career days, I wore a suit and tie every day. The tie selection was an art. Ties became a form of expression. Unlike today’s move toward tattoos, at the end of the day, I could take my tie off and wear a different one tomorrow. However, today, I rarely wear a tie. Now I wear colorful socks. Creative or not, wearing odd socks is fun. And Happy Socks were designed to, well, make people happy. The idea was sparked on a cloudy day in Sweden. A spurt of color always builds a better story.
Story is important. Donald Miller built a career on helping people develop their personal storylines. Yet, how many of us actually have defined a good plot. And, if we have, how many are living their story out loud right now? Another way to look at it is this: As leaders, how many would join us in our efforts because of our engaging story?
Within a story, there are many characters – good and bad. Our story includes how we deal with challenging people, bring out the best in all, and embrace the diverse talent each individual brings.
One other interesting point about these four company examples. Each one has a giving component. For TOMS, they give shoes to people who likely never had shoes. For Warby Parker, the same approach but with glasses. For Shinola, they are giving an opportunity to work in a tough economic place. For Happy Socks, they give smiles. Each give.
Our leadership and life story needs a giving component. We need to answer two questions: What are we giving to another, especially in the way we lead? How important of a role do we have for giving in our story?
The Importance of Story
Highlighting the importance of story through companies is admittedly odd. There are no affiliate links here and no personal benefit. The point is this shows our tendency to gravitate toward a good story, whether we realize at first or not. What happened in San Francisco yesterday with Batkid and Make-A-Wish Foundation proves how people around the world will join in a good, heartfelt story.
Our time is short and we have a choice. Do we want to just live a short story or do we want to develop a longer, more compelling, unfolding story?
Call it brand – personal or product. Call it a promise to deliver. Call it positioning or being unique. I’ll call it a story. My story isn’t perfect and may not be compelling… yet. But I am living it, telling it, and working like everything to make it as meaningful as possible.
How about you? What is your story? Have you defined your storyline? Are you living it now?