Everyone has a backstory.
The more people I encounter and get to know in life, the more I realize this. I don’t just mean a history.
I mean a journey. With ups and downs. With adversity. With setbacks that most of us would never wish on others.
For some, their backstory starts with parents. Parents with addictions, with distractions, with attributes, and traits.
For others, their backstory may involve a sibling or a friend to whom life dealt a tragic blow.
And then there are those of us who have gone through our own personal hell or faced our own demons and come out on the other side.
Why your backstory matters
They say that those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. George Santayana, I believe, is credited with those words.
Appreciating your backstory, though, is about more than that.
We have a tendency to handicap ourselves. We tell ourselves reasons why we can’t do things because of our ancient past or more recent behaviors.
We think about real or perceived limitations we have and spotlight them, even if only in our minds, as reasons why we can’t accomplish something. Sometimes we focus on them so much they’re the reasons we don’t even try. It’s not a can’t, it’s a won’t.
Think of ancestors who showed extreme fortitude. Who beat the odds to survive or thrive in desperate circumstances. Who held firm with their integrity or character when it would have been easy not to.
Think of the times you personally overachieved. The times you learned a new skill. The times you broke with past behaviors to forge a new you. A better you.
Your backstory matters because once you’ve identified these things in your past, you can neutralize them so they no longer matter, if they’re potential inhibitors. You can also use them as inspiration or motivation.
The backstory you never knew
Have you ever interviewed your parents or grandparents?
You might be surprised at the stories they can share and the nostalgia they’ve held onto that make up your story.
My wife has old journals and brief snippets about several of her ancestors. She’s also found them online. She’s got Mormon pioneer stock, with several great tales about Joseph Lazarus Matthews especially.
That man called it like he saw it. He once went toe to toe with Brigham Young as they looked over the plains on one occasion. Brigham Young said, “Do you see the antelope over there?” To which Joseph replied, “No, I don’t see any antelope, and neither did you see any. For there aren’t any antelope over there to see.”
Brigham’s reply was super: “Brother Matthews has to see a thing. He would not see the antelope just to please me, and I find his reports are always on what he sees. If he does not see a thing, it is not there. I have found his judgment very good.”
I’ve got another Joseph Lazarus Matthews story…
As the pioneers setup camp each night, they literally circled the wagons. But each night, one man was ‘Camp Boss,’ in charge of making sure two wagons would be placed so as to act as a set of bars or a gate. One night, it was Joseph Matthews’ turn at this, and who should arrive to the circle, needing to lower the bars and enter?
Except, Brigham failed to put the bars back in place. You probably know what Joseph Matthews did:
“Brigham Young! Come back here! Come back here and put up the bars!”
Now, Joseph was chastened by others for calling out the man these Mormons looked to as a prophet. He shouldn’t ask Brigham Young to do such a thing. To which Brigham said, “Why not? Why should I be permitted to break the rules of camp? I just wanted to see what Brother Matthews would do. I should be the last one to break the rules.”
Your backstory probably doesn’t start with you
Maybe it’s all chance or coincidence, but I’m here to tell you: my wife, her father, and her father’s mother are exactly like Joseph Lazarus Matthews. They’re tireless. They’re undeterred from whatever crosses their path with plans to distract them. They’re tough as nails. They don’t cave in any circumstance where character is at stake.
Hard to not love or respect people like that.
I think it’s likely you have similar stories in your past. And I don’t just mean stories of ancestors doing funny, bold, creative, dangerous, or courageous things.
I mean you may very well have these stories in your distant or recent past.
These backstories could be interesting to your customers
To my point yesterday, I firmly believe that you can attract exactly the type of clients you want to work with by being yourself. One hundred percent you.
When you’re first getting started as a consultant or solopreneur offering a service, you take on whatever clients will pay you to do work. Maybe you’re even open-minded about the type of work you do. You’ve got to fund your next 30-60 days, right?
But as time moves on and your business grows, you can start being a little more specific about your ideal client. (As a side note, when did we start calling them avatars? And why did we change gears? What was wrong with the term ideal clients?)
Your ideal client may not only be the people who really need your service to solve their problem. They may be the people who want to work with YOU. They want to be around you. They want to learn from you. They look forward to you and your visits.
So here’s my question to you today:
How many people know your backstory?
Is it just your immediate family? Just your inner circle? What a shame!
Broaden your horizons. Trust that the more you get to know others and show an interest in their stories, you’ll find people are drawn to your backstory as well.
Share your personal story on your website. You don’t have to go deep. In fact, you could shoot a video for your site that doesn’t even tell your backstory, but it reflects your crystal clear awareness of who you are and what you want to offer the world.
Like this one from Chase Reeves.
Do some of this. Your future clients and maybe even your children will appreciate it.