Imagine you’re on a lake, watching the ducks glide across the surface of the water. The picture looks serene and peaceful. What you don’t see is the torrent of movement underneath the tranquil body of each duck. The webbed feet are paddling like crazy, propelling the fowl forward. Maybe it seems all nice and pleasant, but really the ducks are scrambling away.
Think about your life in terms of its duckiness
Isn’t your personal story the same as a duck? Hang with me for a moment here. When you tell your story to someone, for instance in your ‘Bio’ or about me page on your website, what do you tell them? My guess is that you try to make it sound like the ducks gliding across the water, serene and wonderful.
And that’s exactly what you need to avoid.
You need to avoid sounding peaceful?
You need to avoid being really boring.
Peaceful and serene is nice, in the same way that telling someone the name of the town you grew up in or the names of your parents is nice. But it’s not terribly interesting.
At least not as interesting as scrambling duck feet.
What do duck feet have to do with anything?
The scrambling duck feet propel, they move the duck forward. The same thing has happened to you.
How did you get where you are now? You scrambled, you fought, you struggled, and eventually you made it where you are now. The struggle is the interesting part of your story.
People care about the struggle more than anything
Think about it, what gets your attention more than a good struggle?
A mega-star like Brittney Spears puts out a new album and it’s nothing new, snooze time really. But then you find out she wrote it from rehab. Suddenly the stakes were higher, the struggle was greater. Now you hear that not only did she write it in rehab, but she was being abused by her husband at the time.
Now you’re in, you are paying attention because you feel the struggle of her story.
But where’s the struggle in your story?
Let’s go back to your poor bio. Chances are you tell your story with the wrong details. No one cares where you grew up or where you were born unless somehow it involved danger, struggle or a problem. Where you born in Iran or the Sudan and had to escape to America. That’s interesting and worth telling. Born in Omak, Washington? Probably not worth mentioning. Did you live next to avid supporters of the Ku Klux Klan? Mention that little tid bit and people will be locked in to hear the rest of what you have to say.
But what if you don’t have anything interesting to say?
That would certainly be a problem, if it were true.
Thankfully it’s not.
Not one bit.
No matter what your life situation, there is always an element of conflict. Maybe it wasn’t a big, dramatic movie moment (they rarely are). But just because James Cameron won’t be stealing your lifestory for one of his scripts doesn’t mean your life hasn’t seen it’s fair share of conflict and struggle. In fact, I’m sure there’s a lot more than you think.
Find your struggle, gain attention
My wife used to have a terrible bio, awful really. But then she told the story of when she quit painting, gave it up seemingly forever. This was a problem which had a wonderful solution, a sudden burst of creativity that birthed her most loved pieces and a renewed commitment to the arts. That’s a much more interesting way to begin a story than what type of paint you use or where you grew up. There’s struggle in your life, you just need to draw it out.
Without the struggle you lose their interest
People like going to the lake and feeding the ducks, it’s nice. But is watching ducks swim really interesting? Not until you see their little webbed feet paddling away, struggling against the water. The movement, the struggle is memorable, that’s what people find interesting. You should strive to do the same.