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6 Tips on Knowing, Controlling and Communicating Your Story

We all come from someplace, traveled a particular path (circuitous though it may be) and landed where we are today as a byproduct. No two people in the world have done it the same, which is what makes every one of us unique.

“Everyone has a story,” says Partner and Co-Founder of SellersEaston Media, Pattie Sellers. “Even if you don’t think yours is particularly interesting, you would be surprised.”

A former assistant managing editor of “Fortune,” Sellers is renowned for her definitive interviews with and exclusive profiles of such leaders as Rupert Murdoch, Warren Buffett, Oprah Winfrey, Sheryl Sandberg and Coca-Cola Chairman Muhtar Kent. Sellers co-founded “Fortune’s Most Powerful Women” list in 1998 (now their most valuable franchise) and helps successful people, companies and organizations capture their stories for the audiences they want to reach.

“Leadership comes from facing challenges, overcoming obstacles, learning lessons – and a lot of luck and a lot of hard work,” says Sellers. “So that is what makes a good story – a person who learns. A person who learns from challenges and obstacles, applies them to their lives, stays flexible and moves forward.”

Sellers is a speaker at the March 2018 YPO EDGE in Singapore where she will share storytelling wisdom with attendees and conduct an interview with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Whether you’re working on a pitch about your company or interested in putting your life story down on paper for your family, there are some very simple ways to mine your experiences.

Here are some of the key insights for doing so, revealed by Sellers during a recent Facebook Live with YPO:

1. If you’re an aspiring leader or want to be a Fortune 500 CEO someday, do not try to shape your story. The most important thing you can do is be flexible.

“I talk about this concept of seeing your career as a jungle gym, not a ladder. This is more relevant today than ever,” says Sellers, who says leaders should always be on the lookout for opportunity. “In thinking of your career as a ladder, who knows if that next rung is going to be a secure rung? Five years ago, who knew that there would be job opportunities in AI and VR?”

2. Social media has changed the way we tell stories. Today, people can see everything. You must show your humanity and be authentic or you will be found out in a day. As a business leader, you must have credible storytelling with journalistic robustness.

3. It can be difficult to see the forest for the trees of our own lives; start from the beginning and tell your story chronologically.

4. When you first put pen to paper, consider the obstacles and challenges you’ve overcome, then organize them into no more than five buckets.

“The key is to find common themes,” says Sellers. “That will help you create, if not chapters, then themes for your books.”

5. Write a lede (an opening sentence or paragraph summarizing the most important aspects of your story) about your theme.

Whether you are crafting your company’s story, interested in being profiled in a magazine or feel compelled to capture your lessons learned for future posterity, use Sellers’ expertise to take the first steps.


Watch the full Facebook Live with Pattie Sellers and YPO EDGE Chair N.K. Tong

Read more 2018 YPO EDGE stories

Watch the EDGE video: Defy Convention

View the Facebook photo album and EDGE event page for updates

Follow YPO EDGE on Twitter

Deborah Stoll’s work as a journalist has been featured in The Economist’s online magazine, More Intelligent Life, in LA Weekly and its food blog, Squid Ink, as well as on the music site Buzzbands LA. Her short stories have appeared in the Los Angeles quarterly Slake and the literary website Fresh Yarn. As a musician, Stoll’s songs have been featured on American Idol, Glee and CSI: Miami, and her collective work as a content creator and animator has more than 1 million views on YouTube.