When it comes to storytelling, we’ve been sold a load of goods.

Maybe it’s the fault of the movies, making us believe that if a story is going to earn the right to be told, then it has to pack a global punch.

If it doesn’t make us laugh, cry, or run to the masses to say what does that really mean, anyways, then we wonder if it should even be called a story.

I hear this sentiment often with my clients.

They fill their brand stories with facts, data, and other people’s stories because they don’t quite believe that their own experiences have earned the right to a few lines of narrative.

Or it just feels safer to keep the messiness of their life far away from their business.

And in some sense, they’re absolutely right.

Our audience doesn’t want to be burdened down with our own personal traumas.

They don’t want to be our brand-acquired therapists who have to endure the long journey of our sad stories just to get access to the brilliance of our brains.

And I often feel this sentiment in my own life.

Typically and predictably, my go-to response when others ask me about my life is to either 1. Deflect and turn the conversation right back around to them or 2. Respond by reminding them that I’m pretty much the most boring human ever.

They think I’m flexing with self-deprecating humor. But in most ways, I AM the most boring human ever.

I play it safe, paranoia somehow embedded deep into my genetic code.

I’m too afraid to skydive.

Too paranoid to hike solo on the Appalachian Trail (because, HELLO, have you read all the harrowing stories of missing and murdered persons on the trail?).

Too cautious to even take long runs around my neighborhood without someone else by my side.

In the near 5 decades of my short life, I’ve chiseled myself into an expert observer, someone who relishes more in the joys of people watching than the moments where I’m being watched.

I don’t crave the limelight, the stage, the whatever-you-name-it.

I just want to step into the quiet spaces and make room for others to be seen and heard.

It’s a wonderful gift that also happens to be a terribly disastrous idea for anyone who wants to live life creating and sharing fantastic stories.

Unless, that is, you understand the power of tiny stories – the everyday moments that are the true workhorses in the culture of goodness.

Sounds inspiring, Lindsay, But what is a tiny story, brass tacks?

Illustration #1

A few years ago, in the smack dab middle of the pandemic, I led a workshop for a group of marketers and copywriters. The idea was to help them move past this idealistic and often suffocating notion that we all have to be special and unique in order to show up as a kick-butt business owner.

Your superpower, I told them, is actually wrapped up in forests upon forests of stories you’ve been writing since the moment you took your first breath.

“We’re writing story every second of the day. The problem is, most of us never stop long enough to take notice of what’s unfolding before our very eyes.”

A few weeks ago, I heard speaker and storytelling coach Francisco Mahfuz describe this same idea as finding the small stories. He found the power of that premise from teacher and storyteller Matthew Dicks who urges us all to do something he calls Homework for Life. Matthew believes that if we would all just take a few minutes every single day to jot down our story worthy moments, then our lives would be transformed and our stories would be more rich.

“I cannot tell you what a blessing this is,” he says in his book Storyworthy.

“I don’t lose a day anymore. I can look at any one of those entries on my spreadsheet from the years I have been doing my homework, and I am right back in that moment. And I will have these moments forever. When I am on my deathbed, I’ll be able to look back at an Excel spreadsheet filled with moments from my life. It’ll probably be a hologram by them, hovering over my body, but as I scroll through the pages, I’ll be able to return to every one of those moments. Every one of the moments that made one day different from the rest. A lifetime of storyworthy moments at my fingertips.”

[These moments, by the way, aren’t long journal entries. They’re one, two, maybe three sentences.]

Matthew does this on a personal level, but I believe the same truth expands into our brand stories: It is only when we stop long enough to take notice of the tiny stories unfolding before us that we are able to acknowledge the contributions of others and make connections we’d otherwise miss.

Illustration #2:

Another way to discover your tiny stories is by allowing yourself to explore the stories inside something that I call The Three Boxes.

What is one word or phrase that describes how you are feeling right now?
What is one word or phrase that describes what you are seeing right now?
What is one word or phrase that describes what you are hearing right now?

As a business leader, when you answer these questions for yourself (and when you invite your team to answer them, too), you get nuggets of tiny storylines that start to unfold bigger stories.

Someone is feeling grateful? Why?

When you close your eyes and envision your team, you see a circle of hands around you. Why?

You’re hearing chatter of people who are afraid and in constant alarm? Why?

Those details will lead you to important storylines – for example, We’re a team that rallies around one another. We don’t close the door of our office and forget about one another. We support each other through all facets of life, and that’s unusual and it’s what makes us so strong.

Your team needs to hear stories like this, and it’s likely your audience does, too.

We spend so much time of our lives searching for the big, jaw-dropping stories.

But mostly, humans want to hear stories that remind us we’re normal, we’re not alone, and that our everyday journeys of life are absolutely spectacular for the mere fact that we were given another day to soak up the sunlight and breathe in the air.

We might treat the big moments like signposts, but let’s not be fooled or pretentious. It’s the tiny stories that keep us connected.

When you’re ready to find and tell your own tiny stories, let’s talk.