Your "What" Defines Your "Why", and Your "How" Follows

It was a valuable couple of hours for me, and not because I was paid for them. I walked away from the workshop with that Rock Star Feeling (RSF). It's that feeling when you walk away from an encounter, project, or situation knowing you nailed it. I call it RSF because I've experienced it as a musician; walking away from a performance with that euphoric high feeling, and knowing you will do almost anything to feel that way again... soon. It's that sense that you're really good at something; you've contributed, and that you're providing value to the people around you.

1.) Storytelling to Improve Sales

I had completed a two-hour workshop focused on the topic of storytelling to improve sales, as part of a two-day retreat for a regional group of sales leaders, when I walked away with that feeling. When the workshop ended, almost everyone in the room took a moment to ask me a question, share a story, or hug me before I walked out the door.

As a group, we created space for everyone in that room to feel safe, comfortable, and curious. We shared stories that connected us, and we discussed what makes a specific personal story the right story to share, when, and how to share it. We talked about reading our audience, and we came to the conclusion that in sales, we have to be in it for the long haul if we want to sustain our business and the relationships we create. It was clear that sharing a personal story is one great strategy to draw out the stories of others. We also talked about the fact that business is about people, and that when someone buys from us, they're not just buying a product; they're creating a relationship with us.

It took me a few hours to decompress and process everything that happened in those two hours, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I had discovered - or uncovered - something about myself that I had been searching for.


2.) No Longer Virtual

That was two weeks before I hosted the second annual No Longer Virtual conference, or #NLVDenver. Not quite a rock star feeling, as I decompressed in the days following #NLV, I found myself a little conflicted. I knew it was a success, and by the accounts of almost every participant, people got far more out of attending than they could have imagined. But I couldn't put my finger on what, exactly, was giving me this feeling of dissatisfaction. That is - until I was sharing this vulnerability with my dear friend Aaron Skogen, and he asked me this question:

How did you plan to define success with #NLV?

I was more than a little embarrassed. With all of my education, experience and my incredible support network, I hadn't considered this important question at all. Well, that's not exactly true. I had considered what I wanted out of #NLV, but I hadn't written it down anywhere. I hadn't told anyone, and I hadn't found ways to quantify success, other than breaking even financially in the first few years.

When I considered the question, I realized that success for NLV was simply creating an environment for people to connect authentically, and to learn and grow together. And it was certainly a success if I measured it that way.

A few years ago, I realized I'm a slow processor. It takes time for me to fully process an event, an incident, an intense conversation. By process, I mean to fully reflect on what it meant to me, the lessons I could learn from it, and how I'll apply whatever it was to future scenarios. And now, more than a year after the first #NLV, I'm finally feeling like I've fully processed the experience.

Good things come in threes, I'm told, and it was the third event that finally helped me put things together in my head.

3.) Women's Leadership Network, Helena, Membership Social

Our local Women's Leadership Network hosted a social event and invited women from all over the community to network, ride the carousel, drink champagne, and eat ice cream. The goal was to create buzz and recognition for our growing, thriving organization, and to encourage more women to join. It was a success in many ways, but the key for me was the environment we created as a board. We created space in our little community for women to be together in a casual, fun place, to share food and drinks, and to be comfortable being themselves.

For a while, I focused on my "why" as my ability to encourage people to step out of their comfort zones and take risks they wouldn't otherwise take. Now I know that ability is a component of something more dynamic. It took me figuring out my "what" to truly define my "why". Sounds backward, right? Does it matter how you get there, as long as you get there? I don't think so.

Here it is, my "what"... drum roll, please...


As I work to process this new idea, I can see that everything I've done successfully in my past has been part of this "why", from hosting guests in our home, to facilitating groups for the Montana University System, to creating a safe place in an office for people to share their frustrations and successes.

Where ever I sit, I am compelled to create an environment where people feel safe and confident to share their biggest dreams, fears, joys, and challenges. Whatever I am doing, I find my joy, my satisfaction, in creating space for people to take risks for personal and professional growth, and support and motivate them to take specific steps to achieve their goals.

And my "why" followed:


This isn't an overnight lightning bolt; it has taken years of self reflection to come to my "why", and many pivotal conversations with people who know me, and for whom I have so much respect, admiration, and gratitude. What's a little disconcerting is that one person has been telling me this for almost 20 years; I'm not sure I was ready to believe it, and I definitely didn't have a clue how to apply it to providing income for me and my family.

And now? Now I'm ready to put my "why" into my "what", so the "how" will present itself. (Thanks, Arminda Lindsay.)

I'm asking for your help in putting my "what" into action:

When you're planning a retreat or conference, and you want a session that's truly unique, engaging, and effective in creating space for your team to explore storytelling as a tool for communication and sales, call me. Let's explore how my "why" can help you fully realize your "how".