The Importance of Telling your Story
How a delegate bag changed the way I think about my business.
I loved the safety of my office
When people asked me — who are you and what do you do. I’d go all awkward, my mind would go a bit blank and I’d babble something a little incoherent that would usually end with the person I was talking to making a swift exit to find someone else, anyone else to speak to.
It wasn’t that I didn’t know what I did or that I wasn’t passionate — it was more like when I looked inside myself to answer the question a whole universe of thoughts would swirl and I wouldn’t know where to start.
If someone persisted after about 30 minutes they’d get me and what the company I founded did, but who has 30 minutes to spare?
I’d craft ‘elevator’ responses that seemed to say all the right things but they lacked heart and didn’t sound like me. It made me feel like a fake, I was letting the business down. I avoided networking meetings.
What was blocking me?
I think I was scared. I love what I do, my work is meaningful and full of soul. My work brings me joy, it transforms lives and elevates businesses. The way I work is a reflection of me, of what I believe in and what I stand for. I was guarded, scared to be seen and uncertain I could cope with other people’s ‘judgement’.
So we set a goal
As we entered into Year 3 our goal was to answer the fundamental question of who Northern Value Creators were and what we did. We didn’t know how we would do it, we just knew we wanted to do it in a way that reflected us as people and gave clarity.
Then I got this bag
The bag was left in my room. A delegates swag bag. It was a rucksack, made with a heavy weight waxed burgundy fabric. Beautifully tactile, you could tell it was pretty decent quality. I liked the bag. It had the WWW logo sewn on it and I took it round with me as I met lots of really amazing people and got to hear all about their brand stories — who they were and what they did. On the last day, in the last hours of WWW — he stood up. The maker and creator of the bag. He explained how he’d sourced each component for Trakke bags locally to where they were made in Scotland and in doing so had revived traditional industry. He talked with passion about diving in skips for scraps at the start of his makers journey and to the high end fashion brands he’d now collaborated with.
I now saw the bag. Really saw it. It spoke to me of its journey and the meaning woven in through every thread. I started to see the ‘makers’ hand in all of the things around me. I began to appreciate the thinking behind the design and choices that were made to bring an idea into creation.
So what did this mean for us?
If you don’t tell your story — other people will tell it for you
If I hadn’t heard Alec Farmer speak about the bag, I would have left the event with a nice bag but I would never have got it’s providence or its big why. I would have seen the bag from my own perspective and projected my values and perceptions on to it.
Hearing Trakke’s story, has changed the way I think, the way I talk about my work and given me a much deeper appreciation for the beauty and craftsmanship in the day to day things around me.
The problems you have solved to get to where you are, may be the very thing that others are in need of hearing. Your day to day normal, the way you think, just the tiniest of detail could be all that is needed to inspire action or hope in others.
To share reality, is an act of both rebellion and generosity
By pulling back the wizard’s curtain, we discovered that the secrets of success are within ourselves — we did not need the all powerful Oz. Real life isn’t like an instagram feed. Success isn’t instant. There are no perfect people. We all have things we struggle with — success is in the meaning we give them and the choices we make. I have found that the more I have been able to ‘see’ others and hear their stories, the more able I have been to see and accept myself.
So this is our story and what we do