“When an old man dies, a library burns to the ground”

10 Reasons Why It Matter To Tell Your Story [+ 10 Simple Storytelling Formulas/Structures With Examples]

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Estimated Read Time: 27 min

There is likely no such thing as a unique experience because others have most likely experienced it before, and several more will in the future. The structure or order may vary, but its constituents remain common.

And, I think it’s not such a bad thing, because it means you share a lot in common with billions of people – dead, alive, and unborn.

I also think sharing your story is how you connect with these people who share similar experiences (no matter the weight of the secret, how embarrassing, or rare you think it is).

The above sentence made me remember my teenage years. A lot of the anxiety (mostly about the opposite sex) I had wouldn’t have perturbed me if I knew better. (but since I never shared, no one advised me)

If you share your story with the right people, they might tell you what comes next after the level you’re at – they might give you a solution, or simply reassure you that all will be okay…or maybe not.

In any case, it helps to know and to have people who understand.

You just have to be humble enough to admit you and your circumstances aren’t that unique, and that other people probably have more experience than you. 

Share your worries, and look out for solutions. 

And, in cases where it isn’t about “trouble”, don’t be shy to still share your story, beliefs, and experiences. 

Why?

Because it is the best way to find those that understand, and want to stick with you (be it in business or social life).

I remember when I wrote a blog post about “not believing in prayers”. It was a sort of “shocker” considering my background. However, it was based on my experience, and I made it as clear as possible with my logic, emotions, and stories.

Immediately both camps – theists and atheists – reach out to me, trying to attack, welcome, or understand me better.

I identified with neither camp.

Why?

My story was about seeking and sticking with what was true – observable and verifiable – not another thing to strife about.

It wasn’t about believing or not believing, it was about finding out what works and what doesn’t. Maybe God answers prayers, maybe not. That wasn’t the bone of contention. My point was, “based on my observations that prayers do not work by themselves…at least, not how it is purported ”.

My story connected me with other truthists, and I think it helped others consider truthism.

Your story doesn’t have to be accepted by everyone.

The point of this is, “be strong enough to be vulnerable”.

Don’t be so afraid, self-conscious, or self-absorbed that you constrict yourself – that you won’t share your experiences in life. 

There are ex-addicts, ex-robbers, ex-rapists, ex-murderers, and ex-etcetera, who share their stories every day with thousands of people. Some are still struggling with their “hiccups” and “blemishes” as they share…

So, why won’t you talk about your addiction to porn, cigarettes, vodka, or cakes? or admit your mental health issues, insecurities about your body, or your humble/rough/notorious background.

I know there are a lot of stigmas (think about rape victims or HIV patients). But, think again, who receives the most help? Isn’t it those who step out into the light?

In the large scheme of things, almost everyone has something that makes them feel a bit insecure, unsure, angry, or even afraid.

What I’ve discovered in my five years of writing and blogging is that sharing your unfiltered stories helps you to understand yourself better – and you can only improve on something if you understand its current state. 

Most times sharing your story invites others to help or understand. 

Everyone may not understand or help, but you don’t need everyone. That one or two persons who are willing to stand by you is enough.

On a more altruistic note, sharing your experiences can also serve as a blueprint or roadmap for someone else.

The story of how you “overcame” or “became” may be the lifeline someone else (possibly unborn) will cling to as they make their ascension. In other cases, it can be a life-saving warning they need to start climbing out of the pit before it starts to rain

If you’ve ever seen a horror movie, you know how much you cringe, shrink, and panic for an unsuspecting fellow who is about to open a door behind which there is an evil demon.

You feel this wide range of emotions (and most times express them by squirming, squinting, and grinding your teeth) because you know better – you can see with crystal clarity what they are naive about – but can’t do anything.

So you sit behind the screen and watch your favorite character get ripped into pieces.

You feel sad, angry, and powerless.

The emotions wash over you. 

How much more in real life?

How much more emotion will wash over you?

Like the tides of a river swayed by a senseless moon, the vicissitudes of life creep up on you.

Creeping up your legs, waist, neck, and up your nostrils…attempting to drown you.

You know you need to share your life experiences – you need someone to listen; to, at least, know.

But, what are you going to do?

Keep watching? Or

Start sharing? <

10 Reasons Why Telling Your Story Matters:

Without even considering the options of monetizing, or building a brand out of your stories, telling your story matters because it

  1. Helps you understand yourself better: There is almost nothing as striking, surreal, and disillusioning as hearing (as you speak) or reading (as you write) your thoughts – observing them from a second-person viewpoint.  
  2. Helps you appreciate or, at least, understand your experiences: It can sometimes be hard to tell how your life is going – where you were, are, and are heading – but telling your stories gives you a trajectory.
  3. Helps you vent – i.e. release pent-up emotions and thoughts: Our experiences are stored in our minds, and it is only by expressing them we can offload the burdens.
  4. Helps you connect with people with similar experiences (which gives you a sense of belonging): When people who can relate to your story hear/read about it, they usually reach out and connect.
  5. Helps others know why and how you are struggling (which makes you feel accepted): We report the “diagnosis” of our emotional world by talking about them, which helps others understand and hopefully accept us.
  6. Invites others to help you out: Our stories can also serve as a beacon, calling for help.  
  7. Invites others to share their stories: Having the courage to be vulnerable with our stories invites others to do the same, and this strengthens relationships.
  8. Gives others hope and a sense of belonging or, at least, being understood: When people who share similar experiences learn of your similar experiences, they stop feeling alone, and might even become hopeful (especially when your story points to a brighter future).
  9. Gives others a solution to their predicament: Detailed stories can become maps others will use to navigate their lives.
  10. Warns others of a looming danger they may not be aware of: Cautionary tales are as valuable as traffic lights. Without them, mistakes are inevitable.

But…

Why Don’t I Like Sharing My Story With Others?

There are a lot of reasons you may not feel like, or even fear sharing your story

It may be that you believe… 

  • no one will understand
  • you will be judged
  • you will be hated
  • no one cares
  • it’s not perfect
  • it’s not complete
  • it’s not important
  • it’s too embarrassing
  • it will get you in trouble 

Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera 

And, you are right for thinking those thoughts. Indeed, most people won’t care, understand, or help. Some people will judge, hate, or try to make you feel bad. And, in extreme circumstances, you might get punished.

For example, sharing your story of being an LGBTQ+ might get you punished/jailed/killed in some countries. Also, people may not vote you into a leadership position if they learn about your mental health challenges. It may be unfair, but it’s the world we live in.

So, as much as sharing your personal story is powerful (like we discussed a while ago), it also comes with risks that you must weigh. 

A Few years ago, the stigma of being HIV positive was unimaginable – it was soul-crushing. But, as more and more people shared their stories, the stigma diminished. So, sometimes, the risk is worth it.

It is also important to know that, there will always be individuals who your story will resonate with (even if they don’t mention it to you).

How Can I Get Over My Fear Of Sharing My Thoughts And Stories?

If you’re at the point where you know your stories need to be told, but still struggle with letting the lid off, then you must understand your main obstacles might be

  1. People pleasing: We are social by nature. This means we care about what other people think (especially about us). This leads to an inclination to act or present ourselves in the most likable way possible, and anxiety when we think our actions or depiction of ourselves may cause people to dislike us. The problem is, it is impossible to get everyone to like you because there are no single “thing” everyone likes (some people don’t even like their own lives). Hence, many people wear different masks around different people to keep being liked. If you are one of them, you must realize that trying to please people will only make you shallow, and leave you feeling unheard and unseen (no matter how much they seem to enjoy that “you”). The solution is to be clear about who you are (at the moment – because it is okay to change later). Not caring what some people might think about you will liberate you from a life of pretense, and help you share a deeper and more impactful story with the few you care about.
  2. Imposter syndrome: If you feel like a fraud – unqualified, or unworthy – to share your story, remind yourself that feelings and facts are not the same. If (for example) you have been teased and praised by your colleagues about your uncanny ability to close deals, and the record backs it up, whatever voice in your head telling you that you are not qualified to give a lecture on “closing” is simply the imposter syndrome doing its thing. You may never get the voice to stop, and it might get louder as you achieve more, but you must never let it stop you from sharing your stories and creating more stories. The more you learn to share despite the pesky voice, the more you will be able to share. And, soon, you will discover that you are much more qualified than you thought (because telling your stories helps you discover yourself).  
  3. Perfectionism: As the name suggests, people who struggle with perfectionism want everything to be “perfect”. This could mean, avoiding sharing stories about money until they become multi-millionaires, avoiding pictures because they have acne, or writing exclusively on their passworded notes app till their writing gets as good as Tim Dennin’s. The problem with perfectionism is that perfection is never reached. Millionaires still feel poor compared to billionaires, the smoothest face is not the prettiest, and Tim Dennin’s writing will keep improving. Things can always be better, but until then, you must get comfortable with the imperfections. Like Bambi Cantrell once said, “Expression beats perfection.”. Besides, appearing too perfect does more harm than good. For one, it makes you less relatable, or believable. Why? Because humans are not perfect, feigning it can be interpreted as a lie. It is okay to put in extra effort, but know when to move on (aim for 90+, don’t hope for 100%)

To overcome your fear of sharing your thoughts and stories, focus on sharing your unfiltered experiences, despite the voices telling you not to, with the few people you care about (and who care about you).

“Remembering you are going to die is the one way to avoid the trap of fearing you have something to lose.”

– Steve Jobs

How To Tell Your Stories [10 Simple Ways To Tell Your Life Stories]:

If there are three black dots (labeled “A”, “B”, and “C”) randomly positioned on a plain white sheet of paper, then storytelling is the process of connecting the dots.

Every story has three basic parts: (A) beginning, (B) middle, and (C) end. 

This is how we have been telling stories since prehistoric times. Paintings in cave walls depicted humans searching for prey (beginning), ambushing the prey (middle), and killing the prey (end).

It is the structure movies like Star Wars, Joker, Die Hard, and basically, all other movies adopt. It is as simple as A, B, and C.

However, in real life, it is not always a straight line from point “A” to “C”. The line may run forward, back and forth, or through several more points.

When telling stories, we can even choose to tell them backward (starting from the end), in parallel with other stories, loop the stories (so that the end is also the beginning ), or stop midway.

Whatever the case, storytelling provides us with the opportunity to express ourselves.

Below are 10 powerful storytelling formulas you can employ in deploying your story (pun intended):

1. Three-Act Structure

  1. Setup — Introduce the scene and  character(s)
  2. Confrontation — Reveal a challenge, then build up the tension
  3. Resolution — Resolve the conflict 

Example:

My name is Dick David, and I am from Nigeria. I bag a bachelor's degree in Computer Engineering, and I'm both physically and mentally fit to work.

However, despite being in a country literally flowing with oil, corruption and poor leadership have made job opportunities scarce, and the economy stifling, to say the least

That was why I learned some digital skills - including content writing, copywriting, and SEO - so that I can work for businesses within and outside the country and get paid a decent wage.

Learn more about the Three Act Structure <

2. Before – After – Bridge

  1. Before — Describe a world with a problem.
  2. After — Describe a world without the problem.
  3. Bridge — Narrate how to get to the world without the problem.

Example:

Like all broke young men, I dreamt of having a hundred thousand naira in my account.

I fantasized about all the clothes I could buy, the dates I could have, and the independence I could enjoy. 

So, I started taking my writing seriously and soon started selling my services as a freelance content writer. Within three months I hit my first 100k a month, and two months later I had over 300k in my name for the first time, all thanks to writing.

Learn more about the Before After Bridge

3. Dale Carnegie’s Magic Formula

  1. Incident — Share a personal experience (about a problem).
  2. Action — Narrate the steps taken to solve or prevent the problem
  3. Benefit — Highlight the benefits of the step(s) taken.

Example:

I tried painting houses, drawing portraits, selling honey, selling bed sheets, and dabbling in some other things which I can't recall now. But none gave me the satisfaction or money I badly wanted.

Then I discovered writing. At first, I had some self-doubt, low self-worth, and other limiting beliefs, but as I got deeper into it, it became clear it was what I would be doing for the long haul.

As I started writing content, getting readers, and also selling my services as a freelancer, my sense of fulfillment and financial status bumped up by a lot. And I'm just getting started here...

Learn more about Carnegie’s Magic Formula <

4. Freytag’s Pyramid: Five-Act Structure

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  1. Exposition — Point out key information about an experience.
  2. Rising action — Build up the tension by narrating a series of events.
  3. Climax — Reveal the main point or event.
  4. Falling action — Start reducing the tension from the climax
  5. Dénouement — End with a resolution

Example:

I had two bank accounts as a student. And I never had any issues with the accounts. My card was never swallowed by an ATM.

But as I started my freelance journey, and $2 turned to $2,000, I soon found myself unable to withdraw or recharge from my first bank. Not having the time for bank issues, I switched to the second bank, but it also soon stopped working. “What's the problem?”, I groaned.

Finally, I had to attend to two bank issues. “Sir, your account was frozen for KYC reasons, which means you'll have to upgrade your bank account to keep banking with us, …” both banks replied. 

So, that was how I had to attend to two bank issues in a day, and successfully upgraded both accounts.Both accounts can now hold up to a million naira. Which made me think, that sometimes, you have no other choice than to upgrade your environment (including friends and location) to fit your new level.

Learn more about the Five Acts Structure <

5. Dave Lieber’s V Formula

  1. Introduction: Introduce the scene and character(s).
  2. Rock-bottom: Bring the story to its lowest point.
  3. Uprising: Turn the story around and finish on a happy note.

Example:

In school, I used to have this very rare phone called “Snokor Z-5000”. Despite having a poor camera, terrible speaker, and an ugly design, I still loved it because, at least, it had a very good battery (which could surprisingly drop to -3% without tripping off).

Then one day, between 4 to 5 AM, when coming back from a night class my friends and I got robbed at gunpoint. They took all our valuables - laptops, tablets, and my Snokor Z-5000. We had to stay a while without gadgets, and it sucked.

But, within a few months, we all got more and better devices. I am currently typing this piece with an iPhone.

Learn more about Liebers V Formula <

6. Problem – Agitate – Solve

  1. Problem — Present the challenge
  2. Agitate — Show how it gets worse
  3. Solve — Unveil the solution 

Example:

My C.G.P.A started plummeting in the first semester of my second year in school. 

Despite doubling my effort, the decline continued. Soon I began to panic that I might not leave school with a good result despite staying up night after night reading.

Thankfully, I learned early enough that summarizing my handouts, notes, and textbooks before the exams, then revising only the summary the night before the exam was a much more efficient way to prepare. And, getting sufficient sleep was vital for remembering what I read. Making those little adjustments improved my results, and I was able to graduate with a second-class upper.

Learn more about Problem Agitate Solve <

7. Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle

  1. Why — The reason for your actions
  2. How — How your actions help
  3. What — the specific actions you take

Example:

Many people want to learn how to write and share their personal stories.

I think these people need practical advice and as much assistance as they can get.

That is why I write contents that are easy to understand and implement; and also offer coaching services for upcoming writers. 

Learn more about Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle <

8. Pixar’s award-winning formula

  1. Once upon a time, there was ___. 
  2. Every day, ___. 
  3. One day ___. 
  4. Because of that, ___. 
  5. Because of that, ___. 
  6. Until finally ___.

Example:

When I was a teenager, I had conflicting emotions about sex. 

Every day my lust grew stronger, but being religious I repressed these desires further. 

Sometimes my lust found expression in my dreams, and other times I had to salve my urges with pornographic content. 

The conflict raged on till I started contemplating suicide. I felt unclean, unholy, and like a hypocrite for even seeing porn, not to mention masturbating.

Though I finally figured that my burning lust isn't flamed by a malevolent demon, but by my biology. Lust is a prerequisite for love, love leads to sex, and sex brings about procreation. My life became so much more enjoyable when I embraced my sexuality.

9. The Hero’s Journey

  1. Departure — A hero receives a call to go on an adventure, receives advice from a mentor, and heads out on her journey.
  2. Initiation — The hero meets a series of challenges but eventually completes the mission.
  3. Return — The hero returns and helps others with her newfound power or treasure. 

Example:

I always wanted to talk to pretty girls, but I feared rejection. Then one day a friend explained to me how it was impossible not to ever get rejected, but that you will never know who might say “yes” if you never try.

So, I started approaching more ladies despite my fear, and to my surprise, they didn't bite. Some even desired me more than I did. 

Knowing this, my anxiety diminished, and I started advising other shy guys to go talk to the girls they like.

Learn more about the Heros Journey <

10. Nancy Duarte’s secret structure of great talks

  1. What is — The regular
  2. What could be — The possible future 
  3. Contrast – Go back and forth between “what is” and “what could be” 
  4. New bliss — Reveal the fabulous future your idea/product/service delivers

Example:

I've seen many people jump in and out of relationships, traumatizing and damaging each other in the process. 

Isn't it possible to fall in love, and be in a relationship with someone who will care for you, and make you happy every day? I think it is. I look forward to it. And I trust you want that too.

Everyone wants to be happy, have fun, and experience new things with someone they love, right? But how does it always manage to get sore at some point? How do lovers (even with good characters) end up giving up on their relationship? Perhaps, the issue is that love is not enough - it is a fleeting emotional high that can be gotten from many other people.

But, when we date people who have similar values as we do, we do not only create a meaningful relationship,  but a resilient one because both parties will be much interested in defending and nourishing it - since it serves their interests when the relationship blossoms. So far, this has been the blueprint of my professional relationships, and I soon hope to get a romantic partner who clicks this way.

Learn more about the Nancy Duartes Secret Structure of Great Talks <

The Power Of A Story [VIDEO]

Why are sto

> Sart Writing Your Stories (Free + Gift)

“When An Old Man Dies, A Library Burns To The Ground”:

Many people don’t value spending time with their parents until they lose them. And when this happens, they suffer two losses

  • losing the opportunity to see, touch, and talk with them, and
  • Losing the wisdom they garnered from life experiences

The first loss is painful for sentimental reasons, but the second is practical. Imagine what life would be like if we had to start afresh to discover fire every single generation.

The reason science and technology progresses is that the experiences of scientists are well documented and built upon. You might already know this. But, do you also know you could have skipped decades of errors if someone has handed you a “life guide” – with all life’s cheat codes, and warning signs?

There is an African proverb that says, “When an old man dies, a library burns to the ground”. This quote is one of my favorite quotes on the planet (right now) and it became more significant to me after I lost my Dad (who I had the intention of persuading to write a book – because he was REALLY full of wisdom – but never made the time to do so). Not having access to his “mind” anymore is one of the things that hurt me the most.

If you are reading this, I suspect you have stories and experiences you will love to share with the future generation, and I think maybe we should try to preserve them properly (just as scientists and historians have been doing for centuries).

Of course, I’m not the first to dream of this, nor the first to try to do something about it.

In 1996, William R. Ferris suggested establishing oral history projects in every American community (to help capture a fuller, more accurate picture of the past). His idea (back then) was to encourage every student to, at least, “tape a single hour of conversation with a grandparent”. Today we have the Oral History Association helping in making that vision a reality.

And, we also have Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and so on where thoughts and experiences are being shared (and preserved). Shortly (just within the next 100 years) we will all mostly be dead, but our social media profiles will be preserved on the Internet. And, I think it will be interesting how our offspring will have a richer insight into who we were – how we looked, sounded, and acted.

But, this social media thing still makes me “sad”. You know, most people are Insufferable and fake on social media (think about Facebook and Instagram with their thousand filters and angles). People seldom share valuable insights, rather they give “hot takes”, rant, argue, and drag people all day, every day. It’s a mess and a nightmare. And, that is why blogs are a much better place to preserve knowledge and experiences.

On a blog where you write without the fear of getting dragged or banned, you have the opportunity to tell your full story – the ups and downs – without filters or angles. And, your ability to occasionally revisit your archive to read past posts helps you gain better insight into who you were, are, and are becoming.

This is one of the reasons I opened up Pawns Blog to the public so that you can share your helpful stories for free. I also provide free writing resources to help people (including you) get good at telling your story. 

If you’re interested in sharing your stories, click/button the link below to get started. 

> Sart Writing Your Stories (Free + Gift)

 FAQs: Why Stories?

  1. When should you stop sharing your story? Many people stop sharing their stories before it even gets to the right people. If you are tired of repeating your story, maybe try publishing it in text, audio, or video format online so you can easily point people to it when the need arises. It is also okay if you decide to stop sharing at “anytime”.
  2. When should you not share your story? Don’t share your story when it doesn’t contribute to the subject at hand. Sharing unrelated stories only serves as a distraction (and makes you insufferable or stupid).
  3. What should you not share? Don’t share things that put you at risk. And, if the downsides of sharing outweigh the upsides, it is best to keep it to yourself (unless you don’t mind).
  4. Why do some people feel the need to share? Sharing stories helps them explain themselves better, release pent-up emotions, educate others, get sympathy (or help), and gather feedback from listeners.
  5. Why is sharing your story powerful? Stories are powerful because they inspire people to think and act, since, it doesn’t only appeal to their logic, but emotions as well. 
  6. what is the most effective way of storytelling? There is no single ultimate way to tell a story. However, to tell effective stories you must ensure to keep it simple (in structure and delivery), narrowed (to a specific point), and engaging (with conflicts and resolutions). 
  7. (How) can I make money by telling my story? Yes, you can make money from telling your stories. You can do this by selling your stories to publications (online or offline), sharing your story as a public speaker (as a host or guest speaker), blogging about your stories, or writing books and selling them for money.

> Sart Writing Your Stories (Free + Gift)

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