We’ve all done it.
We’ve all picked up a book about a leader or business we’re aching to learn more about, only to turn the final page on a story full of triumph and victory. Which, in some ways, is what we ultimately want to hear. But, in other ways, feels like an incomplete story. Because, as humans, we are wired to want to know the entire narrative. Yes, we want to hear about the happily ever after and the riding off into sunset, but we also want to know about the dragons that got slayed and the sword fights that happened along the way. It’s part of what we relate to in the journey of life and what keeps us rooting for the hero as they stand face-to-face with various trials. So when business leaders come to us wanting to write a book, one of the first questions that we tackle is how much should we include in that book?
Authentic Book Writing
As a creative team, we understand that sharing some of the harder seasons of your life or business evolution doesn’t always feel comfortable. We are conditioned to show the shiny side of our accomplishments and it can be a very vulnerable experience to be honest about the parts of our journey that didn’t come as easily as others. But those pieces of your story are also what invite your readers into the humanity that lies behind the company that you’ve built. Writing a book, in and of itself, acts as an incredible tool for any leader hoping to establish further credibility within their industry. But doing so with authenticity and vulnerability about the true nature of your story becomes a tool to create connection.
The reality is that very few businesses or leaders grow without setbacks. But we are often taught to believe that those setbacks are pieces of our story that need to be conquered and then tucked away in a closet, never to be seen again. In doing so though, we miss the opportunity to share what was learned from those challenges and how they helped you grow into the success that you are today.
If you are considering writing a book, here are a few things to consider when deciding how much to share:
What brought you closer to your values?
Quite often, our most tumultuous challenges are the ones that bring us closer to our most authentic selves. This includes businesses as well. Howard Schultz, former CEO of the Starbucks Coffee Company, did a beautifully honest interview with Oprah about an immensely difficult season for the coffee empire that—while it felt incredibly defeating at the time—is what ultimately brought them back to the heart of their values and made them the success that they are today. Sometimes it’s in the painful act of stepping out of our values that we discover how important it is to stand in further alignment with them.
What would you want other business owners to know about challenges?
One of top reasons that leaders come to us for support in writing a book is because it enables them to mentor other entrepreneurs on a much larger scale. And, of course, one of the main pillars of any mentorship is sharing the lessons that you’ve learned, both in the successes and in the failures. If you can approach your book writing process as a knowledge sharing process, you’ll likely feel more open to sharing the tough times alongside the successful ones because you recognize that—in doing so—you are helping to pave a road for someone else to walk.
“But the truest story that we can speak to in this life—as humans and as business leaders—is our own experience.”
Change the narrative.
For decades, business has been viewed as a tool for selling goods and services. But in recent years—and with consumers having access to resources like never before—business is no longer just about selling something . . . it’s about belonging to something. Every business, like every person, has its own story. And that story becomes the connective tissue that makes us feel more emotionally drawn to both the challenges and the victories that business has experienced. By inviting your reader into the ups and the downs of your story, you are inviting them to belong to something that is about more than just a product or a bottom line. You are inviting them into something that was built on the shoulders of people just like them. In turn, you aren’t just impacting the way a consumer engages with your company; you’re also impacting the business landscape in a way that it’s seldom seen before. Because you aren’t just asking people to bring their wallet to your door—you’re asking them to bring their hearts to your table.
What to Share When Writing Your Book
Admittedly, it can be challenging to know how much to share when we are putting our story on paper for the world to see. But the truest story that we can speak to in this life—as humans and as business leaders—is our own experience. Acknowledging that the road to business success can be filled with both personal and professional obstacles is a part of the journey and one that we can own with a sense of pride and accomplishment. Sharing those obstacles with those walking alongside you opens the door for a more vulnerable and honest experience that holds space for your reader to relate with in their own personal ways. Reminding them that they are never really out there slaying the dragons alone.