Last March, at the annual Social Media Marketing World event in San Diego, I experienced the power of vulnerability. As a storytelling coach, I know impactful stories come from openness and authenticity. But living that truth myself can be challenging.
Stepping Outside My Comfort Zone at a Networking Event
The annual networking event in the hotel bar during Social Media Marketing World was still in full swing, and I was in the zone. Making connections is kind of a superpower of mine (at least in my eyes, it is).
Amidst the loud conversations and clinking glasses, I spotted a group gathered on the couches up ahead. It was the small but influential faith-based marketers, and my wife was already among them, listening intently as they shared their dreams and prayers one by one.
Although I knew I should tear myself away and join them, the pull of chatting with new contacts and old friends rationalized my decision not to join the churchy group of marketers congregating there in the hotel lobby.
I secretly hoped their little gathering would wrap up before I could be pried from the lively bar scene. But the nagging feeling to make the “right” choice persisted. I hesitated. Did I really want to join?
Embracing Vulnerability Led to Unexpected Lessons
With a reluctant sigh and possibly the knowledge that my wife would not be pleased with my decision not to join them, I pulled myself away from a riveting chat and made my way to the little area of chairs and couches where they were hanging out. As I exited the bar, the lively sounds of laughter and conversation faded behind me, replaced by the soft hum of the lobby.
There they were—a circle of familiar faces, including my friend John. He caught my eye and waved me over. I took a seat on the edge of the couch, prepared to observe more than participate. Just as I sank into the plush cushions, several people rose to leave. A twinge of self-consciousness hit me. Were they going because of my arrival? My wife assured me that they were just heading to bed.
The remaining marketers turned to me expectantly. John leaned in with a thoughtful gaze. “Chad, what is it that you really want?” he asked, breaking the silence.
Conditioned to keep my cards close and remain in networking mode, I hesitated. But John’s kind eyes coaxed me to open up in this safe space. I faltered, words lodging in my throat. My truest desire seemed too vulnerable to speak aloud. They waited patiently as I gathered my courage.
“What I want more than anything,” I began, my voice cracking, “is to believe in myself as much as you all believe in me.”
Tears spilled down my cheeks. But the group enveloped me in warmth and love—not judgment. I let the tears flow, no longer ashamed. They hugged me tightly, and the sweet feeling of empathy surrounded me. Then, they prayed for me to gain the personal confidence I so longed for. In that moment, I felt truly seen. For the first time, I realized—I was enough, just as I was, and could accomplish what I knew I was created to do.
Putting My Experience to Use in Story Catching Workshops
The people who attend my Story Catching workshops now benefit from that lesson. I lead exercises designed to uncover their own hidden stories – the kind that resonate most when shared from a place of openness.
That experience showed me firsthand how important my own advice is. As Story Catchers, our stories must come from a genuine place if we want them to genuinely impact others. We have to be willing to get vulnerable and real.
The Stories That Resonate Most Come from Vulnerability
So don’t be afraid to peel away the layers and uncover your truest self. That’s where you’ll find the stories people connect with most.