When creating a legacy, it’s important to know what makes your story worth telling.
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with a local celebrity who spent a 40-year career as a television newscaster on the evening news. We met at a coffee house and talked about life over a steaming mug of coffee on a crisp fall morning. We share a mutual interest in photography and talked through the topic of taking good pictures of autumn colors, getting into details such as the old days of using polarizing filters with high contrast film versus the latest DSLR techniques.
He’s been retired for a short time and was giving thought to the legacy he wants to leave. He had a successful career, and millions of people know his work. As the glow of the studio lights has faded, he is left wanting more in this phase of life. This is where the question of legacy enters the picture. Should he write a book? What about touring as a speaker? Or should he focus on his love of photography?
These are all great questions. However, the biggest question should be this: WHY?
Upon reflecting on this meeting, the heart of the conversation was motivation — the reason for sharing a story. When you examine your motivation, it then leads to a “Why,” and what drives you. Then, the next question is how do you package your Why into a narrative that is so compelling that the next generation will be discussing your ideas.
Creating a legacy that will be relevant to the next generation requires an exceptional narrative — one that is not only highly memorable, but will change hearts and minds. The question remains: How do you take an extraordinary life experience and shape it into the written word for generations to enjoy?
When you want to use stories to pique the interest of your audience, you can ask yourself these three questions:
Will They Relate?
Do you have a message to which people can relate? Make sure your material speaks to a common pain or pleasure that your audience can feel with you.
We all likely have some obstacle that we’ve had to overcome to reach our potential. Think about your struggles and how they have shaped you into the person you are today. Did you go through a divorce as a child that gave you a deep empathy for others in the midst of family turmoil? Did you struggle with a chronic illness or disease that gave you a platform to share stories of hope amid pain? Did you experience incredible success as a result of following a philosophy? These are the testimonies that inspire people to go on and live their legacy.
Who Is This For?
Whose interest are you piquing? Consider your audience when you’re choosing your material.
If you are sharing a story from your childhood, consider speaking in classrooms, school assemblies, and college campuses. If that is out of your comfort zone, you might want to rethink the story you are telling and with whom you will have a voice of influence. Think about the different groups of people you can share with, i.e., students, athletes, cancer patients, business owners, etc., and how your story could potentially change their lives.
Is This Personal?
Are you saying it in a way that is relatable? Express your point in a way that is unique and personal. Make it your own, and share it with the world.
When you share an experience with a group of people, you will always have a few people that will be heavily influenced by your legacy. These people very well may go on to change the world themselves. As you are sharing or writing, remember to keep things approachable and relatable as best you can. Think about the audience you are sharing with, and how they will best receive what you are communicating. But most of all, be authentically YOU.
In the business of publishing & mass media exposure, the council to aspiring authors goes like this, “Never tell a story without making a point, and never make a point without telling a story.” The same goes for you, as you begin to craft your story and share your legacy. You just never know where your words will end up, or whose life will be changed.
Bryan Heathman is the President of Made for Success Publishing and the host of the Book Publishing Success podcast show. Bryan works with best-selling business authors, including NYT best-selling authors Chris Widener and Tom Hopkins, plus up-and-coming authors including Johnny Covey. Bryan is the author of Conversion Marketing, a marketing book on converting website visitors into buyers. Bryan’s Fortune 500 experience includes Microsoft, Eastman Kodak and Xerox.