There was a famous business consultant who built his practice off the idea that “who you are now is where you were when.” The premise was that you were shaped dramatically by what was happening in the world when you were young.
At Interact, we also believe that “who you are now is where you were when.” But we believe we all were shaped, in ways big and small, by things that happened to us when we were young. We also believe that when you tell the story, your backstory, of your youth and how it shaped you; that you become more human, more likable, more trustworthy and more worthy of our respect and admiration.
Was it a coincidence that Michelle Obama became the most admired woman in the United States, after her deeply personal memoir, Becoming, was released? In the book and the sold-out book tour, Obama told her story from growing up poor in Chicago through leaving The White House. She shared stories about the imperfections in her perfect marriage to Barack Obama. And we’ve never loved her more. She was real. She was genuine. She was relatable.
Other backstories that have made their owners more human, more real and more trustworthy, because they tell stories of struggle, of overcoming and of thriving:
- President Jimmy Carter, started as a peanut farmer in Georgia.
- Oprah Winfrey, grew up in rural poverty and was the victim of childhood sexual assault.
- Simone Biles, Olympic gymnast, was adopted by her grandfather and his second wife after her parents, both with substance issues, could not care for her.
- Dabo Swinney, Clemson head football coach, grew up in a broken home in rural Alabama with an alcoholic, abusive father. His mother shared a room with him when he was in college at Alabama.
- Lowe’s CEO Marvin Ellison, worked his way through college including a $4/hour job as a Target security guard.
Our backstories shape us. They help make us who we became. And they help people understand us in deeper, more connected ways. As the mother of Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts said, “everybody’s got something.” And when you tell us about your “something,” it enriches our relationship.
Want to work through your own backstory? You can begin here.