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Jul 18th, 2015 Share: Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on LinkedIn

The Essence of Your Work

This weekend I spend some time with the Unreasonable Institute in Boulder, CO where I mentor their wonderful 2015 fellows. One of the things I work through with the entrepreneurs is storytelling — from becoming clear who they are and what they do, to rolling this into a short pitch which the teams will give in front of a couple of hundred people at the end of next week.

It typically works like this: The entrepreneur rattles down a long laundry list of things they do, features their solution has, ways their intervention supports people and real-life stories which are attached to that. In-between they sprinkle stories about how they got involved with their particular solution, emotional hooks on why they care so deeply about the problem space and anecdotes on how they came up with their solution. And to round things up they talk about some of their partners, past achievement, the severity of the problem space and their plans for the future.

When they finish talking I am confused and exhausted.

I nearly always start with focussing the entrepreneur on the essence of their work. I want to know what, at the most basic level, it is what they are doing. I force them to express this in the most simplistic, clearest terms possible. Easy enough that an eight-year old understands what they are actually doing, what the problem is and how they are solving it. I then do the same for their motivations — what is the true, most raw insight on why they are doing what they are doing.

Once you found the essence of why you’re doing what you’re doing and what it actually is that you’re doing — you then can build up the story and your pitch from the ground up; creating an authentic, beautiful and compelling story which has an arch, a clear beginning and end with a strong call to action.

Find the answer to the following questions — each in one sentence: What is it that you’re doing? Why does it matter? How is it better? Why are you doing what you’re doing?

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