Once Upon a Time, Your Bio Put Me to Sleep…

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Your life doesn’t suck. You do. Well, let me rephrase that. Your version of your life sucks. That convoluted scrap heap of 5 dollar words you call your biography might have gotten you a gold star and a pat on the head in your Business 101 class but not in the real world and certainly not online.

It’s time for you to throw out everything you have ever been taught about writing your bio and start writing your story. There’s a big difference. Think about it. When was the last time you had a friend call you up because he heard a great bio? Never. If he did he wouldn’t be your friend. But a good story? Everyone has time to listen to or read a good story.

In fact, what separates the good from the great are not the things they have done so much as how they tell the world about the things they have done. A good story adds credibility to everything else you touch. A good story can turn a prospect into a client or a visitor into a subscriber. A good story can turn a failure into a success or a weakness into a strength. A good story can change the way the world sees you.

You need to become a good storyteller. It’s a worthwhile goal.

Lucky you because whether you know it or not, you have a head start…you already are a storyteller. We all are. It’s just that some are better than others. For example, if you ever get a call from Steven Spielberg that starts off with “you are not going to believe what happened at the supermarket today” I suggest you take the call. If it’s your Aunt Claire, it can probably wait. The challenge is that most of us are closer to Aunt Claire’s version than we are to Steve’s (he said I can call him Steve).

But we can change that. With a few minor tweaks we can turn that sleeper of a bio into a good story.

Lose the Corporate Speak and Jibber Jabber

I’m sorry, but when it comes to your bio you are no longer a strategist. You don’t leverage things. You are not responsible for any new paradigms. We don’t have synergy. And you do not have me engaged. Take a red pen to all of that corporate speak and let’s talk about the language you should be using.

People don’t want to read a dissertation on your life’s history. They want to feel connected to you. In order to do that, it only makes sense that you should write your story as if you were telling it to them. Write in a conversational language. Read it out loud several times. Does it sound like something you would actually say to another human being? If not, get back to the drawing board until you can read it several times without rolling your eyes.

Get Excited About Your Life

Look, this is your story, not mine. That means you are going to have to work twice as hard if you want my attention because quite frankly I am just being polite by listening to it or reading it. Sorry, but this is the attitude that you are up against…and don’t think for a second that you don’t feel the same way when it comes to other people. Have you read my story? If it weren’t for this post drumming up a little curiosity over whether I take my own medicine or not, would it have ever occurred to you to read it?

Your story needs to be exciting. That doesn’t mean that you need to reinact Close Encounters of the Third Kind, but you do need to write an exciting story. Throw some love into it. Sound enthusiastic. Make it a good read. If you make it exciting enough people might actually make it to the end!

Me, Myself and I

Unless your story is on a page with a series of other bios like an “About the Team” page, please write it in the first person. You would never tell your story to someone by speaking in the third person so you shouldn’t write it that way either. We all know you wrote it, so stop pretending as if it were written by Tom Brokaw.

The Difference Between an Embellishment and a Lie

It’s a pretty fine line between an embellishment and a lie, so tread carefully. A good story is a true story told well. Never lie. There is no integrity in it and it will hurt your credibility when you get caught…if you are lying about that, what else are you lying about? An embellishment on the other hand just makes a true story sound a little bigger.

Just so we are clear, let’s look at an example showing the difference between an embellishment and a lie:

Truth: I caught a fish
Embellishment: I caught a fish this big
Lie: I caught a fish this big

OK…so it loses a little something without the visual, but you get what I’m saying, right?

Instead, embrace who you are. Just make sure it is the more interesting version of who you are. You do it all of the time for negative stuff, don’t you? Someone innocently cuts you off on the highway by accident and the way you tell the story, you would think you were starring in an episode of CHiPs. I’m not suggesting that you throw a verbal party over the time you ate that 5 pound hamburger in under a half hour and got it for free (although impressive) but if you were interviewed on a radio show play it up! Even if it was just for a few minutes, it doesn’t matter. It’s an experience worth sharing and worth sharing well.

Bring the Funny

This is a tough one because some people just aren’t funny. Worse yet, some people think they are funny when they clearly are not. This is where other people come in. If you write what you think is hilarious only to watch someone else read it without cracking a smile, you are not funny. You should skip this part. If you are funny, you don’t need my help. Moving on…

Antagonist

Batman has the Joker. Harry Potter has Valdemort. Aunt Jemima has Mrs. Butterworth. So, you need a villain too. Something you have had to overcome in your life. Something that could have taken you out of the game but because of your persistance, you were able to pull through it.

Your antagonist doesn’t have to be a person. It could be a brick wall that you ran into. A personal challenge that you faced. An “against all odds” Rocky style story. Whatever it is, tell us about it. We want to know…it makes you seem more human. It tells us that you don’t give up. That you are a go-getter. It gives your story legs. It keeps us secretly rooting for you.

Where To?

Once last thing. Your story shouldn’t just be about the past. Tell us a little bit about where you are going. Show us your big vision! Readers love to hear about your dreams. The things that give you the warm fuzzies when you think about where you are going. Besides, you never know who might be reading it.

…and They Lived Happily Ever After

Your story is a living, breathing thing. It never ends and so you should never stop writing it. Keep revisiting it at least once a month and continue to shape it. Constantly add to it. When you accomplish something great, work it into your story. When you think of something funny, work it into your story. When you overcome another challenge, work it into your story. You’ll never finish it, but the more you work on it the closer you will get.

Now it’s your turn. What’s your story?

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  • http://roborr.net Rob Orr

    Love this post. I cringe at just the sound of “corporate speak”. It makes my skin crawl and I run from those people. I hope I don’t have that kind of stuff on my about pages!

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      Thanks Rob! Glad you liked it and thanks for sharing it on Twitter…yeah, I saw that! The only thing worse than a bio covered in corporate speak is when you actually meet someone in person and they introduce themselves that way like a drone. They’ve been practicing that elevator speech for months just in time to meet you. Some people just don’t get it!

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      I couldn’t help it. I had to stop by your website and check out your bio. Just out of curiosity, did you change anything after reading this? 

      • http://roborr.net Rob Orr

        Ha – no – I actually didn’t but it’s definitely a work in progress. I’ve been buried in work, but it’s on my short-list of things to do and I’ll be using this post as a reference for making it awesome.

  • http://bluecollarliving.com James Dibben

    Now I need to look at mine again!

    Ugh, branding is hard…..

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      Hi James! I had to ruin the ending for you, but it never stops!

  • http://www.getstoried.com/ Michael Margolis

    Hey Marc! Couldn’t agree with you more, brother. Character trumps credentials, and we’re all looking to self-identify when we read somebody else’s bio. It’s all about helping people find the invisible lines of connections. 

    You might enjoy some of my extensive writing on this topic, including this article: http://the99percent.com/tips/7025/The-Resume-Is-Dead-The-Bio-Is-King

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      Hey Mike! Thanks your checking out my post. I just got done reading the one you posted above and it’s great…almost 5,000 Tweets, so either you Tweet your own posts WAY too much or a lot of people agree that this is a really good post! I’m thinking a lot of people agree. Thanks for sharing it. I’m going to go dig round the rest of your site now and see what else I can find!

  • http://www.techsofty.com/ Sushain Pandita

    Absolute must for me,This is a wonderful post……now i need is to go at mine and make it like it…..i shared it at both at facebook and twiiter…let others to know about this…..this made me as the”ROB OR” said my skin crawl and I run from those people. I hope…… I don’t have that kind of stuff on my about pages! so i m going at my own……

  • Andrew

    Some great points here.  Isn’t your bio above written in third person, counter to your recommendation in the 11th paragraph?  Do as I say, not as I do ; ) 

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      Ah, good catch Andrew! Technically that’s just a quick authors blurb that appears under all of my posts so I don’t know if it really counts as my bio. The reason I use my name there in the third person is because it shows up in a search better with my name so it’s clear I wrote the article. I may have to give you half credit though for the observation and of course the wink smiley face though!

      My actual bio is here…http://www.marcensign.com/about-marc/

      • Andrew

        Your full bio is excellent.  Your personality definitely shows in your writing;  it makes readers identify or connect with you more easily.  

        • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

          Thanks Andrew!  You almost had me…that was a close one!

  • http://pegfitzpatrick.com/ Peg Fitzpatrick

    Some very interesting points here Marc.  I do agree that your story needs to continue to evolve, grow and change. I think this is one area that people miss out on, the create a bio and leave it. Keeping it fresh is important! 

    I am intrigued by the antagonist section. Why do feel that you need one to have a successful online story?

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      I think having some type of antagonist not only gives the story some much needed push and pull it also makes it easier for us as the readers to connect with it since we all have our challenges. Think in terms of a movie. If it went: 

      Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love with girl. Boy marries girl. Boy and girl live happily ever after. 

      That would be a pretty boring movie. We need to hear about the challenges. We want to be able to root for you!

      • http://pegfitzpatrick.com/ Peg Fitzpatrick

        Totally agree with that in a story. Equate that to a social media bio for me. :)

        • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

          It makes you more human. It shows a different level of strength. Anyone can (and does) go on and on about how great they are. Few people talk about the time they were struggling. Some of the most inspiring “bios” are those where there was something big to overcome. Jim Cary lived in his car, Tony Robbins had to wash dishes in his bathtub, Oprah was abused, etc.

          It also adds a lot of truth and credibility to everything else you say. If your bio is all “attaboys” about how great you are it’s hard not to think there is some fluff in there. If you are willing to put the ugly stuff out there, it stands up the good stuff as well. Everybody has a story like that. Share it…let us connect with you on THAT level instead of all of the on the surface stuff. Even if it’s not directly in your bio. I wrote a post a few weeks ago about a big stubble of mine and had people coming out of the woodwork sending me private messages about how much they connected with my story and got them to look at things a little different. I’m not saying it’s the only way to go but I am saying that it builds a much deeper connection than “you are smart, I will read what you have to say sometimes.”

          This is the story: http://www.marcensign.com/are-you-willing-to-let-go/

  • Bri

    *Voldemort ;)

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      Oops! Thanks for catching that!  While we’re at it, did I spell Aunt Jemima right?

      • Bri

         I can’t say sorry as I have no idea who she is.

        • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

          Hmmm…that joke doesn’t really work so well for you then, does it? Here you go…

          Mrs. Butterworth: http://www.mrsbutterworths.com 
          Aunt Jemima: http://www.auntjemima.com Does that help?

          • Bri

             OHHHHH. Sorry, my Australian-ness is showing. But I’m with you now. I think I heard a reference to Mrs. Butterworth in a rap song once!

  • http://twitter.com/spencer_anna Anna Spencer

    Back to the drawing boards, I guess. Thanks for the suggestions and challenge.

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      Sorry…or your welcome. Not sure which. When you are done rewriting your story swing back here and add a link. Would love to check it out!

  • Chuckishustle

    Here I was thinking my bio was nice! lol reminder that it’s not about me! THANK YOU SIR!- great read!

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      Make sure you come back and add a link to your new bio when you are done updating it!