Your own story.
Or, as I call it, your backstory.
It’s funny, because so many leaders forget about this story. I’d like to reverse that trend. Because your very own backstory has unique power.
Let’s find out why.
What exactly is your backstory?
“I grew up in Baltimore, used to love eating Frosted Flakes for breakfast, did great on the basketball team in high school, favorite classes were Navi and Biology -”
Erm, not exactly.
When I say “backstory,” I mean the narrative of the journey that led you to become the leader you are today.
Because you aren’t doing what you’re doing by chance. Different people and life experiences shaped you into the person who took the actions you’ve taken for Klal Yisrael.
Many of us can pinpoint the “aha moments” that acted as turning points in our journey.
Rav Meir Shapiro ztz”l used to tell a story from his childhood about the day his melamed didn’t come to his house. The tears Rav Meir’s mother shed then because of “one day without learning” exerted a major influence on his eventual founding of Daf Yomi.
L’havdil bein chaim l’chaim, Rabbi Simcha Scholar of Chai Lifeline speaks about the heart-wrenching experiences that led him to found his incredible mossad.
Rabbi Dovid Refson of Neve Yerushalayim shared a funny anecdote about advertising a free Torah class in a newspaper. Zero men showed up - but, to Rabbi Refson’s surprise, a group of women did! And thus began Neve…
Of course, we can always refer back to Rabi Akiva and his encounter with the rock. “If a gentle drip of water can penetrate stone…”
When we string together our own “aha moments,” we create a powerful story of our dreams, our accomplishments, and our vision for Klal Yisrael’s future. Even if they’re not quite as dramatic as Rav Meir Shapiro’s, or unique as Rabi Akiva’s. Even if they’re simply about:
The rebbi whose geshmak in learning turned you on to Gemara.
The challenge that spurred you to help others in the same situation.
The event that inspired you to pursue the avodas hakodesh you do.
Whatever the content, your story puts a personal touch on your cause and your organization. It brings them to life. It moves beyond donors’ minds and enters their hearts.
It also allows you to share your and your organization’s values, mission and vision without stiffly eking out literal statements about “our values, mission, and vision.”
So, how to do it?
How do you create your backstory?
- Think back to those aha moments. Try to come up with three or four clearly defined ones. Even if they’re small. Even if you think they sound humdrum.
- Sit down with someone and verbally piece them together. Are there any common themes running through them?
- Rehearse your story a few times. Keep it in your back pocket. When you’re speaking to a donor, pull it out and share it.
It’s powerful. It’s inspiring. Like you.