Tell Original Stories to Set Yourself Apart

Tell Original Stories

Everyone wants to stand out from the crowd, but you can’t do that by telling the same old stories people have heard a million times. That’s why it’s important to tell original stories.

Our stories are what set us apart as individuals. They communicate who we are and the values we hold dear. They make it easier for people to connect with us.

But time after time, at conferences and in blog posts, I hear the same stories told over and over again.

The (Tired Old) Chevy Nova Story

One of the dusty old classics is the story of the Chevy Nova. According to lore, the people at GM were so dumb they didn’t take into account that “nova” means “no go” in Spanish, thus making them a laughing stock in Latin America.

The only thing is, it’s not true. It’s a myth that’s been passed on by so many people for so long that it’s come to be accepted as true. It’s so embedded in our brains that just the other day I had to convince an audience of highly intelligent people that the Chevy Nova story is false.

So this story has two strikes against it: it’s tired and it’s not true. Beware of any story you find online. It’s much safer and more effective to tell your own original stories.

Watch the Video

Here’s a short (1:32) video from one of my recent presentations where I discuss the importance of telling original stories and offer up my version of the widely known (and often reviled) starfish story. (Transcript below the video.)


Transcript of the Video

I’d also urge you to be original. Just like the Chevy Nova story, for those of you who attend a lot of these conferences, you may have heard the same stories over and over again. There’s the ship and the lighthouse, there’s the starfish story. Does anybody know the starfish story?

All right, I’ll tell you the starfish story. It’s a story that’s been told a lot. A father and son are walking along the beach — or sometimes it’s an old man and a little girl, sometimes it’s Jesus and somebody else — they’re walking along the beach and all these starfish are washed up and dying.

And so the kid throws the starfish back into the water to save it and the father says, “Well, son you can’t save them all,” and the kid says, “Well, I can make a difference to this one, Dad.”

And when you tell it less glibly, it’s probably a really nice story. But it was much nicer about 50 million times ago. So whenever I have clients who are working on a presentation, they say, “Oh, I’ve got this great story,” and I’ll say, “Oh good where’d you find it?” And they say, “I found it online,” and I say, “Well, let’s think twice about that.”

Unless it’s, you know, page 107 of your Google search, I would avoid stories that you’ve found online because people have heard them a million times.

Tell your own stories. This is how we stand out. We are our stories, our stories are us. It’s a competitive advantage that nobody else has.

More Tips on Telling Original Stories

So how and where do you find original stories? Stories are everywhere. You just have to program yourself to spot them.

Here are five tips for finding and telling original stories, along with a little more background on the infamous starfish story.

(Image by Dave Smith at