#99 – An Essential Tool For Clarity (In Storytelling and Life)

*NB: I have an important announcement about the newsletter at the end of this note*

What do you need? It’s a question I’ve been asking myself a lot lately. As I continue to grow a business and craft a life story that feels right for me, I’ve found myself asking really hard questions about the nature of success and living a full life. The state of the world and the role I want to play in making a change is also contributing to the deep thoughts that have me scribbling away with coloured pens in a corner of the west end WeWork I spend some days in. I’m also working on a project about work, productivity, rest, and self (that I can’t wait to share with you later in the year) that has my mind on big questions.

In almost all my storytelling workshops and courses, I start with understanding, with the essential ingredients of context and clarity. Because if you don’t understand those things you cannot craft a clear and compelling narrative. Without them, it’s hard to craft a story that feels authentic and true to the teller. I call it insight mining when I work with my clients—just diving into research and data and culture and who they truly are to identify their purpose, craft their narrative and share their unique story with the world. But it always starts with clarity.

I’ve written before that a brand story requires three things, and clarity is one of them. But all stories need that sense of “what am I doing and what is this about?” resolved if we want them to truly connect and inspire.

In working through what I want for myself and my business, I organized questions I sometimes use with my clients to get clear on their context and story. I think as we all try to navigate a truly challenging moment in history that you may find them helpful in interrogating your life and your work. I sat down with these questions last week and spent an afternoon brainstorming the answers and working slowly to get clear on what I want this next phase of life (as we move into a new phase of the pandemic and a still uncertain economic and socio cultural context).

So here they are, the eight questions to answer to get you clear on what you want your story to look like moving forward.

  1. What do I need? (get real with yourself and focus on true needs here, think survival of your soul type needs)

  2. What do I want? (not survival level, but still important, this is about thriving)

    • Bonus: What don’t I want?

  3. What am I currently doing? (in life, in work, how are you spending your days? Is it tied to those needs and wants at all)

  4. What can I be doing? (can, NOT should—it’s important to live in the realm of possibility here not obligation or have tos)

  5. What outcome am I attached to? (I learned this one from a coach I saw while healing from burnout, it’s a power question to get your ego in check and priorities in order)

  6. What am I trying to create?

  7. Why? (Think mission, vision, Purpose here)

  8. What do I need to do to make this happen? (these are your next steps)

I did a bit more with it and do more with my clients, but this is a valuable place to get started. If you’ve been struggling lately with how to move forward or what story you want to bring to life in our new and evolving context, I think this may help. Whether you’re thinking through next career steps, running or launching a business, or just looking to be more creative I think these will be a helpful guide on the path. Let me know if you try them out. I think I may make this an annual tradition to sit down and just get clear. There’s no feeling it like it that deep breath and exhale that clarity brings.

A Story Well Told

I’ve spent a lot of time on social media over the past few days, opening and closing apps as I try to manage my mental health and read the tenor of things following the unrelenting and disheartening news out of the United States over the past few weeks (months? Years?). I think I’m looking for something. For people sharing not expressions of hopelessness or even frustration, but those who have moved through the grief enough to think through what we do next if we want to create a world that feels just and fair and equitable for everyone. Here are some of the posts that helped me feel a little less hopeless and a little clearer on what I can do to help move forward in a post Roe v. Wade world. This older Adventures post on what to do when it’s hard may also be helpful for you (it was written in September 2020).

A post shared by Morgan Harper Nichols (@morganharpernichols)


And of course:


I’m moving! Well the newsletter is evolving. You may have noticed in the past that some of my notes show up in your inbox formatted differently. That’s because I use a few different tools to communicate with folks. I’m trying to get things together and consolidated so my notes don’t cause confusion. So while the “Adventures in Storytelling” newsletter will continue to come to you every Tuesday at 11:45am, it’s going to have a slightly different look and feel as I migrate off of substack for regular notes and onto my website’s blog. So insights, tips, and resources for better storytelling and communication will still be coming to your inbox, but you may need to move me out of spam into your main mailbox again so you don’t miss anything. Can’t wait to hear what you think about the new look.

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