At a certain point in life, when houses and possessions and other accolades of success fade in importance, one thing will always matter: your story.
Everyone has a story.
This belief has fueled my lifelong curiosity and guided my career, up to and including my latest chapter as a founding partner of SellersEaston Media. But 33 years ago, when I started at Fortune Magazine, little did I know where this belief would take me….
I learned at Fortune that business leaders, the CEOs and other super-achievers who earn space in the magazine’s page, have extraordinary ability to make a difference in the world.
A key benefit of success is impact, I realized, and so I was drawn to profiling successful people. No one is born a leader, as I saw up close and personal. Every life has an arc: You win, you lose, you learn, you grow. If you’re lucky and smart, that’s a life story and a path to leadership.
One classic path to leadership involves using your platform to do far more than what you’re expected to do. For instance, when Melinda French became Mrs. Bill Gates, she could have settled into the easy life of a billionaire’s wife. Instead, as I wrote in the first solo profile that Melinda ever agreed to do, she transformed her husband’s thinking about his money and became, with Bill, one of the world’s greatest philanthropists.
Another classic path to leadership involves recovery from setbacks. In fact, some of my favorite stories have been about models of resilience. Sean Maloney, who was in line to be the next CEO of tech giant Intel, suffered a massive stroke and lost his ability to speak—and then overcame seemingly impossible odds. In “The Man who Couldn’t Speak,” I tell the inspiring story of a determined man who learns to speak out of the other side of his brain.
Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg has followed both paths to leadership—using her platform to create a global best seller, Lean In, and become a role model for aspiring women, and now, as a widow raising two young children, writing another book, Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy, due out this spring.
Interviewing and profiling leaders such as Sheryl in print, on video, and on Fortune’s stage, both Nina Easton and I have learned more than any school could teach us. Today, at SellersEaston Media, we’re using our well-honed skills to tell stories for private clients who believe, as we do, that one person can make a difference—and by telling their story well, they can inspire others for years after. We help individuals, families, and companies capture stories and legacies for private use. Our clients own their content; they choose their audience. In today’s chaotic fake-news environment, it’s more important than ever to capture stories as they should be told. Because legacies endure.
So, what’s your story? Know it. Tell it well. And make it last.
You can contact Pattie at Pattie@SellersEaston.com.