Are you a playwright yet?
February 9, 2022, Dina-Marie Weineck
Have you ever found yourself wallowing in the stories your favorite characters live out so fiercely on the big screen, or on Broadway; feeling inspired by how they rose to the challenges while tirelessly pursuing their objectives? I like to think of good storytelling as being synonymous with building your own life, career, or business. In fact, I submit that the exact same things are needed to make either, the story on screen or of your life, a fabulous creation of the mind. So, instead of wallowing in some character’s life, why not choose to learn from what goes into great storytelling and start writing your own script?
I have a special connection to acting and storytelling since the musical theater stage was literally the place where I learnt how to walk. Both on my feet and through life. Just recently, I opened a long-closed box filled with costumes and shoes from my 11 musical theater years. There was the enchanting Tinker Bell costume, the worn-out Dirty Dancing high heels, the perfectly fitting ballet shoes, a big green dragon’s hat, the sexy Time Wrap and Burlesque costumes, and then there were my old scripts – highlighted and annotated. Flipping through these pages, I realized that I might have learnt some of the most crucial business practices as I slipped into these beloved characters: I became apt in telling a compelling story on stage…and the stage of life.
In preparing for my roles, I’d get immersed with three things that these characters were driven by: (1) My character’s super objective, (2) purpose, (3) and the challenges they would be facing.
For me as an actress, these were my anchors. For the storyline, these are crucial elements that make the difference between boring and compelling writing.
Just as well, these three things make the difference between a default and designed life; between a failing and a prospering business:
- Just as a character needs a super objective, a business (or just life) needs to have a clear vision of a reality that is aspirational and, in some sense, different or better than the current reality.
- Just as a character will be driven by a clear purpose only, a business, too, needs a clearly defined, intrinsic, and explicitly stated Why.
- And finally, just as you’ll see your favorite character move and grow through challenges, a successful business leader will lean into challenge, invite, and accept obstacles, and set an intention to grow through the challenges that they will inevitably face.
But this isn’t all there is. Knowledge is for braggers. Application is for true warriors. That's you. So read on:
How would you like to write a movie script about how your life unfolds, detailing the ultimate objective and purpose of the main character (you), the challenge you’re to overcome? As you know, I’m a huge champion of changing the perspective in stories, so why not look at what playwrights can teach leaders and entrepreneurs about telling a good story and putting it to use in designing a fabulous future of your own?
What if you wrote your 10 year plan as a movie script?
I mean, duh! Doesn't that sound more fun, anyway? Hear me out: What if, instead of writing out your business vision, you began to tell the story of your business and how it unfolds over the next 10 years with you as the protagonist in your very own movie or play? Let’s take a deeper dive:
The super objective:
The audience wants to know what the character is after. So does your team, yourself, your board, your audience. Get clear on your objective – what reality are you creating through your business? In the script, include scenes where you dialogue with clients or team members about the super objective. Have yourself converse with different constituents and see how you need to present your objective in different words and contexts.
The purpose, aka the WHY:
In a movie, this is what draws the audience in. It’s what has us root for the character and hope they get to their ultimate goal. It’s what makes them human and relatable to the audience. For the character themselves, the why is what drives them forward, what keeps them going even in the face of set-backs and challenges.
Similarly in business, you’ve got to know and communicate why you’re in business in the first place. To you personally, why does this matter? Why should your team care? Tell them the why, have them take part in creating the why. And remind yourself of it often. In your script, you want to recall pivotal moments in life that sparked your business idea. You want to write a scene wherein you enroll an investor into supporting your new venture, telling the story of your own why and the story of why this new reality matters to the investor.
A movie isn’t a walk in the park. Of course, there are bound to be challenges. It’s what strengthens the character’s why, yields new ideas, opens doors, and ultimately provides wisdom and learning lessons to the character and audience.
Similarly, in business, challenges are bound to occur, as well. In writing your script, account for challenges and how you’re going to relate to challenges that come up. Set intentions for how you’ll communicate about challenges to your board and co-founders. Decide now to own mistakes and challenges and recognize that, while it may not have been your fault, you always have the response-ability to learn and grow through it.
On screen or stage, the main character will have a handful of pivotal moments that change their onward journey and outcome. So do you as a leader; and so does your business and life. What are specific moments you’d like to experience? Is it a Ted Talk? Interviewing Oprah? Opening the doors to your very own retreat center? A backpacking trip through Portugal with a special someone? Pick two or three of these dream-moments and write them out from start to finish. Who introduces you to key gatekeepers/-openers, who is there with you, what happens as a result of that? How do you prepare for it and how do you feel during and after the moment?
The biggest movies or movie franchises have not stopped at creating an audience inside the theaters, but they’ve created a roaring community outside, as well. Think Harry Potter or Star Wars. Again, there’s a lesson here for leaders: Don’t stop creating once the invoice is paid. Welcome new members into your community, celebrate their wins, feature them in your marketing materials, support your community in whichever way you can. In your script, write about the collaborators and clients that come into your life and about the vibe of your community you’re fostering around yourself. Put yourself in scenes where you speak to a potential client, where you speak to the press, or take a meeting with a colleague, actively design the brand and what your business is to those engaging with it. Write a scene where two community members roar about you or the business while having gin tonic at a bar. Don't forget the scenes about the private community you're building with your blood and chosen family either.
Phew! And just like that, you have created the start of a script that, I am sure, is a bit more motivating than a plain old business plan. Now, it's time to for the production team to be brought in:
Produce the show:
Finally, once the script is written, it’s time to slip into your alter egos as director, set designer, Director of Photography, stagehand, and producer. Create something that does not yet exist and accept that what is written before you on the page will change and grow as you engage with the material. You might put yourself in the writers’ room, changing lines, adding characters and challenges as you go along. And as you do so, you’ll be fueled by your why, clearly headed into the direction of your super objective, and intent on overcoming challenges. You will accept change without dismissing the ultimate vision you now so clearly see.
The best leaders are storytellers. Tell the story of your life from here on forward. Be bold.
Leaders tell the story of how a new product will change society for the better. They tell the story of their private clinic, own hotel, minimalist life, or whatever, with an unbreakable belief that this is what will, in fact, happen. It’s that belief that makes success almost inevitable. Leaders clearly and passionately repeat the vision over and over and over again, enrolling their team, making the impossible possible, and manifesting their script one conversation at a time. One of the best examples I’ve seen of a leader telling a story every single time he entered a room to meet with investors, his team, or his board, was Steve Jobs. There’s a film on Netflix, JOBS. Watch it and learn how he created the future with the sheer power of his imagination and words.
We’re all storytellers at heart. Time to start telling the story of your future. Pick up a pen. And then start rehearsing. The lights might just go on and before you know it, you’ll be in the very spotlight you’ve created with your own fabulous mind.
Loving and hugs,
P.S. Inside the newly created artist-founders’ group, I teach, step by step, month after month, how to turn a script such as this into an actionable plan that moves an artist-founded organization straight into the community they’re meant to serve. This is a space for founders and their teams whose greatest capital is made up of their inspiring vision and powerful leadership but not (yet) their financial assets. Participants of this group are leaders of organizations that build community through their organization, are in the first 18 months of founding, and are ALL-IN. If this is you, I would love to invite you to join the group. Here is more information.