From 2001 to 2007, I worked as a message architect and storytelling consultant. This was my brainchild and labor of love. I worked with big brands on high-stakes innovation initiatives. A few years in, the business was growing.
When I added my wife to the company as a business partner, I envisioned we’d become a dynamic duo — living together, working side by side, and traveling the world. One day, perhaps, it would evolve into a family business, with our future kids sharing in the legacy.
When the marriage broke up a couple years in, the business was caught in litigation for over three years. Sadly, I never put a formal business partnership agreement in place; I had given my ex-wife a 49 percent stake on blind faith alone. It wasn’t in my naïve thinking to plan for such a rainy day or “what if” scenarios. By the end of the legal nightmare, I found myself divorced and the business insolvent. And with a $100,000 debt, I was on the brink of personal bankruptcy.
With few options, I chose to start over. Instead of relaunching the same business, I decided to reinvent and channel my inner MacGyver. With just a computer and an Internet connection, I built a new world for myself — all from the living room of my NYC apartment.
What emerged from the ashes was Get Storied — an education and publishing company focused on transformational storytelling. I channeled the hard lessons of my own personal trajectory into a web-driven business that serves other change-makers on a path of career and business reinvention. And though losing my prior business was a huge and painful mistake, it sowed the seeds of personal reinvention as well. I used to have a bad habit of seeking approval and being a people pleaser — it’s what led me to give away 49% of equity in the name of love. It also made me afraid to put my full vision out into the world, at the risk of being judged and ridiculed.
Three years after losing everything, I’m a successful author, podcaster, coach, speaker, professor, curator of an online conference, fashion designer … and dean of my own university!? I know it all sounds crazy — but this new business earns far more than my previous one ever did.
Anyone of us can make reinvention a reality. And today, there are more tools, hacks and opportunities to do so, and for pennies on the dollar. With time and devotion, here are three steps I took to reinvent myself and launch my business:
Step 1 – Put your ideas on the map.
I realized I needed to get my ideas out into the world somehow, so I resolved to self-publish a book. Thanks to the self-publishing revolution, it took me 90 days to get my first word down on paper to putting it up for sale on Amazon. My manifesto turned into a huge conversation starter for launching the business and has since been read over 10,000 times. Try Createspace.com, Amazon’s easy print on demand platform, and use Guru.com to find designers and editors to help you reach your goal. If you’re not ready to release a book just yet, start out with a blog on WordPress to practice publishing your ideas.
Step 2 – Pull other changemakers into the spotlight.
Throughout all this, I was not alone. I needed to shine the light on the emerging and fast-evolving discipline of business storytelling, and those also doing good work within this space. I identified the trend of virtual conferences and realized I could produce one at a relatively low cost, yet create oversized impact. The event established a new level of thought leadership, and served to build a tribe and community around this work. This virtual conference, the Reinvention Summit, has grown into storytelling’s biggest online conference, with presentations from more than 50 of the world’s leading storytelling experts. I used Adobe Connect to record the sessions (audio, video, slides), as well as Linkedin – for added professional networking.
Step 3 – Find ways to diversify and scale.
I didn’t have much money to produce big in-person events to teach storytelling techniques, so I turned to the Web once again. I launched Story University, and created online e-courses — the most popular of which has taught thousands how to write a kick-ass bio and revamp their social profile into a more compelling story. Now, in partnership with event marketing social platform Skillshare, I’ve developed a low-cost model to bring live workshops to cities nationwide, and to gauge real-time market demand. To host your e-course content, try OptimizePress as a DIY-option, or Ruzuku, an SaaS alternative. I also use aMember, an efficient membership plugin for WordPress/OptimizePress.
A big mistake forces you to reevaluate, reconfigure and realign. You must acknowledge problems or behavior patterns that you’ve ignored for years, and address them to move forward. Don’t get me wrong—this process can be quite painful, and it’s humbling to realize that you aren’t perfect and that you sometimes have to surrender control. Recognize your failure as an important life experience, and then avoid repeating the same mistakes. The more you learn to turn adversity into an ally, the more twists and turns you experience, and the more interesting stories you’ll have to tell. They’re all opportunities for character-building and development — and even a successful business.
Michael Margolis is the President of Get Storied. He is left-handed, color-blind, and eats more chocolate than the average human. To learn more, download a free gift copy of his storytelling manifesto or watch his free intro webinar.