Would you get up tomorrow and decide run a marathon?
You might decide you wanted to run a marathon, true. You might decide that you were going to start running this week and plan to build up to longer distances. You would probably reach out to your park run organisers and local groups. You would almost certainly ask those in the know how you should start and what equipment you should invest in.
You would NOT, however, dust off the trainers you’ve not worn in ten years, step out your front door and run twenty six miles.
Imagine how that conversation would go with a fitness coach…
“Hi! Let’s start with your fitness goals. What do you want to be able to do? Walk a mile? Walk up flights of stairs without getting breathless? Run 5k? …”
“I want to run a marathon.”
“OK, wow! Good on you. How long have you had marathon running as an ambition?”
“Years. I’ve always thought I’ve had a marathon in me. I’ve just never got around to starting.”
“And now you’re ready? Fantastic! Well, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll start with finding out what your fitness level is like and then work on building up your strength and stamina. If you look around the gym you’ll see there are different areas for different types of work – ”
“Oh, no, no! You don’t understand. I don’t want to do all those things.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“No, I don’t want to do those things. What I want to do is run a marathon.”
“Yee-ess. I understand that. What we are able to do here is train you from the place you’re at right now to a place of fitness and stamina that will mean you’re able to run that marathon.”
“Hmm, I see. But there must be another way of doing it. I mean, I’m not saying you don’t know your job or anything, but I learned how to put one foot in front of another when I was really young. Can’t you just show me how to do it – you know, how to get my breathing right and how to go at the right pace and all that – then I’ll just put my name down for the next marathon?”
“You’re kidding me, right? You know it doesn’t work like that, right?”
“Why not? That other gym, the one down the road, say they can do that. It’s on all their advertisements.”
“Yes. They say they can teach me how to run a marathon better than anyone else has ever run it. They say it’ll be easy. In fact, they say my marathon is already inside me, just waiting to get out. … Are you saying it isn’t? I’ve felt it there for years! … And they’re not going to be lying, are they? I mean, why would they be?”
“Well. It sounds like you already know what you want to do.”
“Yes. Yes, I do.”
“That’s completely fine. I wish you the best of luck with it. Just remember, our door is always open should you change your mind.”
Does that conversation sound daft or what?
I have lost count of the number of people I’ve spoken to who have a novel or personal story in mind. They know exactly what it is about and feel they just need to ‘get it out’. I understand that feeling. Of course they want to produce the great work they feel so passionately about.
Then, all too often, I hear the words I dread. The words that mean the person in front of me with such a great story to tell simply isn’t ready to work with me. The words that mean they are going to have to go through the painful process of trying ‘quick fixes’ and falling for flattering words before they can see what’s actually going to work.
What they say is, “I just need someone to start me off and show me what bits to put where and I’ll be fine.”
I used to try to re-educate those people, to try to save them months or years of pain in which they try to write their story but still can’t get it to come out right. I wished they could have understood me when I told them about the need to learn to tell a story that is irresistible – it’s not just about getting the events of the story down on paper. The actual principles of doing that are not very complicated but they take training, just like running a marathon does. I have learned that they will just look at me with that, “Yeah, what do you know?” expression.
They often end up with their confidence crushed, convinced there must be something inferior about them because they can’t do it … it was supposed to be simple and straightforward, wasn’t it? It was just a case of ‘getting it out’. They’re not ready to hear the truth until they’ve learned from bitter experience, which makes me really sad. I wish there was more I could do about it. Horse to water, and all that.
These days I content myself with wishing them the best of luck and reassuring them that my door is open should they change their mind.
This doesn’t have to be your story, though. You could make the right choice first time.
You can start by joining my free Facebook group. When you’re ready, my Storytellers’ Academy online membership can teach you how to really tell an irresistible story, with no flattery or false promises.
Make the right decision for yourself,