By the time I was 16 and on the verge of getting my driver’s license, I hated it. But up until that time, I sort of loved it. Because the city bus is an interesting place to observe people. It sounds all scary now: a young girl alone on the bus! But it actually wasn’t. At all.
I would sit in my favorite spot (the seat right behind the door in the middle of the bus), put my feet up on the metal frame, and just watch and listen. The evening was usually way more interesting: It’s when the race track people got on, since there was a fairly large horse track around the corner from my stop. (I look back now and I realize sadly that a lot of these people had serious gambling problems.)
My fellow passengers were a mixed bunch overall. Boyfriends and girlfriends. Sometimes kids with their parents. But mostly people coming from or going to work. It was probably my first up close experience with what I guess we now call the service class or the working poor: adult minimum wage workers trying to make it.
I was shy and in my own world, so I rarely talked to other passengers. But I listened to people’s conversations. Constantly. Sometimes their stories were about growing up in another city (which always intrigued me: you mean you weren’t born here?). Sometimes the stories were about food or dogs or vacations. Sometimes it was just a bunch of complaining about people. Mostly, I was just amused at how weird many of the people seemed. Which was very cool. ¬†(Keep in mind that “weird” still had a pretty broad definition for me at 11, living fairly sheltered as I did.)
In fact, it was probably the first time in my young life that I was unsupervised, and around people who weren’t like me. People who had different ideas and experiences than what floated around in my homogenous Northern Kentucky suburb.
It wasn’t scary. It was exhilarating. I felt like I was seeing the world.
And every day, I’d come home with a story. “Yay, Judi has another ‚Äòbus story!’” my mom and sisters would say. We’d sit around the table after my sisters came home from their evening aerobics class and giggle about my bus stories.
I soaked in those bus stories primarily because in the world before mobile devices, it was a way to pass the time. But also because I couldn’t not observe the people around me and take in their stories. How else would I come to understand the world and my place in it?
My bus stories were preparing me for a lifetime of working the storytelling trade. They taught me to hear different voices. And to see that the stories that made up varied people’s lives actually mattered. They mattered.
More than 25 years later, I see just how much.
Welcome to The Story Economy
If you received this post via email, you probably noticed that it looked a little different (blog changes are coming soon!). That’s because I have rebranded my newsletter (which gets posted to this blog) to better own what it is I write about: the story economy.
So, welcome! Although it’s not a new space. We’ve actually all been here for a while. I’m just claiming it. Which means that it’s the perfect time to start noticing.
Because the story economy is on city buses and in churches and boardrooms. It’s in supermarket aisles and in the App Store. It’s at the farmer’s market, around the dinner table, and all over the glorious world wide web.
The story economy is simply the idea that we live and work in an economy that’s fed by storytelling. And by storytelling, I mean shaping an idea or experience into a narrative that people relate to and can easily retell. In the story economy, person-to-person is the new base from which to build our businesses and our influence.
Now, everyone has their idea about what’s feeding the economy and making businesses grow (or tank) today. There are all kinds of camps and approaches; some I respect, and some I don’t. There is the science of SEO and conversion and A/B testing. There are brands that specialize in telling you how to build an empire through affiliate marketing. There is amazing work in customer insights (including one of my own wonderful clients!). And then there are companies and individuals that spend the majority of their words convincing you they have a secret that will make all the difference: a process that will finally make it happen for you. Just enter your name here and we’ll tell you the one simple thing you’re not doing that will show you how to make multiple six figures overnight!
Honestly, I don’t really care much about any of that. I mean, of course I care about the tactical stuff to the level I need to care to be helpful to my clients. But secret marketing tactics and SEO science don’t grab my imagination.
The tactics I care about most and need to talk about most are those related to storytelling. Because I believe that storytelling as a way of life is available to anyone, anytime . . . whether you’re on a bus or running a Fortune 500 company.
I’m writing The Story Economy blog for small business owners and solopreneurs, because I am one. But I also write for dads in Virginia and moms in Nebraska. For development directors in Washington, D.C., and ad agencies on Madison Avenue. For college counselors and therapists and dancers. For lawyers and doctors and accountants. For surf shop owners and pastry chefs. For people without direction and type A achievers. For people who understand string theory and people who don’t.
Mostly, I’m writing for people who want to connect and spread a message about something they believe in, whether it’s through their business or their influence as a friend, parent, relative, citizen, co-worker, or leader.
If this isn’t you, I release you: you’re not obligated.
But if you’ve been reading my stuff regularly and it resonates with you (maybe for reasons you don’t even understand), then by all means, claim your spot in the story economy. And spread the word!
Because there are a lot of stories that need to be told.
Which one will you tell today? Share it below.
And stay tuned, as I work to carve out a stronger blog space on my site, where I can really explore the story economy and create a community around it. (If you want to sign up for my email list so you'll be the first to know, just use the sign up feature at the very top of the page.)