The Power of Your Personal Story

One of the most successful blogs in the blogosphere owes its success to a great story. I’m referring to Steve Pavlina’s Personal Development Blog, which has grown over the past year from 86,000 visitors in February 2005 to a projected 715,000 this month. That’s almost 10 times. Google ads on the site, however, earn almost 100 times what they did last February: $53 compared to $4,700 this month.

What’s Steve’s secret? Well, he continues to tweak his site and its content, of course, but there’s more to it than that. There’s something in Steve’s blog that draws readers. Now, his is a personal development blog, and everyone wants to develop personally. Self-help is big business. But there are other self-help resources out there. What is Steve doing differently than all those others?

He’s telling a story. More than that, he’s being the story. What you read about on his blog is his own personal journey of self-development. There are no magic formulas. He doesn’t make wild promises. Just hard truth that he himself has lived and is living.

We can talk about theory all we want. We can talk about our own opinions. We can argue over theology and philosophy and morality and ethics. We can devise great plans. And all of this pales to one simple story: yours. When you tell your story, no one can argue with you. What are they going to do? Say that didn’t actually happen to you? And they usually won’t want to. Rather, they’ll thank you that you shared, and they’ll be happy to be your friend.



Hee hee. If you’re James Frey they might say it didn’t happen to you.

Ha! Okay, I guess they might. I didn’t even think of that. That’s a very good point.

But to get serious for a moment, the James Frey scandal actually drives the point home. This occasionally does happen. Someone writes a memoir. Sometimes it’s on the market for years, selling copy after copy. Then it’s exposed as a fake. And what’s the inevitable result? People feel betrayed.

We feel betrayed by James Frey. Why? I don’t know James Frey. I don’t know any of the people in his book. Whether or not he was lying isn’t going to affect my life one bit. That’s the way it is for most of us, yet most of us still feel betrayed.

Somehow, the idea that this was a true story gave it life and power. Fiction we can discount, as sensational, as speculative, as unrealistic. But a personal story hits us full-force, and there’s little we can do to fend it off.


[…] A quick follow-up to The Power of Your Personal Story: Steve Pavlina last night posted on his polyphasic sleep experience. Some say it can’t be done. Surely, Steve has unique expiences and perspectives on the subject. Still, I get a kick when he talks about people who “tell me that what I’ve already done is physiologically impossible.” […]

[…] In the latest episode of his podcast, Tee Morris tells a story about how he got into an argument over which genre one of Tom Clancy’s books “is.” The main feature of the podcast is a half-hour rant on James Frey. I’ve already commented on Frey. Tee, however, goes on as though Frey is the first jerk ever to pull this stunt. Off the top of my head, Mike Warnke some years ago was found out to have constructed his so-called true story out of whole cloth, after selling 3 million copies of the book and 1 million copies of his album. This truly is off the top of my head. I’m sure others have done it as well. How can I be so sure? Because human nature is human nature. The publishing industry didn’t implode from the scandal then, and it won’t now. Get over it. Move on. […]

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