The other day I received a one-line email from a favorite client and friend:
"Note the 'Own Your Story' workshop below..." was all it said.
I scrolled and clicked and found myself face-to-virtual-face with another fabulous woman, making a name for herself by giving storytelling workshops in the Bay Area.
Normally when I see someone else in this space, I consciously tell myself: "that's awesome, people are catching on, there's more than enough to go around."
But her use of the specific phrase "Own Your Story" -- the same name belonging to my suite of online storytelling trainings -- hit closer to home than usual.
Predictably, I swiftly began poring over her website, critically assessing her "My Story" page, noting her use of the words "personal brand" -- a term I've always loathed -- eyeing the several corporate clients we have in common, and discovering to my growing dismay that she even has T-SHIRTS made, with "Own Your Story" printed on them -- in a whimsical cursive font!
Next, I indulgently sank into a sour mood for the next hour and a half, while Bruce played a cheesy Netflix movie in the 18th-floor AirBnB we rented in Pasto, Colombia, featuring Kevin Hart as a middle-aged accountant who gets wrapped up in a ridiculous CIA conspiracy leading up to his 20th high school reunion.
Then, I got over it.
But I share this story to point out how EASY it can be, despite the promptings of our higher and more conscious selves, to succumb to the competitive-comparison mentality and toxic internal storytelling that threatens to keep us playing SMALL.
If this has ever happened to you, one way to think about it is in terms of "Red Oceans" and "Blue Oceans."
Red oceans are all the industries in existence today – the known market space.
In red oceans, industry boundaries are defined and accepted, and the competitive rules of the game are known.
Here, companies try to outperform their rivals to grab a greater share of existing demand. As the market space gets crowded, profits and growth are reduced. Products become commodities, leading to cutthroat or ‘bloody’ competition. Hence the term red oceans.
Blue oceans, in contrast, denote all the industries not in existence today – the unknown market space, untainted by competition. In blue oceans, demand is created rather than fought over. There is ample opportunity for growth that is both profitable and rapid.
In blue oceans, competition is irrelevant because the rules of the game are waiting to be set.
A blue ocean is an analogy to describe the wider, deeper potential to be found in unexplored market space. A blue ocean is vast, deep, and powerful in terms of profitable growth.
Now, back when I first got into storytelling, it was obviously a "Blue Ocean" because people hadn't really caught on yet that it was A THING.
I would tell people what I do, and they'd say: "Huh? What's that?"
(This was always fun for me.)
Now, as more people enter the space and make it their own, it will become easier and easier to see "my field" as a "Red Ocean."
But, you know what?
I've never been interested in Red Oceans, zero sum games, or competing with anyone else to win or prove anything according to "the rules of the game."
I would WAY RATHER devote my time and energy to making up new games; to creating and exploring more Blue Oceans.
Such a commitment to Blue Ocean thinking is inherently frightening, because it lacks a certain security.
The certainty that you've found something that works, have established yourself as an authority, and don't have to figure out anything NEW beyond how to undercut your competition.
But I'll take a little fear, and a whole lot of sustained creative effort, if the end result is more originality, abundance, and opportunity for everyone.
So, all this to say that if you're in the Bay Area, might I suggest checking out my colleague's next Own Your Story personal branding workshop?
I imagine (although I haven't personally attended or met her) that she has a unique and valuable perspective on the power of story, and that you'll get something worthwhile out of it.
(And, if you DO go -- please report back on which part you liked the best!)
In the meantime -- here's to all the Blue Oceans still out there somewhere, just waiting...