Are you as devastated and confused as I am by the news that there might be no more Superman movies starring Henry Cavill? The world is cruel sometimes. As you curl up on the couch to console yourself (just me?) please find a moment to reflect on the larger topic: the power of an origin story.
Origin stories are about point A rather than point B.
When it comes to talking about our achievements, especially at work, we tend to fixate on point B. We say, “Look at what I’ve accomplished. Look at my credentials. Look at the proof.” The purpose of the origin story is to focus on point A instead and show how far you had to go to arrive at point B. Point A puts point B into perspective.
Origin stories must be journeys, not timelines.
A timeline would be the tale of a kid who grew up playing video games and had an engineer and a designer for parents who encouraged him to follow his dreams and who now creates video games for a living. That isn’t an interesting origin story. It’s a straight (time)line. Getting to point B seemed likely from the start.
But the story of a kid who grew up in a family of Luddites foraging in the woods who then, through his curiosity and tenacity, ends up designing video games in the big city IS interesting. No one saw it coming.
Don’t make the mistake of sharing your origin story as a series of events. Avoid saying, “and, and, and”—stick a “but then” in there. Make sure to emphasize the obstacles. What about the context of your point A made it unlikely that you would make it to your point B?
An origin story has to have tension so that people care.
People think of origin stories in the superhero realm. Sometimes it’s a super person in an unfamiliar situation where s/he must adapt (Superman, Wonder Woman). Sometimes it’s an ordinary person catapulted into a super situation (Spiderman, Captain America). Everyone, not just heroes, needs obstacles to make their stories resonate. Even as a regular human without laser vision or super-speed, if you had to overcome something major, you might still have an intriguing origin story to tell.
The more unusual your point A, the better.
If you are the one person in the room whose origin is nothing like the others, share it. Even if your point A is nothing like anyone’s in the room, you still belong at point B just as much as they do.
In other news, Harley Quinn might get her own movie, so all is not lost.