Personal Development Mastery

I was a guest on the Personal Development Mastery podcast to talk about the mistakes we make when sharing our stories and the power of vulnerability and authenticity.

Here are a few key takeaways from my conversation with Agi: 


The Importance of Listening and Reading: To become a great storyteller, you must be a great reader and listener. Study the greatest storytellers you can find and see how they do it.


Embracing Vulnerability: Sharing authentic, relatable experiences helps build connections with the audience, humanizing both personal brands and businesses.


Techniques for Compelling Storytelling: We talk about several techniques for refining stories, including focusing on the right amount of detail, incorporating unexpected elements, and using methods like the “upfront method” where the punch line is revealed at the beginning.


Using Ordinary Stories to Make an Impact: Don’t underestimate the power of ordinary stories and relatable, everyday struggles. These stories build connections and resonate deeply with an audience, making them highly impactful.


Storytelling for Entrepreneurs: Entrepreneurs can use storytelling to attract clients by selecting stories relevant to their message and connecting them to the lessons they want to teach. Sharing authentic experiences can humanize a brand and create a strong bond with potential clients.

Sara Lohse [00:00:00]:
And as 1 does, me and 1 of the strangers I just met went into a tattoo shop, and we wanted to get souvenirs, basically. So he asked for the Guinness harp. It looked perfect. I asked for an airplane. It looked like a penis.

Agi Keramidas [00:00:19]:
You are listening to Personal Development Mastery. The podcast that empowers you with a simple and consistent actions to take that will help you create a life of purpose and fulfillment. I am your host, Aghigiramidas, and this is episode 412. How can you turn ordinary personal stories into authentic and relatable narratives that will impact your professional and personal success. By listening today, you will discover how to turn everyday moments into compelling narratives. You will learn how to embrace vulnerability in your storytelling, and you will hear valuable tips on how to select and craft relatable professional stories that resonate deeply with your clients. Before we dive in, if you enjoy listening and appreciate what we’re doing here, the simple quick favor I’m asking of you is to click the subscribe button. Now let’s get started.

Agi Keramidas [00:01:31]:
Today, it is my pleasure to speak with Sara Lohse. Sara, you are a storyteller, author, marketer, and brand architect, helping mission driven brands amplify their impact. Are passionate about using authentic storytelling as a powerful tool for connection and impact. And you are dedicated to helping individuals find and share their personal stories, transforming them into thought leaders. Sara, welcome to the show. It’s such a pleasure to speak with you today.

Sara Lohse [00:02:05]:
Thank you so much for having me. I’m happy to be here.

Agi Keramidas [00:02:08]:
I’m very excited for, this conversation, Sara. And was we’re going to talk, and I think somehow my introduction gave it away a little bit. We’re going to talk about, how to harness the power of storytelling that we all have. So we can grow our business or become a thought leader also. That’s the 2 things that I saw distinctly that you talk about. So, before we go there, would you like to share a, maybe a pivotal moment when you realize the true power of storytelling, yourself?

Sara Lohse [00:02:49]:
Yeah. It was a couple years ago, and we’re, currently, I do a lot with, helping people guest on podcasts. But before I had ever been a guest on a podcast, I accidentally got myself booked on 1 of the biggest finance podcasts in the world

Agi Keramidas [00:03:06]:

Sara Lohse [00:03:06]:
To not talk about finance at all, but to tell a really embarrassing story about a bad tattoo I got on a vacation. And, tattoo I got on a vacation. And that somehow changed my entire career because this was a story that I would tell at a bar for a laugh. And it was so small, so silly, no value to it, but it was funny. So the host wanted me on his show to tell that story, and it became his job to find the value in it. So he actually guided me to tell this ridiculous travel tattoo story in a way that made it a really powerful, like, journey of self discovery and how I changed my life and became more brave and started taking more risks. So that was the day that I learned how to tell my own story and learned that no matter how small and inconsequential a story seems, if you know how to tell it right, it can have a huge impact.

Agi Keramidas [00:04:12]:
I’ll come back to that, for sure. Right now, I’m fascinated the way you you described it already. I’m fascinated to hear that story about the the tattoo because, yeah, it’s it’s impossible not to ask. So I’m I’m looking forward to hearing what was that, story then that created this, shift for you.

Sara Lohse [00:04:37]:
So I took a solo trip to Ireland back in my early twenties.

Agi Keramidas [00:04:41]:

Sara Lohse [00:04:42]:
And I was on a bar crawl through Dublin with a bunch of strangers because it was solo trips. I didn’t know anybody. And as 1 does, me and 1 of the strangers I had just met went into a tattoo shop, and we wanted to get souvenirs, basically. So he asked for the Guinness harp. It looked perfect. I asked for an airplane. It looked like a penis. So I came home, was mortified, got it covered as soon as I could.

Sara Lohse [00:05:12]:
But fast forward a couple years, I’m at Podcast Movement in Nashville. I stalked the host of Stacking Benjamins for 3 days trying to get him alone so I could talk to him. I wanted to book the host of a show I produced at the time on his show because it’s 1 of the biggest finance shows. And I finally get him alone. I have him cornered, and I pitch the host, say all of these great things about how he’s an expert in this and this, and he has these designations, this many years of experience. And Joe just looks at me. He says, yeah. That’s great.

Sara Lohse [00:05:46]:
I don’t need an expert. I want someone with a cool story. And I think I had a stroke maybe because what I said next was, do you wanna hear about the time I got a tattoo of a penis while I was in Ireland? And he did, and that is how I accidentally got myself booked on stacking veterans.

Agi Keramidas [00:06:06]:
It’s a very interesting story. They absolutely and, you were saying earlier, and, I’ll come back to that. About, you know, this particular story with a tattoo, it has certainly an element of humor, an element of mystery, and an element of embarrassment. So there are many things, you know, vulnerability maybe is a better word than so I will go back a few steps and I will you say you were saying that, all stories or each of us has stories that are powerful and that they can make an impact. Mhmm. So let’s go a little bit back because someone might not be ready to open up and share something like, you know, what you did, in the podcast, which is great for you, but I’m sure you’re gonna appreciate that maybe many people would not would prefer to share

Agi Keramidas [00:07:09]:
something And

Sara Lohse [00:07:09]:
many people have asked why I did.

Agi Keramidas [00:07:13]:
So, I want to speak a little bit more about the more, let’s say, ordinary, and I will say it ordinary quote unquote, because there are no ordinary moments or ordinary stories, but, can you tell me about the power of those stories? So let’s move over there first.

Sara Lohse [00:07:35]:
Yeah. The ordinary stories are really the ones that I wanna focus on because those are the ones that I think are the important ones. And the reason for that is you can hear these amazing stories that are headline worthy, that change the world, that are just these massively impactful stories. And those are great and they’re inspiring and all of that, but they’re not relatable. Mhmm. I’ve never experienced something like people like Malala or Martin Luther King Junior. Like, all of these people who have these amazing stories that everyone around the world knows. I don’t have that.

Sara Lohse [00:08:13]:
I have ordinary stories. I have everyday struggles. I have stories of me just trying my best and messing things up and having to fix them and all of these just little stories that make up my life.

Agi Keramidas [00:08:26]:
Mhmm. And

Sara Lohse [00:08:27]:
that’s what you have too, and that’s what most of us have. So when you focus on those little stories, even though they seem small, everybody listening probably has been through something similar. And when we tell stories, we tell them because we wanna build connections, and connections come from shared experiences. So telling those experiences, you tell the people that you’re talking to that I know what you’ve been through because I’ve been through things that are the same, and this is how I got through it, and this is what happened with me. And I can help you also make it through whatever the small experience is.

Agi Keramidas [00:09:04]:
That’s great. And, you know, I I was thinking that, about the ordinary stories, about the story of someone who has done something extraordinary, like, you know, climbed the Mount Everest or, whatever. How may that story might sound very impressive, but it’s not relatable at all because, no 1 has done it.

Sara Lohse [00:09:25]:

Agi Keramidas [00:09:27]:
The what I got that was very important, was you talked about building connection because the audience or the feels that experience is shared. So what I wanted to discuss with you and to hear your expertise is, you know, each of us, the person listening right now have many stories like that. Many, many. What are some ways that 1 can, you know, find them among the collection that they may have and, let’s start with that. What are some ways, which are, in other words, which of my life are the good stories or the relatable, stories? Or does it depend on something else?

Sara Lohse [00:10:21]:
It depends on so many things, And it could depends on the situation. It depends on what you’re trying to relate to, what message you’re trying to present, and what you’re trying to get people to understand. But a lot of the times, all you really need to do is look back at the moments that were kind of like the fork in the road. Like when did you have to make a big decision? What when did you have an experience that changed something for the future? And those moments of just big choices and the moments of change, the moments that you kind of got a new perspective, those are so important because other people have been through similar struggles. They’ve had to decide 1 thing or another. Everyone’s been through that. So if you can talk about a big moment in your life that changed something for you, that’s gonna be an important story.

Agi Keramidas [00:11:15]:
I get the the forks, as you said, that the decisions and definitely that is very, I was just thinking that my my my best stories are about, you know, big shift and big change to something, else. Having had those stories or having, decided, shall we say that, okay, I’m going to pick this and that from my life of this decision or of this, major shift or, anything else. What is then a way to refine this storage? Because and I know I’m I’m asking I’m asking you to give me, you know, a condensed version of, what you know, which I know it’s not possible. But I want to, you know, at least get an overview of how 1 can refine these stories and work on on them.

Sara Lohse [00:12:11]:
Yeah. There’s a few factors that I think make a story very compelling. 1 is that it has the right amount of detail. I when I told you my simple little tattoo story, I didn’t tell you the entire backstory. I didn’t tell you

Agi Keramidas [00:12:28]:

Sara Lohse [00:12:28]:
What happened next, and I didn’t tell you all of these extra details. I only told you the details you needed to know so that you would understand the story. And that’s important because a lot of people, they’ll over detail it, and they’ll get lost in the weeds. You wanna give details. You want people to be able to see it happening so that they can feel like they were there Because that’s almost like faking a shared experience. If they feel like they were there, they feel like they’ve gone through it. So you want to get rid of all those extra details that you don’t need, and you want it to be unexpected. And that can be the difficult part, especially when it comes to these ordinary everyday stories because they’re not that unexpected.

Sara Lohse [00:13:14]:
It’s everyone’s been through this. So that is kind of the trick to making it the way that you tell it being important. So Okay. My story of this tattoo, it could have just been a story of I went on a trip, realized I could do things on my own, decided to pack up, move across the country, all of that. That’s kind of expected. Like, okay, big decision, have this big experience, make changes from there. But instead, I tie it back to the embarrassing part, and I got the tattoo as a reminder of that trip. So now it stands as a reminder of all of these things that happened.

Sara Lohse [00:13:54]:
But if I just come out and say, I got a tattoo of a penis while I was in Ireland, no 1 sees that coming. So I’m able to take this simple story and make it unexpected by focusing on kind of like the punch line of the story.

Agi Keramidas [00:14:13]:
If you enjoy this episode, can you think of 1 person that would find it useful and share it with them? I’d really appreciate it. It helps the show grow, and you will also be adding value to people you care about. Thank you. And now let’s get back to the episode.

Agi Keramidas [00:14:31]:
Give me 1 more exact I like this, the unexpected thing. So if, can you pick another story like a more, let’s say, not as, intense, shall we say, as the your tattoo story? And give me that or an example of that unexpected element or how can yeah. What’s 1 kind of, trick or technique that you use to make it unexpected?

Sara Lohse [00:14:57]:
So the the technique that I use, it’s kind of storytelling in reverse because I I call it the upfront method. It’s the I bet you’re wondering how I got here kind of storytelling that you see in movies and on TV. Instead of me telling this story and leading up to, oh, and then I got this tattoo, I tell the punch line first. So I could have told that whole story and then said, and then I got a tattoo, and it doesn’t have the same punch. It doesn’t have the same effect because you’ve already kind of been bogged down with all of these details and everything, and you’ve been trying to figure out, alright, where is she going with this? But instead, just taking the ending and that hook and moving it to the beginning, it changes the power of it because they it removes the context. And if you take away context, anything can become unexpected.

Agi Keramidas [00:15:56]:
That’s true. Remove the context. That’s a very a very good, tip, Sarah. Thank you. Let’s talk, also about some common mistakes that you see people that share stories make. You already said, about, you know, going into many details which are unnecessary. So give me 1 or 2 more of the, you know, the common mistakes.

Sara Lohse [00:16:22]:
Yeah. 1 that I see a lot is something I call forced vulnerability. And for some reason, when we talk about stories, we talk about telling stories and personal stories that we use in the professional space and all of that, people seem to think that the story has to be a sob story. And it has to be an very emotional, very heart wrenching story. And what I’ve seen people do is they tell this really big impactful story from their life that changed their life, that street. All of these things that are very great stories, but then they try to tie it to a message that doesn’t fit. And it’s like trying to force a lid on this story that just isn’t meant for it, And it just it feels so disjointed. So you hear this story and then they say, and so this is why you need this, or you need to do this, or you need to understand this.

Sara Lohse [00:17:27]:
And it’s like, that’s not why. That doesn’t that doesn’t, like, add up. But they wanted to use that story to get that connection and to really draw the audience in. But then when you get to the end, you lose them. So I think people need to realize that you don’t have to tell that emotional of a story, especially in the professional space. Yes. Personal stories are great, But you can also tell professional stories. You can tell case study stories.

Sara Lohse [00:17:55]:
You could tell stories about a project that you worked on for a client and the results that you got. You can tell stories that are not heart wrenching if they’re going to drive the point home better.

Agi Keramidas [00:18:09]:
You said, you know, that some people try to tie the story to a message that doesn’t fit. And I wanted to ask specifically, you know, for someone listening who is an entrepreneur that uses, you know, or wants to use storytelling in order to get more clients. Which kind of story or how can 1 select the stories that then the message will feed? Has it have to do how much relevant can it be? Are there any, guidelines there with with that?

Sara Lohse [00:18:48]:
That’s a really good question. Part of it is the story should be connected to how you learn the lesson that you’re trying to teach. And what I see is people take the thing that changed their life the most, and because it changed their life, it must have impacted the way they learn the message. But it’s really a stretch. It’s not easy to see that connection. So when you look specifically at, this is what I want you guys to understand, this is how I learned it, Think back to what was happening when you learned it. What was the circumstances? What was the situation that you were in? What did you have to do differently, what did you learn. And that’s going to be way more relevant than trying to force in something really emotional.

Sara Lohse [00:19:45]:
And you can still have emotions and stories like that. Stress is an emotion, anxiety, things that are you are overwhelmed and this is how you felt. It doesn’t have to be scared. It doesn’t have to be heartbroken. It can just be those feelings that we experience at work every day. Those are still emotions. And I think 1 of the things that is really gonna be pivotal in having those connections is we tend to only show our highlight reel. We wanna tell the stories of this is how I reach this level of success, and I did this fantastically, and now everything in my life is great.

Sara Lohse [00:20:28]:
That is not true. I promise you, you have messed something up. And if you’ve never messed something up, you’ve never tried anything new. So transparent recount stories talk about the mistakes. Every story doesn’t have to have a happy ending. And my favorite stories are the ones that don’t. The ones that you messed up, you tried to fix it, and you couldn’t, and you had to start over. It doesn’t have to be, and then I found the solution.

Sara Lohse [00:20:59]:
Sometimes you don’t. Sometimes it’s back to the drawing board. And being able to tell a story like that, admitting that you’re not perfect, you mess things up, you don’t always know the answer, but you’re able to show that no matter what, you still kept trying. And you’ve gotten to this point because despite not finding those answers all of those times, you kept trying again and again until you found it. And we try to avoid those stories because we wanna seem impervious. We wanna seem perfect, and that’s not relatable. Nobody is.

Agi Keramidas [00:21:33]:
We started the conversation and talking about vulnerability in the storytelling. So tell me a bit more about, you know, its importance or anything else that might be important for someone listening and wondering, shall I shall I note? Or

Sara Lohse [00:21:53]:
Vulnerability is incredibly important because it makes you human. And if I’m listening to someone tell a story and they sound like a corporate stooge that’s just telling the history of the company, That’s not interesting. That’s not compelling. I don’t feel like I’m talking to a person. I feel like I’m talking to a humanized logo. And especially because a lot of the times I’m talking to entrepreneurs and I’m talking to small businesses, people who really are their brand.

Agi Keramidas [00:22:21]:

Sara Lohse [00:22:22]:
You’re you have to see your brand as more than just a logo. You have to see your brand as just an extension of who you are. And it’s just you on paper. Like, my company, favorite daughter media, it you can look at anywhere on either my website, my book, anything you see, you’re going to just see me. It’s so personal that way because I did that intentionally.

Agi Keramidas [00:22:44]:

Sara Lohse [00:22:45]:
So when you’re able to open up and show that you’re human, people don’t wanna connect with the business. They wanna connect with the people behind it. So you’re going to instantly grab people in far more than you would if you try to just stay as a company or stay being that brand.

Agi Keramidas [00:23:04]:
Mhmm. Mhmm. Thank you. Sara, tell me also about, your book, which is the the art of storytelling for aspiring thought leaders. I’m I’m asking specifically, what shall someone expect to find there? Or what what will they get by, getting the book reading the book?

Sara Lohse [00:23:28]:
Yeah. Open this book, The Art of Storytelling For Aspiring Thought Leaders. It was a project that took me over a year to finish, and I wanted to write it because I had a ridiculous way of figuring out that my story mattered, and I wanted other people to figure that out. So it’s kind of a part book, part memoir, part journal. It’s a little bit of everything because I’m teaching how to tell a story. I it talks about the types of stories you can tell, how to figure out which ones are important, how to structure it so that it’s really compelling. All of these different concepts that are really vital to telling a good story. But the way that I teach it is I teach it through my own stories.

Sara Lohse [00:24:16]:
Because if I’m telling you the title itself is kind of a pun, it’s open this book because I want you to become an open book, tell your stories. And if I if I’m gonna do that, if I’m gonna expect that of you, I have to do it myself. So all of the lessons there are some case studies and examples from pop culture that people will understand, but a lot of it is just my own stories. And I even include the maid of honor speech from my best friend’s wedding because it’s a great example of a certain way of telling a story and structuring a story. So it’s very personal, so it almost borderlines memoir. But after every section, I give journal prompts and thinking exercises and ways that people can start writing down their ideas, getting their stories together, and really putting all of the different concepts into action. Because I can just tell you to think about this, but I want you to really do it. And I really want people to start coming up with those stories that they didn’t see value in before and realize that there is some value there.

Agi Keramidas [00:25:18]:
Definitely. Thank you for for that, Sara. And, you also have a free storytelling journal, which, I understand that you will give to the listeners. So tell tell us about that as well.

Sara Lohse [00:25:32]:
Yeah. All of the journal exercises So it So it’s everything from the book. I include a little bit of context, so the journal entries are easier to understand, without giving the entire book away. But all of the journal prompts are in there, so you can just print it out and start working on your story just for free.

Agi Keramidas [00:26:02]:
That’s awesome. Thank you for that. That is, it’s a great step. And let me ask you 1 more, apart from this, get from someone getting yours, general and seeing for themselves, the power of what it is that you do and how you share the storytelling. What is some other action that 1 can take, you know, tonight or tomorrow morning to improve, let’s say, or carry on that journey into better storytelling, more impactful storytelling? I know we’ve said quite a few already, but, does that is there anything that comes to mind that might be very relevant now?

Sara Lohse [00:26:47]:
Yeah. A couple. Okay. 1 would be just be very cognizant of just your day to day. Because every day, something is going to happen that can be a great story. There’s a quote that I include in my book that’s, great stories happen to those who can tell them. So pay attention to the details and pay attention to the emotions that you feel in certain when something happens in your day because those are stories that you can come back to later. And another thing okay.

Sara Lohse [00:27:30]:
It’s always hard to put these into words, which is my job. I’m storyteller. But so pay attention to things that happen every day. But also, I I’m a writer, and I’ve always been a writer. And they say that if you wanna be a great writer, you have to be a great

Agi Keramidas [00:27:49]:
reader. Yes.

Sara Lohse [00:27:49]:
If you wanna be a great storyteller, you have to listen to stories and read stories. And it’s almost like practice makes perfect, and sometimes the way that we practice is by watching the greats. Watch people tell stories. And the storytellers that I admire the most and the ones that I the people that I think tell the best stories are stand up comedians. So this is a very easy and fun piece of homework. Go watch stand up comedy. They are such masters at telling stories. Not all of them, of course.

Sara Lohse [00:28:25]:
There’s gonna be a couple that are, like, but some of the great store the greatest storytellers ever were stand up comedians because they managed to take a story that is so relatable and make it compelling, make it funny, but it’s something that an entire stadium can relate to. And they don’t generally talk about these crazy stories and these crazy unrelatable topics. They talk about the most simple things. They talk about airline food and traffic and things that are generally like, okay. That’s super boring. No 1 wants to listen to that. But they tell it in a way that is interesting and is compelling and is funny. And they choose those stories for a reason.

Sara Lohse [00:29:10]:
They choose it because it’s what every single person in that stadium has dealt with. There’s probably not a single person there that hasn’t been stuck in traffic or hasn’t been stuck on an airplane. So they choose those boring stories, but they’re so great at telling them that they make them not boring. So watch the end of comedians. Watch the commencement addresses at colleges. Watch, people give their maid of honor speeches or their best man speeches. Anyone who’s telling a story, just watch how they do it, and you’re going to learn so much and start emulating the people that do it really well.

Agi Keramidas [00:29:48]:
Thank you very much. This was, brilliant. The the actions, the listen, read stories, and those will be cognizant of your, day to day. These are, very useful, Sarah. Thank you. Before we, wrap up today, and thank you very much for this, very valuable conversation.

Sara Lohse [00:30:09]:
Thank you for having

Agi Keramidas [00:30:10]:
me. We did give, you know, to someone that was not sure whether the story is, powerful enough that at least the incentive to think about it more and realize that, every story is powerful as we were saying, you know, in the very beginning. I do have 2 quick questions that I always ask my guests. Okay. And the first 1 is what does personal development mean to you?

Sara Lohse [00:30:38]:
That’s a good question. For me, personal development is just always growing and growing in something that excites you. I think of personal development as becoming an expert in a topic, but expertise is something that is misunderstood. I don’t think to be an expert, you have to know everything. To be an expert, you just have to be endlessly curious about something and always be learning more about it. Always be looking for more answers and finding new questions. So if you wanna be if you wanna develop, just be curious.

Agi Keramidas [00:31:15]:
I like that. Thank you. And a hypothetical question, if, you could go back in time and meet your, let’s say, 17 year old self, which 1 piece of advice you would give her?

Sara Lohse [00:31:27]:
Stop posting dramatic song lyrics on Facebook. Throw out those pants you really liked. They look terrible. Don’t get bangs, but also have more respect for yourself. I think I definitely it took me many, many years to accept who I am and be willing to be unapologetically myself. And I wish I’d done that sooner.

Agi Keramidas [00:31:59]:
Very solid piece of advice. Sara, I want to thank you very much for our conversation today. I enjoyed it very much, and there were many things that I also learned with, what you were saying and got inspired to do. So, I want to wish you all the best with your, both in your personal and professional life. I will leave it, to you for, parting words or some actionable wisdom. I will leave it to you.

Sara Lohse [00:32:28]:
Oh, thank you so much for having me. This is a lot of fun. If anyone wants to start telling their story, wants to start learning how to tell it better, go to open this and download the free journal. And if you come up with your story, send it to me. I would love to read it. All of if you go to open this journal, all my contact info and everything is there. So reach out to me and tell me your story.

Agi Keramidas [00:32:53]:
And before I end today’s episode, if you enjoy this podcast, can you think of 1 person that would find it useful and share it with them? I’d really appreciate it. It helps the show grow and you also add value to people you care about. Thank you. And until next time, stand out, don’t fit in.