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What’s Your Story by Craig Wortmann Book Notes, PDF, and Summary

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Stories are a centerpiece for business, leadership, management, and sales. Craig is an expert on sales and it really shows in this book. Learn how to effectively tell stories and utilize storytelling to achieve your business goals.

Why Stories?

  • Stories create a presence.
  • Stories aren’t bullet points.
  • Stories build strong relationships. Push people together
  • Stories illustrate success and failure.
  • Stories allow for reflection.
  • Stories are an antidote for a number of things
  • Stories help show why, what, and more
  • Stories spread

Stories are a centerpiece for so many things from selling to management to negotiation and more.


Stories are great for many different scenarios: both high stakes and low stakes.
Low Stakes: product info, reinforcing, guidelines (Use anything)
High Stakes: changing way of thinking, doing things, inspiring (USE STORIES)
If you want to change the way people do things, it is high stakes. If you are dealing with customers or asking for money, it is high stake.

Actions speak loudly. Make things visible. One way to do so is through stories

Create a “win book.”

This is a great way to remember all the great moments and see what worked and didn’t work. You can go back and use it as a reference for future stories.

Make a Story Matrix

The Story Matrix is an easy way to keep track of stories that you can use in any situation. Imagine this as a grid.

On the vertical axis, you’ll have these categories:

  • Success: Show the way. Lets us inside the story of how it came together and happened
  • Failure: Help others avoid the trap we’ve fallen into, let people see what went wrong
  • Fun: Humor, fun, lighten up and learn
  • Legends: stories you already know, legends of the business

On the horizontal axis, you’ll have different categories depending on what performance areas you want to influence. On the last axis, you should put “me”, which are stories that involve you. The rest of the stories can be other historical figures that you can use to talk about different topics like leadership, grit, and more. For example, the famous story about how Airbnb almost failed multiple times before finally succeeding is a well-known success story + grit.

Show 3 parts of the story. 1) The outline, so people remember it. 2) The Moral or lessons 3) The application, when to use it

The Story Coach

Intentional: Select a story that contains a lesson that you hope people derive from the story and then REVIEW the lesson or moral. Focus on the theme. Don’t be meandering. Be straightforward.

Genuine: Be genuine, don’t just tell success stories

Natural: Let it fly, show emotion. Tell them how you felt. Improvisational: Be able to use stories. Don’t be the person always saying things are doing great, do a “Yes, and we can do better etc.”

Total: balance the need to be thorough and concise. unfold the lessons and the content relevant to the listener. Some people may challenge it, open up a dialogue and learn

Engaging: The story should engage people and open up for reactions, thoughts, and ideas. Ask, what to take away from the story?

Leaders need to both TELL and CALL for stories.

Inspirational stories connect to our core values. Love, security, reason to exist, reason to laugh. 

Ask these questions to see that the stories motivate and inspire:

  • Does the story help people bond together?
    • Pull the team together, it is easy to forget that other people can help
  • Does the story create a path to possibility?
    • hardship overcome, good arose out of bad, help us understand the future can be better than the present
  • Does the story allow for some fun?
    • levity can help in the workplace

In the business place, keep a folder for GREAT STUFF to remind people of the great things and the good times, especially when bad times come. REPEAT positive feedback

About the Author

Craig Wortmann is a Professor of Entrepreneurship at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and has an award-winning course on “Entrepreneurial Selling.” He has developed a number of tools and lectures on selling and has been selling for over a quarter-century. He is now the founder and CEO of Sales Engine, helping companies “fine-tune” their sales.

Did you enjoy this? If so, get the full book! It’s a great read and resource for all things related to leadership, storytelling, and more.

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