Expensive Pain: The Untapped Social Capital for Entrepreneurs

Expensive Pain: The Untapped Social Capital for Entrepreneurs

Do you have expensive pain? Here’s how to find out.

When was the last time you shared something personal with your audience, even if it felt a bit uncomfortable?

And I understand why you may be hesitant to do so, especially when those personal stories involve painful moments. But what if there was a price to pay for holding this information back?

I call it Expensive Pain. But, why is it expensive?

Because people give you opportunities when they feel connected to you, and shared pain brings people together.

This isn’t just my opinion. A study from the Association for Psychological Science concluded that “despite its unpleasantness, pain may actually have positive social consequences, acting as a sort of ‘social glue’ that fosters cohesion and solidarity within groups.”

So if you’re trying to grow your business, your network or just from stronger connections with those around you, that “social glue” is crucial to attracting the right opportunities.

What opportunities could you be missing out on? I’ll share a few examples from my own experience. But first, I’ll need to tell you about my most painful story.

My son, Terry Junior (TJ) died on May 29th 2017. I’ll go into details at a later time.

But as you can imagine this tragedy has had a profound impact on my life, and many people don’t know about it. Reason being, I didn’t talk about it publicly until June of this year while speaking on stage at a ConvertKit conference.

Based on my recent experience, here’s what expensive pain can cost you and the rewards that come from being more transparent.

It can cost you relationships

After talking about my son on stage I was immediately flooded by attendees who had their own experiences with losing someone they cared deeply about.

They expressed gratitude and, in many cases, were overjoyed by my willingness to connect with them on a human level.

But a specific conversation stood out to me among all others. One of the attendees let me know their friend recently lost a son and was burying him the same day as the event.

He shared my story with her that morning and focused on how I used the pain of losing my son as a catalyst, encouraging me to help other people as a way of honoring his legacy.

This gave her comfort during a difficult time. And I can’t ignore the coincidence here, her son is also named TJ.

Sharing my pain allowed me to create a stronger relationship with those in the audience and help people I’ll never even meet.

It can cost you money

Remember, people give you opportunities when they feel connected to you. I’ll explain why this is so important for your business in a moment but I’ll share another story first.

Audience feedback is incredibly valuable so I always encourage people to fill out a survey after my keynotes. One of those questions is “Do you know of other event organizers who may be interested in featuring me as a speaker?”

Sometimes I get one or two responses, sometimes I don’t get any. After speaking at ConvertKit I got five solid referrals, one of which is moving forward rather quickly.

So what changed? This was the first time I talked about my son on stage and that made me stand out even more as a speaker.

The truth hurts but keep this in mind; being an expert at your craft is a prerequisite. It’s not enough to make you stand out among the crowd.

Your personal brand is your only real unique differentiator. It’s the key to making connections and unlocking opportunities.

You can’t have a personal brand without telling personal stories.

What stories can you tell that will build your brand?

  • A valuable lesson you learned, perhaps the hard way
  • Struggles you’ve overcome, and how they made you a better person
  • How you juggle your personal and professional life, even if it’s not always perfect

Your stories will always be your best marketing channel, so don’t limit your income by staying quiet.

Related: The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Crafting a Successful Future

It can cost you your identity

ConvertKit has a series of books and videos called “I Am a Creator” that features inspiring stories from creators.

I was able to share my background in Volume 3 of the series and, if you’ve been following me for a while, you’ve probably heard most of it.

  • I worked at Adobe and Facebook
  • Then I started my own business
  • Now I write for Entrepreneur magazine, speak on stages and have a podcast

Then I went into the same story that so many other experts share. You know you’ve heard it before.

“I struggled to get my business off the ground, I finally found something that worked, now I’m sharing it with the world so you can learn from my mistakes and succeed more quickly”

Still awake? Congratulations if you are, because that story has already been told thousands of times. It’s predictable, boring and impersonal.

In my case it also leaves out one of the most important parts of my life, my kid died.

And once you know that about me you can better understand not just what I’ve done, but who I am as well. You’ll understand my identity.

Before we move forward, let’s unpack the meaning of identity. Psychology Today states “Identity encompasses the memories, experiences, relationships, and values that create one’s sense of self.”

So why is knowing – and expressing – your identity so important?

Here’s one more citation for you from Frontiers in Psychology.

“Researchers find that entrepreneurs’ identity has a significant influence on entrepreneurs’ individual characteristics, such as passion, persistence, and self-efficacy. Evidence also shows that identity can influence entrepreneurs’ psychological status such as well-being. O’Neil et al. (2020) suggested that if entrepreneurs are not able to assure their own identity, it would harm their well-being.”

In short, getting clear on your identity can help you perform better while also maintaining your mental health.

You’ll also be better understood by those you interact with. This is crucial when the impact of those painful moments requires you to take a mental break.

Beyond that, it can lead to more meaningful connections and partnerships.

And speaking of partnerships, I reached out to ConvertKit for another chance to share my story, the full story that includes my son TJ.

They immediately agreed and we spent the last several weeks producing a video documentary about my life. The footage captured includes me working at my office, playing with my kids, exercising at the gym and visiting my son’s grave.

To be honest, I’m feeling a bit uncomfortable about sharing such a private moment. But that’s how I know I’m on the right track. I don’t have a desire to be comfortable, I just want to help people overcome setbacks, embrace opportunities and perform at their highest level.

This is part of my identity and I avoid expensive pain by taking actions that are aligned with my identity.

And when you’re ready, I know you can help a lot of people – including yourself – by sharing your full story and taking these actions as well.

Next Steps

If you’d like to hear more about my journey, including the impact of losing my son, you can view the keynote I delivered at ConvertKit on my YouTube channel. Want to learn more about my other topics? Visit the speaking page of my website for more information.

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