The Stories We Sell Ourselves


The Stories We Sell Ourselves. We are all salespeople. We have been our entire lives; even if our professional titles and designations may not say so. As kids we tried to convince our parents to let us stay up late, eat some extra dessert or buy us that toy that we just had to have. As teengagers we started to develop romantic feelings for others and tried to convince them why we should be their choice of romantic partners. And as working adults we are constantly selling ourselves as the best candidate for a job, for a promotion, as the right founder to invest in, etc. 

I think you get the idea of where I’m going with this. From the time we are born we are selling and part of selling is storytelling. And if we follow that logic we can come to a better understanding of why the stories we tell ourselves are so important. They are one of the core foundations of how we see, approach and interact with the world around us. There’s power in telling and selling ourselves the right narrative because of the potential impact it could have on our lives. So why not do it in a way where it provides a positive influence on ourselves; because it always starts with us. 

What follows is part of my story; how I’ve changed the narrative and why organisations need to consider hiring and developing people who have grown or are growing up with similar backgrounds to myself.  

I come from an immigrant family whose parents escaped a war-torn country to give their children an opportunity to build a better future and life. I doubt if they knew what was next or what was in store for them and our family, but they knew they had to keep moving forward. The word tragedy doesn’t even begin to describe the horrendous atrocities that took place in Cambodia during the mid-to-late 70’s; to put it bluntly there was a genocide that claimed the lives of millions of people.

We immigrated to America in the mid-1980’s. It wasn’t until many years later that I came to the realisation that despite the many challenges and struggles that we’ve been through, we actually won the life lottery. Although we lost family members during the war, much like everyone else did, we made it safely to America to begin a new life. 

But that realisation comes from time, distance, knowledge and perspective. I remember the story I used to sell myself: The odds are stacked against us, we don’t have the same resources–financial or otherwise–that others have, my parents don’t speak English and it’s my second language, no one cares if we make it or not. This line of thinking was detrimental to my development and impacted my ability to see the world as an abundant place with really good people. 

I don’t remember exactly when it was that I began to see a different narrative and progressively changed it, but this is the the story I started selling myself: These challenges are building my resilience, being resource challenged taught me to be resourceful and creative, my parents don’t speak English well but I’m multilingual, not everyone is going to care about you but there are many people who do and want you to succeed and are willing to help. 

I won’t pretend that flipping my mindset was an easy process, but it’s been more than worth it. And I’d like to be very clear about at least one thing; I have met incredible people along my journey who have believed in, mentored and supported me. Because of them, I have had opportunities that I never dared dream about and it has emboldened me to continue to think bigger and see all the possibilities. 

Part of my life’s goal is to help influence a change in people’s minds and hearts. People who have grown up with similar backgrounds as mine and the people who are in positions of influence and power who can help provide access and mentorship to people like myself. We are resilient, resourceful and positively relentless. 

For my folks with similar backgrounds, reframe the story you are selling yourself. Think about how the challenges you have endured make you a strong candidate for anything that you are pursuing. Think about how you can connect your story to the problems that you want to solve in the world. Reflect on how far you have come in your journey and take the time to appreciate it. But also recognise that you didn’t come this far to only come this far. Build genuine connections with people that can potentially help get you where you want to be and help you become the person you want to be, because there are plenty of people who do want to help. 

For organisations and people who can help, get all-in. Hire them, support their growth, mentor them. If not, you’re potentially missing out on gritty talent that can have a major positive impact on your organisation and the world. Think about your own journey and the people who have helped you along the way and what that impact has been for you. Think about how expressing something as simple as, I believe in you and am here to support you, could change someone’s life. Ask yourself, if I have an opportunity to help someone and I didn’t, was there a potential lost to humanity?

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For over 11+ years Keo has played key roles in helping startups in various stages of their life-cycle figure out how to grow and scale as effectively as possible. His belief is that businesses built for scale can unlock value for all stakeholders and have a net positive for humanity. His mission is to work with leaders and their teams to find the strategic edge and help them execute on it. Prior to joining August Hill, Keo was the CRO at Shyft and co-founded a startup in the blockchain space. Throughout his career he has held senior leadership roles in several companies, building and leading cross-functional teams in Business Development, Sales, Operations and Customer Service. The companies have ranged from Series A (Octane & Lenda) to a company that IPO’d with an $8B exit (Lending Club).Before catching the startup bug and going on that journey Keo gained valuable experience at a couple Fortune 100 companies. Keo is passionate about talent development, being involved in building technologies that enhance the human experience and finding the most effective ways to scale companies. He is also a regular at industry conferences and has done several keynotes and panel discussions. Outside of work Keo spends most of his time with his dog BB, traveling, writing and immersing himself in his curiosities.