The Stories of Which Success Is Truly Made

Hello. Please allow me a moment to (re)introduce myself.

I’m Kindra Hall, now the Chief Storytelling Officer at SUCCESS. While that title is brand new, the announcement is actually a decade in the making…. Let me explain.

In 2010 I was driving home from work and needed to run a quick errand on the way. As I was driving, I listened to an interview on the old SUCCESS CD (you longtime subscribers will remember those, back before the days of podcasts) with Donny Deutsch. The interviewer asked Donny if he had any strategies for people to find a career that aligned with their passion. I pulled into a parking space and even though I was running late, I couldn’t get out of the car… I was hanging on every word.

Donny’s advice for finding your passion: Think back to the thing you loved doing as a kid. There, sitting in my car, I immediately thought of storytelling—of telling and teaching stories at school, at church, at summer Bible school and my friends’ sisters’ birthday parties. Telling stories at festivals. Writing stories on MySpace (yes, I’m MySpace old) and seeing the reactions I would get.

Stories. I’ve always loved stories. Maybe that is what I should do, Donny Deutsch! With one simple suggestion, SUCCESS changed my life. I quit my job and began the challenging, exhausting, thrilling work of pursuing my passion for stories. That journey has included online courses, original research, live workshops, the best-selling book Stories that Stick and traveling the country as a keynote speaker. In the years leading up to 2020, I would speak 55 to 65 times a year for organizations and events ranging from 500 to 20,000 people about the power of storytelling in business. I flew so much I had top status on two different airlines. TSA agents greeted me like an old friend and hotels knew me by name.

And then. In March, well, you know what happened. For me personally, the pandemic was professionally devastating. This was supposed to be my biggest year yet in both revenue and impact. My calendar was packed with events at which I would speak before tens of thousands of people, only to be wiped clean in a matter of 10 days. 

That was something Donny didn’t mention in his interview—just how challenging it can be to follow your passion.

I’ll never forget the late night in mid-April when reality truly set in; the things I spent most of my time doing—traveling, speaking on stages, traveling some more—were no longer possible, indefinitely. A business I’d spent years creating dried up almost completely.

Right there in our New York City apartment, with the kids in bed and my husband Michael asleep on the couch, I asked aloud to the universe… Who should I BECOME during this time? Stages are dark and audiences can’t gather; how can I grow, expand and learn? Should I go back to school? Should I pursue a new aspect of business? Ten years from now, what do I want my pandemic story to be?

The next morning, the phone rang. It was the team at SUCCESS calling with the offer to come aboard in the expanded role of Chief Storytelling Officer. Even more suddenly than the pandemic itself, I had my answer. It couldn’t have been more perfect timing.

What does a Chief Storytelling Officer do? That is a fair question. Beyond my work and research about the power of storytelling both in business and in life, I can’t help but think about my own journey to success and the stories of the people who had gone before me. Their willingness to share their stories, the good, the bad and the ugly, lifted me in times of struggle, made me feel normal when things were hard, and kept me motivated when I heard of their triumphs. As Chief Storytelling Officer, I will be seeking and sharing these kinds of stories in articles, trainings and through the SUCCESS Stories with Kindra Hall podcast—it’s available right now, please give it a listen and subscribe! 

My first assignment after accepting the role was the cover story of this issue—code name “SUCCESS:W,” a special edition for the whole team. For the story, I interviewed the 10 dynamic women you’ll read about, including (to the amazement of my budding-ballerina daughter) the fabulous Misty Copeland herself. Each of these women has achieved extraordinary levels of success in their respective fields, and in our conversations, they shared specific moments along their journeys. These are stories you may not have heard before, stories I hope will stick with you and that will shape the way you imagine your own success.

* * *

A lot has happened in the 10 years since I listened to that interview with Donny Deutsch about pursuing your passion. Ironically, a few months before the pandemic, as Michael and I were strolling through the neighborhood, Donny passed us on the sidewalk. I didn’t recognize him at first, but when I did, I chased him down the block to thank him and tell the story of how he and SUCCESS changed my life.

That is my hope for this new role: to share with you the stories, big and small, of which success is truly made. I can’t wait to someday hear the success stories you’ll tell.

Click here to get your copy of the September/October issue of SUCCESS magazine!

This article originally appeared in the September/October 2020 issue of SUCCESS magazine.

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