Why Your Origin Story Matters

origin story

When the Oral Roberts University basketball team generated so much excitement during the Sweet Sixteen at the NCAA men’s basketball finals, I was reminded of the importance of our origin story. I remembered an incident many years ago when I was directing the national television ministry for the university founder, Oral Roberts.

Often when Oral would preach, he would tell the story of his dramatic healing of tuberculosis when he was a young man. Back in those days, there were few treatments, so Oral’s case was considered terminal. I’ll save you the details, but needless to say, his struggle and eventual healing made a powerful and compelling story – a story he was always ready to tell.

But he told the story over and over – so much that frankly, I got tired of hearing it.

I actually pulled him aside one day and said, “Oral, give the TB story a rest. People are tired of hearing about it.” Fortunately, he ignored me, and it was years later before I realized that I was a complete idiot.

Why Your Origin Story Matters

1. The story of how God healed him and eventually launched him into ministry – became the cornerstone of his brand story – and his entire ministry.

When people heard that story, they realized that if God could do that for Oral, he could do it for them. It inspired a generation of men and women to reconsider faith in a God who still worked miracles.

2. Since that time, I’ve seen the power and impact of origin stories over and over.

People are simply fascinated in how people launched a company, founded a nonprofit, or started a great church. People never tire of discovering what turned someone’s life around, turned them away from drugs or alcohol, or changed the direction of their life.

You see it everywhere you look. When it comes to collecting comic books, the origin stories of super heroes are often the most valuable. It’s the reason so many people meet business leaders and ask “How did you get your start?” Biographies and memoirs are the #1 selling category of hardcover books on Amazon. In fact, biography is so popular that it’s expanded way beyond books. Along with documentary films, a staple of Hollywood are feature films based on the lives of famous people. That popularity has led to the growth of TV channels dedicated to biography, including A&E, The Biography Channel, and The History Channel.

3. It’s also become a cornerstone of recovery programs.

Heroes in Recovery contributor Nadine Herring has seen the great power in the telling of these stories:

“The most powerful thing I’ve experienced … in sharing my story is that it allows people who have been suffering in silence to step forward and ask for help,” says Herring. “There’s something about reading or hearing about someone who has gone through what you’re going through and making it to the other side that lets you know that it is possible, you’re not alone, and there is help for you if you want it.”

4.  It’s time to start sharing your origin story.

If you have a message that needs to be told, how you got started is a great place to begin. If you want to share you faith with a friend, tell them how you met God. If you’re advertising a business or nonprofit, make the origin story a key part of the strategy.

5. Don’t be afraid of telling it over and over again.

People working with you may get sick of hearing it like I did with Oral Roberts. But for those on the outside, there’s nothing quite as compelling or inspiring.


This article about the importance of your origin story originally appeared here, and is used by permission.

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Phil Cooke is the founder and CEO of Cooke Media Group in Los Angeles (CookeMediaGroup.com) where his team helps church, ministry, and nonprofit organizations engage the culture more effectively through media. He's a filmmaker, media consultant, and author of "Unique: Telling Your Story in the Age of Brands and Social Media."