Editor’s note: This is an edited version of the story Erin Duffy wrote while participating in a Whyography workshop.
Erin Duffy felt the weight of the world on her shoulders. She and her Silicon Valley creative agency colleagues were on their way to pitch a Fortune 100 company, their biggest client. Losing the business could lead to massive layoffs. But something inside Erin flipped like a switch. She was “on” in a way that was reminiscent of her other career as a stage singer and actor. In that role, she used storytelling to take her audience on a journey. Instead of PowerPoints and videos, her tools were stagecraft and song.
On this particular day, her two worlds collided. She didn’t even realize she was doing vocal warm-ups in the car until a coworker pointed it out. And then, when it was time to present to the client, she veered away from the typical corporate presentation format. She was authentic, honest, open, and engaged in a way that connected with everyone in the room. Without thinking about it, she had tapped into her proven storytelling abilities honed over two decades to deliver the pitch.
The client took notice of Erin’s sincerity and passion—even suggesting she take on the role of pitchperson for every meeting. The agency landed the business. Then, a few years later, Erin began to feel unsettled. After 25 years in the creative communications industry, the cycles of boom and bust were becoming harder and harder. She had experienced the downside of mergers and acquisitions, but also the upside of transformation and growth. The industry had been good to her, but she had also lost touch with a part of herself during that journey. She wondered, “Is this all there is?”
Erin felt a calling to do something more. She recognized she’d reached a plateau. She wondered if there was a career opportunity that combined her acumen in business and her passion for a heartfelt story. She considered how these two equally important parts of who she’d become could find their next stage. With few discernible options, Erin listened to her inner voice, made the decision to leave her job and take a hiatus from her performing career. She was ready to explore the next chapter.
Erin reflected on that big pitch meeting. What she’d done differently that day was put herself in the story. She used traditional storytelling architecture like she had during creative presentations in the past. But she intuitively drew from her own history and personal experiences. Doing so empowered her to show up authentically, without the mask of what the corporate world often expects. Her “aha” moment came when she realized she could guide others to do the same.
InspirationSQRD was born out of Erin’s desire to support individuals in renewing their own professional and personal growth through the rediscovery of their authentic voice, true aspirations, and story. She coaches clients using a hybrid approach that combines a curated and guided journey of self-discovery told through personal stories. Participants learn how a well-told, honest, and intimate story creates an unbreakable bond with the audience.
Participants of InspirationSQRD’s core program—“Rediscover Your Story”—start by exploring their past. Erin believes that while every person has a history and a story, it is often lost or abdicated as they are absorbed into their job or culture of their organization. She supports her clients in revealing what they may have lost touch with, helps them determine what could be brought forward, and guides them in creating a strategic yet intimate vision for their future. She challenges her clients to consider how their innate traits and behaviors have influenced their story, in both positive and negative ways. And then she coaches them to tap into their inner wisdom, shift their story, and point it to a renewed narrative. She helps them align their passion with their mission.
Erin believes stories powerfully define us and are the catalyst to redefine our path. They form the basis for that inspirational voice that every charismatic and dynamic leader has nurtured, reinforcing that they’re secure in where they came from and confident in where they’re going. Our wisdom stories help us to become centered. Using them as our compass, we can navigate our lives and careers. This is precisely what Erin has done and what she now teaches others to do.
To learn more about Erin’s business, visit InspirationSQRD.com.