Map Your Story


How to use this worksheet

Download it (PDF). Print it out. Answer the below questions. And map out your answers on the story arc. Once you've done so, take a step back and see how this story feels to you. Is it true to you? Has it happened yet? Start thinking about ways that you can prototype and test this out in the real world so that you can start collecting data and making sure you're on the right track.

Whether it's a work in progress or something more complete, put it up on your wall to remind you of where you're going, why, and how...because it's easy to forget.



1. Who are you?

Write down a little bit about yourself. Who are you? What is your background? What is important to you? What does your world look like? Who are other key characters who inhabit your world that you’ll encounter and help (and will help you) along your journey?


2. What are your goals?

Where do you want to go? What do you want to accomplish or achieve? If relevant, what do you want to help others accomplish or achieve? This goes at the end of the story arc (because you have to meet your goals at the end of a story or it’s a cliffhanger or…worse yet, tragedy). But answer them now. It’s important to know where you want to go and what you want to accomplish before you figure out the rest of your story. 


3. What is your call to action?

What is a challenge or problem that you feel compelled to solve? Why do you want to do what you want to do? What drives you? Was there a moment that made you realize that THIS was what you wanted to do? Or something else that motivates you? Dig deep down into your heart to answer for this one. If you need to go for a walk to get your brain working, please do so. You might want to have an intellectual answer here, but see what emotions or physical sensations you can attach to those thoughts. Heroes are made of thoughts, physicality, and emotions.


4. What actions will you take to solve the problems that you identified and meet your goals?

What do you do? If this is a work-related story, the answers are simple. Like: I’m a writer. I’m an engineer. I write code. Don’t spend too much time answering this question because the good stuff is yet to come.


5. What obsticals might get in your way?

Now is when the fun really begins. Every good story and every hero runs into obstacles. What gets in your way of doing the things that you want to do? What is your Kryptonite? Your competition? Are are you NOT good at doing? What do you hate to do? Why might people not want to work with you? Dig deep. The answers to these questions are the key to figuring out why you ARE awesome (that’s next).


6. What are your value(s) and superpowers? What makes you YOU?

Ok, so. You’ve laid out all of the reasons and things that can get in your way. It’s OK. Everyone has them. How do you overcome them? And more importantly, how do you accomplish the thing that you’re called to do at the beginning of your story? What ARE you good at? What do you enjoy? What values are important to you? Some of your shortcomings that you identified in the last step…might they actually be assets, instead? For example, let’s say that you identified that your Kryptonite is that you obsess over details and that it slows you down in your work. When was a time that obsessing over details served you? How is being detail-oriented an asset to you being great at what you do?


7. do you feel?

No story is complete without a big picture view of how a hero and those around them feels at the end of the story. These feelings can be emotional or physical (or both). You felt called to slay that dragon, you did it! And in a style that was authentic to you and harnessed your unique superpowers. Great! Now…how do you FEEL? How do you want to feel? How do you want others to feel? Just meeting your goals at the end of a story are not enough. To have full closure, you need to be fully present and celebrate what you’ve done.


Story-driven Digital Transformation at Capital One


This week, I had the honor of keynoting and teaching a series of introductory trainings the Capital One CML Digital Summit in Richmond, VA. Why story? Capital One is in the process of growing their design capacity so that they are better able to innovate, adapt, and pivot in a constantly changing technology landscape. As part of this transformation, they see storytelling and, more importantly, storybuilding, as a core capacity of productive, agile, cross-functional design, engineering, and product teams. Whether the teams are building consumer-facing products or enterprise-level services, identifying and realizing the big picture will help teams better communicate internally and with customers, create a shared vision of what they are building and why, and effectively identify and measure impact of what they build in the marketplace.