Dan Curtis ~ Professional Personal Historian

News Flash! Not Everyone Wants A Life Story Told.

March 18, 2010 · 4 Comments

I know. I know. This isn’t news to you, right?  But I think deep down we personal historians secretly believe that if we find the right combination of price, promotion, and product, people won’t be able to resist us. Clients will be beating down our door. Wrong! Even if you give your services away for free, you still won’t get many takers. Let me explain.

I initiated and have coordinated a life stories program over the past two years at Victoria Hospice. This is a free service. It provides patients registered with Hospice an opportunity to be audio interviewed about their life by a trained Hospice volunteer. The majority of those approached decline the offer. Why? I don’t know for certain but I suspect these are some of the reasons:

  • some people nearing the end of life have too many physical and emotional issues and can’t cope with the notion of adding one more thing to do.
  • for some, committing to a life story may feel too much like wrapping things up -  like making funeral arrangements.
  • for others, there’s a sense that their lives haven’t been significant enough to warrant a life story.
  • some are uncomfortable with the idea of talking about their lives to a stranger.
  • for others, there’s the feeling that to  record their life story is “tooting your horn”.

Your clients may not be receiving palliative care but when I look at my list, I realize that these obstacles apply just as well to the people you’re trying to reach.  If you stood on the main intersection of your home town with a big placard that read “Free Personal Histories”, do you know what? Very few would sign up.

So here’s the thing. Don’t beat yourself up! If you’re doing what you can to market and promote your business and the telephone isn’t ringing off the hook,  it really may have nothing to do with you. Take a deep breath, pour yourself a drink, and forget about marketing for now. On the other hand if you’re feeling masochistic, you can read some of my previous articles on marketing and small business. ;-)

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Categories: End of life · Life stories · Marketing · Personal historian · Tips
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4 responses so far ↓

  • Tom Gilbert // March 23, 2010 at 12:53 pm | Reply


    Great insight and “balm” for those of us laboring in the field who know that “everyone has a story”, but forget that not everyone wants to tell it.

    What I hope for in discussing life story capture with those resistant is that they at least contemplate the reasons for doing so. Passing on history to family, reviewing their life for lessons and perspective and learning about themselves from the vary process

    • Dan Curtis // March 23, 2010 at 4:07 pm | Reply

      @Tom Gilbert. Thanks, Tom. I agree that it’s useful to have those who are resistant at least think about the value of life stories. On the other hand, I personally don’t spend much time or emotional energy with the reluctant. I’d rather find and work with people who are excited about the prospect of a life story and can’t wait to get started.

  • John Nash // May 9, 2010 at 7:45 am | Reply

    I have written a life story for my grandma. Her life story is interesting and has historical value for the generations to come, losing a story like that would be cultural lost to all.

    • Dan Curtis // May 9, 2010 at 3:05 pm | Reply

      @John Nash. Thank you for your comments, John. It’s great that you’ve written your grandma’s life story. There should be more grandsons like you!

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