Our Purpose

“I feel like I’m speaking
into the void.”

It’s a noisy, crowded world.

To make your voice heard, you’re not just competing with others in your industry. You’re competing with all the voices floating around a chaotic, hyperconnected reality.

You see the value in what you do—your mission, your brand, your message, your personal story—but you seem unable to communicate it to others.

When you speak, is anyone really listening? Does the depth of the message connect with hearts and minds?

When you write, do your words capture the imagination?

When you pitch your idea, does anyone ever truly catch the vision?

The worst thing in the world is when people take time to listen, read, and understand what you have to say, yet still walk away unmoved, unmotivated, and unchanged.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Who We Are

I’m John Onwuchekwa

Spinner of story and framer of narrative, whether that be through writing, speaking, preaching, or helping to launch businesses, brands, and campaigns.

No one who knew me when I was young would have guessed the trajectory my life would take. I used to stutter so badly in school that in order to get my thoughts out, I would have to write notes to my friends. That’s when I learned there are two ways to be invisible. One is not to be seen. The other is not to be heard.

While there’s a unique pain to having spoken too soon and wanting to take back your words, there’s another pain: that of knowing exactly what you want to communicate but not having the words to say it.

This is the journey I have walked. From not being able to speak, to speaking for a living—and not just for a living in the financial sense. Words have quite literally shaped my life.

From the outflow of stories and storytelling, I’ve been privileged to travel the world, and my words have gone places my feet haven’t yet landed, with my books translated into 18 languages and counting.
Simply put, as the co-founder of Portrait Coffee, the author of books like We Go On, and an accomplished public speaker and storyteller, I’ve learned from experience that simply having a story isn’t enough. You have to know what to do with it.

This is the difference between having access to raw materials and exhibiting work of art.

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Know Your Potential

What if your story shook up your world?
What if your story shook up the world?

Hidden beneath the lump of what you call a dream—whether it be a book, a mission, a message, a business idea, a campaign, or a brand—is a majestic sculpture just waiting to be unveiled, ready to captivate all who pass by.

Yet your inability to sculpt your story into something truly unforgettable is holding you back.

You know the impression you want to create, but you don’t have the tools or the skills to breathe life into your work of art.

Or—perhaps even more daunting—you’ve tried before, and you didn’t get the results you wanted.

  • You launched your campaign, and… crickets.
  • You labored to craft a compelling pitch for investors but failed once again to secure funding.
  • You drafted your book proposal with such high hopes, only to face swift and definite rejection from agents and acquisitions editors (or, worse still, you endured month after month of an empty inbox, not even granted the courtesy of a personal response).
  • You were invited to speak about your passion and life’s work, but as you spoke, you witnessed blank faces and polite smiles. When you finished, people thanked you, shook your hand, and moved on.
  • You find yourself at a party or on a date unable to hold the attention of the person sitting across the table.
Confidence alone can't compensate for a lack of critical skills.

Confidence without competence is merely an anesthesia that numbs you to the very real indicators that there’s something wrong.

It could be that what you’re missing isn’t confidence but the foundational skills on which that confidence could rest.

You may not know which skills are missing, but you’ll know you have a storytelling problem when you experience something like this:

  • You’ve written multiple drafts of that pitch, business plan, message, book, or email series. People you share it with seem positive, but no one is blown away.
  • You’ve consulted with peers, experts in the field, and even mentors. They’ve encouraged you to keep at it, but no one seems unduly impressed.
  • Sensing you’re lacking a critical something, you’ve watched YouTube videos and listened to podcasts. You’ve gleaned some tips and information, but you haven’t hit upon clear applications that will set your specific project apart.

In short, you know something’s still missing, but you’re not sure what.

In nearly every case, it all comes down to storytelling.

A sculpted story can change the impact you have when you share your idea, your product, your message, or your mission.

Removing the unnecessary so the necessary can speak.

the difference between raw materials and works of art

One Friday morning, my daughter walked into the room and asked if she could show me her rock collection. She’s five, cute, a daddy’s girl, and has known for at least five years that she has ten fingers and I’m wrapped around each one. So her request for a rock collection viewing wasn’t really a request—it was a demand. I obliged.

As I looked at her “collection,” I laughed. It was trash.

There was nothing truly notable. Just a bunch of random rocks she (1) picked up from somewhere and (2) thought were interesting. The only thread that made her assortment a “collection” was her own personal interest. There was no rhyme or reason. Just a pile of rocks she imagined was interesting. And over time, she just kept adding to it.

And adding. And adding.

And let me tell you, no matter what she added, the value of that collection has remained unchanged.

That’s the thing about rock collections. The collector connects value to addition. You have to keep adding and adding and adding. The problem is, add as many rocks to it as you want, and you still couldn’t pay people to give it a passing glance—much less gaze.

The only people that look at rock collections do so under duress (parentally or otherwise). We have a name for that. We call those people hostages!

Know Your Potential

Sculptures are different

People pay to come and see those. They are not held hostage, yet they are arrested when they walk by. They can’t help but to look and gaze and stare. What’s most interesting is that this rock didn’t gain value by addition but by subtraction.

Removing the unnecessary so the necessary can speak.

The problem with most people’s storytelling (or vision casting, sales pitching, speaking, insert your needed communication here) is that we think the value is in addition when it’s really in subtraction. So we spend our time trying to add interesting achievements and accomplishments. We think the difference between our stories and the ones that inspire us is that other people have something that we don’t. And that couldn’t be further from the truth.

The only difference between your story and the inspirational ones that arrest you is that theirs has been sculpted and yours hasn’t—yet.

Underneath the raw material of the unimpressive rocks in your collection is a compelling story waiting to be told. You’ve just got to be willing to sculpt it a bit.

When you can sculpt a story like that, you arrest people’s attention without having to use gimmicks (or ad dollars) to hold them hostage. They are free to leave at any point, but they choose to stay.

This is the power of a sculpted story. And it matters. A sculpture catches the eye–then arrests attention.

Your story doesn’t just need to be heard. It deserves to be remembered.

The good news is that you don’t have to leave story sculpting to trial and error. You can learn what to keep—and what to chisel away.

Perhaps when you hear the word story, however, the Greek chorus of self-doubt in the back of your mind already started up.

I’m just not good at that sort of thing, you might argue.

But that’s the thing about being a master storyteller. It’s not a designation that comes marked on your birth certificate.

Like masters of all other crafts, skilled storytellers are not born.

They’re made.

Storytellers hone their craft over time, building and practicing their skills until they have story sculpting down to both an art and a science.

Feel like a writer with nothing to show but a blank page? A speaker with nothing more than a message and a mission? A would-be entrepreneur with a pile of papers on the kitchen table? A visionary with a single question ringing in your head: “What if…?”

If that’s you, you’re in good company.

All writers start with a blank page. All speakers start with a message and a mission. All entrepreneurs and visionaries start with what feels like simply a dream.

That’s where everyone starts.

What matters is not where you are right now. What matters is where you choose to go next—and how you get there.

Regardless of your level of natural giftedness, anyone can start from exactly where they are and learn to sculpt a compelling story that communicates their idea and allows others to catch the vision for themselves.

And I’m here to help you get started.

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