It feels like I have joined a public speaking boot camp. This week’s workout was at a high school where I spoke with 100 students and teachers over two sessions. The topic was my life’s timeline and the lessons learned along the way. For fifteen and sixteen year olds, this had the potential of being boring, or worse, sleep inducing, so I added lots of excitement: a costume change, candy rewards (Kraft/Cadbury brands of course), high-kicks, and brutally honest stories (and the emotions behind them). It was a lot of fun and they seemed engaged by the good and bad decisions I made.
It felt strange sharing my life with an audience. Although I prefer the present over the past, I had forgotten some of the experiences that have made me who I am. My lessons learned are:
– Believe in yourself – no one can do it for you
– Decide what you want in life and go for it
– Be good at something, anything – “The more I practice the
luckier I get”
– Keep your options open – be open to new things
– The more you do the more opportunities you find
– Be referable – that’s how you get ahead
– First impressions count
– Be positive– you don’t accomplish much when you are
– If something isn’t working, try a different approach
– Ask for help (and give it too)
– Don’t burn bridges
– What goes around comes around
Like most public speaking talks, you learn from your audience
and I am still thinking of the students’ and teachers’ thoughtful
questions. Now, how do I write a thank you note to 100
I have enjoyed switching gears to the book proposal writing phase. It’s familiar territory (how many proposals have we written in our careers?) and doing research again is fun. I even went to a public library and signed out two books on winning proposals!
Writing a proposal is like making a cake: each ingredient must be added in the right amount and in the right order for it to create something special. Experimentation is risky.
Most advice contains the same sections and a lot of the same tips:
- Overview – What is your premise and how does it satisfy a need?
- Markets – Who will buy your book?
- Competition – What books are similar to yours and why is yours different?
- Author – Why are you the best author for this book?
- Promotion – What can you do to help sell your book?
- Table of Contents
- Sample Chapters
In the past, I would create a proposal framework and then fill it the sections sequentially, building the narrative. This time, I dove into writing a draft as I was researching. This was a mistake because it missed the big picture and was less organized. After a day of “free-wheeling” I went back to a more structured and effective approach.
One hundred and one reasons for becoming my publisher is a stretch, especially since my goal is to convince one that my book will sell enough copies to make a profit. All other reasons are icing on the cake.
|Preparing for an adventure
There is only so much preparation you can do before it’s time to perform, and I was ready for the Goodlife Fitness Toronto Marathon: injury-free, didn’t forget anything, and at the starting line early. The first 9 miles of the course was a breeze. I followed my plan including running “10 and 1” intervals, and controlling my starting speed (my nemesis). Then I felt a pin prick of a Charlie horse in my left calf, just like my first marathon six months ago.
|Limping with 100 metres to go
I knew what would come next but felt confident because I had been there before and this time I didn’t have shin splints. Just like watching a movie for the second time, my legs atrophied in the same way: at 12 miles both legs got intermittent Charlie horses, at 16 miles both legs got them at the same time, and at 20 miles my legs seized and locked when I got them. When a leg locked I would slow to a limp and would have to smash it on the road to unlock it (like cracking the barrel of a shotgun). The first time this happened, Barb, my wife, saw me and came over to help, which was so caring. At 22 miles, both legs locked, which was like walking on electrified stilts. This pattern went on until I was 400 metres away from the finish line. Then, both legs went into spasms and both tendons pulled my toes underneath my feet (just like last time). When this happens your feet are twice as thick and a third shorter as you are forced to run on the tops of your toes. I don’t know why but an image of Fred Flintstone flashed across my mind. I hobbled across the finish line to cheers and shouts of encouragement. I had finished my second marathon in 4 hours, 8 minutes, and 12 seconds – 1 minute and 48 seconds faster than my goal and 21 minutes and 14 seconds faster than my first one. Mission accomplished!
|Well, we do dress alike…
There are many lessons gained from any quest and two stand out about this one: perseverance and preparation. No matter what, you have to keep going and your preparation will pull you through. One of my favourite quotes is from Muhammad Ali: “The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses – behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.” It’s as true for this goal as it is for my goal to write a book.
Another lesson I learned a long time ago comes to mind: always appreciate and show gratitude for friends and family (and strangers) who help you along the way – thank you all. There was a sign along the course that said, “If Oprah could do it, you can.” Thanks Oprah, I did.