As I write the introduction and conclusion of my book, my mind is wandering to the next phase: getting published. It’s easy to get discouraged when reading facts about the book industry. Most statistics-based articles say “it’s really, really hard” and “don’t get your hopes up.” I can’t think of a better underdog challenge!
It takes optimism and tenacity (and skill) to achieve great things, so I will be ignoring the following:
– Over one million books were published in 2009
– Amazon.com has 74,000 change management and 640,000 change books
– In the first quarter of 2011, the number of print books sold in Canada dropped by 10.9 percent
– Book industry sales declined by 5 percent between 2007 and 2009 in the U.S.
– Less than 2 percent of published books are commercially viable
– 70 percent of books published do not earn back their advance
– 80 percent of book sales are controlled by five publishing conglomerates
– Out of 1.2 million books tracked by Nielsen Book Scan (as of 2004), 950,000 books sold fewer than 99 copies, and another 200,000 sold fewer than 1,000 copies
– The average U.S. non-fiction book sells less than 250 copies per year
– A book has less than 1 percent chance of being stocked in a bookstore
I know rejection is part of the process and that many successful authors have lived through it (Jack Canfield, William Faulkner, Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, Dr. Seuss…). So, like any goal in life, I’ll persevere until it is accomplished. But I am getting ahead of myself: first I need to finish my book so that I don’t become part of a “books that were never finished” statistic.
In the late 90s, I was influenced by the writings of Dan Sullivan, the founder of The Strategic Coach program, a process for helping entrepreneurs grow. His perspectives helped me manage my career and life. One of his core processes is called The Entrepreneurial Time System where time is divided into three types of days: “free days” (off-limits days to rejuvenate), “buffer days” (preparation days), and “focus days” (performing days).
Although I couldn’t organize my time in this way, I did benefit from the thinking behind it. In particular, Dan believes that you create breakthrough ideas during a series of consecutive “free days” where you completely remove yourself from work (including emails or reading business journals). Mark, my friend and fellow Sullivan fan, and I would ask each other about our breakthrough idea after each vacation. They were usually good ones.
I thought of Dan this week when my family went skiing at Whistler. On day 3, my breakthrough idea came to me about half way up the mountain. I realized that my greatest achievements are ahead of me.This is true of most people but declaring it verbally and in writing creates the mindset necessary to make it real. Questions like “What are better achievements?” and “What would have to be true to achieve them?” have started forming the steps to reach them. My book is my next step.
As we left Whistler Village for the last time, a sign in front of the The North Face store captured the gist of my breakthrough: Never stop exploring (to become your best).
Holiday reading lists are dangerous things. They can lead to disappointment if your appetite is bigger than the time you have to feast. I made this mistake last year. The challenge is that there’s so much you want to read and so little time in which to do so. Since family and friends come first, reading can be relegated to the “I will do it soon” pile.
Here is my pared down list:
‘Hearts and Minds’ is a book written by a close friend, Dan Azoulay, who was an inspiration for writing my book. He captures the essence of romance in Canada between 1900-1930 based on 20,000 letters written to magazine ‘correspondence columns’. It’s an engaging read.
‘On Writing Well,’ is William Zinsser’s excellent guide to writing clearly and compellingly. I was half way through it in June when I decided it was time to start writing my book versus reading about how to do it.
‘Writing a Winning Non-Fiction Book Proposal’ is a ‘how-to’ guide written by the Chairman and former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers. I’m excited about starting the research for the next phase of my adventure.
There are many other unread books staring at me from my bookshelf. I have learned they need to stay there. I’m enjoying getting back to reading, when I’m not visiting with family and friends.
|Chip time of 4 hrs. 29 min. 46 sec.
Running my first marathon was an incredible experience. The best way to describe is captured in an email I sent just after the race:
At 2 miles my shin splint and vastus lateralis (upper thigh muscle) injuries resurfaced but they were less intense than before and manageable. At 9 miles I started getting intermittent ‘Charlie horse’ pains in each leg. By 12 miles I had full-on, non-stop Charlie horses. They were agonizing. I shortened my stride, which allowed me to keep going. The only time they subsided was during the walking parts of my 10 minute run & 1 minute walk rotations. At 15 miles both legs locked up and I had to walk like I was standing on stilts. I saw another runner doing squats so I did so while punching my legs to get them going. At 16 miles the tendon in my right leg started to spasm, pulling my toes under the sole of my foot. It was so bizarre, like I was running in a ballet stance or like one of those Looney Tune mice trying to sneak away. So painful. The last 6 miles were tough but no worse than the 6 before it, which I saw as a positive omen. My legs locked a few more times before my 100 metre finale.
As I turned the last corner, the crowd spurred me on and I started running faster (from really slow). I looked at the sky and let out three Braveheart screams, fists pumping with each one. People started laughing and clapping and then my right leg locked again. I started hopping on it as it started to trail the rest of my body. It unlocked for the last 50 meters allowing me to run over the finish line.
Any experience provides learnings from things that went well and those that could have been better. Here are mine:
- Kept to my race strategy including beginning at a slower pace (difficult to do) and consistent refreshment
- Adjusted my approach once problems arose, experimenting with different remedies
- Achieved my goal
Condensed my weekly running mileage into fewer days. The spikes of training overworked my right leg resulting in injuries. Sometimes efficiency leads to lower effectiveness
- Extended weekly long runs beyond my training program. A 24.9 mile run that was supposed to be 20 miles triggered my shin splints
- Ignored early signs of injury while training. I didn’t act upon my data, which resulted in lower performance on race day. Later, I went for laser treatments based on a friend’s recommendation, but it was too late to regain full health.
Parallels to My Book
- Stick to my plan as long as it’s working
- Ask friends for help. They are amazing and can help in more ways than I think
- Keep going. The finish line is ahead
I know I gave everything I had. As David Lee Roth said, “You do the best with what you’ve got.” My goal was to achieve one marathon and then focus on shorter distance races. After the race my plans remained unchanged.The next day, I mentioned to my wife Barb that maybe some day I would consider running another marathon. The day after that, we talked about the possibility of us both running a marathon in May 2012. The following day, I printed out a 29 week training schedule for a 4 hour, 4 minute and 25 second finish time. It starts on Monday.