Great Success = a little more talent + a lot of luck ~ Daniel Kahneman
Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman in his 2011 (my copy) book Thinking, Fast and Slow says “Success = Talent + Luck.” Malcolm Gladwell in his 2008 book Outliers says it a little differently, but basically that, “… outliers in a particular field reached their lofty status through a combination of ability, opportunity, and utterly arbitrary advantage.”
“Great Success = a little more talent + a lot of luck” ~ Daniel Kahneman
In the U.S., we like to reward hard work. We want to say that people who put in Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000 hours” (from the Outliers book) of practice and toil will be successful. People who expend this much time hope to be successful. And they may be successful—if they are lucky.
Leaving so much to luck is a hard pill to swallow!
We would like to know that at the end of the athlete’s daily three-, four-, or five-hour practice sessions for ten or more years, the athlete will take a Gold Medal at the Olympics. Wait. They have to get to the Olympics first. Sometimes they luck into it by doing particularly well on one day of trials. Alternatively, someone else breaks a leg or sprains an ankle. Good luck. Bad luck. It’s luck.
Johann Sebastian Bach wrote his famous musical pieces in the 1700s. Talented. Yes, but he was lucky enough to be born into a musical family. However, both his mother and father died (bad luck!) when he was nine, but he moved in with his older brother (good luck) because it led to some (fortuitous) events that enhanced his musicality to our benefit.
In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell recounts the 10,000 hours + lucky paths of The Beatles and Bill Gates and many more successful outliers—in this case, people who are “situated away from or classed differently from a main or related body.”
Tony Robbins has another view on luck:
“The meeting of preparation with opportunity generates the offspring we call luck.”~ Tony Robbins
The difference is that Tony Robbins seems to imply that preparation and opportunity have a causal relation to luck. Gladwell (and I think Kahneman) would argue that you’re lucky to be in a position to spend your 10,000 hours of preparation in the first place—like Bach, maybe. It’s a nuanced, but important variation in viewpoint.
I offered a similar sentiment, coming from yet another position in my May 23, 2018, post entitled “Life’s A Crapshoot.” I was not looking at success at all, but rather that luck is a fact of life from the very beginning. (I was adopted.) We want to have control over who we are, but we do not. Sometimes that’s great. Sometimes, it’s terrible. Either way, it is frequently plain dumb luck.
Bottom line: I wish you luck. Both kinds. Why? Because sometimes it is by bad luck that we happen on to good luck. I also encourage you to spend your 10,000 hours to master your art, craft, science, etc., but I don’t want you to think that’s your only path. We have many multiples of 10,000 hours during an average lifetime. Perhaps you want to try your luck at something else. There’s no harm in trying. In fact, it may very well be your luck to fail at the first attempt so you can succeed at whatever’s next.
Photo by Pixabay on aPexels.com
4 Acronyms to Challenge Our Thinking and Prevent Absorption by Artificial Intelligence (AI)
WIIFM — What’s In It For Me?
WIIFU — What’s In It For Us?
WYSIWYG — What You See Is What You Get
WYSIATI — What You See Is All There Is
A thought piece by Kathryn Atkins at Writing World, LLC
WIIFM: WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME?
When selling to a prospect, a seasoned salesperson will put the presentation in terms of what the customer wants: WIIFM. This is a proper strategy for communicating value in a Business to Consumer BtoC interaction.
WIIFU: WHAT’S IN IT FOR US?
When selling to an organization, whether non-profit or for-profit, a salesperson or business entity will take into consideration that most companies consist of teams of people, collaborators, work groups, and associates in departments that create a more inclusive sense of us. People selling in the Business to Business, BtoB, space are selling to us. It’s not WIIFM but WIIFU.
If we are not selling a product, we may be offering an idea. For online content, then, we want to remember that the question on everyone’s invisible electronic lips is also: “WHAT’S IN IT FOR US?” WIIFU? Why should we engage? Why should we listen? What can you help us do? For the salesperson or the online company creating content, today, this is a harder question to answer, but one that should not be overlooked.
WYSIWYG: WHAT YOU SEE IS WHAT YOU GET
The idea of WYSIWYG has an element of transparency. Honesty. Trust. This is what you are getting. That’s it. No changes. No switcheroos. No “We were just kidding.” The WYSIWYG model has an element of Stephen Colbert’s “truthiness.” Online and in person marketers will be successful if they are careful to engage WYSIWYG as they go to market. No one likes bait and switch.
WYSIATI: WHAT YOU SEE IS ALL THERE IS
Daniel Kahneman coined the term WYSIATI in his groundbreaking book Thinking, Fast and Slow to introduce us to our bias to make quick decisions by thinking we have all the information we need. It’s an overconfidence Achilles heel that can undermine better decision-making on the one hand, but it can also prove to move us more quickly through the decision cycle. In the old days, they used to call it shooting from the hip. Now we have an acronym for it.
BOTTOM LINE: Business and Life Trends summary. I hope these four acronyms encourage you to reconsider how your customers, prospects, and business social circles see you and how you present your company and your business persona. Of course, we are not our businesses. We are thinking, feeling beings. It is vital that we become aware of our thinking and of how people around us think and feel as we approach the precipice of Artificial Intelligence (AI). We need to know ourselves more surely and more intimately if we are to keep ahead of the bots.
I had so much fun.
The top left photo is of my husband Don and my son Ted with me at the Gatsby Books signing. Next on the left, friends Tim and Nancy Thomas, and then my brother Bob and me. The threesome at the bottom are my friends, Dave Fleck, Candice Brandt, and Jim Larkin.
Above is a photo of me with with my crazy “pinwheel” pens for giveaways.
I look forward to another one soon.
Mozart. Bach. Van Gogh. Rodin. Margaret Mitchell. Stephen King. Stephen Spielberg. George Lucas.
Have you heard of these folks? They all finished something. Did they know they were done? Probably, they just got tired of messing with whatever they were working on, put a period, an ending, a final splotch of paint or marble or editing scissors down and called it done. Many “artists” admit they are never done. They just abandon the project and move to the next one.
But what does that mean? It means that at some point these creatives finished the project. The musical piece was finally written. Maybe there were several instruments. Maybe just one. The marble statue was finally rid of the stuff that wasn’t needed to make the statue (quote Michelangelo), and the life-size piece could stand on its own without the sculpture’s chisel hovering near its unprotected loins.
For every writer, filmmaker, painter, or project manager, businessperson, or code writer, the creative venture needs a finish line. Someone needs to say the magic words: “It is done.” “It is ready.” “It is finished.” At some point, hopefully, the artist’s work is shipped—published, distributed, shown, or sent to the marketplace.
Then the pain begins.
For every successful creation, there are hundreds that are crap. But that is actually wonderful. The only way we can know our work is “good” is to send it out. On the other hand, it also makes absolutely no difference if nobody likes your work. Your blood, sweat, and tears spot the pages, but maybe they just do not like your face. They might not be ready for you yet. They might be looking the other way. The timing is wrong. Your luck sucks.
It doesn’t matter.
If you have finished something—anything—good or bad, you have won. You are a success. You finished what you started. Finishing is difficult.
It’s not impossible. Look at the music, the books, the businesses, the inventions, the paintings, cars, sculptures, computer programs, cell phones, and every other thing you can think of ever created. They were finished. At some moment in time, a human being started something. Then they finished it. That. Is. Awesome.
Quotes on Finishing
“Why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me.
~ J. K. Rowling
“Whatever it takes to finish things, finish. You will learn more from a glorious failure than you ever will from something you never finished.”
~ Neil Gaiman
Fear of Shipping [My interpretation: Shipping = Finishing]
Shipping is fraught with risk and danger.
Every time you raise your hand, send an email, launch a product or make a suggestion, you’re exposing yourself to criticism. Not just criticism, but the negative consequences that come with wasting money, annoying someone in power, or making a fool of yourself.
“It’s no wonder we’re afraid to ship.
“It’s not clear you have much choice, though. A life spent curled in a ball, hiding in the corner might seem less risky, but in fact, it’s certain to lead to ennui and eventually failure. …”
~ Seth Godin
* * *
Why Finishing Is Important
For You and For Us
Finishing is critical because we need to fail! We need to fail so we can do it right the next time and the next and the next. Who is one of the biggest failures on the planet right now? Elon Musk. Who else was a huge failure? Steve Jobs. They were successful because they allowed failure into their lives.
From many, many, many podcasts, articles, how-to books, and blogs, I know that failure is the key to success. If failure is the key to success, finishing is the key to failure.
Finish — Fail — Succeed — Repeat
- Finishing is making a contribution.
- Finishing is you making your mark on the earth.
- Finishing is why you are here.
- Finishing is your life’s purpose.
- Finishing brings you joy.
Enjoying the journey to the finish line is important, too. Don’t beat yourself up if you are enjoying that journey. That’s okay. Try to finish, though.
* * *
We Need to Fail!
… even though it’s not fun.
I hate to fail. No one likes to fail. We don’t want to be failures. People like winners. True. No one wants to be the last one in the race. Few people want to come in fourth at the Olympics. They don’t get a medal. But what they did get was experiencing the Olympics! How good must they be to make it through all the competitions and trials to get to the Olympics in the first place?
Failing and being a failure are two different things, however. Failing is a temporary thing. In fact, failing a bunch of times is how you eventually get better.
Failing is learning. “Oh! How interesting! That didn’t work. I’ll try something else.”
Failing is helping other people learn. “Wow. Look what they tried! Let’s see if we can do it better or differently.”
Failing is winning the game of perseverance. Gaining strength. Experiencing grit. Knowing how golly gosh darn badly you want it.
Failing is a gift.
Unfortunately, failing multiple times can keep some of us from finishing. We grow tired of the skinned knees, the broken airplanes (Wright Brothers), the cotton gin that breaks (Eli Whitney) and the telephone that doesn’t ring (Alexander Graham Bell). We give up. We will not finish that book. We will never hear the musical piece. We leave our sculpture in a heap of rocks and rubble, and we will punch a hole in the painting. No one will ever experience your novel, your Mona Lisa, your Nutcracker Suite, or your David statue.
So you are not John Steinbeck or Leonardo da Vinci? You are not Tchaikovsky or Michelangelo? Did they think they were when they created their works? How would they know in the beginning if they did not finish anything?
Every one of the artists you know didn’t know they were any good when they started. John Steinbeck was rejected dozens of times. Starving artists starve for a reason. Are they failures?
Here’s the deal. These creatives are only failures if they measure success by money and fame. Many of the famous artists never saw fame or fortune while they were alive, so they did not think they were any good!
Fail. Fail often. Keep writing, painting, making music, sculpting, and inventing. In the meantime, let’s look at why we don’t finish our works so that we can find a way around it.
* * *
Why We Don’t Finish
It’s very common.
ONE WORD . . .
The word is…
Fear Takes Many Forms
Sometimes, the fear “choice” we make is acceptable by society’s standards. We do want things to be perfect, for example. We would prefer that our cars’ brakes work correctly, right?
Busy-ness is another example of an acceptable form of fear. In our western Puritan ethic American culture, having too much to do and being overloaded is “good” for the community. “Busy hands are happy hands.” However, Socrates said, “Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” I like: “Don’t equate activity with accomplishment.”
o Perfectionism (Fear)
o Procrastination (Perfectionism + Fear)
o Time and Overload (Procrastination + Fear)
o Prioritization (Time + Procrastination + Fear)
o Don’t Know How! (Fear of looking dumb.)
It has to be perfect! They’ll laugh at me if it’s not perfect. I hate mistakes! (I do.) I just need to work on it a little more. Then it will be perfect. One more time.
Only one more.
Look at the pattern. It’s stair steps. Down.
It’s fear. Fear of getting it wrong. Fear of finishing. Fear of putting your (unfinished, imperfect) work in the public eye. It’s safer inside where no one can see our warts. No one will laugh at our spelling errors, our inappropriate camera settings, our composition screw-ups, our terrible color choices, background proportion blunders, or visible chisel marks.
SO WHAT? If it is not brakes, or a building, or surgery, a little mistake isn’t going to end the world. Fuggedaboutit. Finish it. And ship it!
This is my favorite, I think. I am particularly good at finding some huge, pressing projects that are laudable to have accomplished… except they are not my dream project. They’re sneaky ways of procrastinating while having some part of myself be gosh darned proud of checking them off my lists.
I can mop the floors, do laundry, go grocery shopping, and make a cake. I am not finishing the chapter. I plan Christmas, or plan a vacation, or plan a meeting. I am not writing my book. I write another short piece. Ship an article to a customer. Call my brother, email my friend, walk the dog.
These are all great accomplishments! But, I am not moving my characters, plot, or theme forward. Here’s the irony: I’m procrastinating by writing this handbook on the challenge of finishing.
The completion of the above tasks is, as I said, laudable and necessary sometimes. However, we (I) need to be aware. I must be mindful and know when I’m off the path to finishing what I most want to finish. The BIG thing. The thing I was put here to do.
Oh, and don’t forget, being a “perfectionist” also serves as procrastination. It keeps us from shipping. It keeps us in the “fun” of “fixing.” It’s safe. We are convinced that we can make it perfect if we work hard enough. Perfect doesn’t happen very often. It’s a lovely idea, but the pursuit of perfection can be our worst enemy. Watch out and be extra conscious of the time you spend proofreading, changing a color in a painting, chiseling that last micrometer off the sculpture, or editing the scene in a movie. You may be an artist, or you may be dawdling. (Don’t you love that word?)
Time and Overload
The secretary to the president of the firm says, “I’m SO busy!” The president of the firm with 20,000 employees says, “I’m SO busy!” They’re both busy. Artist, author, and longtime podcaster Debbie Millman says, “Busy is a decision.” That means we choose how our time is spent, and we elect what we work on at any given moment.
“I have a job,” you say. “I have bills.” How many people have jobs that keep them barely ahead of the bill collector, or just ahead of bankruptcy, whatever their pay?
“Money is something we choose to trade our life energy for,” from Vicki Robin, Your Money or Your Life. The things we choose to do are our “busy” things.
Some people give up stressful jobs to preserve their mental powers for their art form. I cannot tell you how many people I’ve met at the Trader Joe’s checkout counter who are artists, musicians, writers, and painters that ‘just need a little money so they can do what they love.’ The decision comes with sacrifice.
You do not buy brand new cars, or you decide on a smaller house and trips to discount grocery and shoe stores, and other lifestyle shifts. If lowering the financial bar saves mental stress, and allows the freedom to create, it may be worth downsizing. Then, the decision to be busy is a decision to be busy with creativity. You reduce your cerebral load to embrace the you that is you.
First things first. Nothing else matters as much as this thing you want to finish. Nothing will get in the way. Start. Continue. Finish.
Some critical concepts come to mind here.
- Time management
- Time blocks
- Saying no
For many of the above ideas, there are applications to help you. Time management must have a few dozen apps, but for creatives, there is nothing like two- or three- hour time blocks to accomplish your creative output. Ten minutes here and there may work for some people (I know published authors who write on their 30-minute lunch breaks), but this is especially hard. Diving into a big project before you recommence is often a 30-minute process by itself. Do the best you can to create time blocks by using better time management.
“Saying no” may come in the form of an app like “Freedom,” which shuts off all internet, email, and other distractions from your computer, mobile phone, etc. Or, just say a polite “no” to the coffee date or free flying lesson.
Desire, discipline, and grit are interconnected. Having the desire means being motivated—wanting beyond all else to finish the piece or attain that goal or knowledge, milestone, etc. The only way to get there is through discipline. Practicing every day. Writing every day. Learning, painting, creating, every day—even when the output sucks, you’re tired, you’re sick, you’re making no progress, and no money —and you have no friends and no fun. The trick here is grit. Sticking with it. For more information, check out the TED talk on grit by Angela Lee Duckworth.
Rewards are controversial. Some folks think the work is the reward. Others say rewards help you keep going forward. It’s very personal. Maybe one person needs new shoes another can get by with a Starbucks latte. Consider the idea of a reward for reaching a milestone.
Consciousness and Clarity go hand in hand. To be conscious of your every action of the day, the question to ask is, “Is this the best use of my time right now?” OR, “Am I on task for the work I want to finish?” The second concept, clarity, helps us be not only clear but honest about the time and energy we spend. We may be busy, but we are not accomplishing anything.
Focus helps us avoid distractions. It’s becoming a lost art in today’s social media, 24/7 interconnectedness. The idea of freeing ourselves from internet and phone connections is useful, as in the “saying no” choices, but beyond saying no, we must say yes to staying in the flow of our work. For writers, it’s keeping our butts in the chair; for musicians, it’s staying the course with the instrument, the musical score. It is being in the moment. Meditation practice helps with this. Many creatives—and even sports people and entrepreneurs—swear by meditation. Try it.
Don’t Know How!
Hah. I thought I knew how to write. But writing a whole book (fiction or non-fiction) is an entirely bigger ball of wax than writing an article, or website copy, or emails, for gosh sakes. What made me nuts was thinking about all the people who have successfully written books. They had done it. Why couldn’t I? Something was wrong with me. It must be easy, or all these people wouldn’t have published a book. Right?
Let’s look at the numbers.
Per the bibliographic information company Bowker®, there were about 305,000 print books published by traditional publishers in 2013. The non-traditional publishing sector print output was 1.1 million titles for a total of about 1.4 million titles. Sound like a lot? Here’s what’s interesting: There were about 315 million people in the United States in 2013. Approximately 80% were adults. That would mean that .55% of adults (approximately 252,000) in the U.S. published a book. It is not 55%. It is not 5.5%. It is .55%, which is about 55 adults out of 10,000. It’s a small number, and one can say that publishing a book is a big deal.
Not being able to overcome the challenge of finishing is probably one reason. The other might be they do not know how to do it. Or, they don’t have any interest, of course. However, one survey said that 81% of all adults think they have a novel in them.
If you want to finish a book (or anything for that matter) and don’t know how, then take a class. Read a book on writing a book or doing whatever your dreams tell you. Join a critique group. Take a workshop. Go to a conference. Free is good, but sometimes you get what you pay for. Either way, not knowing how certainly hasn’t stopped some people! There are some crummy books out there. But we should not let not knowing keep us from finishing something. Let’s look at that Neil Gaiman quote again. How else will we know?
* * *
Thought # 4
What Are You Afraid Of?
Check your assumptions.
Take a look at this spidery thing. Maybe take some notes to understand the source of your fear of finishing.
* * *
Thought # 5
How to Finish
Pssst . . . You are worth it!
You know your fears now. Look at some ways you can overcome your fears and finish your life’s work. Add more notes to help you overcome your fears.
Thought # 6
Open to the Universe of Possibility
Am I an expert on finishing? Heck, no. I’ve finished a few things. That makes me dangerously smug and complacent. The reason for this diatribe is to provide myself a Kick in the A** (KITA) to move from midpoint to endpoint on my next project. I am a little stuck.
Mostly, though, I wanted to let people know the surprising joy I felt on finishing the first little book. And then another, bigger book. I think everyone deserves to feel that joy.
Here’s one last trick. One of the podcasts I listened to said to write down an affirmation 20 times every day for a month. Here’s an example. “I __________(state your name) am a _______________ (give yourself a title like famous painter, world-class, published author, or highly-respected filmmaker).” Note: Do not use want to be or wish to be. Use the present tense “am.” The Universe likes this. She told me so.
Write your affirmation, and wait for the magic. My last book was a result of this exercise. Power of suggestion or universe of possibility: which is it?
It doesn’t matter. It worked for me. Try it.
* * * Feel the joy of finishing. It doesn’t get much better than this. * * *
References and Further Readings
Getting Things Done by David Allen
As a Man Thinketh by James Allen
How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie
Tribe of Mentors (and almost any book ) by Tim Ferriss
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin
The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz, Ph.D.
The Art of Possibility By Rosamund Stone and Benjamin Zander
* * *
The Challenge and Joy of Finishing
Copyright © 2018 Kathryn Atkins
The copyright holder can be contacted through this website: http://www.WritingWorld.biz.
Published in the United States of America
By Writing World, LLC
Penelope Peters did not want to grow up. She wore pigtails even as she entered college, an all-girls establishment. After she graduated she sailed to a faraway island where she took care of the Lost Girls.
One day, the evil Madam Hook kidnapped some of the girls and took them to her place of business, the House of the Plunging Sons, where she put the girls to work. Alas, Ms. Peters knew the nature of this demeaning work and enlisted the aid of her helpers, the Angels of Artemis. Armed with harps outfitted with arrows, the Angels raided the house and pulled the Lost Girls right out from under their yucky jobs.
The media of the day splashed the names of the yucky clients across their technology-appropriate-for-the-era outlets. Alas, In a “boys-will-be-boys” moment of hand slapping, the past and future history of these events would be repeated.
Ms. Peters and her Lost Girls were safe for only a short while until the prequels and sequels found Madam Hook reprising her evil ways in a Neverland where children grow up far too quickly.
“. . . I’m the bear standing in the woods with a bullseye on his chest . . .”
My late sixties present me with the most ridiculous angst I’ve felt since I was sixteen. I am no longer a child of forty, and I am not an adult of eighty. Thus, I am an “adolescent” again. Why does it come up now? It dawned on me (after my 50th—there, I said it—high school reunion, for God’s sake) that at this age, we are older, but we are fighting oldness. Gray hair is dyed, colored, and maybe highlighted; straightened and softened to disguise the crinkly, wiry, dry mass that passes for hair. Why don’t I have the soft, pretty kind like my mom did? Dunno. I’m sure it’s because my hair, an enemy of over six decades, does this because it has its own devious mind. My hair knows exactly what irks me.
I have a target on my forehead. I feel like I’m the bear standing in the woods with a bullseye on his chest if you’ve ever seen that cartoon. It’s the target for anti-aging marketers to spot me from 10,000 feet. They don’t need for me to wear the target, though. It’s written in the sneaky wrinkles around my eyes and mouth, and the other ill-mannered houseguests with stupid sunglasses that appeared on my neck and cheeks one day when I wasn’t paying attention. They didn’t have the courtesy to leave.
So, it’s not just the cosmetics products folks; it’s also the dermatologists and estheticians that swear their methods for finding the fountain of youth surpass the others’. For all the Botox treatments, eyelifts, ear-lifts (yes, they have those), and nose jobs, there are face creams and treatments to use between or instead of the unnerving, daunting “cures.” (I would share my chemical peel photos with you, but you’d probably run screaming for the Halloween bar. Yes, I had one. Why? Because I’m still in my adolescence, of course, experimenting as adolescents do.)
Since we’re talking, I thought I might share more nice perspectives to cheer you up. You may be happily getting Botox, chemical peels, and other fine facial procedures to try to fool the calendar, but I’m going to burst your bubble. Are you sitting down? Here goes: There are some telltale signs of advancing age that cannot be removed. As one of my “good” friends said, “You just have to look at someone’s hands to see if they’re old.” Thanks. Thanks so much. I needed that. I have tried to hold my hands above my elbows during pictures to keep from having those lovely blue veins pop out on the back of my hands. Sometimes, though, this is not a good strategy. As in when you’re playing the piano. Or maybe you’re doing a cooking demonstration or giving a knitting lesson. (People still knit. By hand. They do.)
More perspectives: (Spoiler alert.) Hanging, crinkly skin. Yes. Even though we go to the gym, do our due-diligence with weights, on machines, and at endless classes, we are stuck with crinkly skin that hangs off our healthy, osteoporosis-free skeletons if we’re lucky. Yes, we put on lotion. Yes, we tone and stretch. We are limber from yoga. Our lungs are aerobically healthy. Our butts are holding their own underneath. However, the skin that keeps the rest of us in has an un-ironed look about it.
So, when you’re a teenager, you’re dealing with zits, braces, and big ears. The difference is that as a teenager, the zits eventually disappear, the braces come off, and somewhere along the way you grow into your ears. As I age, my wrinkles will not disappear. In fact, they will multiply. Like rabbits. My teeth will get thinner. And my ears AND nose, longer. My hands? More gnarly. (Great word, right?)
What? Get over myself. This is a first world problem, you say? Well, yes, but it’s real to me. Adolescence. Again. Merde! I didn’t like my teen years when I was experiencing them, and I thought I was done. I’m back in them again. And I’d like to think I’m above it all! “I got this,” I say to my face in the mirror, the unrelenting mirror. “Mirror, mirror on the wall. Who is that ancient person in the shawl?” The mirror is no help. No help at all. Her best advice is to turn off the lights. Would that all rooms were dark!
I look around me at the people with gray hair. I compare. Oh, that’s dumb. At least I’m not that old, I say to myself. But my next thought is: I will be there soon. I saw a young woman today. OMG. “I used to look like that,” I say. Well, that’s nonsense. I NEVER looked like THAT. Who am I kidding? She was model beautiful. Why do I make this comparison? This thing called aging —even healthy aging, where I’m dancing flamenco and walking miles and doing yoga —is taking too much of my mental energy. It robs me of creativity. It stifles my serenity.
So as with my teens, I know that eventually, the between-ness will pass. I can achieve the next stage and relax into it—gracefully, happily, peacefully. That makes sense. If we fight the force of nature, we tend to carry an aura of angry (I hear it’s a mustard color), which by itself can make us look older and feel worse. (Who wants to look like mustard?)
I suggest that you read Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal. It’s an homage to living well even as it describes the terminal nature of our lives. We are lucky if we get to experience old age before we die. Dr. Gawande says it better, page 141. “The battle of being mortal is the battle to maintain the integrity of one’s life—to avoid becoming so diminished or dissipated or subjugated that who you are becomes disconnected from who you were or who you want to be.” I’m going to embrace the idea of maintaining my integrity by defining “a good day” in my terms and attempting to attain that. Every day. I will not worry about adolescence. Terrible twos. Teens. Twenties. Middle age. They’re stages, each with their challenges. This aging thing is just another stage. Maintaining my integrity is the goal. That’s all.
This is my book. I wrote it because I had to put my self out. Be out. These are pieces of me (they’re always called pieces, whether a piece of music, art, or writing) that assure me I was here. I never thought of that before, but it’s true. Creatives leave these little breadcrumbs like Hansel and Gretel. Do they (we) then have a way to find our way back to ourselves? Does an architect leave a piece? No. They leave big things. Whole things like buildings and subdivisions. Are those pieces? Maybe. Engineers leave bridges, waterways, and aqueducts and dams and things. Doesn’t matter. They see edifices in their minds and build them. Creatives see music and art, and we write it, paint, or draw it. Then, we share it. Sometimes we perform it.
I could say my kids “prove” I was here. Or that I have photos that say, “I was here.” But I’m not sure of that. Some of the photos were taken when I was too little to remember. Was I really there?
My family should be pleased to know I was here. Hah. And they may see themselves immortalized in these pages, too. While many of the stories are pure fiction, some are versions of events that happened with the names of the characters changed. I wonder if they will recognize themselves.
Now on to the next creation. I do hope some other (not family!) people will read this book and like it. Themes, lessons, and laughter titter through the pages, yes. But mostly I’m glad I wrote it. And published it. Just. For. Me. In. The. Wind.
We are inundated with content all day long. We are buried in promotions. Suffocating from inbound. Struggling to create outbound. So because writing is all around us, it seems that it is an easy thing to do. But it’s not. WRITING is not easy. Good writing is really, really hard.
- People write emails all day long. They’re writing. Right? No. It’s not WRITING. On the other hand…
- Writing is not surgery. Good writing isn’t either. But writing is important. (Examples: The U.S. Constitution, The Bible, The Koran, etc.). And it may save lives as in well-written checklists like those in Atul Gawande’s Checklist Manifesto or an instruction manual for electrical wiring.
Writing may save lives.
- You need a license to practice surgery. And while you do not need one to write, you do need a license to drive a car and to be officially married.
- Did you think about the fact that you do not need a license to have a child?
Having a license sets people apart. It denotes a level of proficiency. Yet, even after obtaining a license, people practice what they have learned to become good at it. Doctors, dentists, and lawyers have “practices.” Professional musicians practice. Dancers, actors and other people who are not licensed practice long hours to attain the level for which they can be paid… as a professional. Writers do, too.
People struggle to write well. Professional writers struggle more. Tennis players strive to play well. Professional tennis players strive harder and longer. Professional golfers and painters (or anyone who needs the Malcolm Gladwell 10,000 hours of practice to be really good) do not have licenses but compete to be deemed the best at what they do. Writers that write for 10,000 hours do not always get their books published by one of the big publishing houses. That also takes luck. (And luck is also a Malcolm Gladwell Outlier ingredient for success.)
Good writing is not easy. We can try to write more because we think more is better. However, practicing long hours is only helpful if it’s correct practice. Because so many people write all day long, they may think they will become better at it. Yes. Better. But to be a really good writer, people can take a class. Buy a book on writing. Enter contests, and seek legitimate publishing venues. Or they can hire a professional writer to write with them.
Bottom line: Really good writing is extremely hard to do. There is no license to be a writer. Masters and Doctorate degrees—yes. Otherwise, the proof is in the publishing. In clarity and voice and tone. However, the real proof: the pleasure of reading good writing of any kind.
You’ve hired a writer. Congratulations! I’m thrilled. You’re excited because your work is done. But wait. We have to talk about that.
As I view the content landscape, I am convinced that people hire content writers expecting magic—as in seeing instant results and an immediate increase in business. It would be lovely, a writer’s wish, a company’s dream-come-true if it worked like that.
How often do you look at automobile advertisements or the independent reliability reports, or fuel efficiency readings? Only when you’re looking for a car. But the auto companies advertise and provide content all the time. The do not look for an immediate increase in sales after they have put up one ad, one blog, one Consumer Reports review. They are in it for the long haul.
Automobile marketers pay attention to the number of people that visit their website: they pay millions of dollars (I worked for such a company) to measure every click on every web page and every minute and second prospects spent on the smallest detail of the brand’s offerings. They analyze the metrics down to the threads on the tires’ lug nuts, so to speak. But they cannot directly correlate sales increases to online behavior. They get close, and they can sometimes indirectly estimate sales upticks based on the analytics.
What they can measure is interest and then try to correlate it to sales. SO CAN YOU!
How to Get Great Results:
Be sure to garner your clients’ and prospects’ interest in your content by:
- Employing good writers
- Providing the writer with YOUR company’s content bullets and voice/tone. Very important.
- Getting your website person* to measure the reaction (analytics) to your content on your web page.
- Asking your social media person* to analyze the reaction to your Social Media posts. Who responds? What day, time of day, topics, words or word phrases are best? What channel is best? LinkedIn? Facebook? Instagram? Twitter? YouTube? The analytics are offered by the sites themselves, but how you react to them makes a difference. For example, changing the messaging might be necessary if the response is low, but it will not change itself. Someone has to do it.
* If this person is you, make sure you have this on your weekly To Do list. Either that or be willing to pay the writer to do it. Why? Conscientious writers want our words to bring you buzz and business! If they don’t, we will fire ourselves if you don’t fire us first. And then you start all over with another writer. It doesn’t have to be that way.
Hiring a writer is a great first step. It’s not the last step. It’s important to conduct sessions in which the content — web page, post, product description, etc.— is studied for their results. The goals must be clear: More clicks? New leads? Increased sharing? Closed sales, higher email captures? There’s no shortcut. Stay the course with your writer and make sure to measure our results.
Professional writers want their clients to succeed and grow so we can grow with you!