20 years ago to the day as aspiring motivational speaker, I dared to dream the impossible dream: my gut guided me towards writing a book. My goal was to write a personal excellence book — not just any old book, but a best seller — and in the process to touch positively the lives of people around the country. For once I felt a little uneasy but I committed myself without reservation to the task. When I declared my intent to my friends and business colleagues they constructively highlighted the obvious obstacles that lay ahead. They pinpointed a number of seemingly insurmountable difficulties.
Firstly, English was not my strongest subject. In my final examination, I earned just a very poor ‘D’ grade. But I was consistent because I received a “D” in my Junior Cert exams also!!
Secondly, writing and speaking are two very different disciplines, and I had no experience of writing.
Thirdly famous American writers predominantly controlled th self-help market. At that time no Irish author had penned a motivational title – I would be the first in that genre.
How could I expect to break this stranglehold considering I was an unknown even in my own land? There was also a view that I was too young to be taken seriously because imparting solid and worldly advice was the domain of much more experienced people.
And finally three of my closest media colleagues all dismissed my aspirations at source.
My advisors and I didn’t even discuss issues like how I was going to persuade a publisher to back me, or more importantly in retrospect, how was I going to motivate thousands of people to go in to bookshops and buy my baby!
It’s fair to say that the prevailing ‘wisdom’ was against my adventure, but with trust in my heart, I swam against this considerable tide to honour my inner whispers. I was to learn many years later than many successful startups were founded by people who had no experience or background in the industry they went on to dominate.
A few weeks after setting the goal, my doorbell rang and when I opened the door I was faced with a woman with whom I had exchanged only pleasantries. She had heard of my plans to write a book. She was a writer and a former teacher. After a brief discussion, she agreed to help me with the challenging part of the manuscript: the English! Yes, I thought, the universe works perfectly.
A few weeks later I disclosed my plan to a designer who had worked with me on many projects. After listening to me for a few minutes he wrote a few words on a piece of paper and handed them to me. It was an appropriate title: ‘How? When you don’t know how.’
“Brilliant, Dick. I love it,” I commented. I had a working title. Over the next few months, Irish, Australian, American and English teachers ‘arrived’ to help me on my journey.
Some weeks later I was asked to address the annual conference of Network Women in Business – it transpired that the President was yes indeed a publisher.
The book was subsequently launched in Oct 1997 and sold 15,000 copies in Ireland. To put this in context the latest figures suggest you need to sell 11,000 copies a week to get on the New York Times List and 3000/3500 a week to make the Wall Street Journal list.
To finish off I would like to share with you many key lessons learned:
1. Knowledge will always give you enough reasons not to act. Don’t overanalyse – DO IT anyway. Note …you don’t have to be a motivational speaker from Ireland – you too can DO!
2. Too often people mix up Positive thinking with Positive Action/Doing – they are worlds apart. Positive thinking is great but without ACTION is worthless. Stop talking positive and start Doing something if you really want to effect change in your life.
3. Be open to and aware of the multitude of teachers that are around you that can help when you dare to dream. Only your ego will stop you from seeing.
4. It’s ok to fail…..what isn’t ok is when you don’t learn from failure. Most recently a delegate shared with me a daily mantra from the positive thinking rather than positive doing camp. “I am doing the best I can with the resources I have.” She was – unfortunately she said the same thing after a previous job failure. In the meantime she hadn’t changed her strategy once, and ended up with the same negative outcome. So fail…learn from failure…try again….and so on.
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