This is one of the toughest lessons in life. It’s more difficult to learn for some of us than it is for others, but we all must learn and accept it eventually. If we don’t, our chances of succeeding at just about anything we attempt are slim to none.
For me, the lesson appeared in stages. My first big “aha moment” happened when I was still in college. The second took place just this week.
In the hope that others will reap the benefits of a lesson worth learning and re-learning … here’s my story.
Why Work Together When It’s Quicker to Work Alone?
Organizational Psychology 301. The professor loved to divide the class into small groups, give us case studies, then sip her coffee and smile while we rushed to come up with a coherent summary and takeaways based on the scenario. We’d then choose a group spokesperson to present our findings to the others.
How juvenile can you get? I hated that class. Had it not been required for my major, I would’ve dropped it the first week.
In the end, though, it was one of the most valuable courses I took.
Here’s what happened:
I don’t remember the case study, the points made, or who delivered my team’s remarks. I do remember Barbara. She was the kind of person who really didn’t worry much about what others thought of her. From swear words to politics and religion, Barbara let it fly. And she was smart, too.
In the midst of one of our godawful boring discussions about why such and such a company succeeded or failed with such and such a project, Barbara came up with an insight that lit a fire under the conversation. Her remark took “boring” out of the picture and opened a lively debate. I loved it.
That one event totally changed my attitude about teamwork.
Here’s what I scribbled in my notebook at the time:
“Together, we can accomplish a whole lot more than any of us can ever do alone.”
My default mode is to hole up, keep to myself, and socialize as little as possible. That’s fine for “me time” and meditation, but it’s a stunted way to live. I need you. I need your perspective, your encouragement, and your wisdom. And you need me.
That’s the way life works.
The Second Awakening
I’d love to tell you I turned into the poster child for “team player” after that. Some shells are thicker than others, though, and mine is breaking open in stages.
Here’s the rest of the story.
I submitted two of my books to the Amazon Kindle store in 2010. I did nothing to promote them, had no concept of proper formatting or cover design, and was pretty well embarrassed by the end product.
After raking in maybe $20 per year for two years, I did the world a favor and pulled them back to drafts. After that, I found the work of guys like Tom Corson-Knowles and Guy Kawasaki. They were kicking it on Kindle.
I bought Tom’s course. That was a huge step forward, but it made me realize how little I knew about the necessary components of self-publishing. I left the corporate world and hung up my freelance shingle in May of 2013. The fear of seeing my children starve kept me buried in client work and barely taking time to even consider my own work for four too-quick years.
Then a local author asked me to help him promote his series of detective mysteries. Editing and promoting for him, gave me the self-publishing bug again.
I knew I had to try again for myself.
With new inspiration and dedication, I took the week after Christmas to clean up the draft of a program called “How to LIVE.” It describes a four-step method (LIVE is an acronym) for dealing with the inner critic and getting unstuck in life—part of a program I wrote to help entrepreneurs take action.
I formatted the manuscript using Amazon’s new tools. I created a cover with the help of Canva, and I walked on through the process until Kindle Direct Publishing gave me the okay signal and the book went live.
Following through on that one dream released years of frustration. It didn’t just feel good … it felt fantastic. If you’ve a book inside to share with the world, do whatever it takes to get it out and get it published.
Launching a book on Amazon, though, is just part of the process. Congratulate yourself, but don’t stop there.
Calling on Your Tribe
One of my mentors is Jon Morrow. His Freedom Machine training pushes students to take risks—to get out of their comfort zone — and especially to build relationships with others.
Here’s where the plot thickens.
Despite the lesson learned about teamwork, I hate asking for help. I don’t know why. Ego, maybe, or fear of rejection … the “Why?” doesn’t really matter. If your house is on fire, get out of the house and worry later about how the fire started.
Jon said I had to get in touch with my friends, my peers, and my heroes … and I had to ask them for help. It was a fairly simple direction, so I composed this message:
“Hey, I’ve just launched a new book. Would you get a copy, take 30 minutes to read the four steps of The LIVE Method, and let me know what you think? That would be very much appreciated. And … if you would share this news with your mailing list … that would be amazing.”
Piece of cake, right?
For me, it was terrifying. How could I be that bold and intrusive? How could I put myself out there like that? Wouldn’t people be offended?
I balked, I hesitated, but I did it … mainly because I trust Jon.
The results were amazing.
Many of the people I contacted responded with, “You bet. I’m glad to help!” Some didn’t answer at all, but none of them reacted the way I expected: “Hey, you’re bothering me. Never ask me to do anything for you again.”
Thanks to a string of friends and heroes, my little book was ranking in the #1 spot in three separate categories on Amazon within two days. Yes, I used the Kindle Free promotion for the launch, but the thrill of seeing those results is something I’ll never forget.
But the biggest lesson from it all wasn’t about cover design, formatting, category selection, choosing keywords, or any of that. Those fundamentals are crucial, no doubt about that. Everyone needs to know the basics.
The biggest lesson was about people, and it prompted me to add another maxim to the first. I call them Roadturn Principles:
“People really do want to help. All you need to do is ask.”
Write these truths down. Study them like they’re scripture. They can jumpstart your writing career:
- You need others, and they need you
- With help, you can do anything
- Never be afraid to ask
Your writing and your presence are worth way more than you can currently imagine. You’ve helped others along the way, I know you have.
The next step is to allow them to help you.