Closing the Book and Writing the Next Chapter…

Three months have passed since I completed my first book, Agents of Change, and I am now in that murky phase… caught somewhere in the midst of having pride in the completion of the initial goal, of working to further build upon that accomplishment in the present, and of itching to turn my attention to what comes next. Like so many aspects of my life, I started this journey with a vague goal (publish a book) and with plenty of passion, but without a plan for how to get there or for what to do once I’m done.  Whether it be my writing, my career, or my other extracurriculars that come and go, I tend to just start running and then count on serendipity to insure that my talents, focus, and energy are pointed in the right direction.  And honestly… it has generally worked.  I have never really needed to worry about “turning the page”, because the pages have largely turned themselves. I didn’t grow up dreaming of becoming a chemical engineer, but that is where my path led me so I followed.  I went to a free lunch in college with the Chief Technology Officer at Procter & Gamble, and ended up embarking on a seventeen year career.  And later I started writing blog posts on the topics that filled my mind, and ultimately my first book was born.  Again, this has not been a part of some sort of master plan, but more of a happy run through the woods where I just kept racing knowing that a clear path would always emerge in front of me.  Don’t get me wrong… I’m not complaining.  It has been a great run and I am thankful for where these roads have taken me.  But as I now try to decide when and how to “close the book” on this current phase, suddenly the paths are all blocked with fog. So as I am becoming anxious to start the next chapter, I am struggling with how to proceed as my once reliable serendipity has suddenly chosen to sleep.

I am going to focus the rest of this post on my writing, but it clearly applies to my other creative and professional endeavors as well.  It sounds simple to say, but the main things I need to sort out are the purpose, the success criteria, the plan, and the deadline.  It is amazing how often that these basic concepts rise to the forefront in the success of any aspect of life and work… and also how often they are overlooked.  What is your mission?  How do you know if your mission is successful? What is the plan to succeed? When must your mission be completed?  I will tell you that when life is flowing smoothly in the waves of serendipity, you can sometimes get by without them… but for those times when stuck in a holding pattern or in “writer’s block”, it is critical to get back to these basics.

1) Purpose… What is my goal, my intention in writing?  Who is my audience?  Am I writing to teach, to inform, or to entertain?  Importantly, what is more critical at this phase of life… The art or the acclaim?  With my first book, I was clear on the message I wanted others to receive… I wanted to help amazing, but stifled individuals and organizations to unleash their inner superheroes and to become much needed change agents in the world. I also wanted to show my aspiring author of a daughter that if her slow, old dad could publish a book then so could she. But, as is a common theme in my life, I wasn’t clear what I wanted to get out of it personally, which is making it challenging to know where to go next. Like one of my favorite scenes from Good Will Hunting, if I asked myself the simple question “What Do I Want to Do?” I couldn’t answer it.

what do you want

2) Success Criteria… Is the creative act of publishing a book enough? Do I have a sales goal? Am I measured by 5-star ratings and Likes? Do I want to be recognized externally as an expert in my craft? Is this a springboard to a greater investment in a writing career or a hobby and creative outlet?  Again, with Agents of Change, holding a tangible, published book in my hand was the immediate goal and then I decided to just “see what happened”. It has certainly been exciting and I have been honored by the response… But I still have a nagging sense that I should be doing more. I’ve sold more than I thought I would but not as many as I hoped. I have had good reviews but haven’t made the time to push for more professional credentialing. I have fed a desire to keep promoting the book, but without a clear goal I have not been able to prioritize the time or energy against doing so. Without knowing what success looks like on this first book, it is impossible for me to think about how to start something new.

3) Deadline and Plan… Even if I were to establish a clear success criteria, I need to set a plan to achieve it and a deadline of when to move forward- if for no other reason than to avoid the risk of getting caught up in a whirlpool of waiting. For example, if my goal were to sell a million books (which, while not my actual goal, would be nice) but my best case scenario fell several zeroes short of that, then I need to have a plan and a deadline to free myself from a goal that is no longer relevant or achievable. How long is “long enough” to wait?  When do I want to commit to starting something new? Is there a time when I start phasing one project down and another up?  With this first book, not only did I have no goal, but I set no deadlines. I want to promote my book more, get more sales, and maybe get some external recognition… But I haven’t prioritized it or given myself a timeline. Therefore my sense of urgency to make progress, to wrap things up, and to start something new is all muted. I know that I want to start writing the next chapter, but how can invest in the future when I don’t know what I have left to accomplish in the present?

And so again, at a time where I should be feeling proud of the accomplishment, enjoying the moment, and excited by the endless possibilities for the future, I instead feel trapped in the waiting place and smothered in stuckness. I wish there were a way that I could just ride the coattails of this “win” for awhile, and just let whatever happens, happen.  Life would be much easier, in general, if I were wired that way.  But the tension is strong to make the most out of this first book, but also to get started on the next one.  And I think this sense of urgency is heightened right now as I approach my 40th birthday, as I have recently witnessed too many lives cut short by illness and tragedy, and as the calling to make the most of my God-given gifts and talents gets louder and stronger.  So what do I do now?

In lieu of building a time machine, I am giving myself a deadline.  My 40th birthday is on December 20th, so on that date my priority  will shift to writing the next chapter.  That doesn’t mean that I won’t start working on it now, nor that I will ignore my current book subsequent to that date, but that I am giving myself the license to focus on the present for the next four months and to force the discipline to not fully invest in the future until that date will pass.  In the interim… any effort I put toward the next chapter will be in sorting out the purpose of what it should be.

  • I am dabbling before I decide.  I am sketching out some fiction and short stories, I have a potential new non-fiction topic mapped out, and I have even start writing some poetry.  And of course, I could even just continue down the road of innovation and superheroes that I have been on.  Regardless, I plan to play and to prototype to sort out where my passion resides.
  • Will it be a sequel, a spinoff, or a fresh start?  There is more to the story that I started with Agents of Change that I could continue to tell.  Or maybe I could stay in the same “industry”, but zero in on a particular theme or topic.  Or maybe I could jump ship altogether and take a whole new spin in a new genre. I know that I want to write, but I need to sort out what I want to write.
  • Is this still a Side Bet or am I All In?  To be clear, there is a zero percent chance that I stop working a day job and start writing full time.  Maybe someday… but not now. That said, to this point I have written when time allowed and have not necessarily mandated daily time against this passion.  If “professional author” is something that I am serious about then I need to invest bigger… and if it is purely a creative outlet then I need to set expectations accordingly.  I just need to be decisive and deliberate about what it should be.

So as I close this post, I am still hungry to start the next chapter but not yet ready to close the book on my first attempt.  Setting this 40th birthday deadline is actually quite freeing as I give myself some time to sort out this, and other, goal(s), while committing to focus on the present in the meantime.  Regardless, I need to face and embrace the fact that serendipity is sleeping and that I must now chart my own path and decide where I want to invest my time, fuel my passion, and maximize my impact…

And so it begins.

—————–

Check out my book, Agents of Change, available in paperback and eBook additions on Amazon.com

 

 

40 Lessons from 40 Years

Parents Wedding with Text

As some of you know, I am now less than 5 months away from my 40th birthday and have been spending some time reflecting on the journey thus far, breathing in the surroundings of the present, and beginning to chart out some changes for the path ahead.  I’ve decided to be deliberate about this milestone year, and have made a “40 before 40” list of experiences, conversations, and journeys to take on before the “big day”.  I solicited advice from a lot of friends throughout the social media universe, and received some brilliant ideas (some more brilliant than others…) that will help me to mark the occasion in a memorable and significant way.  I am not going to share that entire list right now for a lot of reasons, but one of my favorite ideas was to seek out and to say “thank you” to the key agents of change throughout the course of my life.

Even just thinking through the list has been an amazing experience, and I am excited to see where this process might take me.  To kick this off though, who better to thank than the first real life superheroes for me… my parents.  Earlier this year, they celebrated their own milestone with Anniversary XL.  Much of who I have become as a father, as a coach, and as a leader has been shaped by them, and I wrote the following list of “40 Lessons from 40 Years” to say “Thank You” for who they are and for what they have done.  Some of these are inside jokes, and some are more profound than others… but I wanted to share this list as an acknowledgement to them, as encouragement to us all to say “Thank You” to the key people in your lives, and as some insights that extend beyond parenting and into work and life…

40 Lessons from 40 Years

  1. You always kept throwing pitches so I could swing for the fences.
  2. You knew that the little things matter, and stopped wrapping my birthday presents in Xmas paper.
  3. You showed me that the world was bigger than Ohio…
  4. But that Ohio is a great place to raise a family.
  5. You demonstrated the commitment to show up for every game, play, concert, and performance…
  6. And also taught me that sometimes I may have to lie to you about the start time so as not to be late.
  7. You taught me that the love for a child is unconditional,
  8. But that sometimes that child needs a gentle kick in the butt (or pull of the hair) to get on track.
  9. You taught me perspective and to remember the 5 year rule…
  10. And that even the calmest person can sometimes throw ice cream against the wall.
  11. I learned that Thanksgiving is a time to say thanks for all of the embarrassing things that happened to each other over the years.
  12. You showed that family always comes first, before career and personal goals.
  13. You fostered my nerdy tendencies, and fed me math challenges through baseball (e.g. strat-o-matic)…
  14. But never made me suffer through “educational toys” for holiday gifts.
  15. When walking along the treadmill of life, I know that an awkward fall can happen at any time.
  16. You showed the value of coaching and creating a memorable sports experience for me and my friends.
  17. There is always room for a dessert… or twelve.
  18. You made us feel safe and believe that we didn’t even need to lock our front door to keep trouble out…
  19. But taught me that when I have my own teenagers, I should do a better job of locking them in.
  20. You developed my love for Cincinnati from our family vacations there…
  21. But to never lose my heart for Western Pennsylvania and passion for those Pittsburgh Stillers.
  22. You’ve illustrated the importance of Teachers in all phases on life.
  23. You helped me to feel tough, courageous, and brave…
  24. And stood by me even when I was afraid of roller coasters, kite flying, or Return of the Jedi.
  25. You helped me discover a love for reading that turned into a passion to write…
  26. And kept buying me books even when I was too stubborn to read them.
  27. You’ve shown that grandparenting is the coolest job in the world…
  28. And that if even you can become cool then there is hope for us all.
  29. You’ve fostered my kids’ love for adventuring through experiments, projects, and games…
  30. And showed them that fun in this life doesn’t require an #electronicdevice.
  31. You’ve raised kids to be independent and to chart their own paths…
  32. But to remember the importance of home and to always respect our roots.
  33. You’ve modeled sportsmanship and that there are more important things than winning…
  34. But that winning is fun and is worth working for.
  35. You were willing to chase me down on my way to college to return an abandoned toiletries bag… even if I didn’t appreciate it.
  36. You’ve shown that no matter how busy life is to always drop everything for a family member in need.
  37. I learned and now model that ‘A spoonful of sarcasm helps the medicine go down’.
  38. You’ve taught us that magic is real and that we can all “Use the Force”…
  39. As 40 years pass, you’re now reminding us to stop and to smell the roses…
  40. And that there is no greater legacy than the love of a family.

—————–

Check out my book, Agents of Change, available in paperback and eBook additions on Amazon.com

Musings of a Magical Season

Pete Rose Blog

This weekend, my daughter’s youth softball team closed out a very successful season with a dominating performance in the post season tournament. After winning the regular season title with a 10-1 record, they rolled through the tournament, outscoring their opponents 46-10. They hit with authority, played rock solid defense, hustled around the bases, and dominated on the mound. It wasn’t merely impressive to watch… It was magical.

I am fortunate enough to be the head coach for this amazing group of girls, and have coached many of them for the four years that my daughter and I have been playing. We are blessed with committed and compassionate assistant coaches, encouraging and supportive parents, and most importantly a fun, hard-working, and good team of players. This tournament represented the pinnacle of the team’s performance, and they walked off the field with not just two trophies, but with swagger and pride.

As this magical season ends, I thought I should capture some of my “musings” as they relate to the diamond and beyond…

  1. Create a culture that nurtures, that supports, but that also challenges.  When coaching kids, it is critical that they have fun, that they develop a love of a game, and that they feel safe to learn and to fail.  But that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t feel challenged… as kids get better and grow then they not only respond well to, but also hunger for, some challenge and growth.  Give them support but also help them push themselves to be better players and teammates.
  2. Practice makes Instinct.  This was one of those summers where we had more rain than sunshine, and more reschedules than practices.  We often had to sacrifice practices for games, and while the games are more fun and are a trial within themselves… they do not offer the same opportunity for repetitions, for coaching, and for new situations.  There is no such thing as perfection, but practice helps make things unnatural become instinctual and creates opportunities for future growth.  There’s never enough time to practice.  Make the time.
  3. Give every player a chance to shine.  Particularly in youth sports, the best player (and the “worst player”) on a team may vary wildly from season to season… or even from the start of the year to the finish. Far too often, a coach or parent can relegate a player to the bench too early, and never give them a chance for the “switch to flip” or for the “fire to ignite”.  Don’t give up on a player or anoint a superstar too early… give each and every player a chance to grow and to shine.
  4. You can be outplayed, outmatched, or out “skilled”… but never be out hustled.  “Hustle” was the theme of our season and it inspired how we ran the bases, how we took the field, and how we practiced.  In a given game, you can’t control the talent of the other team, the effectiveness of an umpire, or a slump of your own… but you can always, always, always out-hustle your opponent.
  5. Communicate and hold each other accountable.  As coaches, we learned early that we could shout instructions at our players on the field all day long, but it was only when they started talking to each other that true change happened.  Our defenders were responsible for knowing the situation, for determining the right play to be made, and for understanding what each other’s jobs were… and to communicate constantly to each other.  This held them accountable to themselves and to each other and created far better results.
  6. Winning isn’t everything… but it matters.  Yes… the primary mission of youth sports is to teach, to build sportsmanship, and to foster a love of the game.  That is true and always will be true and should supercede the results on the field.  That said, while wins and losses are not the most important thing in the long run… they are important.  Winning is fun and the effort required to consistently win actually exponentially grows the learning, camaraderie, and passion that we strive for as coaches.  We never want to get into a “win at all cost” pressure filled environment… but encouraging the kids to want to win and to want to work for it can be a valuable lesson for sports and for life.
  7. And they need to win for themselves… not for the coaches or for their parents.  Above all else, we need to insure we help them to win for themselves, and not for us.  As coaches, we take some pride in the team’s performance as well and it is easy to get caught up in our own ambitions and egos.  In our championship game today, all of our coaches were nervous… not because we were personally concerned about losing, but we wanted our kids to reach THEIR goal so intensely.  Help them want to win and to achieve their own ambitions… not to fulfill our own.
  8. Move from “swing to survive” to “swing with authority”.  This season was a turning point with our pitchers, our hitters, and our defenders, when we moved from “survival mode” to “attack mode”.  Evolving from a situation where we just hope to get the ball over the plate, to not strike out, or to make a lucky catch to a situation where we could intimidate batters, swing for extra base hits, and attack hard hit balls developed a confidence that step-changed the performance on the field and the joy in the dugout.
  9. Be serious but sassy.  The girls on the team proclaimed themselves as “sassy” from the start of the year, and would have made it part of their team name if their old, boring coach had allowed it.  Particularly for this group of kids, they wanted to work hard, to push themselves, and to fight… but to do so with a smirk, with a laugh, and with some spunk.  As as the season went on and their success grew, the sass grew into swagger.  They took themselves seriously but not TOO seriously, and played with passion, with confidence, and with perspective.  Work doesn’t have to feel like work, so be bold and enjoy the ride.

Closing this season, I am nothing but proud of the culmination of this team’s effort, their spirit, and their hustle.  I learned far more from them than they learned from me, and while I was thrilled for the championships and the trophies (and the Gatorade bath), I was most excited about the inherent hustle and heart that they brought each game.  I am blessed to have worked with such awesome kids, such dedicated coaches, and such encouraging parents…It has been a magical run and I can’t wait to see where they go from here.

—————–

Check out my book, Agents of Change, available in paperback and eBook additions on Amazon.com

 

Agents of CHANGE… Superhero Civil War

I would love to say that I was strategic in setting the launch date for my superhero-themed book, Agents of Change, right in the midst of some prime Superhero movie madness.  First, “Batman vs Superman” and now the release of “Captain America Civil War”… clearly I must have known what I was doing in picking this theme and in setting this date, right?  If only that were true… but I guess sometimes it truly is better to be lucky than good.  What I like about these new movies is that not only are they superhero themed, but that they particularly tell the tales of the tensions that superheroes face… both those heroes from the pages of comic books as well as those from real life.

“With great power comes great responsibility.”  As Spiderman’s Uncle Ben so wisely proclaimed, power does not come for free… it comes with a price.  I believe that for most of us, our greatest weaknesses come from an extension of our greatest strengths─ either exaggerated or abused.  And this isn’t just true for individuals, but for teams and organizations as well.  An individual may be able to “leap tall buildings with a single bound”, but also cause some collateral damage as she hits the ground.  A team might be loaded with super passionate individuals, but then become over run by fruitless and unrelenting debates.  An organization might promote a risk-taking culture, but punish individuals when a risk leads to consequences.  Or worse… in any of these situations, the super powers might be kept under wraps to avoid any negative side effects that might occur.

Much of what Agents of Change is about is recognizing these tensions and overcoming the obstacles to realize our full innovative potentials.  The following tensions represent some of the key challenges that exist in trying to unleash our superpowers and some of the equally super-charged conflicts that arise.

  • Perfect is the Enemy of Amazing.  To do something truly amazing requires pushing boundaries, taking risks, and a willingness to fail.  The demand for perfection, while potentially with super intentions, will limit the boldness needed for breakthrough. “The maxim ‘Nothing but perfection’ may be spelled ‘Paralysis’.” -Winston Churchill
  • A Culture of Empowerment in a World of Regulation.  Superheroes want to be free to change the world how they best see fit.  On one hand, the world wants to sit back and see that power unleashed; on the other hand, the world wants to control and stifle it.  “The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” -Theodore Roosevelt
  • Lead through Serving.  We often think of Superheroes as “leaders”, standing heroically in front of the room primed to save the day.  While this may sometimes be true, often the most heroic individuals are quietly doing what needs to be done behind the scenes… fighting for good and not for glory.  “Servant-leadership is all about making the goals clear and then rolling your sleeves up and doing whatever it takes to help people win. In that situation, they don’t work for you, you work for them.” ― Ken Blanchard
  • Discipline comes before Freedom.  We want instant freedom… to live as we want, to express our powers as we best see fit, and to control our own destinies.  But the foundation of freedom is discipline, as even superheroes need to eat their vegetables before having dessert. “In reading the lives of great men, I found that the first victory they won was over themselves? self-discipline with all of them came first.” Harry S. Truman
  • Operate out of a Purpose versus an Obligation.  While operating under a strong sense of duty is an admirable principle and can change the world, a person’s full potential cannot be unleashed without a strong sense of purpose.  It can sometimes feel selfish to focus first on your strengths and second on the world’s needs, but I believe that God gifted us our strengths for a reason and that our utilization of them will thus inherently enable a maximum impact.  “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who are alive.” ~Howard Thurman

5 Super Challenges

When striving to do something super, we will be assaulted with a series of challenges and tensions.  And these can cause an internal battle and civil war within ourselves, our teams, and our organizations.  We must know what powers that we have been given, have the discipline to develop them, serve others, and change the world.  If we can tap into that potential, our true superpowers can be unleashed.

Agents of Change is available in paperback and eBook additions on Amazon.com

Agents of CHANGE: The Book Awakens

May the Fourth Be with You.

On this Star Wars Day 2016, I have officially published my first book, Agents of Change, on Amazon.com.  While I am not sure that this event lives up to the epic Star Wars screen crawl, the John Williams soundtrack, and the “Jedi Master” title in my opening video, it is still a pretty exciting day for me.  When I started writing these blog posts, their intention was to serve as my Jedi training to build the discipline, the ideas, and the courage to transform this book-writing dream into a reality.  And now, three years later, complete it, I have.  Do or do not, there is not try.

And as I reflect on this journey, it is not unlike any other creative or innovative endeavor…

I) Dream big.  Before taking on any meaningful mission or adventure, it is important to have a dream and a vision for what you want to complete.  I knew that I loved to write and that I wanted to share some insights to make even a small impact on the lives of others.  I also knew that I wanted to personally hold my book in my hands, to show my aspiring author of a daughter that publishing a book is possible, and to delight my aspiring shopper of a son that my words could be bought on Amazon.  Being able to tangibly taste this dream before I ever started would help to drive me through all the ups and downs.

II) Find a mentor.  In all of my innovative projects in life, including this book, it has been important to have someone(s) who listens to me, who inspires me, and who holds me accountable along the way.  For those times when you doubt your dream, fear a failure, or are slow to start, this mentor can impart wisdom, encouragement, and a push to keep you going.  It is not only more difficult, but largely unnecessary to carry the “burden” of your dream alone… find someone who wants to help you succeed and bring them along for your adventure.

III) Take the First Step.  The first step is typically the hardest.  When your dream is just a dream, it is perfect.  It is exactly what you want it to be, there is no risk or disappointment, and it belongs solely to you.  As soon as this dream enters the real world, there are countless fears that can attack.  The fear of failure.  The fear of not finishing.  The fear of ridicule.  The fear of falling short.  The fear of letting others down.  These fears can make the activation energy to get started incredibly high.  At some point, you just need to get in the ship and start flying, share your first blog post, and put yourself out there. “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” – Walt Disney

IV) Experience success.  There is no better driver to keep marching forward than that first taste of success.  When one of my blog posts finally brought in thousands of readers from dozens of countries around the world, it was a huge boost of confidence to keep going.  Suddenly many of the doubts start to fade, some swagger enters your step, and completion of the mission actually seems attainable.  You can start to believe that anything is possible, and go forward with more energy, more courage, and more faith than ever before.  When you blow up that Death Star, you start to feel like a hero and can start moving forward quickly believing that you can not only realize your dream… that you might even exceed it.

V) Experience Failure.  “Don’t get cocky, kid”.  Rushing fearlessly ahead, a lot of progress can be made and a lot of amazing accomplishments can be realized.  But ultimately, as your willingness to take the risks and to push the envelope increases, the possibility of failure awakens as well.  It may be merely because you push too far or it may be because you get reckless, but experiencing some failure is inevitable if you ultimately work to take your dream as far as it can go.  And while you don’t want to lose an arm, this failure is ultimately a good and necessary step in maximizing the creative process.  After I experienced my first blogging success, and my then potential future as a best selling author started to paint itself in my mind, I had a series of mediocre and unheralded posts to knock me down a notch or two.  While discouraging, these helped me to refocus and to get clearer and crisper on what the finished product should be.

VI) Face your demons and finish.  Armed with some successes and some failures, it can become very difficult to know how to best complete the work.  You now know not only the original dream, but also the extreme highs and the extreme lows that surround it.  The excitement for the thrill of completing the race can be real and exhilarating, but the fear of failure and falling short can be terrifying.  The final product is ultimately a sum of your original dream, all of your trials and tribulations, and your successes and failures.  Finishing means accepting all of the good and all of the bad, making the compromises and enhancements to the original idea, and appreciating that the final product will be different than the original dream.  For me, while this book holds many of the ideas and the concepts that I had from the start, the content, the flow, and even the title has changed significantly.  At some point, you need to accept that it will never be perfect… but that it can be amazing if you step forward, take a risk, and finish.

VII) Stop and reflect.  When all is said and done, it is important to take some time to reflect on the entire process.  What went well, what didn’t, and what do you want to do next?  As I finish this book, I am proud of completing the journey and cognizant that the ride wasn’t as smooth as it could have been.  I am happy to share this with my family and friends, yet still nervous that it won’t be well received.  I am at peace that the sheer act of publishing completes my dream, but still irrationally concerned that no one will buy it.  While I want to enjoy the moment and to be fully present in launching this book, I also am anxious to face the future and to start the next adventure.  And as I stand alone and look at the oceans of possibility around me, I try to appreciate the past that led me here, to enjoy and appreciate the moment, and to still allow myself the time to dream of the future.

For any hero’s journey, these steps of dreaming, learning, stepping forward, succeeding, failing, finishing, and reflecting are critical steps in the process.  As I complete Agents of Change, I do so confident that it met my own intent of providing a divergent collection of insights, parables, and fables to help unleash the innovation of real life superheroes.  And while it is far from perfect, and will not make me rich and famous, I am proud that I took these steps and translated my mind’s dream into the world’s reality.  And I encourage each of you to identify a dream, however impossible or improbable it might seem, and take steps to make it real.  Awaken your dreams and May the Force be with You.

Book Writing Lessons from an 8-Year Old Black Belt

This past week I published my first book, Agents of Changeafter 3 years of blogging, brainstorming, and editing.  Normally, this accomplishment would be enough to at least get me the front page headline in the “family newspaper”.  However, in this same week, my 8-year old son Aaron successfully reached the level of Temporary Black Belt in taekwondo and rightfully stole my headline.  Little jerk.

Aaron successfully passed his final test and completed his own almost 3 year mission of training, learning, and refining his skills.  And while there are a lot of commonalities in our journeys, his method led to a far more deliberate and steady path than mine.  Where I had a vague vision, a strong passion, and an inconsistent approach of spurts and fits, Aaron marched forward with a clear mission, a strong will, and a steady commitment.  He wrote the book on how to successfully achieve his dream of becoming a black belt, while I stumbled haphazardly toward writing a book.  And as I reflect back on our paths, I have learned a lot from him that I can take forward as I eventually start my next chapter.

  1. Know the ending before you start writing.  From the moment Aaron took his first taekwondo class, he knew that he was going to be a black belt.  He was clear that he wanted to learn all of the skills, to stand among the black belts, and to ultimately help teach less experienced students how to improve.  Pretty ambitious for a 5 year old.  He knew what he wanted his cover to portray, how each chapter should go, and how he wanted the story to end… from the start.
  2. Dedicate consistent and focused time to making progress toward the goal.  Taekwondo requires much discipline, a commitment to consistent training, and the vigilance to keep learning new skills and refining techniques.  Month after month, Aaron spent two evenings a week formally working in class and also consistently invested time at home to further practice and grow.  Even amidst school, play, sports, and all the goof ball things an 8-year old should be doing, he held onto his goal and kept the rigor to allocate the time.
  3. Take risks and publically put yourself to the test.  One of the biggest hurdles that Aaron had to overcome was the fear of failure in a very public setting.  In front of judges, fellow students, and hundreds of parents, he had to perform and to put himself in front of the audience for all to see.  And when he took a misstep, he had to decide to push through his discouragement and his fear and to keep marching forward.  With success would come much pride, but with failure would come embarrassment and disappointment, and he had to decide that the risks were worth the rewards.

I have never been prouder of my son, who, at 8-years old, has accomplished something that I could never do.  And he did so with a commitment, a discipline, and a courage that enabled him to craft the pages of the Black Belt book of his dreams.

Looking back… where I struggled in writing my book was in not having a clear grasp from the start on what I wanted the final product to be (I changed the title weeks just weeks before publication!), in not consistently investing time to writing, and in not quite being brave enough to risk putting my completed work out there for all to see.  Looking forward… when I eventually (i.e. when my wife lets me) start writing the next one, I plan to better instigate these “Black Belt” principles.  I am still proud of the Agents of Change destination… I can next time just improve upon the journey.

Agents of Change is available in paperback and Kindle versions on Amazon.

Agents of CHANGE: From Blog to Book

When I started this blog 3 years ago, my plan was to use these posts and articles as fodder that could be eventually turned into a book.  And while I call it a “plan”, it was really more of a wish.  I began with a post on Empowerment, and have since taken a long and winding road through my work, through my life, through my head, and through my heart. What started as a pretty straightforward focus on innovation in the workplace, ultimately veered toward my kids’ activities, flew up, up, and away with Superheroes, traveled to a galaxy far, far away, and delved into personal fables and adventures.  And while my life became a stronger muse for this blog than I had expected, this blog ultimately made a larger impact on my life. Career decisions that I’ve made, the sabbatical moments that I’ve stolen, my priorities in how I spend my time, and the path I now am starting to see before me all have been heavily influenced by many of the words I didn’t even know that I needed to write.

And as the writing led me on this journey, I am grateful for each of you who have joined me along the road.  Some of you have been here from the beginning, some joined near the end, and many of you have passed in and out along the way.  I know many of you personally, either from my present or from my past, and have been fortunate to virtually interact with countless others from dozens of countries around the globe.   I hope that something that I have written has left even a small impact… you all have made a huge difference to me.

And now I am fortunate to have finally turned this blog into my first book, Agents of CHANGE, which I have self-published on Amazon.  It is not perfect by any stretch, and it will never be a best seller… but I am proud of how it all came together to represent that long and winding road I’ve taken.  This book sets out to deliver a  collection of snackable stories, examples, and fables that provide ideas and insights for creating a super powered innovation program, organizational culture, and purposeful life… to help you to unleash your inner superhero and to become an Agent of Change.  I am hopeful that it will fulfill that promise.

The Kindle version is now available for pre-order with a publication day, of course, on Star Wars Day (May the 4th), and the print version is actually available now as part of a “soft grand opening”.  As this launches, I am filled with a mix of pride at the accomplishment, nervousness at the reception, relief to be at the end of the journey, and anticipation for what comes next.  But most of all, I am thankful for all of you who have been such a big part of this.

Thanks you for your support, your inspiration, and your imagination… and for helping Agents of CHANGE to go from Blog to Book.

Agents of Change can be purchased on Kindle (here) or Paperback (here) from Amazon.com