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.