Embracing Change

If you are in publishing, media or are a writer, you are well aware of the incredible transitions going on in your industry. Digital media is changing every aspect of the business models of these fields, and we find ourselves swept up by the wave in one way or another.

Transitions are often things that folks avoid. They wait them out. They linger, they stall. But these transitions don’t have to happen TO you. In fact, YOU can happen to them.

It’s almost absurd how the music industry, and now parts of the publishing industry have waited for Apple and Amazon and Google and others to TAKE control of the transition. To embrace it as an opportunity, instead of a threat. But a company like Apple realized something critical:

You can CHOOSE transition, not have it thrust upon you.

When you choose transition, you can build from the core. You are not reacting, you are shaping. The way you approach it comes from your own DNA – not by plugging a thousand holes in a leaking dam.

Transitions Are Opportunities to Live Up To Your Potential

When we talk about building our careers, we are talking about creating our lives. Creating our success. We all inherently have potential. Every single day, we have potential to do something remarkable, something that positively affects the lives of others, that shapes the world we live in. But most of us are too busy doing other things, attending to obligations, so the potential waits.

There is a phrase that has become popular in the startup and business worlds:

“Fail often, and fail fast.”

I appreciate the sentiment that people are trying to express here, but feel that this phrase takes a lot for granted. Namely, that the “failure” that is referenced here never seems to be debilitating failure. You know, failure where you lose all of your money, have to fire your entire staff, where you lose your job, tarnish your reputation, waste millions of dollars of your employers resources. “Failure” that can’t be recovered from very quickly or easily, which honestly, is how I always defined the word.

What I think the people who use this expression are trying to convey is this:

Don’t be afraid to experiment.

Fear failure. That’s natural and smart. But don’t be afraid to consistently try experiments that you will learn from. Sure, many of your experiments won’t work, but none will be debilitating to you, your family, your colleagues, partners or employers.

When we fail, there are often consequences. But when we experiment, we learn. We don’t just sit in a chair and assume – we FIND OUT. We push ourselves beyond what is known – maybe a bit beyond our comfort zone, and we LEARN. This is where growth comes from; where new knowledge comes from; where we learn how to navigate transitions and find success, instead of just battening down the hatches on rough waters and hope to merely survive.

Setting Expectations – Taking Control of the Wheel

I am a huge fan of Andrew Warner of Mixergy.com, who interviews entrepreneurs. Recently, he shared what he has learned when interviewing entrepreneurs who have written and published books:

“Authors don’t want to talk about their books after they’re published, for the most part. One of the reasons I heard is that they have this big vision for how big their lives are going to be, how much their lives are going to change after they publish their book. And they imagine their publisher is going to get them publicity, that they are going to get themselves publicity, they are going to be on Oprah, and then…”

“…nothing happens.”

“They have to hustle to sell their books, just like they have to hustle to sell anything. People aren’t paying attention to them. Once they realize that, and they push as much as they can, they don’t want to talk about the book anymore, because some of them are just a little embarrassed by how poorly it did compared to their vision. So they move on with their lives.”

When I work with writers to help them build their careers, it is often about building their platform – enabling them to build the connections they need, the skills they need, and to find new processes and ideas to provide a sustainable writing career.

That, just trudging along is not going to get them to their goals. Just Tweeting, just blogging, just doing any one thing is not enough. That your career needs to have a strategy, not just an unending list of to-do’s.

To create this strategy, to develop this platform, you often need to expend resources, usually time or money or a combination of the two. It’s an investment.

Investments are often full of hope and fear. I hear a lot of people share their personal mantra as some variation of “no fear.” But I think fear is natural, it is okay. Stagnation is not. It’s okay to have fear, it’s not okay to let it stop you. This sentiment is best embodied in this quote:

“The brave man is not he who feels no fear, For that were stupid and irrational; But he, whose noble soul its fears subdues, And bravely dares the danger nature shrinks from.”
– Joanna Baillie

You Must Make the Time to Grow
Years ago, my brother was a manager at a major retail chain – a store so big, it required 10 managers to run the entire operation. His day was a rush of managing a lot of employees, a ton of merchandise, and assisting hundreds of customers.

One day, his boss came up to him and asked: “Andy, do you want to go grab lunch?” – meaning a sit down lunch across the street at Bennigans. The first time this happened, my brother replied: “I have a lot to get done,” hinting that taking an hour for lunch would throw off his whole day.

His manager looked him in the eye and said: “If taking a single hour off will disrupt how you are running your department, then you aren’t managing correctly.”

My brother went to lunch that day, and every other day he was asked. He built a stronger relationship with his boss, which lead to more career opportunities (and an actual friendship) down the road.

The point is this: it easy to feel overwhelmed in your job, or pursuing your writing career. Don’t let it stop you from growing. Take the time to learn new skills, to experiment, to have lunch with someone you want to know better, to serve your community without any clear indication that anyone will return the favor.