People today spend hours social networking, getting connected and linked. I had a friend who spent a full year linking people to her network, up to 12 hours a day at her computer weaving her virtual web, and at the end had to declare bankruptcy and move out of her foreclosed-upon home. She never figured out why such successful computerized hooking-up never made her successful.
"Who is being served?" I would ask her about her "business."
"How are the people who's names you now have being served?"
You see the picture of Don Williams, country superstar singer up there, and you probably wonder what he has to do with my friend and her massive, comprehensive linking.
Well. I've told this story before so stop me if you've heard it:
For five years of my life I was a full time songwriter. It was the hardest work I'd ever done. For me, there was no more difficult way to make a living from writing than to make it from trying to write a hit song. One had to write everything perfectly. Everything had to obey rhyme schemes and meter, and one had to have song titles and concepts that stood out above the millions of other songs vying for a recording artist's attention.
It was that degree of difficulty that made it so tempting to live by a lie. A lie like, "It's who you know!"
I worked in the music business with the highly-talented Fred Knipe, and he and I invested a huge amount of our time in it's who you know. We took trips, wrote letters and made phone calls to expand our network of connections in the music business. We networked and schmoozed. When we were in groups of music executives, we worked the room. We got to know a lot of key figures on a lot of levels (and if there was ever time left over, we also wrote songs.)
In the end, though, our biggest financial successes came from people who we did not know. In the end, networking meant nothing at all. The schmoozing was an empty waste of time and ego. Country singer Don Williams had a number one hit with Fred's "Listen To The Radio" and a popular album cut with Fred's and my "I Can't Get To You From Here." But we didn't know him or anyone associated with him! Those songs were recorded because his producer had pulled our envelope out of a huge pile of unsolicited songs and played the songs and fell in love with them. We didn't know him and he didn't know us. We didn't even know his address! We sent the songs to Don Williams' label address at Columbia Records. We got the address off of an album cover, something any homeless person in any music store could have done.
After all those hours invested in networking and relationship-building and making the right connections, it was what we did (in the writing of those songs) that the great producer Garth Fundis heard and converted into musical success. It wasn't who we knew; it was what we did.
CLICK PLAY on the video below to see and hear Michael Johnson sing the song we wrote, "I Can't Get To You From Here," .....he was but one of many people who eventually recorded and performed this song.
The right side of the wrong bed
As I look back on my five years in the song-writing business, I realize that it was always the best songs that actually went out there and found places to bloom. It wasn't who we knew, it was what we did when we wrote them. Knipe and I wrote "The Right Side of the Wrong Bed" with Duncan Stitt, turned it loose and watched it find its own places to bloom. It had nothing to do with our networking and schmoozing. It landed on a Mickey Gilley album and then, from that success, it seemed to find its own way onto Michael Landon's Highway To Heaven show.
Telling myself the lie that success depends on WHO YOU KNOW was a deliberate attempt to avoid the real work of writing something extraordinary. An attempt to justify putting my time into easier, softer pursuits. Every time we lie to ourselves like this we are trying not to go for it.
It was this same "it's who you know" lie that also kept me from writing books for many, many years. I always told myself that if you were an unknown writer and didn't know anybody in publishing, then you wouldn't have much of a chance sending off an unsolicited manuscript somewhere.
Now that my first books have become fairly successful, it hurts to think back about how close I came to throwing it all away, simply because I had talked myself into thinking I didn't know anybody important enough to get things published for me. . . . .
Early one summer I was looking for some computer work for my daughter Stephanie to do. She wanted to earn money to spend at summer camp, so I finally created a make-work project for her. I had been giving out a photo-copied hand-out in my seminars called "21 Ways To Motivate Yourself," and because of the good response I always got from people who took the pamphlet home, I began to think that I might have the potential for a book in those 21 ways (especially when I began adding new ways in every course so that the number was rapidly accumulating far beyond 21).
But every time I thought about publishing a book, I ran up against the self-deceit that had always kept me out of action, it's who you know! I didn't know anyone in publishing. I didn't know any literary agents. I barely knew anyone in New York. I didn't have a chance.
But I had wanted to give some work to Stephanie to do because she wanted to earn pocket money before she went to camp. So I made a project up. I bought a book that listed all the publishers of books. It was the kind of book I had always dismissed as being directed at the poor stupid people who didn't know how hard it was to get published.
I then went through the book and picked out about sixty publishers who published non-fiction. I gave the book of publishers to Stephanie and also gave her a letter to write to each publisher about my book-in-progress, 100 Ways To Motivate Yourself. I gave her the "21 Ways" hand-out to send to publishers along with the letter of proposal, and she went to work on the computer, writing each letter differently and tailoring each one to each particular publisher.
She worked long and hard and I remember looking in on her as she sat at the computer in my home office late into the night and thinking that it was a little sad that this lovely 14-year old girl was working so hard for nothing. That this was just make-work.
Finally Stephanie was finished with her work and 60 large envelopes were perfectly filled and addressed to the prospective publishers. I paid her for her efforts and she went off to her camp saying to me, "Hey Dad that's going to be really neat to have a book out that's written by you!" I smiled and said yes, that would be neat, but we would now have to see what the level of interest was because there are no guarantees.
Secretly I was thinking "Poor thing. She doesn't know. She's naive. She doesn't realize that in the vicious dog-eat-dog world of publishing, it's not what you've got, it's who you know."
So I put the 60 large envelopes in the back of my car and let them sit there on the back seat for many days. I thought about the postage it would take to mail them all and I began to think about simply disposing of them in a trash can. Stephanie wouldn't know. I'd explain when she got home from camp about how hard it is to get anything published. I came very close to throwing them all away.
Start spreading the news
I remembered, as a small boy in Michigan, walking along the railroad tracks with my friend Terry Hill and seeing huge bundles of the shopping newspapers down by the tracks. "What are these?" I asked Terry, and he said that people who had a shopping news paper route would go to the tracks and throw their papers away and then report them as delivered and collect their money. Back then I was shocked that someone could do that and live with themselves afterward. Now I realized that I was about to do the same thing. News boys were betraying the paper. I was about to betray myself.
So I couldn't make myself do it. Not because of my own great character, but because of Stephanie. I could not forget that picture of her sitting there, late at night in her naiveté working so hard to write all those letters. And I couldn't make myself throw the envelopes away. So I mailed them. "There goes nothing," I sighed as I drove away from the post office, believing I'd just wasted a lot of time and money.
And then it happened.
A little more than three weeks after I mailed the envelopes, the calls started to come in. First one publisher, then another. Some publishers were medium sized, some were very small, but some were large too! Doubleday called. Berkeley called. John Wiley & Sons. Career Press. They liked the book idea and wanted to talk about publishing it. I was stunned and dumbfounded. In less than three weeks there were seven credible publishers who wanted the book. I was beside myself with joy. I thought back on all those years when I walked through bookstores wondering what it would be like to have my own book in a store. Ever since I was a little boy. And now it might really be happening.
It was hard to realize it was really happening, because it went against my own self-authored truth: it's who you know. As I had gotten older in life, I had begun to convince myself of how impossible my childhood dream of writing books would be. You had to have connections. Everyone knows that. Everyone tells you that.
But here were publishers calling. What was going on? In my joy, I called Stephanie at her camp in Michigan. She came to the phone out of breath from some game she'd been playing.
"Stephanie!" I said. "Guess what? You know those letters you worked on and the envelopes you made and all that?"
"Well! Guess what? I've got seven publishers interested in the book! Seven publishers who want the book! They called me, I didn't call them! Can you believe it?"
There was a long silence on the other end of the phone.
The silence continued and then she said, "Only seven?"
I was at a loss for words. I hurried on to explain to her that even one publisher would be fine with me, and it's hard to get a book published if you. . . . .but then I shut up. I realized that I was furthering the lie. I realized that the very reason that the book was going to be published was because Stephanie had never been sold that lie, so I wasn't going to start now. I wished her well and she said good-bye and congratulations and she ran back to her game. The call was no surprise to her. She knew the book would be published. Because I had forgotten to teach her how impossible that would be.
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Many of you have written asking me to elaborate more on the club I have been "teasing" in this blog for many weeks.
It's called club fearless world mastermind, AND people are starting to sign up....we already have members from:
What do you get for your nineteen dollars a month?
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Being in on the live teleseminar each month will give you a direct experience of why critics call Steve "an insane combination of Jerry Seinfeld and Tony Robbins" with his spontaneity, humor and brave challenges everyday accepted wisdom. On the rare occasion you can't hook in LIVE, don't worry, an audio recording of the event will be sent to you each month for you to enjoy and share with others.
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