Stop Chasing Success
I like to win. For many years, I felt that I needed to make a big splash in order to win at life and would become increasingly frustrated when the “big win” never came. I tend to focus on the future and what I plan to do next in my life. I don’t like to reflect on the past and rarely allow myself to rest and soak in a moment as I’m afraid I will lose momentum.
I write down five to six goals that I shoot for each New Year and work to align my activities to reach those goals. One of my goals this year was to “get a publishing deal.” I completed a novel that I worked on during my free time the past few years and planned to shop for an agent. I had timid hopes that I might be able to sell it, and was working hard to set myself up for success, but the process was slow and I still had much to do.
One morning, I had a friend over in my office and he scanned my goals. I have them posted on a 3×5 card on the wall above my computer screen so I can see them every day, a constant reminder of what I plan to accomplish.
“Well, you can mark off that publishing deal goal.” He stated in a matter of fact tone.
“What do you mean?” I inquired.
“Didn’t you just sign a book deal with that organization out in D.C.?”
I paused and thought about it for moment. “Yeah, I guess you’re right.”
Later, after my friend left, I stared at my goals, in particular, my goal to obtain a publishing deal. I was so focused on my novel that it never occurred to me that I did in fact win a publishing deal with the American Public Power Association (APPA). They called me earlier in the year to review a manual they planned to publish. It was on the subject of key accounts management for the public power industry, a topic in which I’m very familiar since I’ve worked in that field for 13 years. After a few rounds of comments and edits, they asked if I would be willing to rewrite the manual. I agreed, signed a contract, and turned in a newly minted manuscript within three months.
APPA was thrilled with my work and asked if I would be willing to be a part of their Key Account Certification Course and speak on the book at their customer conference in the fall. They also asked for a proposal for a three part webinar series I could teach early next year. Once word got out about the new book, I received requests to speak at a utility conference in Orlando and Austin and even a request for a proposal for a follow-up on training seminar opportunity in Texas.
Recently, I decided to pause so that I could review my professional life and where I’m heading with it. Over the past few years, I developed a desire to write and speak on a professional level. I’ve had my nose to the grind so long that I had not realized that I was beginning to position myself in that space. It’s hard to see progress when I’m in a daily grind and working to progress my career, but as I look back, I can clearly see the small wins in my life that are beginning to pay dividends. I can also see how success seems to allude me when I chase it.
It took me seven years to complete my novel and I’m still not ready to pitch an agent. However, it only took me three months to write a professional manual that will have an impact on utility professionals around the country. I didn’t chase that project, it found me, because I’ve worked to add value in the utility industry in incremental ways over the years.
I thought I would become a “writer” once my novel was published and spent the past few years chasing that dream, but found that I became a “writer” once APPA called on me to write their new book for them. I had a picture in my mind at what being a writer and speaker would be, when in fact what is actually happening is much different then what I had in my mind, but in reality is very much the same.
APPA paid me to write their book and last week when an organization in Texas agreed to pay me to come out and deliver a keynote address at the conference, solidified me as professional speaker as well. It took a while for me to realize it, but I finally pulled out my black felt tipped marker and pulled off the cap. I ceremonially rested the pen on the 3×5 card above my computer and with one firm and satisfying stroke, marked off my “get a publishing deal” goal. I stared at the thick black line through the goal and took a deep breath. I felt the smile of satisfaction on my lips as I accepted that I was, in fact, a “writer”.
Don’t get frustrated if you are not where you planned to be at this point in your life. Don’t get overwhelmed by big goals you may have set for yourself. Continue to grind every day towards your calling and look for those small wins that will greet you along the way and eventually, if you stay the course, you will realize one day that you have become what God intended you to be.