The Start and the End

Finally, it was over.

For the past four years, John fought the inner creative war…

Four years of writing, editing, cutting, scrapping and starting from scratch…

Four years of uncertainty, doubt and fear…

Four years of painful creative struggle – the kind only a fiction author can truly appreciate…

But in February, the war was over – John had finished his manuscript.  He had won.  He could relax and breathe a sigh of relief. 

All that remained was sending it to a publisher.

That’s the easy part, though, right?

The Struggle

John packed up the manuscript and sent it to a publisher – Simon and Shuster.

The manuscript eventually made its way to a senior editor - Robert Gottlieb.  This was a big deal.  Robert was responsible for discovering and editing then-unknown Joseph Heller’s Catch 22.  He obviously recognized talent and knew how to edit a book.

If John’s manuscript had even a hint of value, Robert would find it.

John’s manuscript didn’t make the cut.

At least not the first iteration.

Robert asked John to try again.

John tried again.

Again, his manuscript got returned.

Robert admitted John had talent – he was certainly a capable author…but his book didn’t have a pointAnd you can’t publish a book that doesn’t have a point.  Robert asked John to submit another rewrite.

Over the next two years, John struggled to rewrite a book he had poured his heart and soul into.

Yet no matter what he did, the book never made the cut.

The Fall

John threw the manuscript aside and tried working on a new novel, but his heart wasn’t in it.

At the encouragement of his mother, John attempted to submit his manuscript to a new publisher.  It had now been close to three years since he had finished the original manuscript.  With renewed optimism, John tried again.

His manuscript was rejected.

John had put everything into this novel.  The characters were pieces of himself.  When publishers rejected his manuscript, they were, in effect, rejecting John.

The personal rejection was devastating.

This final rejection set into motion a downward spiral of depression – a hopeless and miserable depression that lasted for two years before John couldn’t take it anymore.

In March 1969, John Kennedy Toole took his own life.

Dunces in Confederacy…

As some of you may know, this is the heartbreaking true story of author John Kennedy Toole and the ill-fated tail of his posthumously awarded, Pulitzer Prize winning book A Confederacy of Dunces.

During his lifetime, John’s manuscript wasn’t given the time of day.  Publishers didn’t like it.  It was a book that was seemingly about nothing.

A book like that can’t be published, can it?

It wasn’t until years later, after John’s mom went on a personal crusade to get the manuscript published, that it caught the attention of Walker Percy and, in 1980 - 15 year (!) after John had finished the original manuscript - the book was published.

Think about that.

15 YEARS.

It took 15 years before a big publisher recognized the value in this book.  15 years before John’s incredible story was brought to the masses.  15 years before the rest of us got to experience the brilliance that was Ignatius Reilly’s misadventures in New Orleans…

15 years…

11 too late to save John’s life.

Who Should Choose You?

This story isn’t meant to point out the failure of traditional publishers – we already know the model is broken.

No one can see value in what the creator produces quite like the producer himself (or his happy readers).  This is a given.

Nor is this story meant to vilify traditional publishing – we already know their job is to make money.

If a book doesn’t have a point, how do you market it?  If it can’t be marketed, how do you sell it?  If you can’t sell it…move onto a book you can sell.

This story is meant simply to consider one question: if an author like John Kennedy Toole was living today, what would stop him from choosing himself?

Time and time again John was rejected…

A thousand times a day, creators – artists, inventors, and authors just like John 50 years ago - are being rejected by gatekeepers: publishers, producers, angel investors, whatever.

This made sense 50 years ago…but today?

Today, every single one of us has the means to be the publisher, the producer, and even the manufacturer.

We are the gatekeepers now.  Not the film studio, not the publishing house, not the hedge fund – YOU.  The only one stopping you from saying ‘go’ is yourself.

So tell me – what’s stopping you? 

What’s keeping your manuscript from seeing the light of day?  What’s keeping your movie from being created and distributed?  What’s stopping your product from going into production?

Your Opportunity to Commit Today

I wish John was alive today – not only for his family and friends sake, but for the world’s sake.

He created great art.  He wrote words that mattered.  I have no doubt he had more to give…

Today, there are thousands of talented creators just like John all around the world.  People with talent, with value to add to others, with a story, product or idea that deserves to see the light of day.  They’ve probably been rejected a thousand times.  And they may be rejected a thousand more.

My plea to those authors, designers, writers, entrepreneurs, warriors and leaders:

1. Don’t give up.  No matter how hard it gets, there’s a reason you’re here.  There’s light at the end of every tunnel – if you can’t see it, it means you haven’t walked far enough.  KEEP GOING!

2. Pick yourself.  It feels good to get chosen by others.  Getting picked is like a drug - and like a drug, it’s superficial, ephemeral and addictive.  The high is fleeting, destructive and anything but real.  Be your own catalyst: pick yourself instead.

And if you need help with either of the above, I encourage you to check out Insurgent Publishing - a boutique, creative publishing platform that was designed and built to remedy the failure of traditional publishing.

In fact, if you're a writer, artists, designer, editor or just an art and book enthusiast, I challenge you to get involved today.  In January, Insurgent Publishing is publishing our first ever creative entrepreneur's journal - a literary journal that focuses on business and art in the 21st century.

Here is a real opportunity to commit to something that could change your life (and the lives of others) for the better.  Get involved today by following the link above.

If your idea doesn't 'fit' with Insurgent Publishing, it's my promise to you that I will personally help you publish yourself, so that, no matter what, your idea sees the light of day.  This would be commercial suicide for the traditional publisher.

Luckily, a traditional publisher I am not.

Final Thoughts

I know it sounds clichéd or rehashed at this point - don't give up and pick yourself...

You've probably heard it a dozen times and read the same points a thousand times in a thousand different varieties...

But when life hangs in the balance - and, many times, it actually does - I’m not sure the point can ever be emphasized enough.

So here’s to John Kennedy Toole – a remarkable artist that was overlooked and who left us too soon.

And here’s to the unknown artist, in the trenches, day in and day out, creating work that matters – I look forward to reading your book, watching your movie, or using your product…

Sooner, rather than later.

***

photocredit: Courtney via FarAwayReasons.com

Creating Your CharacterI have an acquaintance I speak with on occasion.

I’ve known this guy for a long time.  Since I’ve known him, he’s always complained to me about his job: he hates it.

His hate for his job isn’t for lack of pay or perks – they are way above average.  The dislike is for the structure of the organization that employs him and the tedious, unchallenging and often pointless work he feels he is doing.

He’s remarked on more than one occasion that a high-school freshman could do his job (90% of his day job is creating PowerPoint slides).

This is beside the point though.

You see, for as long as I’ve known him, he has intended to quit his job and move onto something better (something exciting and challenging).

At least this is what he said he wanted.

You see, the time came when he was finally allowed to leave (when he had finished his initial contract period with his employer), but he didn’t leave.  Instead, he signed another contract with his employer for an indefinite period of time (one that will most certainly last for another 2+ years).

Slightly confused, I asked him why.

Him: “Because there’s nothing else that I really want to do.  I figure I’ll just ride it out and see where it takes me.”

Me: “But I thought you hated your job?”

Him: “Yeah, it’s bad, but it’s not that bad.   I don’t really do anything.  I show up at 9, leave at 3 or 4, and I take a 2 hour lunch.  You can’t beat it.  If it gets really bad, I’ll quit and become a teacher.”

The conversation continued on for a bit, but not into any meaningful territory.  At the end of the conversation, we parted ways, and, for one reason or another, I remembered a quote by Aristotle:

Moral excellence comes about as a result of habit. We become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts.”

What Aristotle is saying is this: we pick and choose and build our character – it is not naturally ingrained in us at birth.

The brave man is made so through brave actions; the just woman is made so through just actions.  Neither one was born this way – they consciously built themselves this way.

This is a powerful truth, one that should give hope to all who strive valiantly, who dare boldly, and who struggle to be better, day in and day out: as long as you never quit, you will most certainly become that which you practice consistently.

But this is also a wake-up call: if we can become virtuous from acts of virtue, then the opposite is true.

We become cowards through acts of cowardice; lazy through acts of laziness; weak through lack of action.

You’ve probably heard the idiom: actions speak louder than words.

They’re also a testament to our character.

What do your actions say about you?

 

Dreams and Building Empires

Dreams

We all have them.

Not just the kind when we sleep, but the more important ones – the ones we have when we’re awake.

They come to us when we’re driving home from work, when we go for a long run, when we reminisce over war stories with an old friend.

These dreams usually spark something deep within us.  They excite something dormant; something we didn’t know existed…at least for a moment.

In most cases, as quickly as they come, they go; they pass through us unscathingly, with us no worse (or better) for wear.

But sometimes…

Epiphanies Happen

Sometimes they come and hit us like a ton of bricks.

That feint twinge of excitement in our gut becomes a blinding vision of what could be…

The image is crystalline; the emotion is palpable; we see everything as if for the first time, with brilliant clarity and gratitude.

The dream isn’t a dream any longer – it becomes something tangible, something that physically moves us.

It scathes us and leaves a mark, for better (or worse).

What Happens Next…

But even the exhilaration, the rush of an epiphany fades.

And we’re left stuck in traffic, or struggling with an incline, or realizing our stories are mostly embellishment now…

All people experience something like this at some point in their lives.  It might not happen with quite the same intensity, but every person experiences moments of understanding, appreciation, and possibility followed by a fall back into reality.

And the majority will go back to work the same way as they did before the dream.  They will lay bricks for a day’s wage.

It’s the reasonable thing to do.

It’s the realistic thing to do.

Dreams are silly anyway - real life matters more...

The majority will, but not everyone.

Some Choose a Different Course

A few will go back to work differently.

Their actions will take on the power of purpose, their goals the strength of intention.  They won’t lay bricks for a day’s wage, but to build their own castle.

It’s the unreasonable thing to do.

It’s the unrealistic thing to do.

But dreams matter – sometimes more than real life…

“Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones.” [The Silver Chair]

What will you do with your dreams?

 


p.s. let us know in the comments what you're working on - and more importantly, why you're working on it.  We want to hear!

p.p.s. Subscribe to The Resistance Broadcast and get the help you need to complete your worthwhile project, build your empire, and create your life's work.

 

 

Winning the Creative War

The Pain of Creation

Every act of artistic creation (business, blog, book or otherwise) begins in the mind.

They begin as acts of love (we care about our ideas) and defiance (challenging what is with what could be).

But being inside your own mind isn’t a pretty thing.  It’s nasty in there; what is right seems wrong; up is down; and every course of action can be rationalized (adding to the frustration).

Struggling with a creative puzzle or wrestling with a conceptual problem is brutal.

It challenges your skill; do you have the ability to bring this vision to life?

It challenges your character; do you have the fortitude – the grit – to take it all the way?

It challenges your belief in yourself; can you keep working toward an elusive goal, even when nothing pans out for weeks, months or years?

Do you really have what it takes to fight these creative battles, day in and day out?

And if the answer is YES to all of those questions, are you sure you’re not just lying to yourself?

The Inner Creative War

These are the internal battles of someone trying to do something new, of someone building something from scratch, of the person creating something unique, not because he was told, but because he chose.

It’s not reserved just for writers (experienced as writers block) or entrepreneurs (experienced as failure to launch), but for every single person who stands up and challenges the group; who leaves the tribal boundaries; who demands self-determination, regardless of the consequences.

It’s a battle waged by artists and inventors; by builders and breakers; by warriors and leaders.

It’s a war fought by those brave enough to question, challenge, and try.

And like any war, there will be casualties: your dreams may not become reality, your goals might not pan out, and your projects might fail.

It’s difficult, it’s unforgiving, and it’s (often) unfair.

When I characterize creation as an act of war, I mean it.

Winning the War

And yet some of us still feel compelled to create, even with this guarantee of discomfort.

Perhaps it’s because we expect the discomfort will fade when we “make it.”  And it might.

Or perhaps it’s because we believe the reward at the end will outweigh the pain of the process.  And this might be true.

Or perhaps we have no other option because the discomfort of not creating is more painful and terrifying than the possibility of trying and failing.  And this is probably the case.

Regardless the reason, the fact that some still want to create, still need to create, is what matters; because these are the people who will create.

Winning the creative war isn’t a matter of how.  For the creator, it’s a matter of when.

Oddly enough, that is exactly how you win.

It ain't about how hard you hit, it's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much can you take and keep moving forward? That's how winning is done. [Rocky Balboa]


p.s. are you fighting the creative war right now?  Share with us in the comments below what you're creating and where you've found success (or how you've dealt with failure).

 

Action

It’s simple enough to understand that you must instigate to be successful.

It’s much more difficult to put this understanding to use.

And if our logical conclusions aren’t actionable, what’s the point?

Here are a few quick tips I’ve compiled from some extremely clever, creative and successful people on how they created great works (everything from successful blogs, to best-selling books and cashflowing startups).

Note: I took the liberty to elaborate on their original ideas.  If you discovered a different but noteworthy lesson that I didn’t cover, let me know in the comments below!

I hope this helps (I know it’s helping me as I start on my next major book project and an even more epic business project - more updates on that later).

Enjoy

Kick Start Your Next Project with the following Creative Hacks

1)  Are you having trouble finding your voice?  Mimic someone (or something) that inspires you.

Credit: Al Pittampalli (successful entrepreneur and author of Read This Before Our Next Meeting)

In a compelling and insightful interview I did with Al Pittampalli (compelling and insightful because of Al, not my interviewing skills), Al explained the first draft of his book came off a little stiff and lacked personality.

Al knew he needed to find his own voice, so he looked for inspiration and found it, of all places, in the movie Jerry McGuire.  There is a scene in the movie where Jerry, the protagonist, has an epiphany and stays up all night to write a manifesto on his business.

Al did a quick search online and found the actual manifesto (a bit of trivia: the writer of the script, Cameron Crowe, actually wrote out a full length manifesto to help Tom Cruise get into character on the movie set).  After reading the manuscript, he knew it was the perfect style for his book.

“Why don’t I try, instead of using my own voice, to use Jerry McGuire’s voice.” [Al Pittampalli]

For the next several weeks, Al woke up early in the morning (3am) and pretended to be Jerry McGuire as he rewrote his book.

Instead of losing his voice, he was able to refine and develop his own.

Thanks to just a bit of inspiration-seeking, we now have an incredibly powerful book that is uniquely Al.

2) Are people giving you advice on how to change your art?  Ignore them.

Credit: Hugh MacLeod (artist and author of Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity)

The most creative, ambitious, and daring ideas are, by their nature, personal.  So friends, family, and peers can’t help you.

Nobody can understand your art or your project better than you.  You know your art deeply and personally; others only see the surface.

The more mad or bold the art, the less likely someone can give you good advice on what to do, how to do it, or if you should even attempt it in the first place. 

“The more original your idea is, the less good advice other people will be able to give you.” [How to Be Creative]

Instead of asking for advice, go make your project or art the way you want it made.

3) What is the most effective technique for [place description of action and goal here] (for example: write a book, build a business, start a gang, etc.)  Answer: whichever technique is right in front of you.

Credit: Tom Morkes (yea, I'm crediting myself - that’s how I roll).

I’ve listened to hundreds of podcasts, read hundreds of books, absorbed a lot of information from a lot of different people, and put it all to work in various ways throughout my life, including during active duty military service.  You might expect there’s a unifying technique on how things ought to be done if you want to be successful.

The truth is – there isn’t.

Some writers wake up early– others work better midnight to dawn; some leaders yell a lot, others are quiet and contemplative; some entrepreneurs develop multiple businesses simultaneously, others only one and focus their entire energy behind it.

Every single writer, designer, artist, entrepreneur, leader and warrior has his own rituals, schedule, and techniques; no two share the same.

So the point is this: If you’re stuck, don’t worry about figuring out whether Twitter is better than Facebook is better than Pinterest is better than whatever for conversion.

Focus on what matters: the work only you can do, in the way only you can do it.

“Here is what you must do: Write your big stupid book, build your big stupid business, or start your big stupid blog.” [The Art of Instigating]

There’s no one right answer; only a bunch of imperfect solutions.

You won’t know which is best for you until you start (finish, and ship).

Go instigate.

p.s. what are your best creative hacks to get unstuck and kick start your project?  Let us know in the comments below!

Life is paradoxicalOpposites

We think pain and pleasure or love and hate are opposites of one another.

We think of these emotions as opposite ends of the spectrum, as if each lies on either side of a single line.

pain --------------------------------- pleasure

love --------------------------------- hate

This couldn't be further from the truth.  

In either case, they are simply variations of one another; unique but related; two sides of the same coin.

But they are not opposites.

In both cases, we are experiencing some kind of emotion.  Whether you experience pain or pleasure, love or hate, you are still experiencing something.  So the opposite of pain isn't pleasure, nor is the opposite of pleasure pain.

The opposite of both is numbness – it is indifference – it is nothing.

When a project breaks, we might experience anger at ourselves because we failed, fear that this case isn't unique and that we might never succeed, or jealousy of others for effortlessly accomplishing that which we suffer for daily to create.

When a goal comes to fruition, we might experience joy in its realization, pride that we have accomplished so much, or gratitude that we were given such an unlikely opportunity, with such an unlikely skill set, in such an unlikely environment, to make our dreams reality.

In either case, we are experiencing the emotions of someone who cares.

If you want to experience the latter, you must be willing to experience the former; that's the price you pay when you care, when you're invested in the outcome, when you're committed.  But if you'd prefer to never feel the anger, fear, or jealousy of failure – the pain of failure – then you only have one option: become indifferent.

Stop caring.

Avoid commitment.

Indulge in the emotional morphine of indifference and all the pain goes away; and so does all the pleasure, all the happiness, all the joy.

You can't have one without the other.

That's the paradox; that's the battlefield; that's the choice.

"The opposite of love's indifference." [The Lumineers]


Never fight alone.  Join the Resistance:

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It’s so simple but so often neglected:

 Care about your customers and they’ll care about you.

If you care about your customers, you will spend much of your spare time thinking about how your products can improve their lives.  That kind of thinking will lead directly to thoughts about how you can increase efficiency, improve quality, expand customer service – all of which will lead to increased revenues. – Michael Masterson

Or, as Gary Vaynerchuk puts it: give a $%&# about the customer (and employees) and develop a relationship with each customer.

Now, more than ever, developing a meaningful connection with each and every customer is essential for business survival.  Why?  Because the internet and social media have transformed the business-customer interaction.

While big companies were lifeless, anonymous robot factories throughout the 20th century, now social media allows that same business to put a face to a name and deal one-on-one with each customer.

Because the internet allows us to reach globally and cluster based on interest, it has created a small-town mentality for every niche.

The advent of the internet and social media has facilitated the convergence of two very powerful concepts:

  1. Immediate feedback
  2. Word of mouth as power

In 1984, if your Sony Discman didn’t work as advertised, you would complain to those around you.  Your complaints might influence the purchase of a few close friends.  Word of mouth had very little impact.

In 2012, when the newest iOS update has a map glitch, you can blog or tweet to thousands of listeners, and they can push the message even further.  The word of mouth impact is magnitudes greater.

Depending on the reaction, this can be a positive stepping stone towards deeper, meaningful conversation, or it can kill the relationship between the customer and the business.

This phenomenon has helped many small, but passionate businesses become game-changers (Zappos).

It’s also destroying bigger companies that can't wrap their heads around why we don't want to deal with a robot or a labyrinth of menus in the (vain) hopes of speaking with a human being (Comcast).

And while big companies can get away with second-rate service for a while, the stage is set for new businesses with personal connection at their core to disrupt the status quo.

Why?  Because people will pay a premium for service.

How can you (or your brand, company, gang, tribe) build that connection?  Below are 4 ways to improve your business:

1) Act like a human being

2) Be a human being 

3) Tailor the experience to the individual 

4) Actually care 

 

One last thing: building a relationship takes YEARS.  This isn't a quarterly marketing campaign - it's a lifestyle of caring.

That takes heart and perseverance.  It takes grit.

So here's the question: how do you create real, deep connections with your customers (and do you think it's even worth it)?


If you enjoyed that blog post, you might enjoy this:Join the Resistance

 


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