The Trap of Seeking Perfection - The Story of Writing My First Book
In June 2020, I had decided to write a book. Not just any book, but my first book.
It was a little intimidating. I wasn't sure what I was going to write about at first. Then a couple of things happened that sparked an idea for the topic.
The first thing that happened was that I read Cal Newport's book, So Good They Can't Ignore You.
That book completely changed my perspective on a lot of things including, the myth of trying to match your passion with your career and, most importantly for me, the idea of "career capital."
"Career capital are the skills you have that are both rare and valuable and that can be used as leverage in defining your career," according to Cal Newport in an interview with Forbes.
I've done a lot throughout my career, including government contracting, sales, account management, project management, corporate recruiting, and marketing. Each thing could have been its own career path.
I still have a lot of working life left in me - at least 20 more years - so I've always asked myself, "is what I've done in the past that isn't related to marketing just a sunk cost? Should I move on from it?"
The answer I gave myself was always, "yes, move on."
A New Way of Looking at My Career
Until I read Cal's book.
That made me rethink how the combination of my fairly diverse experience could be valuable when it was looked at collectively rather than individually.
The second thing that happened was I met with a friend who is also a coach, and we talked about the Strengths Finder assessment I had done several years ago.
Where I had looked at each of my top 5 strengths individually, she was able to pull them all together in a way that really opened my eyes. It also happened to weave nicely into the new narrative I was telling myself about my past experience not being a sunk cost.
Are you seeing a theme here? A holistic view of my career compared to the myopic one I had been carrying.
I finally understood why certain roles weren't a good match for me. Rather than feeling like I wasn't good at them, I eventually became at peace with the fact that they weren't a good match, to begin with. The truth was, I just got bored with them.
These two events were the catalysts I needed. They led me to write about something I had been hearing more about since leaving corporate recruiting for marketing full-time: recruitment marketing.
It seems like a perfect fit for my experience, right? I was thinking the same thing.
In fact, I was curious about what it really was and how my skills and experience could possibly carve a new career path in that area.
Writing a book seemed like the perfect way to learn more, talk with a lot of people in the field, and identify any opportunities that might exist for a successful career pivot - again.
The Importance of Constraints to Finishing
Remember, I said I began the book writing process in June of 2020. By December of the same year, my book was published on Amazon Kindle.
Only six months later.
I had most of the manuscript written by early November and had started the editing process. I soon realized that writing the book was much easier than editing - and much more fun.
I began to really thrash. I started to think about pushing my ship date beyond the December 21 date I had committed to. I wanted my book to be as good as it could be.
One important note is that I wrote the book as part of an Akimbo workshop called Writing in Community. Akimbo was started by a world-renown marketer, Seth Godin, who has published too many best-selling books to even count.
Writing in Community was Kristin Hatcher's idea; she built and led this inaugural workshop.
In late November of last year (2020), Seth and Kristin hosted a Zoom call with the students as we approached the final month of our journey.
By the time of the call, I had already committed in my mind to a later ship date. I was going to ship my book sometime in January or February 2021.
It wasn't a solid date, and that was part of the problem. I was giving myself another out-another pre-built excuse to not ship.
In that call, Seth pleaded that, no matter what, we ship our books on December 21. "Even if you have a half-finished sentence, ship it," he said.
Seth has been around the book business for a long time, and he knew, from experience, that if you missed the date you committed to, you might never publish your book. By pushing your publish date back, you're seeking perfection. The reality is that you would be seeking something that wasn't possible.
Commitment to Shipping
At that moment, I decided that I would publish my book by December 21 - the date I had committed to. Afterward, I would realize how essential and valuable constraints can be.
At that moment, I buckled down and got after it. The thrashing disappeared. I became more clear on what I needed to do. At least what I needed to do to get a decent book pulled together.
I had also begun working with an editor who helped to further clarify the process.
On December 21, 2020, I officially became a published author. My book was now available to download on Amazon.
An exhilarating, yet scary, feeling. My book was now out into the world where it could be critiqued and torn to shreds.
Yet, it wasn't. Instead, I began to receive very positive feedback from the very audience I was trying to influence - recruitment marketers.
At that moment, I realized that even if something isn't perfect, it can still be effective.
Could it have been better? Absolutely. So much so that I had decided to continue working with my editor to "get it right."
After all, I wanted to publish the book in paperback format, so it needed to be perfect if it would be in print.
When the Lightbulb Finally Turned On
Several months later, in April 2021, right when I was about to re-engage with my editor, it hit me.
The book will never be perfect. No matter how much work and money I continue to pump into it, it may never even be great.
What it was, though, was a collection of my thoughts, ideas, and research at that moment in time. It was my first book and, not only that, it was the best I could pull together within six months. Six months!
At that moment, I realized that was enough. That writing and publishing a 200-page book in six months was a hell of an accomplishment.
On April 23, 2021, my book became available for purchase on Amazon in a paperback format.
In the next year or so, I'll begin writing my second book. The chances are pretty good that it will be considerably better than my first. The chances are also even better that my third book will be better than my next one.
That's what happens when you practice. You get better.
Most of the time, the 'what' is more important than the 'how.'
If you'd like to purchase a copy of my book, it's available in both Kindle and paperback on Amazon.</div<></figure