Being the outgoing person I am, meeting new people offers an exciting prospect. It used to make me nervous, but after some observation, I realized it was the same exchange over and over. You trade names and ice-breaking questions, namely, “What do you do for a living?” I used to answer this question with what I do for my day job. Now that I’m working to build better habits in self-promotion, I answer by saying, “I’m a writer.” This ensures every new person I meet hears about me and my work. While an effective marketing strategy, it also opens me up for haters to take their jabs.
“So how much money do you make off each book sold?”
I tell them, and they follow up with, “Safe to say you’re not in it for the money, then?”
I politely explain that I’m not in it for the money. I do it because I love it. Yes, I’m building a lucrative career with writing, but it’s a journey and I’ve only just begun.
“So how many books have you sold?”
I tell them, they snicker, and say, “I guess it’s safe to say your book is not exactly a bestseller.”
This is where I get in trouble. I hate this attitude—as if the measure of my success as an artist is defined only by how much money I make. Despite my most valiant efforts to hold back the sarcasm, I typically reply with something along the lines of, “No, it’s not a bestseller. If it were a bestseller you would have already heard of it, of me, and would be asking me for my autograph instead of demeaning my artistic endeavors by narrowing something as broad as success down to how many books I’ve sold and how much money I’ve made.”
It’s about this time I lose any hope of this person ever buying and reading my books. And while I should perhaps be a little less cavalier about it, I feel no great loss. Success takes time, and anyone I encounter who cannot respect the journey, gets categorized as a hater.
Ain’t nobody got time for haters!
Rather than get discouraged, I think on people who took a while to come into their own. One of my favorites is the inspiring story of Harland Sanders, founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken. By and large, his story is a long and tragic tale, but it takes a twist at the end no one would expect.
At age 5, his father died. He dropped out of high school at 16, and lost four jobs by the age of 17. He married at 18, fathered a child at 19, and his wife left him at 20. He worked as a railroad conductor until he was 22. After this run of bad luck, he joined the Unites States Army and washed out there. When that didn’t work out, he applied for law school and was rejected. He tried his hand at selling insurance and failed yet again. Failure after failure paved the road leading him to work as a cook and dishwasher at a café. Here, he worked until he retired at the age of 65.
Day one of retirement landed him a check from the government in the amount of $105. Taking this as a slight, as if to say he lacked the capacity to provide for himself, he felt life no longer worth living. Deciding to commit suicide, he sat under a tree to write his will, but instead he wrote what he would have accomplished with his life. It was in this moment of clarity he realized there was more in life he hadn’t done, more he hadn’t tried. In attempt to soar with his strengths, his mind went to the one thing he knew he could do better than anyone else he knew: cook.
After borrowing $87 he bought and fried up some chicken using his recipe. With no restaurant of his own, no avenue to sell, he took the time to go door-to-door and sell to his neighbors in Kentucky. Imagine the nerve! Knocking on someone’s door and asking them to buy fried chicken from a stranger! But guess what. It worked.
At the age of 88 he was the billionaire owner of the second largest restaurant chain with almost 20,000 locations globally in 123 countries. And he almost committed suicide because he felt he was a failure.
I have one up on Harland Sanders. He didn’t realize what he loved and what he was really good at until he was 65 years old. I’m not even 30 yet and I know exactly what I love and what I’m really good at. I have years to hone my craft, decades to get exposure for my work, and all of the passion and determination it takes to make something work. It won’t happen overnight—until it does.
One day, my books will be on shelves. Someday people will know who I am and the work I do. Eventually, I will not have to work a day job to make ends meet; I will use my talent and creativity to employ myself. I’m already living my dream. Just because it isn’t fully realized doesn’t mean it never will be.
When you get discouraged, work harder. It will make you feel better. When you get down, think about Harland Sanders, how long it took him to find his niche, and how well it paid off. You’ll get there so long as you never give up.