You wouldn’t think it would be the case for someone who’s completed five decades and entered a sixth, but one of the most important lessons I continue learning is the value of being ‘teachable.”
It’s been especially true with writing — ironically the one thing I’ve always done with some confidence, and the only thing I ever considered a natural talent. Especially true in recent years, I’ve learned to maintain a spirit that is teachable.
Most of my livelihood has been based in the written word. Ten years in the newspaper business, another eight in the magazine trade. As a higher education fundraiser, and a political press secretary I made a living informing people and persuading them about certain things. It all came fairly naturally. Not all, but so much of this is about gut instinct and understanding people. That’s what I do. It’s art. And it’s science.
So it stood to reason way back in 2012 when I first decided to write a book that I came into the process with a fairly confident (arrogant) attitude. I’d interviewed 15,000 people. Written miles of copy. I’d sat with tattoo artists, strippers, men dying of AIDS, ambassadors, and presidents. A book was only a longer, more drawn out process, right? More story, right? Wrong.
That first book manuscript still sits in a file, crumpled, wrinkled, and dusty. I remember when it came back from my editor that first time. It was humbling. There was obviously an incredible amount to unlearn and relearn, so much so, it was almost overwhelming.
But I didn’t quit. I read, studied, researched, found mentors, attended conferences, chased agents and publishers, and practically gave my life to the pursuit. If you’ve given up on a dream forgive me, but chances are you didn’t want it as much as you thought. If you want something, you’ll find a way.
In the meantime, I have published a book based on an incredible experience and a story that I thought deserved to be told. The story was as much about healing as it was about walking a very long distance. That process took more than three years.
Today, I’m closing in on the second book. It’s about a year in the making so far, and quite possibly, has involved more learning than all the years leading from 2012 until now. This is a LONG process. That’s another thing for the learning. Endurance.
You have to learn to listen to people. You have to learn not to listen to people. You have to learn who those people are. You have to learn the hard lesson that really good writing is not necessarily a great story. You have to learn how a reader’s mind processes a story. You have to learn that even when you believe so strongly in your gut that you’re right, you may be wrong. And you have to learn when to stand your ground. But you have to remain teachable. We never stop learning.
Whether you’re writing a book, or raising a family, pursuing a new career, or seeking some great truth, it’s the most important thing. Being teachable.
What will you learn today?
•There is nothing worse than waking up each morning dreading where you’re about to go and spend time for the next eight hours. It’s not likely that you’ll land your dream job right out of high school or college, but you’ll get there. Don’t quit until you do.
•When you are considering a career in your young adult years, ask yourself this question: What stirs my heart?
•College is not for everyone. Don’t go to college as a default choice. Personally, I wish I knew more about skilled trades.
•Don’t be scared to take risks during your career. The greatest rewards often come with the highest risks. This is especially true for those who want to branch out into self employment. Remember, there is almost no decision that can’t be undone. Embrace risk.
•Seek out career mentors. Most professionals older and wiser are happy to share their experience for your benefit, and you can fast forward your career track by learning from the mistakes of others.
•Have a side gig. This is especially important for those times when you may not be perfectly suited to the job that’s making you money and paying the bills. Maybe it’s a booth at a flea market, or maybe you make cinnamon rolls each Saturday for the farmer’s market. Professionally, side gigs can be a great breath of fresh air. I’d still like to have a food truck in my life, and probably will one day. I find that cooking and writing go well together.
•Don’t let people treat you badly. At least two to three occasions in my life I’ve found myself alongside toxic people in the workplace. Don’t be afraid to just walk away. One of the best decisions I ever made was dropping a key in the workplace mailbox one night, walking away, and never looking back.
•When you find that thing that stirs your heart, try to remember that everything you do is not for you. It probably stirs your heart for a reason, and the reason might be is that you were meant to have a passion for this thing and use it for the greater good. i.e. helping others.
•Understand there may be seasons to what stirs your heart. You may have a passion for something (and a capacity for) in your sixties, that you never imagined in your thirties. You can always be a rookie at something.
•When you find that thing, and when you’ve spent some years gaining wisdom doing that thing, always be available for younger people trying to find their way. Be a mentor.
Join me this Wednesday, Sept. 4, at 2 p.m. CST for the premier of my social media livestream news magazine, In Case You Missed It.
This week we’ll visit with actor/author Wendi Lou Lee, who you may better recall as Baby Grace from Little House on the Prairie. We’ll visit with Wendi about her career as a young actor, an extraordinary turn of events in her adult life, lessons learned from Little House, and a wonderful book she’s authored titled A Prairie Devotional.
Watch for our interview Wednesday at 2 CST. Set your VCR or Beta Max or whatever you have to do!
And subscribe to our email newsletter to keep up with all the upcoming shows and breaking news!
You’ll find a bonus story here and there through The King of Highbanks Road manuscript. One such bonus is a list of my dad’s favorite sayings. Several are toned down in color. Ha.
Are any of these tossed about in your family?
•She’s as nervous as a sinner in church. (as nervous as it gets)
•Never get in a fight with a pig in the mud. You get dirty, and the pig loves it. (some things just aren’t worth it.)
•He’s choppin’ in tall cotton. (acknowledging a nice accomplishment)
•Don’t know about you, but I’m wore plum out. (more than just tired – very tired)
•How’s your mom and them? (greeting between families close in friendship)
•You beat all I’ve ever seen. (hard to believe)
•Colder than a well digger’s @$#. (very cold)
•He’s gettin’ way too big for his britches. (braggart)
•Slow as molasses in winter. (usually reserved to describe an adolescent male)
•I’m full as a tick. (what you say after every meal in the South)
•Look to the West. It’s comin’ up a storm. (rain and wind will be here in twenty minutes)
•I’ll swan. (my, oh, my)
•Yes, sir, that (rain) was a toad strangler. (rain that leaves water standing in row middles)
•Tight as a banjo string. (a cheap old man, or a nut on a bolt that won’t budge)
•I swear to my time. (personal exasperation, disbelief)
•He doesn’t know his @$# from a hole in the ground. (downright dumb)
•He’s cruisin’ for a bruisin’. (luck is about to run out)