Timing is everything. On August 17, 2001 I published my first book. It was titled Clan of Cain: The Genesis of Bigfoot.
Had I written a nonfiction book about terrorism then perhaps I could have been a successful author. People had little interest is Bigfoot immediately after September 11, 2001.
What I know now is that if I had been successful in the realm Bigfootology I would have missed many growth opportunities and not discovered the path that I’m on right now.
J.K Rowling put it this way.
“Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged.”
Looking back 16 years later, the warning signs were there as I tracked the Bigfoot genre but I didn’t see them.
Why I wrote a book about Bigfoot and what I learned from failure.
In 1997, when I finally decided to write I knew that my first book should be about something that I thought was cool. So I looked at what I knew the most about: Bigfoot and Mormon Doctrine. Odd combination, but where there is a will there is a way. So I started to plan out a book about Bigfoot.
What I wanted to do was use Mormon mythology and folklore as a plot structure. This was going to be my trademark. And I guess it is my trademark for the fictional books I have written. Best kept secret.
Anyway, during this process of writing the Clan of Cain I discovered many things that I wasn’t good at. Writing is hard. But in the middle, between the large stones of effort I discovered some joy and satisfaction. That was the mortar that kept the stones of effort together -to complete my metaphor.
Being able to use creative thought without boundaries was appealing and rewarding. I would suppose that this is what others feel like in many venues in life: making a touchdown, architecting a building, solving a tough problem, succeeding in business, etc. If that is your passion and you are good at it, then the reward I felt inwardly was more than could be measured on the outside.
So for me, writing felt good. But my goal, or what I had decided was the criteria for success was not just writing a book, but having that book be a best seller and changing my life. And along the way I had reason to hope this was the case. After the first year that my book was published I was approached by some film producers that wanted to buy the rights to my book. I of course said yes, but when a movie was never made, and my book sales were absorbed by my family members and then fell off sharply, the joy I felt during the writing process became a bitter pill. Based upon what I thought success was, I felt like a failure.
I wasn’t completely naïve, I knew that a self-published book was long shot. I did market it, based upon my abilities and understanding at the time. It became apparent that my goals may have been misaligned.
So do you give up or try again? Do you learn from your mistakes (let’s just call this failure to keep it real)? I decided to not give up but to try a different tactic. I wrote two non-fiction books. And then I waited. No big pay check came in, just enough to take my wife out to dinner, but not much else.
Before I self-published my first book I was warned many times about the difficulty in achieve financial success with a book in general and particularly a self-published book. My failures should have been self-evident. Nevertheless, I didn’t recognize why I was failing to reach maximum market penetration, to find the tipping point -phrases I learned many years later.
It should also be self-evident that a college degree is not a passport to success in the corporate world. My failures in that realm were not self-evident for many years. The good thing about a failure is that it doesn’t have an expiration date. You can learn from them long after their initial impact.
In both respects, books and career, I’m starting to learn from these failures and I’m starting to manage my career in a more purposeful strategic way. This only occurs if you have full accountability for your thoughts, behaviors and actions.
Even though some of these failures are self-evident to the rational mind, they may not be that evident to us when we are in the middle of them and looking at failure through the prism of emotion and denial.
What I didn’t understand ten years ago is that a self-published author must self-promote. Granted, some of the tools now are more effective for marketing your brand and your story, but had I known how to do that then, I could have blazed a trail before so many others.
I was under the false assumption that success would find me. I thought that luck looks for you and pulls you out of obscurity. That may be true in some rare cases, but I think you would find a thread of choices that placed a person or product in close proximity to luck.
What I have learned from being a failed author and a low achiever in my corporate career is this: While some reasons will remain a mystery, many reasons for failure can be unearthed and examined to help you learn from them. You may be failing now because you are not appreciating their value and you are not learning from them.
No matter the type of failure, try not to fail, but if you must fail, fail the best way you can. Don’t try to avoid all risk, but set yourself up so that you can pivot from your mistakes.
Along my journey as a self-published author I was pulled several times in the direction of becoming a Bigfoot expert because of my book. I rejected these thoughts and circumstances. I didn’t want to be known as the Bigfoot guy. My schema was that I was writing a book about LDS paranormal folklore. But nobody knew that but me. I now realized that I could have framed my interactions on the subject of Bigfoot and also LDS folklore. That would have helped book sales, but I just didn’t want to recognize the truth about how and why people buy books.
One of the keys to know if you are on the right track or if your path is wrong, is by taking this simple litmus test when failure occurs. Is your failure today the result of a long string of bad decisions or is the failure of today isolated to the events of the day? I think success comes to those who can interpret, categorize and segregate failures so that they don’t cripple their dreams.
After I wrote my first book and was on edge of making the decision to write the 2nd and 3rd book I had a very clear understanding of the work that would be involved. Even the decision to write my most recent book, The Value of Failure, was not made in ignorance. The only difference now is that my choice was based upon a deeper analysis of my situation, knowledge and skills. It was also based upon my desire to make it worth my time. Good choice or bad choice? It depends upon what I define as success. These choices, based upon what you have learned from your own failures, like your choices, are the things that make all the difference.
What are the lesson learned from the Hunt of Bigfoot?
The quintessential Big, Hairy, Audacious, Goal (BHAG) is Bigfoot. The term ‘Big Hairy Audacious Goal’ was proposed by James Collins and Jerry Porras in their 1994 book entitled Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies.
However, in the hunt for Bigfoot success may not be what you think.
I did a lot of research in to the topic and into the lives of Bigfoot hunters. At the time that by book was published there were what some have called “The Four Horseman of the Sasquatch”. They were Rene Dahinden, Grover Krantz, John Green and Peter Byrne. These gentleman didn’t sit in front of their computer and talk about Bigfoot, they took action. For them and the modern day Bigfoot hunters you see on reality TV, I think passion coupled with action creates opportunities for success. In my opinion success for the modern Bigfoot hunter is actually more about air time on reality TV than finding Bigfoot. The lesson learned is how to define success in terms of how passion can place you in the path of opportunity.
Dilbert Author Scott Adams put it this way:
You often hear advice from successful people that you should “Follow your passion.” That sounds about right. Passion will presumably give you high energy, high resistance to rejection and high determination. Passionate people are more persuasive, too. Those are all good things, right?
My hypothesis is that passionate people are more likely to take big risks in the pursuit of unlikely goals, and so you would expect to see more failures and more huge successes among the passionate. Passionate people who fail don’t get a chance to offer their advice to the rest of us. But successful passionate people are writing books and answering interview questions about their secrets for success every day
If you ask a billionaire the secret of his success, he might say it is passion, because that sounds like a sexy answer that is suitably humble. But after a few drinks I think he’d say his success was a combination of desire, luck, hard work, determination, brains, and appetite for risk.
The hunt for Bigfoot is a series of failures sprinkled with moments of hope. It is like playing the lottery but nobody wins. In corporate terms the ROI (Return On Investment) is the journey rather than the destination or the unequivocal proof of Bigfoot.
The few people I interviewed seems very passionate about the topic and the eye witness I interviewed also seemed passionate. Some of them seemed a little crazy. After my book was published I was approached by a close relative who had a Bigfoot story that they had never told publicly.
The main lesson here is that hunting Bigfoot may be a work in futility, but if that is what you enjoy, then the journey and how you have defined success, is what makes the effort sustainable.
What I thought the book would do for my career
I knew the possibility that writing might be a long arch to success and in my naïve mind I thought being a published Author would propel my career as I continued to work on other writing projects.
What I didn’t realize at the time is that being a subject matter expert in Bigfoot doesn’t really have value to corporate America. I no longer talk about Bigfoot in job interviews.
Writing does show a few things about your character and your work ethic but I have found that my merger writing experience has had little impact on my profession career.
As such that failure has shaped my life in terms of finding not only my passion but what I’m good at.
So what is my passion?
Bigfoot reality TV seems to be gaining traction but these shows don’t lean toward my brand of fiction.
I really don’t like to camp nor hike. These are somewhat requisites for a Bigfoot hunter or for anyone that claims to be an expert on the subject. My interest was at best a detached academic curiosity and at worst a scheming way to make money.
I have both a passion, experience and competence in the area of learning phycology. Now, many years later, I have discovered that my mission is to help other create Learning strategies for success.
As part of an experiment that started in July of 2015, when I decided to write again, after a long absence, I decided from the outset that if I’m going to saying anything about learning from your failures, from an authentic point of view, then I knew that I needed to learn and overcome a few of my own failures. Writing The Value of Failure was the first part of the plan and the second part of the plan was to become a more valuable employee and progress in my organization and thus in my career.
After a few months of writing and researching this topic I began to formulate what I would formally call a strategy toward the end of my experiment. Here is generally what I did once I committed to this project:
· Book: Analyzed my failures in writing and looked for opportunities in the market to be distinct and unmistakable. I convinced myself to not give up, believe in it and see the project through.
· Career: Analyzed my life in general and looked for the areas that I continue to fail in and be accountable for these failures and learn how to change my attitude, update my skills and demonstrate my abilities based upon my talents. Basically: Try, Learn, and Try Again.
How has Bigfoot shaped my career? The failure of that endeavor helped me learn, refine and value different things.
I learned that I have low personal energy in attempting to write about things that didn’t really matter that much to me. Don’t get me wrong, I find fictional writing liberating for me personally, but I also find the work I’m doing now liberating, rewarding and personally invigorating.
The footprints I’m tracking now are not the kind that Bigfoot leaves. I track the path of what makes me happy, keeps my energy up, and I follow these footprints so that I can be successful. In the deep woods of my life, I’m hoping to find myself and maybe a few BHAG’s.
So you may be asking yourself if I believe in Bigfoot. To that question I respond: I don’t think it matters.
What do you think?
Leave your comments if you dare.