Where Ideas Are Born

We were sitting at the local Panera and discussing the idea of writing a BOOK! (I was there for the food and because my spouse wants to move into professional speaking. Personally, I like where I am. I’m a computer programmer; I sit is a cubical most of the day and interact with my computer. The computer dutifully does as I tell it; most of the time it even does what I want it to do! My interest in professional speaking is oriented toward helping others, including my spouse, in their quest.)

At one point, our editor looked straight at me and asked “Mark, what’s your chapter about?” Up to that point, I hadn’t given the idea any thought, so I mumbled something along the line of “I’ve heard several people speaking recently and I can’t compare.” (One speech was by a rape survivor; a second speaker had recovered from a serious automobile accident. You get the idea.) “My best story is about the time my pine wood derby car not only lost the race, it failed to start!” In response, our editor asked “What did you learn from that?”

Thus was born the idea for my chapter in Spotlight on the Art of Grace: “Turning Life Experiences into Learning Experiences.”

There is, of course, a chasm between an idea, an experience, and a title to an actual chapter!

What should an aspiring author do to get started?

You can do what I did; pick a topic from your experience, find a group of writers who can offer mutual support, and , above all else, start writing. Don’t worry about selling the book! Pick a story, write a chapter, finish the book. All else will be taken care of.

Finding the Right Dynamic

We in ABC are so happy on the publishing of our 1st book!  It’s not because it flew off the shelves, and not because it made the NY Times Best Seller list.  It is because the dynamic of the group has propelled us into sequels!  We already have titles for the 2nd, 3rd and 4th installment on the Grace series and are deep into our second book:  Spotlight on the art of Resilience.  As you may have heard from other leadership books, the physical/mental/spiritual goals that we set for ourselves are not the end of the quest.  It is what we become to achieve them that is important.  I personally have seen amazing changes in each participant of this writing collaboration.  We have all grown in many ways by writing this book.

What changes did we see?

Our wall flower grew by learning new skills such as formatting, proof reading, editing, moderating and project management!  What was her reward?  The book is listed as Spotlight on the Art of Grace by JONES.  Yes, she got her name in capital letters on the binding of the book!  Her husband learned how to stretch his thoughts from 600-700 word sound bites to thoughts going deeper and more descriptive requiring 5000 words to communicate.  One learned the art of organizing her thoughts into coherent, understandable, and cohesive progressions to best get her point across instead of through-composing and letting her thoughts develop as she writes.  I learned to concentrate my efforts into making a single point at a time to support a general idea.  Regardless of what we did to grow, it was How we accomplished the growth that launched the thoughts of sequels and bigger projects.

What was different about this dynamic

The dynamic of this group, the ABC, is quite unique.  I have been a member of many groups:  sorority, musical groups large and small, Toastmaster clubs and leadership teams, my team at my place of business, my church, and my bible study.  The only group that has come close to this was my bible study and then not on this scale.  What is different with this group?

First of all, we had a common goal: to becoming accomplished professional speakers.  Are you surprised?  We went to seminar after seminar, and we had numerous one on one conversations with successful speakers…the kinds of people we wanted to emulate.  The one thing they all said was, “Write a book!”  That shot a lot of us down.  We soldiered on trying to find ways to get to our goal by sharing information we each had.  One had expertise in technology and publishing.  One had expertise in marketing and promotion.  Another had expertise in entrepreneurship and business with emphasis in law and finance.  Each member had a unique gift to share with the others.  The dynamic held us together.

Secondly, we had common experiences.  We were all Toastmasters and had participated in many different aspects of the program.  Nearly all of the members of this have attained the designation of Distinguished Toastmaster.  All of us have served the district in leadership positions.  We had experienced the dynamics of leadership for ourselves, and saw positive and negative dynamics in the organizations we were serving.

Thirdly, we had a desire that focused our emotions into one laser beam of thought:  we did not want to be anonymous or conform to what was around us.  We knew we could not rise above our current situations to become professional speakers if we didn’t stand out.  The dynamics of a group of people striving for a common goal with feeling and desire that could not be denied kept us coming back to our meetings.  There were times that we felt we were going through withdrawal when we didn’t meet!

We had declared our enemy:  conformity and anonymity!  We declared war on average.  One of the events we all participated in became the spark that set ablaze the dynamic of this particular group.

I believe that this dynamic is unique to any group that doesn’t have these three things: common goals, experiences, and emotions.  And it will not move us to action unless we have a declared enemy:  one that is equal in power and strength and intelligence.

Because IN this dynamic group of people are engineers, musicians, philosophers, psychological thinkers, politicians, young and old.  But we all have this spark within us that tells us we can accomplish anything now.  We have written a book TOGETHER, a task we were not likely to have taken on had we not had the dynamics in this group.

Is this dynamic reproducible?  I don’t know.  Will it grow to something much bigger?  Who knows?   Get on board though, it’s going to be quite a ride!


Where do you go from here?

The deeper question is where is “here?”  It can be a location or a state of mind.  Sometimes “here” is both a location and a state of mind.  Are you where you want to be in your life?  Have you lost your way to the place you wanted to be at this point in your life?  Are you in Schenectady?  When we look at our location based on visual or mental cues, we can get confused.

I was on my way to church Sunday and along side of the road, there was the most magnificent display of fall color trees!  I quickly got out my camera and snapped a picture then uploaded it and sent it to my kids.  No one knew where I took the picture.  They asked me if I was on a road trip.  Each of my children has grown up and lived quite a while in this town, yet they didn’t recognize the area where I took the picture.  How does that work in the life journey?  Where is “here?”

If you look around and see your friends and your equipment and your office and feel happy, then “here” is not a bad place to be.  What if you fear for your job?  What if you are working in a career that has nothing to do with your field of study?  What if you dread going to your office, and you watch the clock thinking, “If only I hadn’t given up on my dream to be a…” You are definitely off track.  Does that mean you are broken?  Do you need to be fixed?

What is real change?

People fear change and often stay in the “here” even if they hate it.  What would happen if people saw the word “change” and it meant strengthening some attribute you already have in abundance? What attitude would people adopt if they knew they had the creativity, the resourcefulness, and the adventure within them to go as far as high and as fast as they wanted?  If you are in a position where you are looking to find a mentor or a coach, and you have the presupposition that whomever you choose is going to throw out the old you and rebuild you in their image, no Wonder you don’t want to start!  What you want is a coach.

What is the difference?  A mentor shows you how he/she did what they did.  The assumption there is that you have come to this “here” by the same path they did, had the same education, the same experiences, the same failures and successes.  This is most unlikely.  You have come to where you are by YOUR education.  Even if you took the same classes and read the same books, you have not had the same education your mentor has had.  Two people can read a book and get completely different lessons.  Even if you had the same teacher, if you had this class years apart from your mentor, the teacher has changed with age, the material has changed, and you may have been at a different place in your personal development than your mentor.

It is not possible for anyone to have the same experiences in their lives.  You don’t have the same parents, the same schools, the same activities as anyone else.  Your failures and successes will be dependent on how much risk you took on, how you responded to the situations, and how, based on your experiences and education, you proceeded through these trials to ultimately fail or succeed.  Working with a mentor is very helpful as long as you can recognize the short-comings.

A coach’s first task is to help you find out where your “here” is.  What do you like?  What do you need?  Why do you like and need these things?  How can you get to your goal?  Is it a physical place, mental place, or spiritual place?  Is it a relationship?  What kind of strengths do you already have?  How can those help you?  Eventually you find out where you are!  Then you need to figure out where you want to be.  This is within you, not to be gleaned from anyone around you.

Figuring out your “There”

It is to be implicit that once you know where “here” is, then “there” can be fixed in your head.  What do you want to be in the next few years?  You choose a goal not to set an end point, but because of what it will make of you to achieve it.  You must be worthy of the goal, and the goal must be worthy of you.  In the process of your coaching experience, “here” will progress along a set of action steps you take to get you closer to your goal.  It will not be a straight line, but the journey will be amazing.  Your coach will act as your radar.  Are you on task?  Are you heading the right direction?  Have you come across a situation you didn’t anticipate?  Your coach will help you by asking questions so that you can determine what your next step is.  If you determine it, wouldn’t you be more likely to go after it?  Of course!

The answer, then, to “Where do you go from here?” is obviously…”There!”  Take the first step in your journey!