In part one of this two-part blog series, we talked about the difference sections of the human brain—the reptilian brain, the limbic brain, and the neocortex—and how they each affect our decision-making processes. We discovered that our unconscious, compulsive, automatic fear of things unknown is created in the reptilian portion of our brains. And we discussed that any of the irrational concerns we may have about book publishing, sales, and marketing are variations of the exact same thing: the reptilian brain’s unconscious, automatic “fight or flight” survival instinct triggered by its fear of the unknown.
Instinct is a good thing that serves a valid purpose in our lives. God gave us all an instinct for a reason, and we should pay attention to it; but, whenever your fear of the unknown has you avoiding potentially advantageous opportunities simply because they’re new to you, then it’s time to consult with your more evolutionarily advanced neocortex—the logical, rational portion of your brain—by writing your fears down. Articulate them to yourself in writing. Read them out loud to yourself. When you do this, you’ll begin to see just how irrational many of those fears really are.
Fear #1: What if it’s a bad idea?
I can’t tell you how many authors I’ve sat and had a coffee with who have sheepishly shrugged their shoulders and said, “It’s probably a stupid idea. Maybe I shouldn’t do it.”
To which I always reply, “How long have you been thinking about this idea? When did it first come to you?”
For many of them, the answer is, “Several months.” For others, the answer is, “Several years.”
I always tell them the same thing: “An idea is a life form of its own that wishes to be expressed. It wants to be given life, and it has chosen you as the conduit for its life. That’s a gift . Accept this gift and use your God-given talent to give it the expression and life it craves. The fact that you’ve been thinking about this idea for several months or years tells you that it’s not simply a fleeting thought. It’s a real living, breathing thing.”
As an entrepreneur starting my own book publishing business, and writing and selling my own books, I had my moments when I thought to myself, “Maybe this is a bad idea.” I’m just like you. What I did, in those moments, was seek out inspiration from other people who had succeeded before me, to help me push through that fear and self-doubt. I read books. I watched videos. I used whatever tools I could find to help myself move forward.
One of my most cherished sources of inspiration is a video of Sara Blakely (2011), the founder of Spanx, Inc., speaking to a group at The Edge Connection in Atlanta, Georgia, about how she built her hosiery company from a mere $5,000 initial investment into a billion dollar empire in a short ten years. Very early in her presentation, she describes listening to a speaker at a convention who stated that he would prove to the room, in only four words, that there is no such thing as a bad idea: TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES! Sara herself eventually went on to prove to the many early doubters, in only two words, that there is no such thing as a bad idea: FOOTLESS PANTYHOSE!
I highly recommend this video of Sara Blakely to all authors who doubt themselves and their current ideas—whether it’s a book topic idea or a sales idea you have for an already-published book. It is a beautiful example of what’s possible when one pushes past that instinctive, reptilian-brain fear and perseveres in the achievement of a goal—any goal. For those who love humour, you’ll enjoy this video all the more. This woman is not only inspirational; she’s downright hilarious. I truly admire her on so many levels.
Fear #2: What if nobody reads it?
Well, then nobody will read it. And you’ll be no further behind nor any further ahead than you are today. You’re surviving right now, right? Fear busted.
Fear #3: What if people read it and don’t like it?
First of all, if people are reading it, that’s a good thing! That’s the ultimate goal!
Second, accept the fact that you’re entitled to your own opinions— and so is everyone else. Once you can do that, you’ll experience a freedom you’ve never experienced before.
When I published my first book, everything was quite new to me, and I had an expectation (possibly an unfair one) that my friends and family members should support me 100 percent and compliment me on my book, no matter what they thought of it. Luckily, that did happen with my first book. Everyone around me was very supportive.
Unfortunately, when my second book came out, it was a different story. I received an unexpected criticism from someone dear to me that left me shocked, hurt, and unsure how to react. I’ll be honest; it took me a couple years to come to a place where I was willing to put myself out there again. During that time, I had to rethink my expectations of those closest to me and find a way to remain confident in myself and my craft regardless of others’ opinions.
In retrospect, I’m glad I experienced that criticism so early in my publishing career because it taught me a valuable lesson about how I should measure the true merit of my work. A few times, I’ve had to ask myself the question: What is the truth here? Is it the joy and enthusiasm I felt when I held a printed copy of the book in my hand for the very first time? Or is it the self-doubt I felt when someone criticized it later on? Which one of those two moments will I use to determine the value of my book?
A wise woman named Lisa Nichols once said:
Oftentimes, you give others the opportunity to create your happiness, and many times they fail to create it the way you want it. Why? Because only one person can be in charge of your joy . . . and that’s you. So even your parent, your child, your spouse—they do not have the control to create your happiness. They simply have the opportunity to share in your happiness. Your joy lies within you.
A beautiful sentiment, don’t you think? I believe the same can be said for self-confidence and faith.
I’ve gone into every book project since then with a new set of expectations that take the pressure off both me and those around me. It’s always nice when people acknowledge a new book with a hearty congratulation, but I’ve decided that’s where their obligation ends. I no longer base a book’s worth on whether others read it, agree with it, enjoy it, or discuss it with me after the fact. The truth I try my best to hold onto is the joy I felt when I held that first printed copy in my hand. I hope you will do the same for you. I hope you will find a way to hold onto your enthusiasm even if you come up against any criticism along the way—whether it’s from friends, family members, reviewers, or anyone else. Keep writing! Keep the faith!
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