by Jenny Hansen
A lot of leadership advice, training styles, and life philosophies pass by my desk in the course of my day job. Books like Emotional Intelligence 2.0, The Storyteller's Secret, and Start With Why are sitting in my workspace right now.
When I'm really really lucky, those leadership philosophies and "life rules" inform and enrich my day job AND my writing life.
If you've never heard of Simon Sinek, I think you'll like him. His mission in life is to inspire others and he's got some amazing lessons for creatives like the video below.
You can go after whatever you want, you just cannot deny anyone else the ability to go after what they want.
In the video, he shares a story about how you perceive your goals - do you see what you want, or do you see the obstacle that stands in the way of what you want? This is a thought-provoking distinction. The only thing I didn't like about this story is the way he bypassed the obstacle. However, his point is valid.
Sometimes you are the problem.
As an example for this, many writers I speak with self-sabotage. Here is a list of what their self-sabotage looks like:
All of you are way ahead of the curve, just by being at blogs like WITS. You are for sure in the learning mindset already! And I promise I'm not picking on you with that bulleted list above - I do half these things as well.
Simon's hard-but-valuable advice: You can take all the credit in the world for things that you do right, as long as you also take responsibility for the things you do wrong.
Take care of each other. Writers overall are really good at this. We hang out with other writers, we talk about writing, we write. But what about making sure you reach out and ask, "what are you writing?" Or offering to do some chapter critiques?
Think of all the generous souls who helped baby-writer-you and pay those kindnesses forward. In the end, I promise you will get far more out of your volunteer time than you put in.
Simon's takeaway: If you wanna be a lead warrior (aka exemplary creative), you must be really really good at helping the person to the left of you, and to the right of you.
Be the last person who speaks. Simon shares a story about Nelson Mandela and his most important piece of leadership advice. Mandela's father was a tribal leader who let his son tag along. HIs father told him to "be the last person who speaks." Period.
Simon's point: To be a good leader, be the last person who speaks. It gives everyone the feeling, that they have been heard. And it gives you the benefit of hearing the others before you take action. Understand what they are saying.
(This bit is actually my favorite piece of advice.)
"As you gain position, people will treat you better. None of that is for you, it's for your position. It's for the level you have achieved as a leader. Be grateful for them, but remember. They are not for you..."
He explains what he means, but my favorite example of this comes from our own Laura Drake. She and I met in our local writing chapter and, as you might have guessed, we both jumped in to volunteer. One day, she was due to pick up a big-name author to drive her to the airport and was running around in a frenzy to get ready -- washing her car, changing her clothes multiple times, printing out a fresh copy of her manuscript.
When her husband asked her why she was fussing so much, she explained to him who she was driving. And he nodded and said, "That's nice. And just think, some day you'll be visiting a chapter to speak and some writer is going to be scrambling around getting ready to have Laura Drake in their car."
And he was right.
It's hard not to get used to the special treatment that comes your way. But with humility and gratitude usually comes happiness so just remember, "those perks aren't for you" and just be grateful in the moment for that perk.
Since 15 minutes is more than many of us have right now, I've included a summary I found of each lesson by time:
1. 0:40 - go after what you want
2. 4:50 - take responsibility for all your actions
3. 5:41 - take care of each other
4. 8:47 - listen first, speak last, don't agree or disagree but ask
5. 11:19 - everyone deserves a styrofoam cup
This item, from another Simon Sinek video that's under two minutes, particularly resonated for me for writers:
"Vision is the ability to see that which does not yet exist. As we slowly bring that vision to life, more people will start to recognize the work we're doing and join our crusade. But, like an iceberg, there will always been much more waiting underneath the surface."
Many of us work for years on our books. We might have two books or ten or twenty out in the world before we see any kind of momentum at all. The first time I heard Robyn Carr speak, she shared that she was a thirty year "overnight success."
That's a lot of patience and perseverance to nurture your talent and your stories for so long without accolades. That's a long time to spend waiting for others to share your vision. I hope you are able to embrace the joy of your process and believe in your vision, even as you wait for the world to catch up.
I see the writing life as a conundrum - one that nearly every creative person struggles with: Your masterpieces exist to give you the joy of creation and the peace of mind of their completion. Us creators, on the other hand, want the joy of sharing those creations with others and watching them enjoy it.
Writers in the Storm is here to support you as you navigate your creative journey, conundrums and all.
What "life rules" have you found you apply the most often to your writing life? Which of Simon's rules resonates with you? Do you have other video motivations we should watch? Please share them down in the comments!
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By day, Jenny provides corporate communications and LinkedIn advice for professional services firms. By night she writes humor, memoir, women’s fiction, and short stories. After 20 years as a corporate trainer, she’s delighted to sit down while she works.
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