I love talking to people on the way up. Striving for excellence, many authors manage to stay humble and helpful and fun to be around. Nobody knows everything yet and, contrary to what you’ve been told, not walking around in God’s presence is easy on the nerves. Then there are those who think they are gods on Earth.
1. My son was sick on the day a popular author came to his school. The kid was disappointed that he was too ill to attend so, while on a Kleenex box run, I went to the school in search of an autograph for him. The author’s mood could best be described as pissy. He’d visited too many elementary schools and he obviously felt the event was beneath him. He had forgotten what it was like to aspire to his position.
Suggestion: Remember when you imagined one of the perks of authorship was signing a book and inspiring a young reader? If you’re not happy to be where you are, do what everyone in retail does: fake it and smile or don’t do it.
2. When an author is on the way up, he or she hasn’t lost the common touch. The struggles they face are challenges everyone can relate to. When those problems change, some superstars feel they are beyond your questions and bored of the answers.
Suggestion: Condescension isn’t cool. Kindness is the heavyweight champ who beats the shit out of Condescension every time. If you can’t be nice, Shutting Up can win, too.
3. Some people make so many sales they assume everything they do is gold. (This malady often afflicts those who make too few sales, as well.) It may give solace to know that you don’t have to be a great writer to sell a lot of books. Some people are better marketers than they are writers. Depending on your sales dashboard, that fact may annoy you, too.
Suggestion: Don’t break your arm slapping yourself on the back. Not in public. That sort of self-congratulatory bravado is only for the people who love you. Maybe not even then.
4. I know of an author who got into a business relationship where he’s the senior partner. He’s very public about this mentoring relationship. He never lets anyone forget he’s The Man making the genius moves. The way he talks about his junior partner humiliates her. Someday soon the student will tire of being treated like a dumb child and she shall slay her master.
Suggestion: To the master? Continue being a self-aggrandizing dick. I don’t like you. To the underling? Use a sharp blade. When your moment comes, do not hesitate, young samurai. Soon you shall be ronin, free and making your own way.
5. “What if I were to try __________?” asked the young padawan.
“No,” the Jedi said. “That strategy is not for you. It is beyond you. I’m doing that this year, but don’t you try it.”
As the young padawan walked away, head down and embarrassed, he had to wonder if the Jedi was just trying to cut down on the competition.
Suggestion: Successful people inspire others. Discouraging others detracts from success. People remember how you made them feel. Keep reminding everyone how important you are and eventually there won’t be enough sycophants left to buy you that yacht you bragged about.
Many successful people manage to speak of their achievements with grace.
Look to those who credit luck as well as strategy. I really like people who talk with me. I avoid people who speak down to me. When I feel the need to punch, I always punch up, not down.
The good news is, though it sucks to be a failure, we can always choose to be good people. The bad news is that you may succeed and become a bad person. Beware.
And, please, aspire to inspire.