It’s not what life throws at you that matters. It’s what you do about it.
When bad or unexpected things happen to us, what’s most important is what we do about it. When I was 62 years old I got laid off from my job. Truth be told—I was fired. I had a good job at a top-rated, world-class training company.
One day I got a humorous email from someone I had worked with at another company. It was one of those silly emails that we all get sometimes, and possibly offensive to some people. Nevertheless I decided to forward to a few of my contacts. But, I inadvertently sent it to “all users,” meaning everyone in the company—which included the Founder and Chairman who was at that moment doing a presentation to a group of high level executives in our big conference room.
She was projecting PowerPoint images up on the huge screen behind her. Apparently she hadn’t shut off her Outlook, because a capsule version of my stupid email suddenly appeared in big bold letters up on the screen. It was entitled: “Fort Lauderdale Barbie Girls.” She was not amused by this surprise email.
Later, she found me in the cafeteria and publicly blasted me out. I didn’t blame her. I even felt better. I had paid the price for my stupidity. But there was more in store for me. The next day she invited me into the Human Resources office. She looked at me and said, “West—you’re fired!” I didn’t blame her. I would have fired me too. But it still hurt.
I went home and looked in the mirror. I saw a 62-year-old grey bearded man looking back. He was not pleased or amused with me either. I realized that it would be very difficult to find a new job when I couldn’t ask for a recommendation from this company. My age, I feared, would work against me too.
Some advantages still existed. I now had time to think and plan. I had a very supportive wife who also had a job. We had an emergency fund.
I started asking myself questions: What am I passionate about? What are my dreams for the future? Do I have a future? What’s my purpose in life? What are my goals? I realized that of all my dreams for the future what I wanted to do first was write and publish a book (and then, many more). I had previously written two books that sat in a drawer, un-publishable so far.
I decided to write a book about things I had learned in my 62 years on earth. In a few months the fruits of my labor resulted in a measly 97 pages. Also, when I read my manuscript, it sounded like I was preaching. Who would want to read it? I decided to send it off to an experienced editor to see if he could make some suggestions on how to improve it.
He gave me good advice which I followed when rewriting the book. I also got excellent feedback from people I respected. When I finished my rewrite, I let it sit for a day or two, then reread it. My verdict: Still too preachy! So I put it in a drawer with the other unpublished manuscripts.
Then I remembered something I had learned from the very person who had fired me. She once told me this about speaking to an audience: “Ken, it’s not about you. It’s about them.” A lightning bolt of understanding suddenly struck me. I needed to focus on my audience–my potential readers! It wasn’t about me; it was really about them and for them.
So I began re-writing. It now contained fifty-four questions for my readers to determine their passion, dreams for the future, purpose, goals, and daily tasks. It was organized into a seven-step system. In fact, it was the very process and questions I was utilizing myself to achieve what I wanted.
My next problem was that traditional publishing agents and acquisition editors want someone with “credentials” for writing such a book. I was not a psychologist, an “expert,” or celebrity. What I did have was my life experiences and knowledge. So I decided to self-publish.
I discovered many excellent books on how to go about this process. Then I formed my own publishing company, Better Grip Media LLC. What I learned throughout this whole process is that getting fired was the second best thing that ever happened to me. (The best thing was marrying my wife.) And most importantly it brought home the fact that it’s not about me the writer (unless, of course I am writing a memoir). It’s for and about you—my potential readers and audience.
It’s not what life throws at you that matters most. It’s what you do about it.
I invite you to check out my book — Get What You Want
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