Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Posts Tagged: life

 Okay, so I do still have a hard time referring to myself with the words, “expert” or “guru” without giggling. But, some really sweet people have labeled me as such, so we’re going to run with that today. Fridays are free-for-all, the day you will see me as a person. That counts as my disclaimer, by the way.

I love my book We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media, but I have to confess it was the toughest thing I ever wrote. Why? Because I really didn’t “feel” like an expert. In fact, most of the book represents an accumulation of my failures…ideas that seemed like a good idea, but in practice went BOOM! In fact, I have a deep and profound respect for Wile E. Coyote and if he ever wrote a leadership book, it might look a lot like mine.

But you know what? I used to think that my failures were a weakness. Now? I am not so sure. I don’t know if I trust the leaders who’ve had “charmed” lives. Do I really want to read a wilderness survival manual penned by the dude who did everything right? Or would I prefer to read one by the guy who tells me, “Yeah, those berries might seem like a nice snack, but let me tell you what those little suckers can do!” Do I want to read a book on conquering alcohol addiction written by the Harvard PhD who made straight As or by the guy who crawled out of the gutter, homeless and alone, and has since been sober for 20 years? Does a CEO count as a great leader? Maybe. But if you read the Drunkard’s Walk—How Randomness Rules Our Lives it can change the way you perceive great leaders. Was that CEO or military general that skilled, or did they just happen to be in the right place at the right time for the right confluence of events? Maybe. Maybe not. Makes you think, and put resume’s in perspective.

Failure is a great teacher. I used to think I was a great leader, but then I had a year that I was put to the test…I mean really put to the test. I was elected president of three different organizations and elected to the board of directors for a fourth organization. Yikes! Yeah, you guessed it. I went down in flames. But you know what? I am so grateful for that experience. It has given me some tremendous insights to pass on to others.

I have one of those extroversive, energetic personalities—kind of like Tigger if he drank a case of Red Bull. It doesn’t take long for someone to volunteer me for leadership roles. Why? I am charismatic.

Ahhhh, but herein lies the problem. Charisma and leadership ability are not the same thing (as I would find out during that year of hell). The truth is, had I been as great of a leader as I was in my own mind, I would have managed just fine. But I wasn’t, and I soon got into deep, deep trouble. Great leaders delegate. I learned that. I now delegate. Great leaders keep people accountable. Much better at that too. Great leaders make people feel valued by allowing them to contribute their talents. Much, much better at that. Great leaders are good listeners. Getting there. Great leaders know how to say “no.” Still working on that :D.

The interesting point of this is that, the year I was elected to all of those positions, I had a pretty outstanding resume. Heck, I even impressed myself. Yet, when the test of fire came, I crumbled. And don’t get me wrong, my critique group survived and Rotary is still there…but I was forever changed.

My brother is now president of my Rotary club and doing an amazing job. But the weird thing is that I give much better advice as a failure than I ever could have when I was a “success.” One of my favorite books of all time is called Failing Forward by John Maxwell. Our society places so much value on success, but what about failure? How many neuroses, addictions and devastated relationships are created by us buying into the lie that we must be perfect? We walk around with armor afraid to be human and, to me that is sad.

Perfection is the measure of gods and angels, but humans I believe are better measured by their failures. How did they take them? What did they do with them? How did they use that failure to change their lives and better the lives of others?

My favorite poem when I was a kid, was How did You Die? By Edmund Vance Cook

Did you tackle that trouble that came your way

With a resolute heart and cheerful?

Or hide your face from the light of day

With a craven soul and fearful?

 

Oh, a trouble’s a ton, or a trouble’s an ounce,

Or a trouble is what you make it.

And it isn’t the fact that you’re hurt that counts,

But only how did you take it?

 

You are beaten to earth? Well, well, what’s that?

Come up with a smiling face.

It’s nothing against you to fall down flat,

But to lie there — that’s disgrace.

 

The harder you’re thrown, why the higher you bounce;

Be proud of your blackened eye!

It isn’t the fact that you’re licked that counts;

It’s how did you fight and why?

 

And though you be done to death, what then?

If you battled the best you could;

If you played your part in the world of men,

Why, the Critic will call it good.

 

Death comes with a crawl, or comes with a pounce,

And whether he’s slow or spry,

It isn’t the fact that you’re dead that counts,

But only, how did you die?

So, at the end of the day, I smile when great people like Tawna Fenske call me a guru. It feels wonderful to get letters and e-mails from people my book has helped. And I have to be careful when awesome people like talented Jody Hedlund or brilliant Candace Havens call me an expert because I could get a terrible cramp patting myself on the back. Yet, unlike ol’ Wile E. Coyote, I think I am more wary of packages marked ACME, or in my case EGO.

I like to believe that I am good at what I do, and I sure appreciate all of you who stop by to read these blogs. But I know that the best of what I have to offer all of you, whether it is about writing or social media or leadership or life in general very often came from failure. I like to believe that I am quicker to learn from error than Wile E., but we are kindred spirits in that we don’t look back at what blew up in our face—we dust off and try again and again and again undaunted.

It takes no great effort or test of character for us to criticize others. But to take an honest look inside, acknowledge our shortcomings and then be humble enough to learn and change? Why THAT is progress :D. Thus, if this “guru” has anything to offer it is that failure hurts. No one likes to brag about where she fell short. Nobody likes to list on the resume all their misjudgments, missteps, or mishaps. Yet, these “failures” are our greatest teachers and some of our most precious possessions. At the end of the day, failure is what we make it. Is it a headstone or a stepping stone? The choice is ours.

Happy writing!

Until next time…

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One more mark of a great leader? Be an edifier! Acknowledge those who have contributed. So here is the mash-up!

Everett Marroon wrote a great blog about why writers need community. Darn skippy! We are already weird to start with. Too much alone time is bad juju.

Author Jennifer Holbrook has an interesting perspective on the topic of critique groups. What’s the best kind?

I follow Writer’s Digest Editor Jane Friedman, namely because she makes a mash-up simple by offering great material. She has an interesting blog that offers tips for writing about your life.

Publisher’s Weekly had an interesting blog about e-books. 35 million downloaded so far. Wow!

This blog I found when searching for a guru pic. It was so funny I had to include it in the mash-up. 5 Internet Marketing Buzz Words That Are Annoying as Hell. Yes, “guru” was among them. Shocking!

Have a great weekend. See y’all on Monday.

This morning I was doing my early morning walk through the neighborhood, pondering the universe, when I had a profound thought. My life is like my kitchen junk drawer. Stop laughing. It’s true. Sometimes, when I put in a lot of extra effort, it is neat and clean and streamlined…and then the Law of Entropy somehow takes over. It is a never-ending battle against my own selfish will to goof off. And yet, I have to admit, my junk drawer is usually one of the most interesting locations in my house.

The junk drawer is always full of things we don’t want to face—an unpaid bill, a child’s bad report card, a letter from some crazy family member we can’t throw away but try to ignore. Something sticky that we just can’t bear cleaning. Do it later. Full of unfinished business. Write that “thank you” note later. Pay that bill later.

My life is also full of these things I don’t want to face—my laziness, my tendency to procrastinate, my harshness with myself and others. Stickiness that I just can’t face cleaning. Will get organized…later.

Junk drawers are also filled with things of questionable value; an extra screw that we just can’t figure out where it goes, a single AA battery that we are too cheap to throw away, but too lazy to put with the other batteries (wherever they are). Oh, and a tiny calendar from a real estate agent that we will never use, but don’t have the guts to toss. Markers that work when you lick the tip and pens with schmutz clogging the end…but if you scribble real hard they still work. Packets of ketchup when there is a full bottle in the fridge. Packets of salt and pepper and sporks from fast food joints.

My mind, too, holds on to things of questionable value. I have all kinds of experiences and bits of knowledge that puzzle even me. I am flypaper for useless trivia, like the end of a shoelace is called an aglet and the element helium was discovered in the late 1800s when scientists were studying the sun, and it is named after the Greek Sun god, Helios. I don’t know why I know these things, but I do. I don’t know why I can’t find my car keys, but I can remember that Washington Carver invented peanut butter and that the first thing I ever took to Show and Tell in Kindergarten was Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker (yeah, I am a nerd from way back).

Ah, but then there are the hidden treasures of the junk drawer; the sweet card from a husband for no reason at all, a photo that missed the baby book, a $20 bill we forgot we had, a rebate check we forgot to cash, ticket stubs from a memorable concert, or even wheat pennies and Canadian pennies that we have sorted from the real pennies since we were children.

Which brings me to my point…

Our lives are all like junk drawers; full of the messy, the missing, the mystifying and the magical. Sometimes I think that is why I became a writer, to “sort out” the junk drawer of my soul. So often my stories feature characters so similarly flawed as me. And, as I help them learn and grow…strangely, so do I. With writing, I can find use for random childhood memories, like the smell of Breck shampoo or the taste of coconut sno-cones. Through stories, I can give them new life in new context so that they can live forever…or at least longer. Through fiction, I can tend unfinished business, like a broken heart that never mended or a dream I was too scared to pursue.

With fiction…it all oddly makes sense.

And I will continue filling the drawer with experiences and information and ideas and dreams and heartbreaks and disappointments and tragedies. Then I will sit down and sort and take what will work and then I will toss the remains back in and label them “Miscellaneous” until I find them a home.

What do you do with random memories and experiences? How do you use them? Keep track of them? Leave a comment and share. We’d like to know.

Happy writing!

Until next time…

Weekly blog posts I recommend:

Publishing is changing faster than ever. It’s our job as writers to keep up. I recommend, Agent’s Corner–What We’ve Gained and What We’ve Lost and

Where will Bookstores be 5 Years from Now? Some great thoughts on pitching an agent by Bob Mayer.

For those with a small press, indie press, self-pubbed, etc, this should be os particular interest, Smashwords founder Mark Coker talks to Wetmachine about the future of publishing.

My favorite professional blog of the week is by agent, Rachelle Gardner, Mythbusting.

And this little blog is a jewel…and I thought that before she posted a link to my blog. Tawna Fenske has a contagious humor that will leave you wishing her blogs were as long as mine :D. She is funny, insightful and this blog, Don’t Pet Me, I’m Writing is a rare treat guaranteed to brighten your day. If it doesn’t, then you really need to lighten up, so read it again. *hugs*

I also recommend Author Jody Hedlund’s blog. She is an amazing woman and writer and she is one of those people who just make you feel better for knowing her. She is actually my inspiration for blogging three times a week. Jody is a testament to those who balance family, work, life and yet still make it a point to give back to others.

And if you are an author and you want to know how to start building a social media platform, I (of course) recommend my new book. We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media. This is the book for those who even feel intimidated by the Dummies books. A fun, practical approach to building a readership.