This post is not a Plate of Cupcake Lessons. It’s a Bowl of Spinach and Kale Lessons. These lessons/habits are probably going to feel very un-fun for a while, but they’re essential for any kind of success. So many want to make success more palatable with sugar-coating and sprinkles. We live in a world of “effort-free, guilt-free, payment-plan options that require no work or pain on our part.”
And like P.T. Barnum once said, There’s a sucker born every minute.
First, we need to define a few key ideas before we dig in.
What is Our Definition of Success?
Before we can apply any “lessons” we have to accept a castor oil spoon of TRUTH. If we don’t make our own decision, we’ve still made a decision by abdicating making our own decision. If we don’t define success or happiness or what’s important, we leave a vacuum that other people and things will fill and they’ll be happy to define what our success should be.
A common result of abdication is we end up “living by default” which generates stress because it’s coming from a place of perceived powerlessness.
“Success” is all around us. We see it in magazines, television, on-line. We have more choices than any other time in human history (*cough* publishing). One of the reasons I hate going to Central Market is I can’t just buy SALT. There’s Himalayan Pink Salt, and Grey Celtic Salt, and Hawaiian Black Volcanic Salt, and White Truffle Oil Salt and…*head explodes*. While it IS a blessing to have a lot of choices (especially if one has as many food allergies as I do), all these options can put our brains in a knot.
On top of the plethora of choices, there’s another factor many of us might not appreciate. Due to the interconnectedness of our world, there is far more peer opinion about our choices. Peer pressure is at an all-time high.
The same factor that can be a positive force for selling books can be the same force that keeps us from finishing them, too 😉 .
Back to success. What does it mean to YOU? What does it look like? In fact, in my book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World, I spend an entire section having readers succinctly define what their success would be. Your vision of success is as unique as you are. Being specific in our goals is what’s going to make building a brand simple.
Remember Our Definition of Success Can Be Malleable and SHOULD Be
Life situations change. We go through seasons of growing and seasons of drought and seasons where it seems that life is trying to KILL US.
Before I was a wife and mom, being a NYTBSA was the epitome of success. That goal stayed paramount for a long time. Then Hubby had orders to deploy to Afghanistan and we would be without his income. Starting a small business took priority over being a NYTBSA. But, The Spawn was in nursery school six hours a day so this was doable.
Now that I’m homeschooling? I have to revisit “success” yet again. For me, there is NO SUCCESS that can take precedent over my mental, physical and emotional health. PEACE, for me, is paramount. If I cannot have peace, then everything will fall.
I’ve lost sight of this in the last 18 months, largely because of a lack of rest which will scramble discernment. When we aren’t rested, we’re reactionary. I’ve been trying to do what I did back before other responsibilities were on my plate. This is akin to trying to weed 1000 acres of an industrial farm using a garden hoe because, “Well, it worked fine in my backyard’s tomato garden.”
This is why it is so vital for all of us to clearly define success. Then we can more easily define priorities, which makes it simpler to discern when to say yes and when to say no. Also revisit those goals. They will evolve. And when life stacks more on top of us, we can give ourselves more grace because we’re viewing life from the appropriate lens.
I’m not a failure because I’m no longer writing 4000 words every day. Life is different. I’m no longer single and writing full-time. I’m a Mom with a high-energy child and a small business. And maybe I can still get in 1000-2000 words a day, but where am I willing to sacrifice?
Ah, sacrifice, that dirty word. Yep, despite what Madison Avenue says, we cannot have it all.
I have a nice home, but many of the rooms still need to be painted and bear murals done by Baby Spawn. My furniture is old and my clothes are tattered and mostly from Walmart. I cook almost all our meals and “eating out” is usually a trip to In-N-Out Burger or maybe a pizza. It’s hard sometimes when I go to church in pregnancy pants under a nice top, when I’m surrounded by so many women who look like they fell out of a North Dallas boutique.
But, we have very little debt. Very little (and I am working on NO debt). We work hard to pay cash for everything or simply learn to do without. The only extra expenses we’ve been willing to take on cost far less than Spawn’s Pre-K tuition and they are only activities that will strengthen us as a family. Martial arts and the gym.
We have a neighborhood directly behind us. HUGE, GORGEOUS homes with unbelievable landscaping and back yards straight out of magazines. Deliveries from high-end furniture stores are the norm. It’s easy to feel the niggle of jealousy, but I have to remember…
Funny thing is that often Pippa will wake me at three in the morning because she has to go outside to go pee. There are at least four homes behind us where it is extremely common to hear knock-down-drag-out fights until the wee hours of the morning, which saddens me greatly.
I have no idea what the fighting is all about, but I find it tragic that these families aren’t even enjoying a home most of us would love to have.
There Will Be Trade-Offs and Pain
One lesson I’m learning is to “count the cost.” Yes, I can press on and become the biggest NYTBSA EVER, but if I do this at the expense of my relationships, health and peace? Is it worth it? To me? No. My child living in a peaceful home with love and play and joy is a bigger priority. To warn you, this is NOT easy. I love to write. I could stay at a computer for hours, but now I have to work on being more fruitful with less time.
This morning, I told Spawn to let me get my work finished by X time and then I would take him to the pool. I hold to my word even when it hurts. But the pain of not finishing a chapter is less than the pain of Spawn being neglected.
There Will Be Push-Back
Boundaries are really tough these days. We’ve been trained to be people-pleasers. Standing up for ourselves is “being mean.” I’ve learned the hard way to just put down boundaries early. There is no winning with toxic people, so save the energy.
Cases in Point…
I remember being in a writing group many years ago and no one was attending. I believed that by being president I could change things and make the group stronger. It was a nightmare. I had entire folders of hate mail. Never once in e-mail or person did I respond emotionally or even hatefully to the constant attacks. I simply set boundaries. I had people in meetings scream some of the most cruel and vicious things about me and to me, and I never responded in kind. I think once I cried and left the room (and resigned soon after).
But, when I no longer wanted to be president because the constant mental abuse was too much? I was “mean” for quitting. When I didn’t want to keep driving 90 minutes both ways every single Saturday for 95% of the group to no-show? I was mean.
I had the same thing happen in a community service group where (again) I was made president. *rolls eyes* Yay.
Though our membership had dropped so low we almost lost our charter, I received nothing but venomous e-mails calling me everything but Kristen. Often they attacked me in person and in front of guests and speakers. And while it seems I was a glutton for punishment (and perhaps I was), I’m grateful for those experiences.
These tough times honed my ability to remain professional when I was crumbling inside. To maintain peace. To stick to something even when it was extremely uncomfortable until my term was up.
As the saying goes, A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.
Anyone can quit when things aren’t fun. Pros keep their word. If I signed up for a year, then a year was how long I would remain. On the other side of that coin? If things don’t change, let go. If the horse is dead? Dismount.
Most importantly, these experiences helped me hone discernment. Just because someone asks us to be in charge, doesn’t mean we should say “yes.”
Most People Want it ALL and DO NOT WANT Change or Sacrifice
If we accept this reality, relationships and boundaries become simpler. Reality dictates we can’t have or do everything, but plenty of people will be there to tell us we can.
When it came to the civic group, our membership numbers had dropped off a cliff because we’d been meeting in a hospital conference room for roughly ten years. Originally, the room was easy to access until a major hospital remodel.
Then guests needed a team of sherpas and a GPS to find the room. Membership plummeted from about 45 to around 12. If I suggested moving? I was a jerk. If I made ways we could stay? I was a jerk.
If I said no to 20 different projects we’d once done and tried to pare it down to 5? I was a jerk and a dictator. No one wanted to give up doing what had once been done with 45 members and accept we only had 12. We could do A LOT of things poorly or a few things well. Again, I spent another year filling my folder with hate mail and eventually left an organization I once loved dearly….and was a jerk for leaving.
Why was I a “jerk” in these groups? No one wanted boundaries. They didn’t want trade-offs.
They couldn’t understand that if they wanted the writing group to continue, we needed people to attend. If they wanted this civic organization to regain members, we had to move.
Toxic People Use Guilt
When we decide to become writers, we must 1) define success 2) set priorities, then 3) enforce boundaries. All three of these work together. If one falls the others do too. While most humans shy away from change and sacrifice, toxic people do this to extremes. This said, when you decide to make writing your main work priority, you will get grief when you set a boundary. Stand your ground and feel good about your choice. You aren’t being mean, you are being a professional.
If your critics eventually understand and respect your decision, they’re worth having in your sphere. If they’re bitter and hateful and still resent you five years later? Dead weight. Be happy that setting that boundary early culled them out before they could do more damage.
You matter. Your dreams matter. Your peace matters.
And notice I used the word simple through this post, not easy. Simple is NOT easy. It can, however, become easier with practice.
What are your thoughts?
Do you find yourself chasing your own butt only to realize you haven’t rested? That maybe you need to take some time to redefine priorities? Are you struggling with learning to set boundaries? Are you learning to say “NO”? Are you struggling with feeling guilty that you can’t be and do everything? Have you been through some tough and toxic times where you learned to let go sooner?
Is it tough to not be jealous when you see others who look like they have it all?
I LOVE hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of AUGUST, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
Will announce July’s winner later this week.
For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE here’s my newest social media book, Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World is NOW AVAILABLE. Only $6.99.
I have a new class series GOING PRO—Craft, Business and Brand. Take one or all three for a discount. Also use WANA15 for $15 off. Each class discusses the CORE ESSENTIALS. What is the essence of great writing? What is the heart of a brand/social media? What are the basics of publishing when so many options are available?
The beginning of your post scared me so I grabbed a gluten free chocolate cupcake and ate it as I read the rest LOL.
I have a crazy job (golden handcuffs so I’m trapped right now) a family a very little free time, which I guard viciously. But I know if I want to make my dream of being able to support my family from my writing come true, I have to take care of myself and do a little bit every day.
I will also take this as a warning to NEVER become president of anything!
Reblogged this on Reading, Drinking and Dancing with a Chaser of Snark and commented:
Great post today from Kristen about sacrifices, choices and compromises we make on the road to defining success.
Before Iron can become steel it must be heated in the fired then beaten into submission then shocked by the cold. Surviving that makes steel. Woman, you’ve got good steel in you. Keep on trucking. 🙂
I just wanted to leave a note saying how grateful I’ve been for your posts lately, Kristen. They’ve been so inspirational. Even better? They’re practical. (I also love the quotes you picked for this blog. I’m a sucker for a good quote.)
I feel crazy guilty when I can’t do everything, especially now after losing so much. I feel like I’m the one my family is looking to to keep us a float, and I am, now that I’m the head of the house, but it’s damn nervewracking! Grrrr…sometimes I want to scream. Sometimes I DO scream and it feels good 🙂
What I have to remember, however, is to also take care of me. And my priorities are as important as my two grown kids. I need to finish books and keep writing and most important, I need to clearly define what success means to me.
Hugs to you Kristen and thank you,
Wow! What a great post! I’ve been fortunate to have (so far) only nice people in my writing group. It’s been over a year, so I’m optimistic. 🙂 Your strength and professionalism amazes me!
Love what you said about deciding what success means to us. That’s so important. We’re all different so our success won’t mean the same.
Thanks, Kristen. Good words make good thoughts.
Right now, trying to get my 18 YO to get his driver’s license so he can drive himself to TCC — SO Frustrating (he is that not doing, non-motivated thing you mentioned 🙁 it’s very sad and makes me crazy and tired). I need to read this a couple times and then come back and read it again and he should probably read it too 🙁
You made me spit out my jelly doughnut, Kristen!
Just kidding. Living well means combining things in the best way.
My new favorite salad is blueberry kale with balsamic vinaigrette. Good, and good for you. This is how life should be. 😉
Loved your post today. You are such a good writer and so practical about the important things in life. I’m sorry you’ve had so many hard things happen to you. Thanks for writing about them to help others grow. You had lots of quotable
sentences. Everything you said was true. God bless you some more!
Thank you for another “priority” reminder post, Kristen. I’m my own worst enemy, but darn, after reading about some of the folks you’ve had to deal with, I kinda like me:)hehehe
I love what you said about putting your peace and health fist. Over the past year, I’ve learned to say no. I say it nicely, but firmly. No. Just that word alone has brought me a great deal of peace. Priorities will always shift, especially when you have kids. Homeschooling your son and giving him a joyful childhood is definitely worth the other sacrifices you’re making. Wonderful post.
It is hard to be a leader and I’ve experienced this both with a church and within my own business. With the church at a certain point I realized change was not possible. And it is hard to see the same mistakes repeated.
For me it is about investment level, my own business, yes we’ve lost and gained over the years but it ultimately is our vision and people are free to come and go. Getting vitriol for what you believe to be the right decision is soul-searing, but as you state, you come out the other side with asbestos skin and a clearer vision.
I LOVED this post! You are spot on about keeping priorities and how important they are to genuine happiness, and, for me, this also means wonderful moments at the computer, including time limits. Thank you for posting this. I am re-blogging, because there are so many people who need to read this. Again, LOVE the post. Keep writing! Keep living! Keep being you!
Reblogged this on Kentucky Mountain Girl News and commented:
KMGN: Just read.
Reblogged this on The Night Owl's Guide to Reading and commented:
Found this Kristen Lamb blog entry today, and it is in the same vein as my earlier post… if you’re not following her already, I recommend doing so.
I only began blogging for fun (and because multiple facebook tests said I should be a writer, haha) and I’ve recently become an Independent Sales Consultant for a children’s book company that I love. This post was exactly what I needed to read today. I have a really hard time coming to terms with the fact I can’t afford to dress like the other women I see, even when I haunt their garage sales with zeal. I don’t have enough time to keep my house clean and home school and work retail 35 hours a week and cook for an elderly lady 3-4 hours a week and sell books and make sure my little family of 4 eats a healthy meal at least once a day and take care of my 34 chickens, 6 horses, 2 cats and single dog. I did manage to get rid of the turtle pet. I must sit down and decide how to phase out some of the madness, that was my summer goal and here it is August 4th and I’m farther away then I was June 1st……….
‘than I was June first…” I can’t even type.
It’s been one of the days where my life has a big boulder in the way to where I’m trying to go. I had to stop and I’m trying to reassess what to do. It’s my big dream and things feel like the bottom dropped out. I’m trying to take your wise words and hold onto them but I’m having a very hard time with that. But, it has been a Monday…
I sometimes wish that I only had to make my choices about what to get involved with or not. Maybe I’m too old and already learned the ‘no’ thing. My problem is finding out where the heck I am in the world. I don’t care about clothes, I’m not a fussy eater, and I’ve never sought to be popular. My problem is that I don’t understand things any longer. I don’t get television at all, it seems about as mindless as staring at water flowing down a drain. People complain about kids and bullying and yet they think nothing of books, movies, and television bombarding them with violence and meanness disguised as comedy. They find it more important to answer a text message than to pay attention to the person who is sitting across from them at the dinner table. We rail against cigarette smokers and cheer the legalization of pot smoking. The more we claim to be open, whether gay marriage or abortion or some latest cause, the more mean we become in attacking anyone who doesn’t agree. Our priorities center on cell phones and social networks, while the elderly neighbor sits alone every night.
Its hard to find a place as a writer when one cannot find their place in the world.
But these are why we MUST write…to put these into narrative and drive the change. And I SO agree with you.
I’m so glad you understand, maybe the next blog is how to make writing from a different standpoint something others want to read. I’m rather confused most the time.
Really needed to hear this today. I was out for a walk recently, ruminating on some of the choices I’ve made, and found a disturbing little pattern: More times than I care to admit, I’ve gone down with the ship. “If only I work harder…” “If only I did this or that or found a new way to steer this giant ship around the iceberg…” Yeah. This has not been a fun week for me. Lots of kale. I’d like to spend some time thinking about how I can PLAN to do this better. Thank you.
Thanks much. You’re a tough girl. I want you to know it’s been a while since i last blogged. And you’ve inspired me to go back.
You nailed it, Kristen, and you used a railroad spike to do it. For years I wouldn’t make the changes in my life needed to follow my dreams and wouldn’t jettison the toxic people who helped hold me back. I was everything I despised. And then I became sick, sick as in nearly died and sick as in to an extent I know you can identify with. After the illness, and after I’d lost a third of my lung capacity forever along with a good chunk of my immune system, I was placed on partial disability by the State of Wyoming. When I’d shed my bitterness and resentment and realized there was a better way to live I saw the opportunity I’d been given: the partial disability and state retirement provided much (not nearly all) of the money I needed to support myself.
I saw my opportunity to write and publish.
I set to work recovering as much of my health as was possible. I managed to become a CNA so as to have part-time income. I seized the opportunity to house-sit for 18 months while I saved money. I started weeding out the toxic people.
Even with limiting my hours (partly because of disability restrictions) I suffered a severe relapse. My body simply wasn’t up to a workplace environment. Even so, I had a long-term plan and was determined. I trimmed my hours a bit more and worked while pulling an oxygen tank behind me and suffering side effects from Prednisone. I was able to again shed the oxygen, but this time just in time to pack up and move in a snowstorm to a location at a lower altitude where I could pursue my writing career. I also sold most of my furniture and moved into a tiny apartment to aid long-term affordability.
My goal is to make enough from self-publishing to support myself and end the disability income. That’s a far cry from back in 2010 when the doctors told me to go on Social Security because I was going to spend the rest of my life on drugs and oxygen. My health remains fragile and my lungs vulnerable, but I’m faithful to my walking and yoga while I continue working on the dream I stole from misfortune.
I’m thankful beyond words for this second chance at life and a dream. I’m thankful, too, for all the positive and wonderful people who’ve entered my life over the last couple of years. You and many other WANAs are some of those added who’ve made a huge impact on my life and career. Thank you.
Since I’ve published my book, I have stood alone. Before the book, I gave 100% of my time to my family. I gave up my career in Finance. I stayed home and helped with homework and papers. I was always available for advice and talks. Then one daughter got married and the second was in college. I decided to do something for myself–something with all the creative juices that have been stirring around in my body for years. I wrote my first book. It took 6 years but it was my creation, my labor of love. Do you think that my family read this work of art? No. Are they happy that I spend hours a day blogging and promoting my book? No. But this is for me. No one can stop me now.
I have to keep reminding myself that I can’t do it all, and I don’t have to feel guilty for not doing it all, as long as I keep my priorities straight. My problem is with keeping consistent boundaries – it’s not others barging over them, it’s me. Gotta stop doing that! This is serious! Because tomorrow won’t do. Life is made up of todays, not tomorrows.
First time commenting on a post here. Been reading your posts for a while. So inspiring and simple to apply to writing/the writing life!
This post really spoke to me. Having recently set boundaries in various toxic relationships after years of being a pushover, things have changed a LOT and–in hindsight–for the better. Writing has become a productive act rather then a chore and life is much…simpler. Not easier, but simpler. I feel much healthier and more…myself, and have gained a fresh perspective on who I am.
Looking forward to another post. 🙂
‘A common result of abdication is we end up “living by default” which generates stress because it’s coming from a place of perceived powerlessness.’
Wow this is so spot on. I spend hours and hours doing things which don’t bring me money but are nevertheless hard work, but regret every extra five minutes I spend being my boss’s slave…because it’s not my choice.
(Though I guess I could refuse, but then I’d get fired, and that’s not a choice I want to make.)
This is one I have to print out, Kristen. Thank you for reminding us of priorities. With so many distractions, we can never get enough of this.
Another great post, Kristen! It’s easy to get down on yourself when your measure of success is being defined by others. When you hear about writers selling orders of magnitudes more than you do, it inevitably makes you doubt yourself and whether to continue. I have to keep reminding myself why I’m doing this and what my own goals are. And like you said, your goals and priorities change. Nothing changed more than when I became a father. My kids are my #1 priority, and they helped me see how unimportant some of the other things I used to strive for can be.
Keep up the great work! I love reading your posts. They’re informational and inspirational, but they’re also fun to read. 🙂
Wow, you put into words what I’ve been going through for the past few years. When I started setting more boundaries and not be a people pleaser as much, the reactions I got were mixed. My true friends and non-toxic people really respected my decisions, but I was surprised by others who didn’t. It’s still a battle sometimes for me, but I’ve gotten a lot better with saying “no” and keeping my calm around toxic people. Thanks so much for writing this! 🙂
This was brilliant! I’ve been looking for a post like this, and I’m glad I found this. Your story of pushing through the tough times is truly inspiring, and also how you can still find time to write even with your busy schedule makes me realize that I have no excuse not to work on my novel every day! Thank you!
This is flat-out the hardest part for me — paring down my obligations and making sacrifices. I talk about priorities all the time, but actually sticking to them is another thing altogether. I have learned to say no, but I probably should say no to more.
Thanks for the reminder! I hope you can find the right balance for you and your family.
It is so hard to say “no.” To remind myself to do it, I’ve got favorite quote from Carl Sandberg on my desk: “Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.”
Awesome quote! STEALING!
There’s a lot of simple truth in your post, Kristen. (Some is more complicated truth)… but I think I got the essentials.
Do I live someone else’s dreams? No… I work hard for what I do, what I want to do and what I had planned on doing. I know I’m getting there! The job is just to feed me and the kiddies. I like my job – but I won’t get really old there… I will be a fulltime writer – one day.
Sometimes I think, it’s hard to do, REALLY hard – but unfortunately I’m too stubborn to give up…
But then, sometimes I HATE watching some people who seem to have whatever they want, by the snap of a finger and have never really worked for it…
I think I need to give my positive thinking a REALLY hard push…
Wonderful post, Kristen. Writers worry about “success” because we let others define what our success should look like. Many of us are already successful: we’re writing and living the life we want.
My own definition of success has changed over the past few months. Achieving this new version of success isn’t possible without setting a few boundaries, and that’s hard. There’s been a lot of push-back, and some of it surprised and disturbed me. However, it’s necessary.
Thank you for the insights. Your article struck home with me. It’s helped me to realize that I’m on the right track. 🙂
Great post! I’ve been trying to reprioritize, because it just seems like my life is full with a bunch of “good” things, but I’m still neglecting other things I want to be doing (time with family, writing, etc.) I still feel like I’m doing too much and trying to figure out what to cut – where I’m most needed, where I’m supposed to be, and all that. Anyhow, all that to say, this post encouraged me, so thank you.
This is a great post for me to be reading today! And I’m writing down that smooth sea quote for future reference.
First off, ADORABLE BABY!!! Love those chubby cheeks! 😀
I love this post and yet, I don’t. It calls attention to my own habits of procrastination or how I let life get in the way of what I wan to do. Life, and social media. We can’t continually let those hassles prevent us from doing what we want and then blame them; absolving ourselves from the responsibility we know is ours.
That said, I’m contemplating NOT plugging my internet in for a while after I move into my new place. Just writing. With my typewriter, I finished an entire screenplay that went about 300 pages. Except for some fan fiction, long term writing has been getting the short end of the stick. I blame no one but myself for giving in and so I have to make the necessary changes… or go through life, without having attained my goals and try to satisfy my laziness by blaming life’s obligations and the creators of social media. At the end of the day, though, if I want to accomplish my goals it’s my job to get as many distractions out of the way as possible.
I remember those days. Not trying to influence your decision, but it is my birthday month. LoL!
Always heard that success is failure turned inside out. Not sure if
I believe that one. For me, success has not come easy. I have
found a passion that makes me happy. It’s writing. Like your thoughts.
My actual WordPress site is this address– http://www.frankclarkshotstories.com
This is my current WordPress Blog address. The other was misspelled.
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Oh, yes, yes, yes to this. We all have a different version of success, and the sooner we define that for ourselves the better. Thanks for an amazing post.