Perspective is one of those rearview mirror things. Sometimes, challenges can be so tough when we are in the middle of them that we have a hard time seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.
A year ago, I started a book. The plan was for it to be in the marketplace this week.
I am a bit behind.
The book, called Wisdom Warriors, is the gathering of stories of Leadership AND Life, and includes more than 75 personal experiences from successful leaders (mostly women) that need to be shared. I plunged into this idea of mine with the support and trust of these storytelling leaders lined up right behind me. I had never written a book before, but they didn’t seem to mind that. Collectively, we all wanted to get the stories to more people.
Wisdom Warriors is a compilation of stories of real, and sometimes vulnerable, leadership and life challenges. They are nuggets of experience which show the courage of these women who dared to try new things. They are relatable because they come from the heart. Getting underneath the lessons, working through the hard stuff, sharing vulnerabilities with each other – that’s where it really makes a difference. After years of interviewing top leaders and three years of hosting senior executives in The Signature Program and Signature Select (more than 400 graduates), the stories were there. The challenge was that I couldn’t include all of them in a 200-page book.
I had a lot more determination and drive than I did writing skills, but the biggest challenge was in having the confidence to get myself on paper. It was easy for me to take others’ stories and interviews and write those. It was terrifying when it came to sharing my own.
All of the self-limiting beliefs that I had lived throughout my life took turns gurgling up into my conscious thoughts as I poured through transcripts and put new words on a page. Writing was completely new territory for me, and I was terrified of failing. So I reached out for writing help and support from a professional editor and designer. We will call this Team #1. I had a clear vision in my head for what I wanted in the final book. I had put many words to paper, but every time I had to share what I wrote with my writer/editor, I felt unworthy to author a book. I even had a mock-up of the book to share with the contributors, who put their faith in me to deliver it, but my editor didn’t like being just an editor. She wanted to co-create; so in the end, she fired me. And I panicked.
In my panic, I hired another team. Team #2 charged me an arm and a leg to expedite the process, knowing I was panicked. In short order, the project was 6 more weeks behind schedule after only 2 weeks of “help.” It was a disaster.
And the self-limiting beliefs came roaring back. When we allow self-limiting beliefs to “rent space” in our head, it creates a conversation that can spiral us downward. I call that Power Suck. And there were many moments that Power Suck was my day’s headline.
When Power Suck happens to someone else, we recognize it quickly. We can coach them through that space where their Inner Critic takes over, helping them reframe those negative thoughts to gain confidence again. We feel good that we can get them over a hurdle. But when it happens to us, we get log-jammed.
Finally, I took a page from the very playbook I was writing and reached out to my inner circle of advisors for help. Those close allies knew me, knew how I processed my thinking, and could give me the dose of encouragement, or the kick in the seat, that I needed.
We cannot go it alone, but oftentimes, we want to muscle through.
Asking for help is sometimes the hardest thing to do.
By the time I got to Team #3, who would design the book and usher me through the publication process, I had written the entire book. At the onset, I was not sure I could write a book. Through the encouragement of my advisors, I was able to pause and be patient with a project that is way too important to compromise over. As it turns out, I would have to muscle through some rough spots, in addition to relying on my support structure. And in spite of the gut-wrenching bad decisions I made along the way, the writing part of the book was completed this week.
Through this process, I got a gift of renewed confidence. Sometimes, we must go through a lot of pain in order to grow in entirely new ways. But this is why we build our support structures; so we don’t have to go through the pain alone.
As the design begins to come together, and the process to get us through publication becomes clearer, I am very proud of the (almost) final product. Just as I had hoped. And I am very excited that soon, I can share it with you, too!