Academy for Wayward Authors: Rethinking Success Narratives in the Publishing Industry

What does success mean to you?

Imagine you and I were sitting across from each other, and I said, “Tell me your dreams.”

What would you say?

Voice it out loud, or at least think through your answer.

I bet it wouldn’t be what you dreamed of last night.

You would tell me your financial and consumer desires.

The things which you think will bring you joy.

You may not even remember what you dreamed of last night.

In our culture, we assume that question is about the desired outcome of your life.

If we unpack these desired outcomes, how many of them are yours?

Do you want to write full-time?

Why do you want to make a million dollars?

There is an echo chamber of desired outcomes that has far more to do with being part of the group or earning status than with your actual, personal dreams.

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It has been my experience working with my clients that many “successful” authors who have blasted through the community-accepted goals of writing full-time, making six figures, and even the rare seven-figure goal have never stopped to process what they want.

Last week, I laid out a decision-making process tool, another iteration of the tools we covered in season one.

The idea is to quantify the outcome and evaluate the risk-reward trade-off. That is a simple tool you can use in any business to be more successful.

There is no end to those saying, “If I can do it, you can do it too.”

They may believe that statement, but do they even know the cause of their success? Or the more profound question: are they doing what they want?

Then there are the shovel-wielding salespeople who claim that the hills beyond are filled with gold and anyone can become a millionaire gold miner!

No one tells you that most miners don’t find gold and that the “special” shovel they’re selling has no added benefits over ordinary ones.

The community mythology is that it’s easy, and you must be doing something wrong if you aren’t selling millions in books in weeks.

Now may be the easiest time for an individual to find an audience and make money in the creator economy. However, the economy is still a power law curve market that delivers uncertain outcomes and unequal results.

Luck and probability management have far more to do with success than people give them credit, yet few take the time to talk about or teach that subject. I’ve already given you some tools and will provide more in future articles.

We will design a business system that improves probability outcomes and compounds cumulative advantage. Before we go off and design it, I recognize we need to investigate your internal programming to ensure we align you and the business system.

You are the heart and soul of this writing business. The entire system will always be miscalibrated if you have internal or business design conflicts.

I recently had a call with an author who is successful and thrilled with her day job. She had just returned from a writers conference and was bombarded with the idea of writing full-time as the goal.

I counseled her to honor where she wanted her writing to go. Her only obligation was to tell her readers what to expect for book releases and to honor that commitment.

She was astute enough to follow her internal navigation.

Ask, “Why?”

“But, Joe, who am I to question the wisdom of the community?”

You’re the CEO of your business and the only one responsible for your life. That’s who!

How can you design the perfect business unless you know whom it will serve as its primary investor?

How can you expect a business to hit its goal if its workforce doesn’t believe in the direction?

Therefore, we are understanding what motivates you, what you think, and what you desire.

John Truby talks about the story mechanism of the difference between what the protagonist desires and what they need. These two things are, in many cases, not the same and lead to an unfulfilled life.

For my process to be successful and deliver above-average results, you and your business have to be aligned.

On a recent Dean Jackson podcast, they talked about why you don’t do something good for yourself, meaning why you don’t always act in your best interests.

It resonated because of my research.

The reason is usually one of the three L’s…

Logic, logistics, or your limbic system

Logic tells you if something is not a good idea or if the logistics need to be in place to make it possible to do the beneficial thing. Maybe the timing is wrong, or you don’t have the money. That’s logistics.

More often than not, the logic and the logistics are in place, but the limbic system gets in the way.

That pesky default network triggers, and we do the wrong thing or nothing at all.

Research shows the limbic system has already begun processing 400 milliseconds before you consciously process the information, just like the bug that flies into your eye. Your eye closes before you consciously process what just happened.

I hope you see that a buggy default mode network creates many obstacles you face. It thinks it’s doing you a favor by keeping you safe, comfortable, and away from risk.

It can’t separate the risk of capital on a new business from the risk of being eaten by a lion.

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Think about this example. You have two large glasses in front of you. One is filled with windshield wiper fluid, and the other is Mountain Dew.

Someone addicted to Mountain Dew would have no problem logically thinking about not drinking the wiper fluid as poison, but they don’t see the soda as the same—a poison, just a slower-acting one. Perhaps they never act because the DMN is already triggering the chemicals to crave the poison.

I have spent the first part of this season focusing on breaking patterns that hinder your success.

Reprogramming your default mode network requires getting out of your own way.

You must take time to recalibrate your internal navigation and evaluate where you look to navigate.

You will need to reframe what you can and must do. It will be easier to adopt the new skills you will be exposed to in these articles when you see that they are the path toward your goals.

Others will say, “I’m not good with numbers,” or “All of this stuff confuses me, so I’ll just ignore it.”

Embrace these skills and become competent in their use. Over time, they will become some of your most trusted tools, just like your ability now to defuse your default mode network and keep it from foiling your success.

What we are working on directly impacts the first three activators of cumulative advantage: commitment, awareness, and intention. If your default mode network has different goals for you, you’ll lose out.

If what is important to you doesn’t align with your business goals, then your goals will not be your priority. 

Rose-colored glasses or gloomy goggles?

Next week, I’ll provide some more tools for decision-making, but I’ll leave you with this to contemplate this week.

What emotional lens do you see through when facing a decision? Is it rose-colored glasses or goggles of doom and gloom?

Ask yourself what is making you feel that way.

Dig into your default mode network and understand the feeling. Ask “Why?”

Write the reason.

Are there any facts that support the feeling, or is this your DMN in defense or craving mode?

Next, be aware that the feelings are not you. They do not differ from any other autonomic response.

Answer the questions and peel back the layers of the onion. You’ll be surprised to see that, in most cases, your feelings have far more to do with your interpretations of reality than the facts themselves.

Next week, we will discuss how probability ranks higher in a decision process than how the facts make you feel.

Read: Developing a Reliable Decision-Making Process