Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Success Story

As I drifted about the Internet over the weekend I noticed there was a plethora of free advice--tips on how to be a success, whatever the endeavor. In my lifetime, I've discovered one truth. What will work for one person is usually an abysmal failure for the next individual. There's no particular reason, but that's pretty much how it works. My advice? Forge your own path.

Much of the time, it's a combination of being in the right place at exactly the right time--and seizing the opportunity when it passes. A long time ago I was laid off my warehouse job when the company closed down the facility. Everyone working there was offered training for new skills. Part of the training was how to write resumes, how to interview for a job, how to dress for the interview.

This was MY experience.

It was February. We had snow on the ground that morning our pipes broke. The hunk and I crawled under our mobile home to repair them. As we approached success with our repair job, I realized I was late for school. There was no time to clean up if I wanted to get there within time for my attendance to count. And if I didn't get there, I wouldn't receive my unemployment benefits for that day.

I brushed the mud and weeds off my sweatpants, washed my hands, combed my hair and zoomed off to school. When I arrived, my instructor informed me there was a position open in the office at the school and advised me to apply for it. Never one to allow grass to grow under my feet, I immediately went downstairs to ask for an application.

Perhaps I should pause here to explain my situation. The hunk had been home for nearly a year on disability. My sons were also laid off because they worked the same place I did, but they were ineligible for unemployment because they were full-time students. So we were supporting six people on two half-paychecks. I was anxious to get a job!

I filled out the application and returned it to the office. In spite of my appearance, I wanted to at least give the impression I was professional so I asked if I could make an appointment for an interview. The young woman who took my application was frankly skeptical but she went to inquire. When she came back, she said, "The Director will see you now."

I was aghast. "I'm not dressed for an interview!"

"She knows." Can't you imagine what she's told the Director?

Well, I followed her into the office. It was already clear to me I was not going to get this job. I resolved to use the interview as an opportunity to practice.

The next day as I was racing up the steps to my class, I heard a voice call my name. When I turned around to face the Director, she asked, "Do you want the job?"

Now, I could have refused that interview. But later--much later, when I'd worked there several years, I asked the Director why she hired me. And I've never forgotten her answer.

"I figured if you could get through that interview, you could handle anything else that came along with the job."

Do I recommend interviewing in muddy sweatpants? No. But that was my experience.

I've read many, many stories from authors who've been rejected multiple time, some as high as fifty or sixty before finally making their first sale. I was offered a contract six weeks after I submitted my first book. MY experience.

I'm pretty sure that doesn't mean I'm a better writer. It just means my manuscript arrived at the right time and had the attention of the right editor. Another time, another place and the editor might have read it and shrugged her shoulders. "Meh."

Sales are much the same way. They depend on so many things. Timing. Book cover. Blurb. Word of mouth. Every experience is different. Every book is different. One might be a raging success--the next a resounding failure.

Forge your own path.