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Is This All There Is?
So I’ve been feeling a bit like Veruca Salt lately…remember her? That spoiled rich girl in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory whose memorable tirade “I WANT IT NOW, DADDY!” landed her down the chute with all the other bad eggs?
Ugh. How gauche. Note to self: don’t get greedy.
I recently chatted with fellow Substacker Jody J. Sperling for an episode of his podcast. Jody is one of those generous souls who’s looked out for me as I tentatively navigate the murky world of publishing. (Thanks to his encouragement, you’re reading this on Substack.) One of the many topics we covered was how we define success. It’s something I contemplate almost every day and…with close to the same frequency… wish I didn’t.
According to many, just writing a book is success in and of itself. And because it’s been almost three years from the time I started writing it, I’ve clearly forgotten just how much it took out of me. I’ve yet to get a bad review. Sales have been good and, while I don’t have July numbers, people in the know tell me I’ve done better than good.
I had an amazing launch party with almost 100 guests. I’ve had wonderful opportunities to talk about the book and each time, I get a little better at answering questions in a succinct fashion. You can listen to my interviews HERE if you’re interested.
Just last week I signed a couple copies for a local indie bookstore.
Tomorrow I leave for San Diego where I have TWO events scheduled. There’s to be a big spread in the Sunday paper and I’ve already been written up in one of the smaller ones.
I really need to bask in this, right? After all, it’s only been six weeks since the book came out.
Just writing this makes me ashamed that I mostly feel exhausted. Exhausted from chasing after attention. Exhausted from doing things I’d love to delegate to someone else. Exhausted from checking my Amazon reviews multiple times a day waiting for that number to creep up. Exhausted from refreshing my sales numbers on my publisher’s portal.
When you’re chasing, you’re engaging in a typical glass-half-empty, rather than glass-half-full approach. It’s one I typically don’t follow or recommend. I’m exhausted from chasing an idea of success that I’ve failed to clearly define. That’s what being an overachiever looks like…always chasing. I fixate on the notion that this just may well be all there is.
And what if it is? While focusing on things that have not gone my way, I’m failing to recognize just how wonderful everything actually is.
I’ve been a huge fan of Ryan Holiday since I bought his book The Daily Stoic and started incorporating it into my way of thinking about things. This morning, his newsletter popped in my inbox with this passage:
Having an end in mind is no guarantee that you’ll reach it—no Stoic would pretend otherwise—but not having an end in mind is a guarantee you won’t. Having conflicting goals, vague hopes, half-baked schemes? This is to set yourself up for failure, for overreach, for getting lost.
Maybe a reason why I feel lost right now is that I’ve attained every book-related goal I dared to set—minus the NYT Bestseller list and getting into Oprah’s Book Club. Those two things notwithstanding, almost every day, some good experience comes out of talking about the book or getting messages from readers about how it’s affected them. After all, one of the reasons we create art of any kind is to connect with our fellow humans. I wrote a book that did that, and for that I’m really proud. This is more than a glass-half-full, this is a glass overflowing.
These days, I’m working to reconcile all the chasing with living in the moment and enjoying the ride. So I’ve decided that when I catch myself questioning if this is all there is, I will answer myself this way:
This is all there is…for now.
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