I got a book deal. So this is, undoubtedly, the first of at least a hundred columns that will plug the book, which is not coming out until spring 2006. Far away, yes, but not too far for you to make a note in your planner: “Buy Penelope’s book.”
I got a big advance for the book. Not big like Bill Clinton, who received four million dollars. But big enough to buy a nice house (if I didn't live in New York City, which I do) and big enough to stop fights with my husband about money (no small feat, believe me).
Yet for all my recent success, someone asked me last night, “So, what do you do?” and I didn't say anything about a book. Lame. That's when red lights went off in my head. Experience tells me that one needs to manage career success as carefully as one manages failure. So I am making a plan to manage the book success.
1. Take time to be happy.
In the past, I have been at points of great success and been too driven toward the top to see how far I had come. For example, when I was a professional beach volleyball player signing autographs and smacking a volleyball in Bud Light commercials, I was always unhappy that I was not in the top twenty players. Now, as someone who makes a living sitting at a desk, I am amazed at my former athletic achievements (and muscle mass). But I never enjoyed them when I had them. I focused too much on what I didn't have.
So I am taking a month to bask in my book success. I am telling myself that my hard work and tenacity with my book proposal paid off. I am patting myself on the back, which I always tell other people to do, but rarely do myself.
2. Tell people about the success.
One of the people I mentor amazes me with his diligence when it comes to telling me about his success. I don't have a very close relationship with him, and sometimes I think to myself, “Why is he telling me this? Why is he sending me links to his stuff?” but I always end up thinking better of him when he tells me his achievements. He has taught me that there is very little harm in letting people know what you're doing that is great.
When it comes time for me to send emails to announce my book deal, my first instinct is to be hesitant — thinking with each email, “Does this person really want to know? Does she care?” But my mentee has taught me that I shouldn't think twice. I should just send the email. If someone is offended by my announcement then they were probably never going to be helpful to me anyway. Being shy about my success will get me nowhere.
3. Draft a strategy to leverage the success.
Too many times in my life I have followed up success with worries — that I would not get to the next level, that the achievement would slip out from under me. My worries about leveraging success undermined my ability to do it.
Take, for example, the time when I was running my own company and hiring all my friends and family and we had tons of money and great press. I spent my days so worried about where to take the company next that my hair started falling out. Really. I never even knew that women could lose their hair from stress until my shower drain clogged.
This book deal has great potential for worries because really, a book deal is all about sales. I have to make sure people buy the book. Also, I can't help thinking about the next book deal. Writing is a business; there's no point in launching one product and calling it a day because a thriving business is a bunch of products.
So this time, I'm going to use my success as a starting point for strategic thinking instead of fearful thinking. And the first thing, in this vein, will be to craft a new answer to the question, “What do you do?” I need to get my book into the answer.