A Sticky Situation

Ever try gluing something that seemed to resist the glue? Though the package tells you the item you’re gluing is definitely one of the items the glue works on, it stubbornly refuses to stick to the other item. I mean you’re just gluing one piece of paper to another piece of paper, for crying out loud! A glue stick should work!

And then you turn to other glues that supposedly work—Tacky Glue, Elmer’s School Glue, and—the last resort—hot glue. Nope. It’s like one piece of paper has set its will against sticking to the other.

glues

So then you consider stapling the two together. But a big staple will mess up the effect you’re going for. You really need Item A glued to Item B. So you ask someone for advice. But that person points to the glue stick, because it has worked for him every time. You growl at the person, telling him, “The. Glue. Stick. Does. Not. Work!” He insists you’re doing it wrong then. Seven buddies of his used a glue stick every time, and it worked for them. You hang up the phone, vowing never to speak to the dude again, though he’s your own brother.

Sounds extreme, right? But the glue situation happened to me with paper recently and with fabric. However, I did not vow to stop speaking to my brother. But let’s change the situation from gluing two items together to finding a job; getting a book published; finding an agent; getting a date; finding success—whatever you currently need. Maybe you can relate to the frustration I felt then. As for the items on the above list, been there done that too.

find-a-job

When we’re looking for any of the above, people give us all sorts of advice they think should work, because the method they chose worked to achieve the same goal for them. The assumption is that Method A (applying online/at a dating website/whatever) will net Goal A at least most of the time. If Method A doesn’t work, then surely Method B (networking), C (blindly sending out resumes/hanging around places where lots of people frequent/whatever), or D (cold calling) will work. If these four don’t work, well surely we must be doing something wrong.

Not necessarily. After all, can you think of anyone who has been offered every job for which he or she has applied? (Okay, there are some people who get everything they want.) Sometimes, we get none of the jobs for which we apply.(Been there, done that.)

Time for Plan B!

plan-b

The fact is that sometimes things don’t work out the way we or others planned. I know. You didn’t have to read this blog post to figure that out. Just living life teaches you that. But we also don’t have to start doubting ourselves just because someone else’s advice didn’t work for us.

What, if anything, have you had trouble doing, even after taking the advice of others? Did you eventually succeed? (By the way, eventually, I managed to get the two pieces of paper glued together. Hooray for me.)

Plan B image from teenology101.seattlechildrens.org. Find a job image from vizfact.com.

Success—By Whose Definition?

11660353-marathon-runners-traguardo

I struggled with writing this post, because I struggle with this issue: Am I a success?

Am I a success if
• I’ve written books that have gone out of print within two years of publication?
• I’ve been laid off?
• I can’t have children?
• I have over 60 rejections under my belt (and 60 is a conservative estimate)?
• Much of what I’ve written has been at a work-for-hire basis or under someone else’s name (nonroyalty or ghostwriting)?

For me, this isn’t a choice of A, B, C, D, or E—some of the above. All are a part of the landscape of my life. Some of the items might seem odd, because you might think they have no relation to writing. But I came up with this list, because maybe they’re the yardstick by which you too measure success in life.

Several years ago, I visited a few classrooms in a school on the south side of Chicago. I’d been invited for Career Day. In a previous post I mentioned a question I was asked by several eighth graders: “Do you make as much money as J. K. Rowling?” J. K. of course was the measure of what they deemed success. (The answer to their question was no, by the way.)

We live in a society that often quantifies success by the ever shifting characteristics of the American dream or by how quickly someone gains fame, riches, and other perks: i.e., that first week at the box office; that first print run catapulting you to The New York Times bestseller list; that video of you picking your nose which goes viral and makes you famous overnight; that green jacket you don at the end of the Masters tournament.

As I thought about this post, a marathon came to mind. My younger brother ran the Chicago marathon last summer. He didn’t come close to that special group which finished the marathon in a little over two hours. He could barely put one foot in front of the other by the end of the race. But the thing is, he finished the race. And there was not a single person at that finish line who measured his run by those who had finished the race earlier. Instead, everyone lauded him.

A marathon might seem cliché. But it’s apt isn’t it? We struggle in this race called life. But we deal with the good and the bad and keep going.

When my sister-in-law and I asked my brother which mile would be best for us to wait and cheer him on, he mentioned the twentieth mile. Why that mile? Because many runners want to give up at that point, though they’re so close to finishing.

Maybe like me you struggle with a definition of success, one that fits your life. I don’t know about you, but I tend to feel less successful, less apt to keep running, when I measure myself against others. Maybe we can both take the marathon approach, not just as people participating in the marathon, but as the spectators also, cheering each other on, whether we’re at mile 1 or mile 20, whether we finish the race in two hours or six.

Because that’s what success is all about, isn’t it? Finishing the race, whatever finishing might look like; to keep trying, keep putting one foot in front of the other as we do what we love to do.