This might not work

If you’re like me you spend most of your time playing it safe…scared to try anything that might not work. At work and at play, with my kids and most certainly with my spouse.

But it turns out that most great things…most things that impact the world…might not have worked.

Dave didn’t have any¬†guarantee¬†that if he created the best leather bags in the world anyone would buy them…but they did.

Derek didn’t know back in 1998 if he started selling CDs for indie artists if anyone would buy them…but they did.

I didn’t know if leaving my wife and kids for six months to do Seth’s MBA would be worth it…but it was.

Six months ago my wife Amy finished her second novel. I read it and it was good…really good. So she asked me if we should explore getting it published. I knew the answer was yes, but to be honest I was afraid for her. You see, I know the publishing industry. I’ve spent the last five years working with publishers and agents and authors. And I know that it’s a mess. Most great books never get published…and let’s be honest many of the books that do get published aren’t that great. In fact, publishers are largely in the business of gambling. They’re taking chances. Making educated guesses. There’s a reason they call them “surprise” best sellers. It’s because it’s almost always a surprise.

So back to my wife and why I was afraid. I was afraid she’d get missed…that her manuscript would end up in a pile somewhere, glanced at but not read. I was afraid for the inevitable rejection letters she’d receive and what they would do to her artist’s heart. But I was more afraid that she’d hide behind the manuscript submission process and play it safe. You see, there’s one good¬†safe thing about taking the traditional route: you get to do it in secret. Nobody knows you’re being rejected unless you tell them. The truth is I was most afraid that Amy might play it safe and the world would have to wait to experience her gift.

So I asked myself, what would I tell my wife if she was a client? I knew immediately. I’d tell her the traditional publishing system is broken, and there’s no need to wait for a publisher to pick you. Instead you can pick yourself, offer your art to the world, and let the readers pick you, and if a publisher wants to come along for the ride and brings something of value to the table, then let them.

It sounded good when I said it…but then I realized…crap, this might not work. But it was too late. Amy believed me. And so I’ve spent the last six months pretending to be brave…as I pulled in a director for a book trailer…as I convinced a famous musical arranger to do the score…as I worked with the best artist I know to create the cover. And then on Saturday, the date I’ve been waiting for¬†dreading arrived. And we launched Amy’s project into the world¬†complete with a ridiculous¬†challenge¬†to publishers. And I’m still incredibly scared that it might not work.

But then again…it might.

What are you doing that might not work?


31 thoughts on “This might not work

  1. Jon, I can totally relate this the idea of not wanting to failing in public. I’ve prayed, “If this isn’t mean to be, please Lord, don’t let it be a huge embarrassment.”

    Our MyTri triathlon training software has been underdevelopment for awhile now and has an anticipated April launch date. We’ve considered doing a Kickstarter campaign to fund the remaining revisions. The fear of putting it out there and not meeting our goal is paralyzing to me. I’d much rather continue to pay for the development ourselves and delay the launch than put it out there to not get funded. I’d much rather hide being our polished facade of a website and our Epic Adventure which sounds awesome when we write about it, but often doesn’t showcase the “junk.” I’d rather no one know exactly how many membership we sell. One or a thousand, who would know the difference unless we put ourselves out there?

    I admire what you and Amy are doing. I like your transparency. You guys are an inspiration!

  2. Kris told the Leigghos that when I was playing on Saturday he was SO nervous for me. Isn’t that funny? I wasn’t, but he was. Rachel said he just zoned in and stared at me as if willing me not to fail would help. lol. Funny thing is I feel so loved by that. I know how much I matter to him and that is such a great feeling – to have someone so concerned for your safety in that way. My heart/dreams are precious to him and I think we should be scared for our spouses – its part of love. That way we carry each others failures and rejoice in each others victories and get to be part of all of them, so blessed to be with the one you love.

  3. Well my brother…how timely it seems. You said this blog was partly inspired by me. As I read it…I’m unsure how, but thank you. Thank you primarily because I needed to read it. I have something I need to go after and claim. Or try like hell to. And if I fail? If it doesn’t work? So pithy, but it WILL succeed. Ultimately. If this book deal doesn’t happen, we’ll just see how committed Amy is to being a writer, eh?

    So thank you. I’m working myself up to go balls out…

  4. Jon, love this! You give all us men something to emulate. Well done! Because at the end of the day your wife hasn’t had to risk alone. That’s such a picture of offering your life. Just backed it too. Can’t wait to read! Go Amy!

  5. Jon,
    This was great for me to read as well. I love to see how you love and support Amy. As an entrepreneur and risk-taker by nature, it’s easy to get in the “rut” of playing it safe. Even when it looks like you are being risky to others! There are a few things that I would like to do that are risky to me. I think mainly the things that are close to my heart. For example, I’d like to write and produce a children’s CD but haven’t ever done that before. I’d like to turn The Loft into a well-known recording space for live shows but don’t know where to start.
    I’d like to produce a video on how to build tree houses entirely from rope. (I’ll tell you more on that later).
    There are a few other things too. But some of those things freak me out. I feel like I risk all the time but it’s very calculated risk. Nothing that really puts my heart and soul on the line. I’m inspired now to just go for it. Who knows? Maybe something amazing will happen. It probably will. Thanks again.

  6. Uriah,

    Love your list. And yes The Loft would be an amazing place for live recordings…even video as well.

    I think Esther is going to reach out to you about the recording you did this weekend. They’re looking for a live product and don’t have time to get into the studio right now.

    And I can’t wait to hear about the treehouse idea.

  7. Great stuff man. I believe we should always and I do mean ALWAYS release our projects into the wild. I have released dozens and many have failed. But it’s okay. Each failed attempt brought me a new network of amazing people I can call friends and each time I learned so much about the process. My latest project is a non profit that empowers young people to use their talents for good. It’s called The Lightwriters and we are creating an art therapy curriculum to use with orphans.

  8. Tony Viligate says:

    Jon, the timing of this for Christina and I could not be any better. We knew we had a great product, but having to take the risk, of opening the kimono for the world to see is scary. We really appreciate you walking through some of this with us and for sharing your own journey.

  9. Michelle Clements says:

    Things I could fail at….

    Jon, I tried out for the Olympics….it didn’t work.

    I loved someone as much as I could…it didn’t work.

    I have applied to PA School and so far for 2 out of the three programs… it didn’t work.

    But what I have learned and who I am works! And the biggest lesson is God is amazing, he made me (I’m His mess , and He works). So, weather things work out or not…the journey is worth it…and sets you up for real success!!

    Thanks for taking the leap! Amy’s book is going to do amazingly well, and reach a lot of people!

  10. bwcole says:

    Hey Jon, Great words, and definitely capture the elephant that is left standing in the room when all of the bloated conversation about “what we’re going to do” is over.

    It made me think… A great discussion would be how this plays into our own personal tolerance for risk. I’ve always thought of myself as not risk-averse, but in thinking about it I’m not consistent either. I’ve taken plenty of risk on some things, and not on others (been sitting on a book idea for 3+ years, and a concept to change the lives of teens through mentoring for 6 years.) I’ve also spent a lot of time NOT bringing my offer to the world – and used the excuse of money and vocation to keep me in that place.

    You’ve summed it up well – “it might not work.” I wonder how many military battles would have had different outcomes if great leaders had acted on their fears of “it might not work.” The Great Captain Picard faces these questions weekly in our home on Netflix. And an equal amount of great ideas go to the grave with the mind that dreamed of them.

    Personally, I’m tired of (myself) being immobilized by this great question; the result is living mediocrity, which in and of itself is tiring. It’s time (for me) to take that to heart and put some wheels on it – that’s been my cry for this year, and your writing is more fuel for that fire – thank you!

    Yoda taught us, “Do… or do not. There is no try.” this is not a measure of success or failure in my mind, but simply moving to action.

    Thanks much Jon.

  11. Bryan, I was listening to Seth Godin being interviewed on Hugh MacLeod’s Gape Into the Void podcast and Seth said that years ago he figured out that most successful people do lots of things that might not work. I think it’s actually the key to prolific success.

    Great observations…thanks!

  12. Michelle, you are so right the journey is worth it and you’ve accomplished so much during the journey…your list of successes would be twice as long…I’ve seen that. Don’t discount it.

  13. Eric Haselhorst says:

    Wow, just found your blog via Kevin Miller at Free Agent Academy and this article is brilliant. Thank you!

  14. You’d dig Jon a lot Eric. Jon, Eric is in Dodge City, KS and works with the Catholic Diocese there. But also sells custom farm toys. He’s an FAA member.

  15. Jon – I bought into the Kickstarter campaign on day one based on your recommendation alone. When I checked in on the progress of the campaign today, I finally watched the trailer…now I’m totally blown away!

    May this be a huge success for Amy and one more point of proof that we don’t have to operate within the system to be successful!


    PS – Now I have to rethink my book launch again…I’m thinking bigger. Thanks!

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