I’m in a tizzy right now. I have an unknown, itchy red rash under my arm. My stomach is upset and bloated. And my office has a giant pile of clothes on a chair I’ve been meaning to take to the consignment store, but haven’t. When I want to shift something, I clean out. But sometimes, the shift doesn’t come soon enough. And stuff piles up.
While I continue to consult with some amazing and talented clients, at the same time I’m also moving into a new direction with my True Shield: Verbal Self-Defense For Girls. So I have a foot in both worlds — which can sometimes be crazy making. Like worried nights pacing and writing at 3:00 am, searching for that roll of sweet tarts I have in the laundry room cupboard for such emergencies.
For one thing, I didn’t really realize that I was a start-up. But that’s what I am. I have a business with no track record for a new idea.
Verbal self-defense for girls
I have all the measurements in place, but have yet to have anyone complete the program. Everyone in the schools and organizations who have purchased it is starting in August or September and while it will take me just 3 months or so to get initial statistics and evidence-based results it will take me about 9 months to get a full picture of all the survey results.
That’s almost a year! Panic. Seems like forever and a day.
Starting something new can be a maddening and discouraging process. I want to chat a bit about the three things about the process, which is often hard to love. Failure, faith, and perseverance. We are often told to embrace the journey. While that is a noble thought, the muck during the journey can weigh you down something fierce.
I just heard an interview with Jessi Klein on Terry Gross’ show Fresh Air talking about getting an Emmy while having a three month-old baby and having to pump breast milk during the ceremony which nicely sums up why embracing the journey is necessary to happiness. “…Having a baby is really hard on a marriage. So things with my husband were just – I’ll just say they were very hard ’cause we were just so tired, and it’s so crazy. And I just suddenly felt very much like, oh, I won this Emmy, and tomorrow I’m getting on a plane and I’m going right back into my own little struggles.
And nothing is really different. Like, this was great but now it is over. And I just have to be back in my sort of currently overweight, milk-laden body and waking up at 2 in the morning and 4 in the morning. And it’s hard. And the Emmy is amazing, but all of this will continue. I think it just brought into very stark relief in the moment what would have been the truth no matter what I was doing. But it was very immediate, which is that this doesn’t really mean anything for your actual happiness or your life.”
the journey is the reward even if it doesn’t feel like it
We think when we get to the big award, reward, end game, whether it’s finishing a book, landing a big deal, selling a bunch of stuff, finding love, that suddenly the world will become rosier and all that ails us will fall away. Yet, happiness often comes on the heels of failure — though rarely soon enough, it seems.
You’ve heard the expression “Fail fast.” It’s about trying a bunch of new things and letting go of the ones that don’t work. So first I had to find people to call schools and organizations. I used Upwork and went through about four people before I found the two that consistently got results- i.e. they called the decision makers to set five-minute appointments for me to discuss the program. I failed fast with the callers by starting them all at once on different excel spread sheets for my target markets.
Failure number two. Schools are a hard sell. Most principals, counselors or PE teachers loved the program. Then it had to go to committee. Then through the budgeting process. Guess what? 99% of the schools couldn’t afford my program due to budget cuts or lack of funding. Many said that would have to get independent funding in order to implement the program. So, we moved on to organizations. Organizations totally got the concept and wanted the program. Problem? Funding. They were used to getting most of their programs free as they were mostly funded by other organizations or grants.
So, I started researching how to get grants. Getting a grant is a laborious, time-consuming and confusing process. In short you have to make sure your mission is in absolute synch with the grantor, then you typically have to earmark those who will get the funding. Which meant that I had to start getting commitments in writing about which organizations were really keen on using my program so I could list them in the grant.
Another problem with getting grants to fund the people who wanted the program is there are no guarantees that I’ll even get the grant!
So all that work could be for nothing.
I hired an expert for that to make sure that I was on the right track. But, after talking to many of the grantors, they told me that had hesitations about giving money to an unproven program — even though they loved the idea and said would go to bat for me.
My faith began to flag. Am I really going in the right direction? How many obstacles do I need to go through before I give up? So I turned to my friends. They told me to keep going. They said it was a much needed idea. They said to find a way in. They said hold fast. Today, a man in charge of programing for the Boys & Girls Clubs said he had faith in me and my program and that all girls need it. “Stay in touch. This is a great program.”
One of the things that I recommend to my clients and course participants when they aren’t getting any traction with the media is to tweak. If you send in a pitch or press release and no one is biting, try a twist. Approach your topic from another angle. Switch up the perspective. Go in the back door— a non-obvious angle that isn’t a direct pitch for your business, book, product, service or cause. Think small and get specific.
What seemed to spark real interest in the contacts I was speaking with is this idea of teens and college girls teaching each other. This is my big dream for my program to become self-sustaining in this way. So my business mentor said, “Let’s approach your course from this angle.” So I did.
I got immediate interest from a Boys & Girls Club that serves an at-risk community and already has volunteers that are groomed in community service through their Keystone program. Perfect.
The head of programming for a department of education said that she thinks she could wrangle 20 girls to train that could then be dispatched back to their schools. Fantastic.
Today, I talked to a man who works in five schools where Opioid addiction is rampant. When I told him about my vision he said, “I can’t believe you just said that. We have those girls at the ready and we’ve been wanting to do something like this the up their self-esteem.” Yes.
Keep your focus on the vision.
By focusing on my original vision, the big dream and bigger mission and slightly shifting the approach, I’m now getting a more enthusiastic response — because it directly taps into the organization’s bigger mission as well.
Am I still discouraged, downtrodden, despairing and weepy? Yes. I cried my eyes out last week, and sobbed on my sweetie’s shoulder, and starting thinking about tossing in the towel. Seriously. On other days, after making calls for hours and not reaching anyone who can make a decision or having people tell me that they get a similar program for free, I feel exhausted and hopeless and have the urge to gorge on cookies.
Then I think about all the time, energy, money and inspiration I put into this. And keep going.
I talked to Susan Kennedy yesterday (SARK) about my plight as she’s an expert in keeping a person’s creative spirits high. The advice she gave me was, “When I’m tempted to deflate in this absence, instead I’m going to fill myself with presence. I’m going to remind myself of my vision and certainty.”
Which all requires discipline and managing what I tell myself. After I bemoaned my plight I told Susan that I did believe that I could already feel that my program was instituted far and wide, helping girls all over the world — and that it had already happened and that I just needed to catch up with it. We talked about the fact that we have no idea how this program has touched people and where it will reach — now and in the future.
Does this mean I won’t have days when I feel it’s all hopeless. No. Like Jessi Klein I’ll still be mired in my own daily struggles, but thank God I don’t have to pump breast milk. When I imagine her life I think I may have gotten off easy. Though it doesn’t feel that way. I just have to get through this next patch, I tell myself. I will remember the discipline of keeping to my vision and certainty. And I invoke the question I’ve told you to ask yourself: “What is my next step?” That is my question. I keep following the answers, wherever they lead.
Live the life you dream of now
By Sherry Richert Belul
I was taking a walk with my good friend, Tricia about six months ago and we were talking about our dreams. (Not nighttime dreams, but the “this-is-what-I-would-love-my- life-to-look-like dreams.)
At one point in the conversation, we realized that whenever we talked about our dreams, they were always “over there” or “far away.” They were places in our lives we hadn’t gotten to yet. They were accomplishments or goals we hadn’t yet reached.
Our dreams were outside of our lives.
I remember us literally stopping, looking at one another, and saying, “This is not right. What if right now, right here, we began to look at everything about who we are and what we are doing as part of our dream lives?”
What if we are living the dream now, but perhaps it is the tiniest seed of the dream? Still, it is the dream and we can recognize it as such. Like if we were growing lettuce and we just planted a small lettuce pod. It wouldn’t look like lettuce and we couldn’t yet eat it for dinner, but we’d know for certain it was lettuce.
We would love our little lettuce pod by tending to it. We’d learn about the best ways to nurture it— how much sunshine, nutrients, and water it needs— and then we’d do whatever it takes to help our lettuce thrive. We wouldn’t whine or cry about not having lettuce for dinner. We’d know that it’s growing in our own backyard. Right here. Right now. Our dreams are just like that.
That one conversation changed my life.
Practice who you want to be daily
Living my dream life is a practice, not a goal
When I got home that day, I started a practice I call, “Livin’ the Dream,” which is an intentional daily practice of noticing and noting the myriad ways in which everything I want in my life already exists.
Here’s an example: My work in the world is about helping people celebrate themselves and the people they love. I created something called a Love List, which is a no-cost, all-love gift that someone can give which details all the reasons they love and appreciate someone.
Before I die, I want 1,000,000 people to give Love Lists as gifts because of my writings/teachings. Every day that someone writes to tell me that created a Love List for someone, I take a screen shot of that letter and I pin it on a secret Pinterest board called “Livin’ the Dream.” I write a little note about how happy I am that one more person created a Love List and one more person received a gift of love they will certainly cherish forever.
That one Love List does not make me someone who has yet inspired 1,000,000 lists. But it is a part of that larger goal, isn’t it? And we’re on the way.
I also pin things that underscore my good health, happy relationships, and creativity because each of these things plays a role in having exactly the kind of life I’d always imagined.
We live in a culture that is focused on what’s wrong and what’s missing. Advertising and news encourages us to look for the negative. What if, instead we took charge of our own happiness and started scanning all the time for what is right, what is working, how love is showing up in our lives, and the ways we are living exactly the life we’d always dreamed about?
Sherry Richert Belul says write love lists and shows you how
Don’t tether your happiness to something outside yourself
Right now I’ve got myself on an “advanced course” of learning for the Livin’ the Dream practice. I’m awaiting news on something that is deeply important to me. I spent about six months last year focused on writing a book proposal to submit to a contest for Hay House, a publishing company that I absolutely love.
This is a BIG dream of mine to be an author for Hay House. I truly did my best on the book proposal and spent a lot of time imagining myself as one of their authors. Even as I write this, I feel the adrenaline pulsing through my body. I want it so bad! But what if I don’t get it? I want it. But what if…?
As you can imagine, my monkey mind wants to have a field day with this. It wants me to believe that winning the book publishing contract IS the dream. And if I get it, I’m living the dream. And if I don’t, I’ve lost the dream.
My practice is this: I am livin’ the dream, no matter what.
I refuse to let my happiness be tethered to something I have absolutely no control over.
Here’s what I do instead: I am spending every moment of every waking hour living as if I am already a Hay House author. What would a Hay House author wear to lunch with a girlfriend? What would a Hay House author write in her newsletter? What would a Hay House author have for lunch?
Create a custom celebration book for someone you cherish
Do you see?
I get to have the experience of being a Hay House author by inviting in all of the feelings and experiences NOW. Because it’s not about achieving “the thing.” It’s about having the feeling of getting the thing. And not just for one moment, but sustained, over moments, hours, days that then turn into a lifetime.
Truth be told, why is it a dream to be a Hay House author? Because I want to have a wider reach. I want to be more engaged. I want to have an audience of people who respond to my work. I want to have a community of writers with whom I share ideas and support.
When I keep the “why” in mind, it allows me the room to step into that vision right now. I simply ask, “How can I have a wider reach today? How can I touch more people?” And I listen to the response that life gives. Then I go do what it says. Voila!
Suddenly I am engaged and participating in exactly the way I dreamed. But it isn’t outside of myself. It isn’t over there. It isn’t “I’ll do that when…” It doesn’t rely on someone outside of myself to choose me.
I choose to live my dream now.
Take one small intentional step today
The author, Wallace Wattles, writes about this in his book, “How to Get What You Want.”
He tells the story of a man who wants to own a department store, but right now all he has is a newsstand.
Wallace says, “Do not get the idea that there is some magical method by which you can successfully operate a department store on a newsstand capital.”
This isn’t about thinking that if we want something badly enough, it will come to us.
But the point is, if you are dreaming about a department store and you have a newsstand right now, you can choose to show up completely and wholeheartedly to your newsstand every day. You choose to do everything you can to make this newsstand as successful as possible. If you don’t hang your head low and think, “all I have is a newsstand,” if you go to work whistling, serving everyone with a big smile and great service, chances are your newsstand will grow bigger. And more successful.
Chances are the way you tend to that newsstand (like the lettuce pods!) will yield the growth you desire. Wallace says, “make every act and thought constructive.” He believes that if we stay positive in our acts and thoughts, if we always speak from the place of our dreams and visions, people will be drawn to us. He calls this a “place of increase.”
“Consider that your newsstand is one department of the store you are going to have; fix your mind on the department store, and begin to assimilate the rest of it. You will get it if you make every act and thought constructive.”
One day, it will be a department store.
What if it doesn’t grow and thrive the way you had imagined?
Think about it. You are still living in the seed of your dream. You still have a beautiful newsstand that attracts customers because you show up every day with a smile and kind word. You still have the essence of your dream — which is having work that enables you to serve people and impact their lives on a daily basis. You are happy. You love your days.
Whether your newsstand grows into a department store or not, or whether it takes twenty years longer than you had imagined is not the point.
The point is: can you love the process of showing up each day to tend to the dream of who you are and the life you want to live — no matter what?
Can you train yourself to scan for what is, instead of what is missing?
Wish for what you have
My son taught me one of the most beautiful lessons about all of this.
When he was three years old, it was his birthday and we had a chocolate cake for him. I lit the candles and whispered to my son to make a wish before he blew them out.
I watched him close his eyes, and blow out the candles.
His dad and I clapped and then I leaned in and whispered, “What did you wish for?”
My son whispered back: “a birthday cake.”
Talk about instantly stepping into a place of having what we want. We need to see that it is right here, in front of us.
When we are livin’ the dream, we learn to focus on what is on the plate in front of us. We see it, taste it, appreciate it.
Customized tribute books
One small step
Today, can you practice with this? Can you wish for something you already have and watch how good it feels to “get” it?
Can you take one small action step that is in service of a bigger dream and feel in your bones that this small step is a part of the dream? You are not outside of it.
You are livin’ the dream. You’re in it. It’s already yours.
In the midst of everyday life, it is easy to forget how extraordinary — and fleeting— our lives are. Thus, Sherry believes in a simple philosophy: make moments into gifts. She helps people appreciate who they are and the people they love through customized tribute books and other one-of-a-kind gifts that inspire us to celebrate, share, and build beautiful relationships. Don’t wait; say it now. Find Sherry here.
Your book. In the hands of a literary agent who loves you. Next year.
I have been cleaning house. Literally. My office. My computer. Assessing. Evaluating.
Clearing out the old to bring in the new for next year.
And….I found this extensive list of literary agents in many different genres that I had created a while back for you: 10 Best Resources to Find a Literary Agent: And Sell Your Book to a Top Publisher
Download it here.
Find a literary agent – Write a book proposal
Here is another resource.
Authors who are seeking to be traditionally published want to find a literary agent who has contacts at all the top publishing houses.
And who absolutely adores you and is willing to work with you on crafting your book proposal – which is essential to securing a top notch publisher. To write a book proposal you want to make sure you’re doing two things:
- Follow the instructions on how to write a book proposal that includes all the essential elements a literary agent and book publisher need to see that proves your idea is viable and that you’re the right person to write this book.One of the most important elements in any non-fiction book proposal is your platform. Which means your reach. Your online and offline presence and ability to sell books. It includes your email lists size, your speaking engagements, your blogging and website statistics and more.
Want to know why our Gluten Free cookbook didn’t pass muster with my agent? No platform. My friend Karen Leland and I wanted to recreate our favorite childhood recipes – gluten free. However…. we don’t have a following and are not famous — in the realm of cooking. Nor have we been on a competitive cooking show (unlike my two clients who have been on The Next Iron Chef). Our book proposal failed because we didn’t have a platform.
Here’s the video we put in our proposal to show that we could handle ourselves on camera.
2. Pay attention to the literary agent’s guidelines for how they want the book proposal formatted.
For example, my agent wants the proposal to be in a sans serif font like Arial or Verdana for easy online reading. By the way, even though he’s my agent I reviewed his website on how to format my manuscript and to make sure I was giving him my book proposal in the way he wanted it. I wasn’t aware of some of his requests like.. he doesn’t want paragraphs separated by line spaces. He wants them indented. These may seem like trivial requests, but since agents like mine review over 1000 unsolicited manuscripts every month these kind of details make for easy reading — and could make a critical difference if a literary agent is on the fence about your work. You want your chosen literary agent to feel excited about working with you — not frustrated.
Here is a paragraph from his website about making your book proposal interactive:
Accessibility. In most cases, editors and publishers (the publisher is the business person who runs the publishing house – s/he’s the editor’s boss) are often very young, often in their 20’s or 30’s. So you need to try to make the proposal as accessible as possible. This means that you should consider using charts, side bars, graphics, tests, and so forth to make the proposal as interactive as possible, as well as to make it look interesting on the page: remember that you’re giving this to somebody who was raised on TV, so s/he may have a very short attention span. Of course, the extent of the “look” of your proposal really depends on the subject matter – so if you’re dealing with very serious subject matter, and we’ll be targeting an academic or very serious house, you need less of the “look”; but a more commercial house may require more bells and whistles.
Find a literary agent for my book
Jerry Jenkins has recently released an in-depth blog post on how to write a winning book proposal (both fiction and nonfiction) to agents and publishers based on everything he’s learned from 40+ years of experience in the industry and his 190+ written books.
Want help with your book proposal? Ping me here.
Want to do it yourself? I’ve got you covered.
I hope you find the literary agent who is right for you!