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Over the last few months, I’ve had the opportunity to do some freelance work for Mike Foster and his innovative culture-challenging, good-doing, non-profit organization, Ethur. One of Ethur’s projects is the Junky Car Club, which is just plain awesome (and not only because I’m a contributor to its blog).
But the Ethur project I want to mention here is Deadly Viper Character Assassins, which is an excellent book and DVD series by Mike Foster and Jud Wilhite (who, incidentally, used to live in my hometown of Amarillo, Texas). Deadly Viper is an intentionally campy, fun exploration — with a serious message — of the brutal “assassins” that can kill a person’s leadership and integrity.
When I read books, I always try to take at least one message or thought from it that I can apply to my life or career or thinking or whatever, and my takeaway message from Deadly Viper comes from p. 155 of the book, near the end. And it’s a killer. I can’t stop thinking about it. In fact, I’ve already spoken about it by way of a talk I gave at my church a couple months ago.
Here it is, from the chapter called “The High and Mighty Assassin”:
One way to cultivate a respect for others is to make a list of all the people who helped you get where you are. It could be someone who hired you and gave you a shot. It could include your teachers, your friends, or the client who bought your product or believed in your ability. Write these names down…so that you can look at them and remember the importance of other people. Then look around you for someone else to believe in. Make an effort to land on someone else’s list of important life influencers. Give someone a shot.
When I speak to college classes or aspiring writers, I always tell them it takes three things to get published. The first thing is talent, because you sort of have to be able to put words together to be a writer. The second is hard work, because it’s not enough to want to write or to simply be able to write, you have to actually write. The third is networking — because getting published is often as much about who you know as it is about how great of a writer you are. To that end, there are a handful of people in the publishing business who have been big life influencers for me. Editors who gave me a shot. Writers who introduced me to the right people. I owe the majority of my writing career to these friends and colleagues who helped me get my foot in the door.
The questions I keep asking myself are these:
1. Have I told these benefactors “thank you” for the influence they’ve had on my career?
2. Have I helped anyone else in that way? Am I on anyone’s list of major life influencers?
Number one can be accomplished easily enough, and that’s something I definitely need to do right away. Number two may take some work. But I need to move in that direction, and be willing to make whatever efforts I can to land on someone’s list. Not to get any recognition or praise from it, but to give someone else the boost they needed to succeed.
I’ll open it up to you lurkers. Who took a chance on you? To whom do you owe your success? Who helped you get where you are today?