You’re Worth More than You Know

 The Scene

My dad and his new wife, Joyce appeared in a large church stage production in Southern California called “Small and Simple.” It was a musical and dramatic production that told the story of how one family and those with whom they interacted, could be affected by small and simple acts of kindness. 

 Your Worth

It was a touching production that spanned just over 2 hours. My dad sung a song from Damn Yankees called “Heart” as the coach of a baseball team. He was quite entertaining and did a fantastic job along with Joyce. Both were quite in tune with the roles they were playing.  

At the end of various scenes, some of the characters repeated a line: You’re worth more than you know. At times, it was said at the exactly right time and was extremely touching. I’m amazed at how much live theatre can move an audience to tears. Even in our 21st century works of screens and extremes. 

 

The message was twofold and simple: you have more value to the world and those things that you can’t see than you could understand. The other message was that your simple acts of kindness are usually the things that help get others through their tough times. You never know how or when someone’s life would be affected by your generosity. 

Day 11: Cool Discovery - I write more than 500 words every day!

Another day's work done. 

I am a bit amazed at how setting a goal as simple as writing 500 words per day minimum can actually be easy to accomplish.  Maybe "easy" isn't the operative word.  Perhaps "simple" makes more sense.  After all, simple and easy aren't the same thing.  Regardless, knowing that I only have to produce two pages of fiction each day does not sound so daunting.  I haven't missed the minimum goal of 500 words yet since starting this experiment.  

I can't quite explain it, but once I get into "the flow," as some people call it, I find that I can't stop writing.  I want to push well past the 500 word limit most days.  Tonight, I only did a little bit more.

If all of this seems trivial to you, I totally get it.  After all, 500 words per day does not sound like a lot, when the average novel ranges between 40 000 and 60 000 words.  But remember, I'm not interested in writing full-length novels on this project.  Instead, I'm going for half that length in an eBook format.  Regardless, 500 words per day after 30 days equals a minimum of 15 000 words, which almost constitutes an ebook of 20 000 words.  The great news is that I am exceeding those totals every day by a couple hundred to 500 extra words.  So, as I said in an earlier post (I think yesterday's), getting to two completed eBook manuscripts in one month would be stupendous.  

When you factor in the full-time job, the full-time family, the volunteer service work I'm trying to do for my family and just the normal humdrum of life events that serve as regular interruptions, two eBook manuscripts a month, each month would equal 24 books.  I don't have 24 stories or outlines at the moment, but I do have at least an half dozen to keep me busy for now.  

Starting Total Word Count: 15 419

Finishing Total Word Count: 16 162

Daily Word Count: 681

Day 9: The All for Nothing Syndrome

I'm not trying to be cute here, but honestly, am I the only person who has worked to completion on various projects only to see them go out into the world and then wonder if "it was all for nothing?"  I don't know and I don’t think so.  I don't mean it in the sense that there was no value to what I had tried to finish, but rather, just wondering if the sacrifices of time, comfort and connection with others in these solitary moments of cranking out a manuscript are or will be worth it.  

I have a small confession to make.  The Son of San Diablo: A Manifest Galaxy Novel is still "finding its audience."  Translation: I've sold a few copies, but I've given away a lot more.  Reviews of the book have been good and not every single one has been solicited.  Those are nice things to have. 

On the other hand, one of my kids (I think in a moment of pity, curiosity and/or kindness) took it up as an assignment to read and then do a book report in school shortly after it had been published.  What parent wouldn't be excited, proud and maybe a little nervous to have their own offspring read something they published and put it out in the world?  Well, I suppose I had nothing to worry about.  A couple months after she had turned in the report, she confessed to me that she had never finished the book.  I asked if she'd at least gotten to the part regarding the miscarriage and sad to say, she didn't know about it.  That's in the first 50 pages from what I remember.  

Honestly, that right there should be enough source material for a short story or something...

So, why am I telling you this?  Well, at the moment, if you are reading this, my analytics tell me that you might be one of the few persons in Norway or one of the three or four people in Germany who seem to like to check in once and a while.  There are the Canadians, but the ones who intrigue me the most and keep coming back to check in are people from Russia and that area of the world.  I'm guessing somewhere out there, at least one of you, in one of those countries (that is not the United States of America) has wanted to get published and see your name in print.  Maybe something I'm saying here is valuable to you.

To you, wherever you are, in whatever country you live, here is one simple truth:  Writing to the finish is hard. Promoting your own work seems to be harder.  

My Brain is like an Apartment Building...

...And I'm the landlord who must evict the tenants that come in the form of stories.  

I wish I could take credit for such a great metaphor, but that was my brother, Ken’s doing.   You should check out his website sometime at www.kenlonclark.com.  Recently, I encouraged him to take some of his more cinematic ideas that aren't getting traction in La La Land and translate them into novels.  Even if the novels are published independently (in the old days, it was derisively called self-publishing) on Amazon, he could feel good about getting the stories out there and the prospect of getting paid once in a while, when someone bought a book.  Thus the metaphor above was born.

I'm no different from you or anyone else.  I write with the goal of publication.  More importantly, I write so that someone, anyone out there, will read my work.  The dirty little secret is that you are going to struggle to get people to read what you write.  More difficult will be most of your friends and even harder will be your family.  I don't know where that struggle comes from, but rarely should you ever expect a member of your family to read your work.  I'm making my way through Lawrence Block's classic Telling Lies for Fun and Profit and he laments this problem as well somewhere in the middle of the book.  It just happens.  

I can count on one hand the family members who have struggled through the slog that I suppose is The Son of San Diablo:  My brother Ken (Thanks, Bro) and my wife, Cara (Love you, babe).  I have about the same number of friends who finished it as well.  Other than that, I get: "Oh yeah, I started on the book and it was pretty good, but I got distracted." Translation: It didn't hold my interest enough to keep going.  

Perhaps the problem isn't family or friends.  

Perhaps the problem is me.  Or maybe it's the book itself.

Maybe I'm the problem.  In corporations, they call this "owning the problem" which they view as a good thing.  In psychiatry, they also refer to it as "owning the problem," but they say it is a very negative thing.  

Maybe I won't bother to publish this particular post.  After all, doesn't it sound like I'm bitter over not getting any recognition for work?  Perhaps.  Or I could just chalk it up as an honest assessment of where things are for me at this point in time and dust myself off and keep going. 

And that is a good reason to use a pen name next time.  I don't have to get guilted into sending copies of my books to friends and family. I also won't make anyone feel bad for not finishing their creative work, whatever it might be.  

Oh well, it's all good.  I live in America and I publish books I wrote on the side and I'm glad to be alive.

Daily Starting Total: 13 756

Daily Finishing Total: 14 274

Daily Word Count: 518

 

When in Doubt...

... remember the wisdom of Socrates:

 I know that I know nothing. 

Do NOT Promise that You will Call Back!

The Fastest Way to Subliminally Tick Off Your Clients

I'm going to share a professional pet peeve of mine.  How many times have you called a friend or professional associate and you get sent to voicemail?  No big deal, right?  Have you noticed how much less often you actually leave a message?  Instead, you might decide to call back in a few minutes or send a text.  Sometimes, you may decide that the notification on the person's phone of your missed call will be enough.  Regardless, you rarely choose to leave a message.

Why is that?

I think the top reason most of us don't leave a message is either: a) we know the recipient won't even listen to the voicemail and will just call us back or b) they won't even bother with the message, nor will they call back.  It's like we sense this is going to happen and decide: 'What's the point?'

Again, why is that?

I think it has to do with the promise nearly every person makes when they record a voicemail outgoing message?  What is the one thing everyone says?  Check it out:

Hello, you've reached Tom Jones.  I'm not available to take your call right now, but if you leave your name and number, I'll return your call as soon as I am able.

Did you spot the promise?  They ask you to leave your name and number and then they say they will call you back as soon as they are able.  Generally speaking, how often is that?  Are they going to call the annoying telemarketer who has an amazing trip for them to take if they just listen to a 3-hour sales presentation?  Are they going to call the sibling they are having a quarrel with and it appears there is no resolution in sight?  Are they going to call the credit collection specialist who reminded them their payment is overdue?  

Likely, no.  So what makes you think you're any different?  Just like you, I have made thousands of business calls over my career and nearly every single outgoing voicemail message says: 'Please leave your name and number and I'll return your call as soon as I am able' or some other variation of that.  However, less than 5% of these recipients ever return the call.  

It's a Trust Breaker

The late, great Dr. Steven R. Covey used to compare the winning of people's trust to making deposits in a bank.  When we make commitments and promises to others and then we follow through on fulfilling what we're promising, we are making a deposit in that person's emotional bank account.  When we break commitments and promises, we are making withdrawals.  Is it ever possible to make withdrawals and still be in a good place in the relationship?  Of course!  But those are usually after many deposits have accumulated over time.  It's also worth noting that just like Rapid Rewards points with Southwest Airlines, what you put into it will always outweigh what you take out.  In other words, it might take five deposits or even 10 to equal the one withdrawal you make when you break a commitment.

So, the basic rule of thumb here is that if you are screening your calls (even with prospective and existing clients) or you just never get around to calling people back, don't promise you will in the outgoing message.  It'll just piss them off.  Instead, try something like this:

Hello, you've reached Jane Thompson.  I'm not available to take your call at this time.  Please leave a message.  

See!  You made a request, but you didn't promise to return the call.  That might come across as being a jerk, but honestly it is better to not make promises you know you won't keep than to try to make promises that you anticipate you likely won't keep.  

You know what will impress them most of all when you do this?  IF YOU CALL THEM BACK!  It's that simple.  Try it.

For more information on how to make and keep your commitments, check out my new book:

https://www.amazon.com/Better-Business-Development-Now-Clients-ebook/dp/B07219PS7K/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1505375726&sr=1-1&keywords=better+business+development+now

A Tribute to My Mother

I’ve learned over the last week that nothing can prepare a child for the eventual loss of his or her parent. Last month, my mother took her final breaths and then her spirit shed its mortal coil and left us to join the angels in heaven. After a long-fought battle with cancer that started almost exactly twenty years ago, Julia Anne Clark finally succumbed last Thursday night in her and my dad’s house in Fontana.

Other than my wife, she was my biggest fan and cheerleader of my work and my writing.  She was one of the most optimistic and emotionally resilient people in my life.  She radiated positive energy to everyone around her.

My heart broke repeatedly as I sat in her home and watched the pain and discomfort she experienced during her final weeks in home hospice care. Despite all of our feeble efforts to ease the discomfort, her pain never fully subsided while she was still alive. As the days wore on, she had become smaller and more frail, but her fighting spirit stayed strong until the end. My mother was that kind of person. She was silently stubborn at times and had taught her kids to never give up and to hold on to their dreams. She also had an innocent sense of humor and was continually looking for fun things to do with her kids and her grandkids.

There are so many wonderful things that have been written about her by family and friends and I thank them for their kind words from the bottom of my heart. I also want to thank my dad, brother, sister and sister-in-law for everything they did to assist and comfort her during those final weeks. In many ways, she was truly the embodiment of the generous, giving soul who always took an interest in others and helped them feel like they were a part of something bigger. Maybe that was one of the reasons why she chose to become a special education teacher. Those souls with special needs who came down to earth might have felt the most alone of us all and like they didn’t fit in. It was God who put them in her path and vice versa, so that those with special needs would feel that love and the inclusion from someone special like her.

She was someone that I admired throughout my life. When I look back now, my one ‘irrational’ regret is that I didn’t take more pictures standing beside her… just she and I and no one else in the frame. I was proud to have her as my mother. I guess I just thought she’d always be around and there would be time for more pictures.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but being a part of my mother’s end-of-life care taught me more deeply, some lessons I might have forgotten otherwise. Give time to loved ones. Cherish the present with the people you love. Be gentle. Be brave. Be kind. Life is too short to hold onto destructive grudges. Forgive while you can and seek others’ forgiveness before it’s too late.

My mom was a unique and special individual. I wish more of you could have gotten to know her like I did. She was the kind of person that really did take an interest in others and show it outwardly. I think some of her good qualities rubbed off on me, Cassell and Kenlon along with our spouses.

When I think of her life and example, I’m happy and proud to say I am and always will be Julia Clark’s boy.

Love you, Mom.

http://www.fontanaheraldnews.com/obituaries/obituary---julia-anne-clark/article_13793c76-88ea-11e7-9e70-377fbe08eaf3.html

In case you're wondering, I am not the cute little bald guy in the center of this picture. No, I am the sailor with the dutchboy haircut.  Hey, what can I say?  My dad saved so much money putting that salad bowl on my head before the haircuts started. 

In case you're wondering, I am not the cute little bald guy in the center of this picture. No, I am the sailor with the dutchboy haircut.  Hey, what can I say?  My dad saved so much money putting that salad bowl on my head before the haircuts started. 

Taken at Container Park in Las Vegas sometime early in 2016.

Taken at Container Park in Las Vegas sometime early in 2016.

Me and Mom.jpg

The Pain is Exquisite

Thursday night, my mother passed.  

It was a long battle with pancreatic cancer that lasted nearly a year-and-a-half.  During her final months, as we watched her slow physical decline, I never saw her lose the optimistic, upbeat personality she must have developed long before I was born.  

I have felt the pain of losing a parent and the sadness that comes with it happening too soon.  My confession is that it is more intense than I would have ever imagined.  Whether I had lived 40 years or 400, the pain was always going to be the same.  

Yesterday, I wrote a letter to her that was tear-filled and marked by pangs of sadness.  In it, I listed the 'no more's.'  I have since concluded that I did it out of gratitude I felt for all of the times I was able to enjoy doing those things that unfortunately cease when a loved one is gone.  

I loved her deeply.  

I had the opportunity to spend many a day and night in the final two weeks of her life, at her bedside, trying my feeble best to ease her pain and suffering.  It was never enough and in hindsight, I know that.  

The morning I departed from their home, she was resting in the hospital bed in the living room hooked up to morphine and a bag of liquid nutrition.  I whispered some things near her ear and told her that my 15 years as a parent have taught me that she was good for me as a mother.  I have a deeper appreciation for what she did and what she tried to do.  I also apologized for my imperfections as a caregiver.  Those imperfections of which I'm ashamed have nothing to do with actual imperfect care.  After all, I was always gentle and patient with her in those final weeks.  Instead, my imperfections had to do with the anger and resentment I had felt toward other people in the times of caregiving.  What mother would want to know her son was angry over the way others engaged with her to ease her pain and suffering in her final mortal moments?  

I also felt some anger and a touch of melancholy over the situation and how things happened and I know it didn't help anything.  It wasn't until my final 24 hours in her presence that I finally felt at peace with what was happening, the contributions of all others and the fact that I couldn't fix everything.  Those are life's tender mercies.

I'm grateful for that. 

My mom and dad on a train trip that I think was on the way back from Santa Barbara to LA.

My mom and dad on a train trip that I think was on the way back from Santa Barbara to LA.