Sunday, September 2, 2012

Does Slow and Steady Win the Race?

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Well, the re-release of Scarlet and the Keepers of the Light and Scarlet and the Dragon's Burden was yesterday and so far it is off to a very slow start.  As many of you have read on twitter and this blog, my goal for the re-release was 2500 copies sold during the month of September and thus far we have some catching up to do.  However, rather than go over all the particulars again (read the post below for info on the books and contest), I thought I'd take a look at goals in general.
Anytime you go to a class or read a book on success, study habits, handling money, organization, etc..., sooner or later the topic of goals comes up.  Setting goals, according to the experts, is an important step in achieving anything in your life and many us can remember being taught about short term goals, long term goals, lifetime goals, SMART goals, and any number of other acronyms in the quest of bettering ourselves and achieving success.  In many instances, this basic goal setting model is relatively easy to use and how it will achieve success is pretty straight forward.
Let's use an example: Say you want to run three miles without stopping and you want to run it in 30 minutes.  Okay, well, lets break it down.  Three miles in under 30 minutes is the long term goal.  You set short term goals in order to bring yourself ever closer to that long term goal until you achieve it.  First short term goal: Run one mile without stopping, walk for a mile, and then run a mile without stopping.  Do this for one month.  Once you achieve this goal, move on to short term goal number two: Run a mile and a half without stopping, walk a half mile, run a mile.  Eventually, your short term goal will be running three miles straight, then running it faster and faster until your final short term goal is your long term goal.  Simple right?
But what about when your goals are not entirely within your control?  Creates an interesting paradox and often can lead to feelings of failure and eventual surrender.  Take a sales goal as I have set for September.  There are several things that are within my control.  I can tweet, blog and share the information regarding the re-release.  I can make sure that the books I put out for my fans are the highest quality I can produce and tell great, innovative stories.  I can let loose my imagination in a way that makes my characters true and real and my fictional environments palpable and fantastic.  What I cannot do, on the other hand, is make people download or buy them.  While I can try to influence people with the elements I can control, ultimately the decision is out of my hands.  So how does one manage such a goal and possible disappointment?
Partly with a bit of good old acceptance.  There are things which I can control and things that I can not.  All I can really do is make sure that all the things within my power are done to the absolute best of my ability.  That way, even though I can't ultimately control the other aspects, at least I put myself in the best possible position to succeed.  Will it be frustrating if I don't meet my goal for this re-release?  Of course.  But at the risk of sounding like a self-help speaker, every failure is an opportunity to learn how to better succeed.  You see, just like running three miles, not every short term goal is going to work out perfectly.  Although my example seemed rather straight forward, what happens if you throw in an injury, or the local track where you run closes down, or a monsoon moves into the area and you can't go outside for a month.  All of these things would place an obstacle in your path and force you to either give up, or adapt.  The lifetime goal for me is becoming a successful novelist.  Now, I could write an entire post on exactly what that means, but the point in this post is that it is a lifetime goal.  Sure, the sooner the better, but the fact is there are quite a few steps that have to be tackled first.  A lot of short term goals.  Have to write a book, check.  Have to get published, check.  Have to develop a fan in progress.
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When a goal is one that requires intervention beyond your control, it automatically brings up an important aspect of achievement that is only sometimes necessary in goals that are achievable with only personal effort.  Help.  Let's go back to the three mile goal for a second.  Now for me, having been in the military and now a firefighter, this goal is one that I could achieve quite easily on my own.  While I'm a bit out of shape, I could go run three miles right now, probably a bit slower than  30 minutes and within a month have my time down.  But what about someone who was never in the military?  What about someone who never played sports as a kid and never has jogged a mile in their life?  What if the person setting the goal weighs 300 lbs?  Might change things a bit.  That person might need to reach out for help.  They may need some kind of intervention to reach what for them, would be a much loftier goal.  There are writers who were born into literary families, who know the right people are who are already famous for other reasons.  For them, they just go out and run a literary three miles and do a bit of work to lessen their times.  For most writers though, we start out weighing 300 lbs and while we might know how to jog, we have no idea where the track is.
So what is the conclusion of all this: Do everything you can to put yourself in a position to succeed, ask for help and be persistent.  After all, even if you aren't able to run three miles in 30 minutes by next year, if you've done everything you can, asked for help and were persistent about running, I guarantee you'll be a healthier, happier person and in the end, isn't that really the lifetime goal.

Caption 1:  mage:Florida Box Turtle Digon3.jpg of a Florida Box Turtle (''Terrapene carolina bauri''). 
Taken in Jacksonville, Florida, USA.}} |Source=Digon3 |Date= April 5, 2008 |Author= “Jo
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