Recently, I decided to enter a competition. The Next Top Spiritual Author Contest was seeking spiritual writers and the prize was a big publishing contract. The first round of the competition involved posting an author profile with an audio or video book pitch, then asking everyone you know to vote. The 250 authors with the most votes on May 3 move to round two of the competition, and a chance for a big publishing contract with Hampton Roads.
Signing up was easy. I have a book in the works, Energy Makeover, which I am self-publishing for release in fall of 2010. I figured that a contest like this would be a great way to get the marketing buzz started and help me learn a few more things about social media. I also knew I needed to get more adept at making videos and wanted to try my hand at using my little camera and Microsoft Movie Maker to see what I could create.
Making this video stirred up all sorts of inner doubts, fears and turbulence in the week that followed. It was ugly, brought me an enormous migraine and introduced me to intense and unpleasant emotions that I am not used to having. How could I possibly call myself a self-care expert and the author of Energy Makeover when my own energy was spinning out of control?
The good news is that I got through it, posted the video and managed to make it into the top 150 authors on the first day I released my profile. The outpouring of support from my friends, clients and colleagues has been heartwarming. You can see my video and vote at http://www.nexttopauthor.com/profile.cfm?aid=799
As I reflect on this whole experience – both the highs and the lows, I recognize there are lessons here to point out. Perhaps they will help you with a big, ugly challenge you’re facing too.
1. Step Into Your Fear
Fear exists but need not stop you. Accept that it is there, then move into it with that first step. For me it meant turning on that video camera and recording. It meant doing what needed to be done, even if it felt scary. Just do it!
2. Serve Them
As I continued filming segments, I realized that it really isn’t about me but rather who I am serving – that audience of people who want to take better care of themselves and want some solutions to their imbalances, problems and symptoms. When you make the message about the customer or audience, you become a valuable player. That’s a more pleasant place to be.
3. Own Your Truth
I realized that my fears had to do with being afraid to reveal the real me, my appearance, and what I truly believe to that big unknown world of the web. What if my message made people uncomfortable? What if they think I’m too alternative? What if they dismiss or reject me completely? At some point I had to accept that not everyone will like or resonate with me and my message, and that is fine. I respect that everyone is free to have their own opinion. I will not allow those fears to change the message I convey. I am more effective operating from my place of truth. That’s where I’ll choose to stay.
4. Vulnerable is Okay
Putting a video up is kind of like going out naked in public. It is vulnerable in the most primitive way. I have learned that being vulnerable draws helpful people closer. They feel your pain & embarrassment. They resonate with your struggle. Your vulnerability makes you real to them and their heart soon lines up with yours. It feels scary, but it results in connection. I have had some marvelous conversations with some of my fellow authors this week as we shared our experiences with our contest entries. I soon discovered I was in good company.
5. Speak from the Heart
Passion is really what propels a message. As I watch the videos of others in the contest, that fire of enthusiasm speaks beyond words. You can find the energy within you to say what must be said and write what must be written when it comes from the heart.
6. There Will Be Set-Backs
Things will go wrong, computers will crash, files will disappear and batteries will die at the worst possible time. That’s how life is too. Know that something will probably derail you temporarily, and make the best of the situation. Take breaks, seek counsel and pray for a miracle. I actually lost the entire video the day I was ready to post it. The movie editing software failed to work and it appeared that all of my hard work was lost. I even took my computer over to an expert to check it out, only to discover that he couldn’t help the situation. After praying a bit more, I re-booted my laptop and miraculously everything appeared again. Divine intervention is always welcome in my world.
7. Persistence Pays
This was a bigger and more time-consuming project than I had ever imagined. I needed to learn to operate a camera, memorize my outline, utilize new software and make the final product satisfy my high standards. There were many moving parts and giving up was not an option. When you commit to something, stick with it till the end. You can’t expect miracles unless you demand a few from within.
8. Let Go
As much as I am a perfectionist and I could continue to edit my video for another week, there came a time when I just had to say it was done and post it to YouTube. It felt like jumping off a cliff without a net. My imperfect video went out to the masses as I gave it over to God to handle the rest. It was a relief to close that chapter. You can let go too. Is there something that you have been holding back until its perfect? Maybe it’s time to just put it out there and let God handle the rest.
9. Ask and Receive
Once the video was up, it was time to ask for support. Again, this was scary. I don’t like begging and bothering people. What if people ignored my requests? Again, I chose to just step into what needed to be done. I wrote to everyone on my email lists asking for support. I also posted requests of Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter in addition to having small business cards with the link printed so I could request votes as I met people at meetings and events. It was delightful to receive replies from all corners of the world from people I hadn’t heard from in years supporting me and complimenting my entry. It was an outpouring of pure love I had not expected. I embraced it and continue to do so as each happy response comes my way. It is important to ask for help and it is equally important to receive it with open arms of gratitude. What a wonderful feeling that complete cycle brings!
10. Enjoy the Ride
I had no idea how much fun all this struggle would bring. I have attracted new friends, renewed older relationships, humbled myself by asking for support and extended my network of connections through the challenge of this contest. People now know me better than they did and there is interest in my new book. The ride is now and I’m here having this great experience. You’ve got NOW too. Notice how your body feels and the emotions that accompany your story as it unfolds. You may want to write it down in your blog or journal to capture the beauty of the moment. Enjoy all that life brings you, the highs and the lows. All of it will transform your soul.