Baking Recipe: Success

picture of freshly-baked round loaves

When you have invented a good recipe, you write it down. You write it down because you know it works, and you might need that reminder at a later date. You also write it down because it might serve to benefit other people, or in order to mark little changes you’ve discovered along the way. That’s kind of what this blog is all about.

I love baking as an analogy not only because I worked at Great Harvest for a year and a half, but also because I just love baking. I’ve put together three ingredients to success that have always led me to great things in the past. They are the reason I have never gone more than a week or two without a job, even after the economic downturn – and I believe the same principles will eventually lead to success in other aspects of life.

First Ingredient – Work Hard and Continuously

This may seem obvious, and there’s a reason for that. Every book that was ever published was also rejected. Almost every author who was ever published didn’t publish their first written work. A piano player practices regularly for years to get good enough for professional status. That’s just how life works.

In the job-getting department, this means every day you find some new contacts, and you make at least 5 contacts. Expand your list of job openings and make 5 steps toward getting a job somewhere. That means applying online, dressing nice and walking in to check on an application, scheduling an interview, attending an interview, etc.

In the writing world, this means writing a book. It also means editing it, probably several times.

Second Ingredient – Be Cheerfully Flexible

It really irks me when plans change last second on me. At my very best, I’ll eventually remember to be cheerfully flexible. Changes happen, and you’ve got to be able to adapt to them. Why waste energy on being upset about it?

This means being able to take critique or roll with the punches. Many writers are sensitive arteests, vulnerable and even angry at the idea of an editor “ruining” their work. An already successful editor or agent knows how to take a book and make it ready for the professional world. Chances are, you don’t.

Third Ingredient – Learn to Like People

I love smart people. Literary people make some of the most fun conversationalists; they have something to say about everything, and they are so darn witty. However, it kills me how critical smart people can be. Sometimes, downright cynical and negative. It’s a natural thing, I think; we as humans tend toward our own viewpoint so strongly, we often find ourselves in a perpetual state of dislike toward others.

I was not born with the gift to be a social butterfly, and I don’t claim to be one now. I was born with passion and with honesty, however, and I’ve learned something; if I can genuinely like people, they can tell. A lot of the time, they’ll like me back. It’s actually really cool. The book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” was given to me for Christmas one year by my parents. I rolled my eyes when I got it. “Wow, trying to send a subtle message here?” I thought.

It turned out to be one of the most valuable books I have ever read. It isn’t tips and tricks about how to fool people into thinking you’re different. It’s not a book on rhetoric, on using the right words to be influential. It’s not even about formulating good arguements. It’s about liking people. It’s about trying more often to see things from others’ viewpoints.

People can tell if you like people, whether it’s in person or because they’re reading your written work. For me, the trick isn’t to fool people into thinking I’m cool. It’s liking them, first.

Time for Maturity

Every great bread recipe uses an organism, sugars to feed them, salt to control them, and time to let them do their work. You can’t rush great bread. You HAVE to let it mature. Let it rise, beat it back down, and let it rise again. Put it in the oven too soon and you’ll have a brick. Take it out of the oven too soon, and you’ll have a mushy center.

Everything takes time. The trick is finding ways to track progress – mile markers you can recognize. “My first book signing” is a great way to know you’ve made it to a certain point, but “I wrote 500 words today” is a great way to tell that you’re making progress right now.


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