When your project just doesn’t “take off.”
Imagine pouring 100 hours of your life into a project that’s deeply important to you.
Your project just doesn’t “take off.”
Nobody offers you a book deal. Nobody invites you to appear on the radio. Nobody clicks. Nobody registers. Nobody cares. OK, maybe a tiny handful of people, but nowhere near what you had anticipated.
All of your time, sweat, and creativity—all for nothing.
So much effort. No reward.
What a big, stupid waste.
Or… is it?
Is it really a waste? How can you be sure? What if your “big reward” is coming—just around the bend—except it’s arriving in a shape or package that you didn’t expect?
After working with over 200 clients on thousands of writing projects—large and small—there’s one thing that I’ve found to be true, time and time again:
When your pour your heart into a creative project, you will ALWAYS receive some type of reward.
All caps, absolutely, without question: ALWAYS.
The “reward” might not be exactly what you thought it would be. It might be different, bigger, smaller, quirkier, or subtler. But your reward is coming to you. It always does. Your effort is never “a big waste.”
Allow me to prove my case:
Story #1. It’s not a book, it’s a business.
Brandon wanted to get a book deal. His dream: to create a playful, whimsical book filled with cheese-related recipes and gorgeous photos called CheesePlay.
He estimates that he spent over 100 hours developing and testing the recipes, taking the photos, writing and re-writing his book proposal—and then another 20 hours emailing his proposal to literary agents and publishers. Unfortunately, no one was interested. Of course, he was disappointed.
About a year after that literary disappointment, Brandon decided to open his own business—a brunch restaurant called HunnyMilk.
Many of the recipes that he developed for the CheesePlay proposal now show up—in different ways—on the HunnyMilk menu. Today, HunnyMilk customers get to enjoy “mozzarella stuffed breakfast meatballs” and “cheesy garlic grits” and “pastry puffs” and all kinds of other delicious things.
Brandon thought he was writing a book. Instead, he wound up developing recipes for his future business. He spent 100+ hours putting in “the work.” In the end…
Brandon’s book never became an actual book.
But none of his effort was wasted.
It was worth it.
Story #2. It’s not a book, it’s a free ticket to Spain.
My dad is an attorney who primarily represents musicians, singers, and other performing artists. For years, he has watched artists get embroiled in messy lawsuits, get underpaid and undervalued, have their intellectual property stolen and misused, and so on—so many squabbles that could have been prevented! If only these artists understood their basic rights, knew how to read a legal contract, and knew how to stand up for themselves when they’re being taken advantage of.
He decided to write a book about “music and the law”—a book for musicians who want to become “law-savvy” and avoid future catastrophes.
In the end, his “book” morphed into a “curriculum.” He realized that while a book might be great, a live classroom experience might be even better. That way he could teach the material face to face, answer questions on the spot, and help his students to create actual contracts and agreements as part of the class.
Today, he teaches his very-popular Music & the Law class at UCLA—and he recently got invited to teach an intensive version of the class at a school in Spain.
Dad’s book never became an actual book. (Not yet, anyway.)
But none of his effort was wasted.
It was worth it.
Story #3. It’s not a book, it’s a miracle.
After my first book, 50 Ways To Say You’re Awesome, came out, I was hoping it would become a massive bestseller. It wasn’t. I did my best to promote the book—interviews, radio appearances, a multi-city book tour, all the trimmings. In the end, it sold OK, just not astoundingly amazingly.
But because I put that book into the world, several miracles happened:
– A group of teenage girls (who loved the book) wrote me handwritten “thank you” letters folded into dozens of origami hearts and stars. I cried.
– A group of employees (who loved the book) recorded a video of themselves reading excerpts from the book aloud to each other at a company retreat. They told me the book brought them closer together. I cried.
– A former client brought a copy of the book to her local TV station (she does a weekly on-air appearance) and she held up the book, on camera, and described it as a terrific gift and a wonderful tool for teaching kids (and grown-ups) how to say “thank you.” My book—on TV??! I cried more.
Was the book a huge financial success? Not really.
Did it lead to several miracles that I couldn’t have possibly predicted? Definitely.
None of my effort was wasted.
It was totally worth it.
What do you want to write or create?
Maybe you’ll invest 100 hours or more.
Maybe you’ll email 25 publishers and hear “no” 25 times.
Maybe you’ll wonder, “What’s the point of all this work?”
Maybe you’ll decide you’re a fool for even trying.
And maybe… you’ll be wrong about that.
Maybe you’ll receive a “reward” that is bigger, different, more meaningful, or just more mysterious and miraculous than anything you’d previously dreamed about.
Maybe your “reward” won’t be “a bestselling title.” Maybe, instead, your “reward” will be a deeper bond with your clients and business community, a deeper bond with your family, a deeper understanding of yourself, a new curriculum for a class, a new business model, or a surprise “thank you” letter from a teenage girl that you’ve never met.
Who knows what the ripple effect of your project will be?
Who knows where all of your effort is leading?
It might not be going where you expected.
But will it be worth it?
Will there be some type of reward in the end?
Based on my own experiences—and based on what I’ve seen hundreds of times with clients, colleagues and loved ones—I’d say there’s a pretty solid chance that the answer is: