Opinion by Richard Bleil
A few days ago I was talking with a couple of students. They seemed quite excited to discover that I have a blog site, and I provided the web address. I truly hope they don’t actually read any of my posts, because if they read any of my short stories, they’ll probably never be the same again.
Be that as it may, one of them mentioned that her mother had wanted to start a blog. Through the years I have started many things, some of them successful, some not. I started graduate school, leaving a stable standard job to seek my doctorate. I started my career in academia turning my back on a more traditional career in industry, started writing a book, started a private business, started a blog and far more.
As a result of starting, I earned my Ph.D., became a tenured full professor (or maybe “fool” professor would be more accurate), published Vampire Genetics, am the owner of KIRB, LLC Scientific consulting, and…
…well, you know. You’re reading it. None of this is “typical”. According to Google (as if you can trust it), about 2% of Americans have doctoral degrees, 0.01% have published books, 14% have their own businesses, and roughly 10% have a blog.
The percentage of people who have written a book surprises me the most. Of those polled, 81% of Americans responded saying that they “have a book in them”, so why only 0.001% of authors? Why does that student’s mother want to be a blogger, but isn’t?
I’m not going to tell you how to write a best-seller, be a greatly influential blogger, or become independently wealthy with your own business. Trust me, after a year, I have fewer than a hundred followers of my blog (but, seriously, if you are one of them, thank you so very much…I do this for you!), I’ve sold maybe a dozen copies of my book (if THAT many), and trust me…my business is struggling. But, the reality is that I did it. All of it. And I couldn’t have done ANY of it if I didn’t start.
I suspect, that is the big hurdle for most people. So, if you want to write a book, start a business, return to education…how do you start?
Frankly, you start by starting.
If that sounds obvious and trite, it’s really not so shallow as you might think. See, to start, one has to overcome one’s own self-doubt. There is often that little voice that says you can’t do without the income of a job to return to school, or nobody will read your book or blog, or your business will fail. And, well, maybe it’s true, but so what?
My book leaves a lot to be desired, but I wanted to write it, so I wrote it. Maybe my second book will be better, maybe not. Who knows? But, I wanted to write it, so I wrote it. Was it worth publishing? I don’t know, but if anybody wanted to read it, it was their decision. All I did was give them the opportunity to make that choice.
Never let anybody tell you you’re not good enough, especially yourself. My own voice is my harshest critic, and I know that. It’s the voice, in fact, of my father who made no secret of his disappointment in me, and belief that I could do nothing right. So, every time that voice rises in me, I will say, often audibly, “shut up, dad.” And I do it anyway.
No, I can’t tell you how to be successful, but I can tell you that you will NOT be successful if you don’t actually do it.
So, enough procrastinating. Just do something. Do it for yourself, not the potential success or failure. Do it because you want to do it.
Sometimes the way to begin is by research. This is an excellent way to start something like a business or returning to education. My friend wants to return to school, so I’ve been encouraging her to do some research. What schools are near her? What majors do they have that she might be interested in?
Many years ago, one of my friends dropped out from my undergraduate institution to go live with her boyfriend (of course). The relationship failed (of course), and she returned not to school, but to the city. I ran into her in an ice-cream shop and struck up a conversation with her. She said she wanted to return to school but didn’t know how to begin. All I did was suggest that she stop in to financial assistance to ask some questions. A few years later, she graduated with her degree, and today she won’t even speak with me!
Well, I did what I could.
The point is that she just started. She had a problem figuring out how to pay for it, so she did some research. When I wrote my book, I started with the outline, just to the idea down. When I started my business, I just jotted down a business plan using a published model.
So, yes, you can do it. Start. Worry about the problems later. Make a goal. When I wrote my book, I decided on three pages a day as my minimum requirement. Two months later, at three pages a day, I had a book.
There really is nothing special about me. Trust me. You can do this.