Saturday, September 8, 2007

Why Ignorance is Good

Knowledge is good but sometimes so is ignorance. How many times have you thought of doing something but then remembered, or been told-that it's impossible, that the odds are stacked against you? A few months ago, I posted a question on a writer's site I frequent. In responding, someone told me how impossible it would be for me to publish my book. He said that 'even though you might think it's a great story, no one wants to read a story about you and your dad, no matter how poignant.' He went on to list the odds of ever making it in this tough line of work. He told about receptionists who stamp, "Rejection" on your manuscript without even passing it on to the editor. Basically, he was saying that I am foolish...perhaps even stupid for even dreaming such a dream. Was I discouraged? Sure I was. Who wouldn't be?

Recently I was honored to be able to attend an inspirational seminar by Jack Canfield. He told about a man named Cliff Young. Let me tell you the short version of the story.

Marathon runners are notorious for their training. And in Australia, the race to train for is the 875 kilometer endurance race from Sydney to Menbourne. It is the worlds longest and toughest ultra-marathon. Enter Cliff Young.

Cliff showed up on race day and signed up for the run. He stood next to runners sponsored by big names like Nike. Most were under 30-years old and equipped with the most expensive outfits. Cliff stood next to them at the starting gate; his attire...OshKosh overalls, and galoshes over his work boots, in case it rained.

Cliff, at 61-years old, had never trained for a marathon. He'd barely heard of one. When a reporter asked him just what made him think he could run a marathon, he explained that he was a farmer. "...we couldn't afford horses or four wheel drives, adn the whole time I was growing up...whenever the srorms would roll in, I'd have to go out and round up the sheep. We had 2,000 head and we have 2,000 acres. Sometimes I would have to run those sheep for two or three days. It took a long time, but I'd catch them. I believe I can run this race; it's only two more days. Five days. I've run sheep for three."

Every professional athlete knew that it takes 5 days to run the race, and that you would need to run 18 hours a day and sleep 6 hours. But that was every "professional" athlete. Cliff did not know this. So while the other athletes slept, Cliff shuffled on. During the race, someone asked him what his tactics would be for the rest of the race. He said he would run until he finished it.

And that is what he did. Every night he got a little closer to the lead. By the last night, he passed the world-class athletes. And by the last day, he was way out in front of them. Not only did he finish the race, he won first place, beating the record by nine hours. What was going through is mind as he ran? Sheep. But he wasn't counting them...he was chasing them, imagining he was trying to outrun a storm.

I've read that only 10% of freelancers actually make a living at it. Why not me? The stats are even more grim for getting a book published. Why not me? In fact...why not you? There will always be people who are quick and even anxious to tell you you can't succeed (like my discourager on the writer's forum). And there are always statistics to back up their opinion. So what? Who cares? Does anyone know you better than you do? Does anyone know your drive and your determination?

Cliff pictured going out to rescue his sheep during a storm. Every minute of every hour, of everyday, he kept that image in his mind. Slowly, methodically...he kept going. What is that mental image for you? What is your biggest, boldest and brightest dream? What do you want that you are afraid to even voice? Get that image in your mind. If you need to, draw a picture of it and put it on every surface of your home. Cut an image from a magazine, or write the words with magic markers. Do whatever it takes to keep your dream constantly before your eyes. With that powerful mental image, you can do anything. Anything!

Write Now...because it IS later than you think.
photos: Cliff Young



Eileen said...

Wow, Karen - neat! Hmmm...this means if I want to be the world's greatest translator, I should be spending hours with my Russian-English verb book. Arrrgh! That Would be an outrageous goal,now wouldn't it? Hmmm...hmmmm. Let's try another goal, like a writing goal or some such. Thanks for a neat post with a little nudge (big one, actually) in there. Yeah! EE

bunnygirl said...

I read once that you can have anything you want but you can't have everything you want. If you devote yourself single-mindedly to a goal, your chances of success are quite good. It's when our actions don't match our words that we fail.

There are a lot of "dark horse" stories that made it big. And we have a lot of alternatives to going with traditional publishing, too. So I wouldn't worry what one person says won't sell. People beat the odds every day.

Margie said...

What a remarkable story, and a perfect metaphor for trying to make it as a writer. Thanks for sharing.

Karen L. Alaniz said...

Yes. I think that's it Eileen. Outrageous goal? Maybe. How about being the best Russian-English translator that YOU can be. And yes, keep up with the have such a story to tell!

Bunny- I sometimes feel like people who are discouraging, are projecting their own experiences. And that's the way I take it. They are frustrated and disappointed and if you (I) make it against all odds, then their theory will have to be adjusted, and they'd rather live their life believing it's impossible.

Margie- You're welcome. It's amazing, isn't it.


Lillie Ammann said...

Great story, Karen. When writers come to me to edit a manuscript, I feel I have an obligation to tell them the realities of the publishing world. But if they are really committed to their goal, knowing that only a tiny fraction of writers succeed won't deter them. As you said, they answer, "Why not me?" Some famous writer - sorry I can't remember who - said a successful writer is one that kept on writing and submitting. You have to believe in yourself and be very persistent.

Karen L. Alaniz said...

How true Lillie!