Request for feedback on book idea
October 24, 2022
This is the Too Many Trees newsletter, where I share what I’ve been writing and reading in the realm of leadership and personal development. My executive coaching practice is centered around the idea that we are more effective in moving towards our goals when we become more conscious and intentional in focusing our time and attention, and learn how our unconscious patterns are holding us back. If you know somebody that could benefit from my perspective, please forward this to them or let them know they can set up a free intro chat with me.
I took a new pass at outlining the book I said I wanted to write this year, using the exercises from Jennie Nash’s Blueprint for Writing a Nonfiction Book, and have an idea I’m excited about pursuing, but wanted to check whether it resonates with others (thanks to reading about a process from Writing Useful Books where you workshop ideas _before_ you spend months writing material).
I had originally planned to assemble yet another leadership book out of the 200+ LinkedIn posts and the alignment blog posts I’ve written, but it wasn’t creating a spark for me - I couldn’t figure out how to tie that material together. But in writing about my “ideal reader” for this book, I realized that my story isn’t about leadership in the sense of managing others, it’s about the practice of leading oneself by creating new possibilities for action.
In other words, it’s the story I tell of my personal development of burning out, letting go of the need for the next promotion, and choosing my own definition of success instead. That process over the last ten years has led to creating my coaching career, as well as helping me become a better partner and parent. With that growth as the focus, the other material snapped into place in a chapter outline as tools to get the reader from the edge of burnout to thriving.
Here are my answers to the ideal readers for a book centered on that transformation, with a tentative title of “From Desperation to Inspiration”:
What keeps them up at night?
They “have it all” and still feel empty and exhausted each day. They can’t sleep because they feel unfulfilled despite having what everybody says they should want.
What do they want more than anything in the world?
To wake up excited about the day, and to be able to put their head down at night feeling that their day was spent on (to quote David Whyte) “Good work, done well, for the right reasons and with an end in mind.” and to believe in that end.
What can your book do to help them get it?
To offer them new possibilities, to release the constraints that have been imposed on them by school and by culture that they “have to” want greater money, a bigger house, more status, and can instead choose another path.
Does this description resonate with you? Would you read a book that promised this?
If this ideal reader is you, would you be willing to speak with me and share your story?
Any other feedback is welcome. This feels right to me, but I want to check that intuition against the reality of others before investing my limited writing time in building out this concept beyond the chapter outline I wrote.
And now for the normal personal development content:
Blog: My summary of the book Radical Friendship, by Kate Johnson. I’ve mentioned this book in the newsletter before, but this is my full blog summary of the book that inspired my recent commitment to connection. As she writes, “Friendship is something we practice not because we should but because we want to. Because it restores our access to our full humanity. Because it makes life beautiful and meaningful and divine.”
LinkedIn: These are ideas that have helped my clients (or myself), and that I share via LinkedIn to help a wider audience.
Do you actually need to do anything here? Jumping in to solve problems is a wonderful trait early in your career to show initiative and build your network. However, it can become a detriment as your scope increases, as it can lead to overwork and burnout. To avoid that, start to be more discerning on which problems you choose to solve. Pick the ones that have the most impact for your important stakeholders, and let somebody else solve the others.
Investing in others is a limited risk with enormous upside. If they fail, you can always go back and do the work yourself. If they succeed, you can trust them with bigger and bigger tasks, which allows you to take on greater work yourself.
Schedule a regular 1:1 with yourself. You are the most important person you manage, more important than your boss or your reports. Most managers would have 1:1s with people they manage, so I suggest scheduling similar time to check in with yourself on what’s going well, what you want to do better, and how to prioritize your commitments.
Pause in the moment. Many times we know what we “should” do, but for some unconscious reason, veer away from that action in the moment. The practice to develop is to pause in that critical moment, let the emotions and tension pass through the body, then make the decision from a place of conscious clarity, rather than trained reactivity
Articles and resources I’ve found interesting:
"This Present Moment Used To Be The Unimaginable Future" - I’ve been a Long Now member for many years, and I loved reading about this collaboration with Alicia Eggert who created a sign with that Stewart Brand quote. The challenge I shared on Twitter was to connect the two: What action can you take today to create the unimaginable future you desire?
I am also reminded of the Chinese proverb: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is today.”
A New Playbook for Saving Democracy, by Anand Giridharadas, whose new book The Persuaders is now out, an excerpt of which is posted in The Atlantic. Giridharadas claims that we have been radicalized to think that the “other side” is unreachable, when we are all people trying to get through this world. He spent years talking to activists to learn what actually works in changing hearts and minds, and shares the takeaways in the NYT article and the book.
Related to the previous “today” point, please vote in the mid-term elections, and get others to vote. Michael Moore made a point on his mailing list that Trump won Michigan in 2016 by an average of 2 people per district. Getting even one undecided person to vote in the election could be critical.
“Yes, You Are Successful. But Are You Alive?” I loved this article from my friend, Ana Lucia Jardim, advising us to show up as our whole selves. Rather than shut down our creativity and passion at work, she suggests tapping into those instincts to become more effective everywhere: “Don’t treat your art like “just a hobby”. Make it your lab, your dojo, your studio – where you rehearse, discover, uncover, and prepare for living and working as your spellbinding self.”
Thanks for reading! See you in a couple weeks!