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Getting what you want

ap15-S71-41810HRWhen NASA engineers were tasked with putting a man on the moon, they knew they couldn’t do it with the existing technology. But rather than admit defeat, they made a list of the technologies they’d need to invent to make it happen. Then they set about inventing them!

I love this approach. They didn’t say it couldn’t be done. They just found a way to make it happen.

I’m always trying to maintain this get-it-done attitude in my own life. Rather than giving up on something because I don’t have the requisite tools or skill set, I try to figure out what I need and then go about getting it.

A year ago I knew almost nothing about self-publishing. But I plan to publish a romantic suspense series this year, so I had to figure it out. There are so many resources out there on how to format (Scrivener makes it easy, BTW), upload, market, and price your book. I don’t have to invent anything new, just get up to speed on how it works.

The same goes for almost anything. What do you want to do? What would you need to make it happen? How can you get what you need?

Once you know what you need the goal doesn’t look so daunting. A list is something you can take a little bite out of every day. You don’t have to rush. Just keep plugging away at it and you’ll get there.

My first lesson in this came about 15 years ago. My programming job was mind-numbing and constantly under threat of being downsized, with no potential for upward mobility. After some soul searching, I decided I really wanted to teach software classes. Preferably part time so I could be home more with my son and the baby on the way.

The problem was that I had no Ph.D.—no Master’s yet either—and no teaching experience. I wasn’t even really an expert in anything, but I had a strong background with Microsoft Office and I learned software quickly.

I applied for jobs at local training centers or junior colleges, but finally gave up and decided to work for myself providing one-on-one/customized computer help. Not a quick, nor lightly made decision. Maybe not even a good one, but that’s what I did (with my awesome husband’s support).

So, I took some training to beef up my knowledge of the Microsoft Office programs, quit my job, joined the local chamber of commerce to meet potential clients, and paid for a small graphic ad in the local business newspaper. And I started getting work. I might even have broken even over the long run. 😉

But it paid off in other ways (besides some money and lots of time with my boys). One of my clients wanted a custom database that could create reports for her property appraisal business. I spent over a year working on it—a lesson in project creep and the downsides of a poorly written contract—and in the process I became an expert at creating Access databases.

And guess what? Within two weeks of moving to Ohio, I found a job at a business college that needed an Access instructor, but hadn’t found anyone who could pass the certification exam. I could. So I got a good-paying, part-time job teaching software and business communications classes.

My route to teaching didn’t happen on a normal path, but knowing what I wanted, and finding a way to get started in the right direction, eventually paved the way for exactly the job I had been looking for.

Patience and effort are the keys.

What do you want? What’s holding you back? Is there one step you can take today that will get you closer to your dream, even if it’s just making a list of what you would need to make it happen?

Go for it!

Image credit: NASA (via

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  1. Reply

    I love this! I’m a firm believer in setting your mind to something and finding a way to succeed. Often, the path to success is the not the well-traveled road. These NASA guys proved that. Excellent post!

    The biggest challenge I faced as a writer was falling into the trap of trying to succeed using the paths of those who’ve gone before me. So each morning, I remind myself that my success is dependent upon my willingness to risk failure by following my own path. 🙂

    • Reply

      Thanks, Mary! I love the idea of following your own path. That can be hard to do since it’s not well worn or easy to find, but it’s always worth it, I think. 🙂

  2. Reply

    Great post, Gwen – inspiring! I went the same way as you’re planning for my first book, self-publishing a guide to Virginia wineries last year. I even learned how to draw my own maps in Adobe Illustrator. It was a great experience and very empowering. It’s amazing what you can do when you set your mind to it! 🙂

    This year, my self-challenge is steeper: to finish the revisions to the first draft of a murder-mystery and start exploring either finding a publisher or self-publishing it. I’ve never done fiction before but you never know until you try, right? My steps are to take a couple of online courses (such as one I’m doing now, with Sisters in Crime, on adding emotional impact to my writing) and then learning how to do pitches to agents.

    And I’ll take the plunge and attend a couple of writing conferences (Killer Nashville is definitely on the list). There are even a couple of competitions for non-published mysteries that I’d like to submit my draft to. While the chances of making the top ten are pretty slim, they’re zero if I don’t participate.

    As Mary said, above, success is dependent upon our willingness to risk failure. Because if we’re not willing to do that, we have no chance at all at success.

    Thanks again!

    P.S. Wanted you to know I attended the Fairfax Citizens Police Academy last fall, motivated by your blog posts on it. It was an absolutely fabulous experience!

    • Reply

      GoughPubs: That’s wonderful. I agree that we often surprise ourselves when we try something new. I love that feeling. Good luck with the mystery. It sounds like you’re taking all the necessary steps. So glad you enjoyed the FCCPAAA. I had so much fun with the classes and some of the post-grad volunteer work I’ve done as an alum. If you see me at an event, be sure to introduce yourself! 🙂

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