I must admit that I was once a victim of folks who spread the gospel of perfectionism and no grammar mistakes.
You have probably met those ‘experts’ who advised against applying for a job for which you lacked a small specified requirement or they made you re-edit your CV several times that you even missed the deadline! You are not alone.
After getting a US $ 60 per week part-time University teaching job in September 2004, I continued exploring how to fully exploit all my strengths. When you have loans and bills to pay, any income gets used up quickly and you are back to the ‘needy’ state. It is a human condition to upgrade your lifestyle when income increases – better apartment, good car, and great leisure outings. The higher you rise the harder you fall. If by any misfortune you lose the job or the financial crisis finds you on the wrong side of the business, life becomes tough. I was in that kind of situation when I immaturely resigned my job.
I needed more income and that is how I got an idea of publishing a question and answer book. I was teaching management accounting and I got an idea of turning my weekly study notes into a book. I thought the students would love it.
I went to a Senior Lecturer, an old man in his mid-forties, and told him about the idea to which he responded “don’t you know there are already so many similar books in the library; how will you avoid grammar mistakes with your kind of English, who will publish your book, etc. If you want to write, I suggest you first get a Ph.D.!”
His comments were a big blow to my aspirations. I had written some few pages of the book and after that chat, I become very careful. Every time I read through what I had written the previous day, I had to change something!
Instead of moving ahead, I stagnated in the first few pages. I kept trying to be perfect and ensuring no grammar mistakes. It was not easy. There were always mistakes waiting to be discovered the following day! I do not know why I could not think of doing my part (writing the technical content) and employing an English teacher to edit the script for grammar! Now I know why they say everyone can be brilliant after the fact.
Without any progress, I abandoned the book publishing project altogether. I looked for more part-time teaching jobs and moved on. Thank God that I repeated the activity that had given me success when I was in a deep financial ditch– part-time teaching at several institutes. With three part-time jobs, I stabilized, married, got a full-time job and rose up again. Although I still wanted to be my own boss, I swore never to repeat the mistake of resigning from a job without a stable and better alternative.
With stable monthly income, it was time to move to a better apartment. While sifting through our unwanted items, my wife saw a draft copy of my book to which she enquired where the published version was. I replied how the idea was abandoned. She encouraged me to just do it. In her own words: “it is difficult to succeed if you have a habit of abandoning projects half-way. Love, you will have all the time to mind about grammar mistakes in your second edition, just have something out.”
I was pumped up. For the next eight months, I devoted an hour daily to the book. If you have been in a ‘big 4’ audit firm, you know how work there tends never to get finished. If it is not a proposal, it is the unfinished client work, both of which are always urgent. Nevertheless, I found time to complete my book.
Without any publisher and no money to print, I interested my students to “get the book at a 50% discount if they were willing to pay for it in advance.” Over 80% of the students in my class accepted.
The next hurdle was design and layout. Design firms were asking more than the US $1,500 to lay the book. “If your book layout is bad, no one will read it”, perfectionist would tell me. I shared my predicament with a co-worker who advised that “if the book is about design, get it well designed. Otherwise, MS Word is very versatile. Just give what you have done to the printer, they know what to do.” That is why you must always avoid anyone who discourages you. Life is not about perfection. It is about hope – maybe no one will see the error! I mean, not everyone who reads your report sees all the errors in there.
Now I was ready to go. I had collected about the US $1,100 from the students. I bargained, and the Printing Company accepted a 50% deposit. I printed about 2,000 copies. On April 4th2007, I opened an Amazon.com account and listed the book on their Kindle.
Finally, my book was out.
I sold all the 2,000 initial copies and printed more 2,000 which also got finished. The Kindle version did not sell well, though I get occasional notifications of a new order once in a while. However, I have since received so many offers for teaching and writing pamphlets and study booklets. Many of my friends have benefited from my references.
Now to you: stop being misguided – don’t mind the grammar mistakes and perfection. There is nothing like learning from ‘perfection.’ That is why companies with templates and structured processes are less innovative. Although first impressions matter, it does not mean that you fail to get out of the house even when you don’t have the right attire. Most of the time, showing up is all that matters.
I wish you success.