Posts tagged ‘success’

February 25, 2014

#72) How not to complain, #2: An open letter to Lynn Shepherd

Dear Ms. Shepherd,

I’m sorry that your recent pitch to get J.K. Rowling to stop writing hasn’t worked.  I dare say it backfired; in addition to the hate mail you’ve received, you’ve probably helped her sell a few more books.

But I’m not here to add to the hate.  I myself absolutely love complaining and it saddens me when people such as yourself or Samantha Brick don’t realize the potential of this high art form.

Many of your feelings about Rowling echo my thoughts about the current state of the music business.  Why does Coldplay still exist?  Why is Gotye set for life from one song while I have to deal with talent buyers who think I should be happy playing for “exposure?”  Why do people insist on taking Rod Stewart seriously as a jazz singer?  Much as I would love answers to these questions, I’ve reached the conclusion that it’s more productive to focus on my own music (and writing) than speculate about how Justin Bieber sleeps at night.*

But this isn’t about me.

It’s about giving a voice to the millions of struggling writers who, as you put it, are denied exposure because the world wants more J.K. Rowling.  That is your goal and it’s a good one, but you won’t achieve it by:

  • Bad-mouthing Rowling’s work without giving specific examples of why it sucks.  In this rant about “Twilight”, the author makes clear what she hates about the series; agree with her or not, her opinions and arguments are plainly laid out.  Right now you are using the “if it’s popular, it’s wrong” principle, which is usually a flimsy premise**; not unlike comparing someone you don’t like to Hitler or yourself to Rosa Parks.
  • Not presenting examples of under-appreciated writers who should be getting the shelf space monopolized by Rowling.  Who should we be reading instead of her?
  • Being too serious.  No matter how passionately you care about an issue, lecturing others usually won’t convert them to your side. Humor can be much more effective, as comedian Owen Benjamin shows in this video explaining the banality of pop music.
  • Not establishing your own credentials.  Yes, I just told you to not be so serious, but you also need to provide your readers a reason to care about your opinion.  More people love to rant than love listening to rants.  Speaker’s Corner in London always draws a crowd, but it’s still more of a curiosity than a major attraction.

In conclusion, I genuinely wish you well in your career as a writer.  Hopefully someday you will occupy an amount of shelf space that meets your satisfaction.  If you ever do achieve the success of Rowling and are besieged by struggling writers expressing their resentment, remember to go easy on ’em.

* I know it’s more productive but that doesn’t mean that I do it.

** That doesn’t stop me from using the argument myself.

October 29, 2011

#29) Top five lessons from “Moneyball”

This will be the last baseball post for a while, I promise.

It’s been said that one doesn’t have to be a baseball fan to enjoy “Moneyball.”  As a baseball fan, I wouldn’t be the one to ask, but I would guess that one would have to be a baseball fan to really enjoy the book.  There were some parts that were a little hard to follow, even as a baseball fan, and it’s my guess that the non-fan would be lost or bored by them.

That said, with “Moneyball”, the movie vs. book debate is apples and oranges: the film, thoroughly enjoyable, has wide appeal, whereas the book is already a classic among hardcore baseball geeks.

The book has several valuable lessons that transcend the sport, so for those who don’t feel like reading “Moneyball” but might be interested in some of its take-aways, I present my five favorites.

1) When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.  This may be the oldest cliche out there, but the story of Billy Beane, Oakland Athletics general manager, puts a new twist on it.  Beane himself was a highly touted baseball prospect in the early 1980s, whose career was a disappointment.  However, he became his own cautionary tale.  The scouts who saw him and built him up were impressed by his appearance, and Beane used the lesson of his own story to judge players by their actual statistics and records, not just what is apparent.

2) Use what you have, not what you need.  Billy Beane’s 2002 Oakland A’s won the same number of games as the Yankees, a team with a payroll four times higher.  Beane knew early on that it wouldn’t pay to fixate on the gap between the two teams’ budgets; he had to find a different way of looking at the numbers.  He reinvented how to read baseball statistics and found value in players who were under-appreciated by the market; he also saw how to replace the higher-priced stars whom he couldn’t afford to keep.

3) Know what you want.  Once Beane realized the type of players he wanted, he would put their names up on a board and figure out exactly what he needed to do to get them, bluffing, cajoling and negotiating his way to his goal.

4) Know how to be “wrong.”  Baseball people, be they fans, writers or those inside the game, are notorious for being stuck in their ways.  Beane didn’t change his course when his strategies were lambasted by the media.

5) Know how to be right.  As word spread of Beane’s effectiveness in finding undervalued players, others in the baseball world refused to do business with him, knowing that by definition, they were probably getting the short end of the stick.  Like a pool hustler, Beane had to convince his marks that the deal was actually in their interest.

The story of Billy Beane and the Oakland Athletics is certainly entertaining, educational and inspirational.  Even non-baseball fans can learn a thing or two from his persistence, innovation and creativity.