I was in the shower when my cell phone started ringing. Pennie answered it for me. It was my partner Jeff Eisenberg.
Dripping, I took the phone. “Yo. Jefferson.”
“I'm sending you an article from The Economist. It's something I've heard you talk about a hundred times.”
“What is it?”
“You know who Peter Drucker is?”
“Yeah. The story tells how his bestselling book, the one containing the most detailed, step-by-step instructions, is the one nobody reads anymore. The Drucker books they're studying in all the big colleges today are the ones that were poorly received at first and didn't sell very well. You talked to me about this sort of thing on the day we met.”
“I remember. 'The loneliest people are the ones ahead of their time.'”
Ludwig von Beethoven knew this outsider phenomenon well. Many of the musical compositions we consider to be his greatest today were panned by the critics of his time. Even his own musicians were confused by them. When the famed violinist Radicati asked Beethoven about these pieces he replied, “Oh, those are not for you, but for a later age.”
We are that later age.
Thankfully, Ludwig von Beethoven didn't let the dullness of the public palate affect what he chose to create. In other words, Ludy didn't pander to the finger-snapping jingle crowd.
In my mind, I ask Ludwig why he doesn't try to write the kind of music that sells. I see him there. He looks quietly at me for a moment, then curls a lip, looks at the ground and spits. Then he looks back up at me. After a moment's hesitation I nod.
But I'm not the only one nodding.
“When a true genius appears in this world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.” – Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver's Travels
“Great spirits have often encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.” – Albert Einstein
“Funeral by funeral, science makes progress.” – Paul Samuelson. Yes, even scientists who are ahead of their time are rejected by their peers.
The magnificent Emily Dickinson wrote with complete confidence that her words would never be read. It was only when her family looked in her bureau drawer on the day she died that they found 1,700 poems that would quickly be ranked among the greatest ever written.
Emily Dickinson knew a freedom not felt by other writers. And it made her words soar. Feel them cut like shimmering blades:
FAME is a fickle food
Upon a shifting plate,
Whose table once a Guest, but not
The second time, is set.
Whose crumbs the crows inspect,
And with ironic caw
Flap past it to the Farmer's corn;
Men eat of it and die.
Emily Dickinson was like Beethoven in that she had no need for public praise. She wrote for herself, an audience of one. Study the lives of the Great Ones and you'll find this to be a common characteristic among them.
Cyril Connolly said it best: “Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.”
I believe Peter Drucker, Jonathan Swift and Albert Einstein would agree.
Ludy Von would, too.
Emily says she's in.
How about you? Do you have something new and different to say?
Are you willing to write for an audience of one?
Roy H. Williams
Wizard Academy Press. We don't publish parrots.
NO PLANE TICKET NECESSARY: Steve Clark's inside-out New School Selling Teleclass happens every Tuesday over a high-tech phone bridge for 11 weeks and no more slots are available. The first session of this SOLD OUT class will begin January 10, 2006. For those of you who were quick enough to slip into this series, it's about to change your world, even if you've already had tons of training. No, especially if you've already had tons of training. Congratulations to these lucky 18.
CHRISTMAS SCHOLARSHIPS – The first of our 3 scholarships is awarded to Dixie Huthmaker of Huthmaker Violins, 3140 Main St., Duluth, Georgia. I was charmed by Dixie's writing. She's a natural: “An ad budget?? Remember that we were musicians first – and musicians are really good at counting to four.” Later in the application we read, “Number One daughter is a fantastic human, musician and our bow queen but she's in love right now. Number One husband is a fantastic human, musician, husband and father, but is business savvy only when it comes to buying instruments. The rest of the business is up to me.”
The second of our three scholarships goes to Tim Gallagher of Gallagher's Heating & Air Conditioning in Los Molinos, California. “On December 27, 1999, I lost my entire 14,000 square foot building and 5 of my install vehicles in a fire. With all of the turmoil that brought to everyone working in our company, we did not loose one employee. The following year we exceeded 1999 sales by 6.5% while working out of my 400 square foot garage.”
Scholarship number three is awarded to Michael Barnett, the entrepreneur who created Romp n' Roll in Glen Allen, Virginia. “We offer a variety of fun Gym, Art, and Music classes for kids. The business has grown like crazy. We opened our first location in October 2004. A second location followed in August 2005. We now have over 800 kids per week walking through our doors. Despite our success, I still feel like an underdog to national franchisees in the market, such as Gymboree, The Little Gym, and My Gym.”
One last seat will be sold for the January 25-27 session of The Secret Formulas Advertising Workshop.