Sunday, January 6, 2013

My New Year’s Gift to You

No matter who we are or what culture we come from, we recognize the stance to the left as connoting victory. So says Amy Cuddy in a TED Talk entitled “Your body language shapes who you are” that I recently watched. TED stands for “Technology, Entertainment and Design.” The talks are from various TED conferences and are up to twenty minutes long and cover an amazing variety of topics. The main website, if you are interested is .

Now I may be the last one to have viewed her TED Talk from June 2012, but I suspect not. And if you have not watched this episode of TED Talks, my first gift to you for 2013 is the link above. Click on it and learn something powerful—if you’re willing. Go ahead and do it now, if you want—this blog will still be here.

I was brought up to believe that independent endeavors determined my worth: being able to solve problems by myself; standing on my own two feet; pulling myself up by my bootstraps. These and many similar aphorisms filled my childhood ears.

I learned their message oh too well.

I rarely felt worthy of success. I knew, even if no one else did, that I hadn’t done it (whatever it was) entirely on my own. Even if the achievement was demonstrably based on my own time and efforts, bright lad that I am, I knew the antecedents to my knowledge. Without training and mentoring, I could not have done it. Besides, I knew in my heart of hearts that someone could have done a better job than I did.

As a result of this thinking, I gravitate to tasks I can do by myself. And to further compound the situation, I shy away from asking for help or accepting it when it is offered. It’s all wrapped up in those damn voices I hear in my head—at least the ones I chose to listen to. Surely there are other voices I heard in childhood that acknowledge it takes a village to raise a child; we’re all in this together; many hands make easy work. I’ve always been willing to help; just not ask for help.

But now I must market Bad Policy, which will be released 3/1/13, and I cannot do it alone. I need librarians and independent bookstores to agree to host a reading/signing, bloggers to interview me or ask me to guest blog, readers to post positive Amazon reviews (assuming they like the book) and spread the good word to friends and social networks. For each of these things to happen requires me to ask for help (or at the very least for me to accept their proffered assistance should it come unbidden).

During Ann Cuddy’s TED Talk the deep knell of a monastery bell rang within me as I recognized I had allowed the unworthy me, the me ruled by self-criticism, to elbow the able me aside. Yet it is the able me who, with the assistance of hoards of people, succeeded in doing what most people won’t do—write a publishable novel. This project will require the able me to step forward and take charge.

Now I’ve figured out this weakness in my makeup before, but Amy Cuddy’s research provides a biological basis for understanding a plan of attack. I’m sure as the time flies between now and Bad Policy’s launch, I’ll be sharing my trials and tribulations, so stay tuned.

If you already knew Amy Cuddy’s talk or just took the time to watch it, what do you think?

~ Jim


E. B. Davis said...

I think that Amy is right. I've lived in the D.C. area for many years. Power and influence are the game in this town--so no one has weaknesses. If anyone were to show a weakness, they would be devoured. Everyone fakes it, and I guess it works.

For promotion, that seems like a proactive stance. The problem is that for writers, their work will reveal themselves more than their promotion. Even if we "fake" it, our books reveal our weaknesses and strengths. All the faking it won't be worth the performance.

That being said, I do think we create ourselves. If viewed less as faking it and more as Ann Charles suggested--creating a public persona and playing that role to promote seems a bit more genuine, a seeming contradiction. But for writers, we need to feel credible and our creation is our art. Creating a persona instead of trying to "fake" it, seems more congruent. Perhaps viewing promotion as theater is the best perspective.

Jessica Ferguson said...

Wonderful post! Boy, do I identify with your childhood ears!

Unknown said...

I'm always leery of silver bullet solutions, but certainly everything Ann discusses makes intuitive as well as scientific sense. Certainly a worth addition to the arsenal against being your own worst enemy. Best take away? "Don't fake it til you make it, fake it til you become it."

Terry Shames said...

Jim, I had seen this before, but took the time to view it again. I think as a woman I can't see it too many times! Because of my dad, I learned how to be a confident speaker, but in inter-personal interactions I sometimes find myself feeling powerless. So this is a great reminder. Actually I think that even as a writer, if I do a power pose before I sit down to write, it might have a positive effect on my writing. It's worth a try

And by the way, good luck with your book promo.

Jim Jackson said...

Michael -- I think you picked a great line for a best take away.

Terry -- I had not thought about doing the power pose shortly before writing. I might just give that a try myself.

~ Jim

Gloria Alden said...

I'll admit I didn't take time to watch/listen to it. As usual, I'm rushing. But I have a sort of Lake Woebegon complex. I'm very shy about promoting myself. Now that my book is out, it's awfully hard for me to promote it. It might go back to my father saying that he wouldn't brag or compliment his kids, but would let other people do it. I don't remember anyone ever saying how wonderful we were. :-) In later years after we were grown up, he was full of praise for each of us, but not in our formative years. I'm not sure the power stance would help me anymore.

Jim Jackson said...


The past is the past and cannot be changed. The future is what we make of it by our choices in the present.

~ Jim