Doing the Hard Things
I admire people who have the strength to do the hard things when destiny asks them to do so. One such person is Richard Paul Evans. In 1993 he wrote a book titled The Christmas Box. Later this book would simultaneously become the #1 hardcover and paperback book in the nation, and then an Emmy award-winning television movie. However, I’m ahead of the story. Let me give you more context:
Evan’s wrote The Christmas Box as a passionate response to his unexpected and tremendous overload of joy he discovered when he began raising his two children. His idea was that by reading this book, someday in the future his children would be able to hold their children and understanding how he was feeling about them. He also wanted to give them his interpretation of the “true meaning” of Christmas. Originally Richard intended to create two copies of his book to gift to his children. However, his wife read and reacted to the book so powerfully that they determined to self-publish twenty copies and give those out to friends as well as family members.
Within six weeks of giving out the books, the phone began to ring. In fact it rang almost every day from local book stores asking to fulfill orders they had taken from people who had heard about and wanted to get The Christmas Box.
Now I have to admit, I’ve not read the book yet. It is completely the idea of Richard Paul Evan’s ability to do hard things that attracts me. The first example of that courage for me is that he didn’t keep his feelings for his children pent up inside. Nor did he create a watered down version of his feelings captured only in a single note or letter. The hard thing to do at this point was to write an entire book – over 120 pages to be exact. And that is what he did. If you’ve ever written and then published a personal narrative, you know the emotional effort required by this often daunting as well as overwhelming project. My bet is that there are at least, at least 5,000 similar un-published books or ideas for books out there collecting dust in someone’s head or drawer.
So back to Richard’s story – from that self-publishing moment in early 1994 when his phone began ringing, Richard decided to go ahead and publish about 5,000 more books on his own. He coined the term “Guerilla Marketing” and set out to give away each of these books. He determined not to fight a war with big publishers. Instead he went to the smaller markets where the big publishers were not and he got on every radio station he could in each. He put himself out there. And this brings up what glares at me as another example of doing the hard thing:
He invested more money, time and sweat to get the book out to every market he could. Nobody else was going to do it if he didn’t step up himself. I wonder how many nights just before falling asleep in some hotel room on the road did Richard think: “What the heck am I doing?” No matter what played out in his mind, one thing for sure was that he stayed dedicated to his cause.
Eventually Richard came to a pivotal moment where his mental guts were truly tested. He was peddling his wares at a book show in Colorado. He noticed that very few people were visiting his and other booths inside the convention hall. Inspired by curiosity and dedication Richard inquired, “Where are the book buyers?” He learned that they were out in the hall standing in line-after-line to get a free, autographed book from rows and rows of authors who had been specifically invited to do so.
Upon exploring this fact and noticing an empty space on one of the tables between two of these authors, Evans faced another moment of truth. He could go back and waste more time and money standing behind his display and stacks of books, or he could muster all his wits and crash the signing party. He decided to crash. He went back to his booth, grabbed his books and then snuck into the empty space. Just as he did so one of the show’s organizers approached him. Richard could have choked under the pressure. Most of us might have done just that but he didn’t. Quick as a flash he looked up at her and said, “I’m sorry that I’m late.”
The organizer stopped dead in her tracks, blinked and offered to get him some water. Evans spent the day signing and handing out his books.
If there was ever a moment of truth, this was one indeed. Mental grit was required in order to channel what must have been a huge emotional rush into a burst of gutsy intelligence. Kudos Richard! And what pleases me even more is that the next year he returned as the “guest author” to this same show and he was able to trade stories with the very same organizer. She admitted that in that critical moment she was about to throw him out. Then she saw the earnestness in Richard’s eyes and decided to give “this crazy, gutsy guy a chance.”
And so it went for Richard Paul Evans, and so it will be again for thousands of other people like you and I – People who have a dream and enough mental toughness to see those dreams come true
I’ve shared with you what inspires and teaches me from Richard Paul Evan’s personal story. Now I want to know, what impresses you?
If you like this entry you may want to view this related movie.