The Real Secret of Success?
Hit It Another Lick!
Copyright 2000 by Lin Stone
Not so long ago I owed $180 with an interest rate of 20% per month. I couldn't pay the loan back, but by doing without certain necessities of life, I could pay the interest of $36 per month. After 5 months I looked at my debt and it was still the same size as ever, $180. I had not gained an inch.
I looked everywhere for relief, but there was none to be found. My income could not be expanded. My cost of living could not be reduced any farther. The debt felt very much like a huge millstone and it was very heavy around my throat. After many tears and much prayer I resolved - no matter what - to pay $1 more than the interest each month.
$1 does not seem like much of a lick, does it?
My creditor was not much pleased to see so small a sum applied to the principal. However, I personally noted with some satisfaction that my debt had been reduced to $179. On the following month I paid $37 again. That reduced my mountain of debt to $177.80 Another month brought it down to $176.36 Another month made it only $174.63
The next month's payment of $37 brought my debt down to $172.55
I had gained $7.45 against that mountain of debt.
It is said that faith precedes the miracle. I believe that just as sure as that single extra dollar contributed to a visible difference in my debts, we only have to hit a few more licks in faith to work a miracle, if we are obedient.
One thing our prophets have asked us to do is plant a garden. During my 8 years of homelessness I would plant a garden every time I found a place of refuge. I knew that chances were I'd have to move on before anything came up. Sometimes I had only one seed to plant, a pitiful number, but I planted it anyway. I hit my one lick, even knowing I would have to move on, my efforts go for naught, the garden wither and die.
It might feel silly to anyone else but to me it made perfect sense; I was planting my garden because it wasn't the garden that needed the cultivation; it was me.
Hit your projects another lick.
You will be rewarded.
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One hard winter I came back to live in one of my places of refuge. With snow 2 feet deep and ice everywhere, one of the watermelon seeds I had planted in a 5 gallon bucket was flourishing just inside the open garage.
Every day the sun was warm I would proudly haul the bucket outside to gather in the life-giving rays, and put it back inside when the shadows leaped in upon us. When I was forced to leave, the watermelon vine was still thick and healthy even though there was snow and ice on the ground. I have often hoped that it continued to catch the leaks from the roof when it rained until a whole string of melons were actually published.
But whether its life continued onward yea or nay doesn't really matter. It was MY soul that needed to be nourished. And I had hit it another lick.
A little later, even though I was still broke and homeless, I contracted to clear five acres of land for $1,500 with just two months to achieve it in.
It was an impossible task for a sickly, homeless man.
There were three barns and a big house on the property. Everything had to be removed, including the foundations. Being broke left me with few resources, but I started in building a success story, one lick at a time, clearing the brush out by hand.
Someone saw me popping brush and stopped to see what I was doing. His eyes lit up when I said I was clearing everything out. "I'll give you $1,000 for that barn there."
I glanced at the barn, back at him, and said. Okay, if you take it all of the way out of the ground and fill up the holes when you leave. He agreed and brought in a crew the next day to begin working. Someone saw his crew dismantling that barn and stopped to see if the other 2 were for sale. After some shrewd Plotting I was left standing there with $2,600 of royalty revenue in my hands and most of my work done for me by the characters involved.
Well, that meant I could pay off my outstanding bills at that time, buy a pickup and some tools to work with. Hey, it wasn't much of a truck and there weren't many tools, but for a homeless boy it felt like the windows of heaven had opened wide to pour me out a blessing so big my new word processor couldn't hold it.
That was a deal that sounded good to them.
The house went next, leaving me with just the foundation to remove. I hauled it off one lick at a time. The biggest chunk to dispose of was a set of concrete stairs 4 feet thick at the back. I waited for one more miracle, but the skies remained solid as brass. After moping around for a bit I received the distinct inspiration to go buy an axe and a come-along. With the come-along I turned the block over and laid me an imaginary line off across one side to begin chopping.
Why not a sledge? I do not know. The only answer I ever came up with was that I would need an axe later but never have needed a sledge hammer since then.
Chop. Chop. Chop. One lick at a time I chopped at the concrete stairs. Most of the time there wasn't even a chip come twirling out from among the stones, but still I went on chopping across that line.
For 2 hours I chopped with nothing to show for my work except a line just over 1 inch deep in some places. Along about noon an acquaintance I had never been able to impress with my intelligence drove in and stared at me almost in fury at my stupidity. "You can't chop concrete in two when it is that thick!"
"I know it," I told him. I hit it another lick, and another, grunting loudly. "But this is what the Lord told me to do, and I'm doing it."
His mouth opened to voice one more indignant judgment of my sanity and I hit the stairs one more lick hard enough to drown it out.
Suddenly the solid block of concrete split wide apart right between us. His gaze fastened on mine; his mouth closed slowly, then he started the truck and spun rubber getting out of there. Since then I've often wondered if Pharaoh had the same look on his face when the Red Sea split open in front of him while the Israelites escaped from out of his hands.
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After all the lessons I've learned, I marvel that I still must learn them again. So many times I have prayed for guidance, received it, tried it, saw no evidence of results, and quit trying. With leaden brow I would turn to priesthood leaders for their inspiration of what to do. Time and time again they would tell me to do the very same thing I'd already been doing.
Faithless, but obedient, I would go back and resentfully follow that same course only to be startled by success.
If you persist in pursuing your goals I believe the same will happen for you. Just hit it another lick, and another one too. Otherwise, you'll never know how close you are to seeing the solid block of concrete stairs splitting apart right in front of pharaoh's eyes.
Putting Rejection into Perspective
If your manuscript gets rejected, consider the company you are in when you get rejected by an agent or publisher who lacks the foresight to see just how great your work may be. The following list is compiled from Michael Larsen's book, "Literary Agents."
The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck was returned fourteen times, but it went on to win a Pulitzer Prize. Norman Mailer's The Naked and the Dead was rejected twelve times.
Twenty publishers felt that Richard Bach's Jonathan Livingston Seagull was for the birds. The first title of Catch-22 was Catch-18, but Simon and Schuster planned to publish it during the same season that Doubleday was bringing out Mila 18 by Leon Uris. When Doubleday complained, Joseph Heller changed the title. Why 22? Because Simon and Schuster was the 22nd publisher to read it. Catch-22 has become part of the language and has sold more than 10 million copies.
Mary Higgins Clark was rejected forty times before selling her first story. One editor wrote: "Your story is light, slight, and trite." More than 30 million copies of her books are now in print.
Before he wrote Roots, Alex Haley had received 200 rejections. Robert Persig's classic, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, couldn't get started at 121 houses. John Grisham's first novel, A Time to Kill, was declined by fifteen publishers and some thirty agents. His novels have more than 60 million copies in print.
Thirty-three publishers couldn't digest Chicken Soup for the Soul, compiled by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, before it became a huge best-seller and spawned a series.
The Baltimore Sun hailed Naked in Deccan as "a classic" after it had been rejected over seven years by 375 publishers.
Dr. Seuss's first book was rejected twenty-four times. The sales of his children's books have soared to 100 million. Louis L'Amour received 200 rejections before he sold his first novel. During the last forty years, Bantam has shipped nearly 200 million of his 112 books, making him their biggest selling author.
If you visit the House of Happy Walls, Jack London's beautiful estate in Sonoma County, north San Francisco, you will see some of the 600 rejection slips that London received before selling his first story. If you want to know how much easier it is to make it as a writer now than it was in London's time, read his wonderful autobiographical novel, Martin Eden. Your sufferings will pale compared to what poor Martin endured.
British writer John Creasy received 774 rejections before selling his first story. He went on to write 564 books, using fourteen names. Eight years after his novel Steps won the National Book Award, Jerzy Kosinski permitted a writer to change his name and the title and send a manuscript of the novel to thirteen agents and fourteen publishers to test the plight of new writers. They all rejected it, including Random House, which had published it.
Patrick Dennis said of his autobiographical novel Auntie Mame, "It circulated for five years through the halls of fifteen publishers and finally ended up with Vanguard Press, which, as you can see, is rather deep into the alphabet." Every NO gets you closer to YES? That is only true if you go through the whole alphabet.
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