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Unleash Your Creative Depths: Write a Business Book Part I: The Question Is “Why?”


My first book Humanity at Work is to be published on September 8. It is a great feeling, although I never received the kind of editorial admiration such as F. Scott Fitzgerald got from his editor, Max Perkins:

THINK NOVEL SPLENDID.

I think the novel is a wonder. I’m taking it home to read again and then shall write my impressions in full; but it has vitality to an extraordinary degree and glamour, and a great deal of underlying thought of unusual quality. … As for sheer writing, it is extraordinary. … The amount of meaning you get into a sentence, the dimensions and intensity of the impression you make a paragraph carry, are most extraordinary. The manuscript is full of phrases which make a scene blaze with life. 1

For trivia fans, the original title was Trimalchio in West Egg, which was published as The Great Gatsby.

Whether Humanity at Work will have the staying power of The Great Gatsby only time will tell. The connection is this: If you’ve ever considered writing a book, and herein a business book, there are some compelling reasons why you should go for it. Admittedly my take comes after having made, and sometimes regretted, the decision to do the same. I write this column having mostly survived the process and now anxiously await the book’s debut.

The best-selling book Start with Why’s1 central message sure held true in this journey. Five years ago, from the moment I began documenting my workplace leadership experiences and reflecting on the lessons I had learned, I had no idea how often people would ask me “why” I was committed to writing a book.


One day, while taking a course at Harvard on leadership, my wife Gabrielle and I visited the Harvard Coop, one of my favorite bookstores (and I have many). She asked, rather pointedly, as we surveyed the current offerings in leadership and management, whether the world really needed another leadership book. The question stopped me in my tracks. What could I add to the canon of great leadership research and literature, with some of the finest such works staring us both in the face?


Like you, in my work and community life, I’ve encountered seemingly quite ordinary people who lead and manage in extraordinarily effective ways. I’ve also encountered those who wear their poor leadership skills on their sleeve. We need to help each other learn from both the effective leaders that surround us and those we shouldn’t imitate. It was award-winning nonfiction author Warren Redman who reminded me how important it is to document the untold stories of effective everyday leaders and publish them to inspire and educate others who are committed to become better leaders. The book is also a vehicle to spread the word that we can achieve great things when leaders balance their concern for both people and results.


Like so many worthwhile endeavors, the book writing process is so much richer for the people you meet along the way. I now realize why so many authors include a healthy list of names in the acknowledgement section of their book. While I began the exercise as a solo side-of-desk project, it soon became apparent writing a book is essentially like taking on a new job or starting a business, with all the inherent compressed learning that’s required. An author comes to depend upon a network of folks to validate and critique, to checkmark and question.


The process really began in earnest when LifeTree Media publisher Maggie Langrick (look up unwavering optimist in your dictionary to see her picture) took an interest in the project and superman Don Loney of the Loney Publishing Group began editing the work. Technical reviewer and organizational psychologist Dr. Tammy Carroll, founder of Momenta Consultation, signed on and brought rigor and penetrating questions of the manuscript that sent me back to the drawing board on many occasions. I’ll admit to enjoying the revision process Dr. Carroll and my editor instigated, as that often required revisiting my favorite places: the libraries at l’Université de Moncton, the University of New Brunswick, and Mount Allison University. Laurie Bourque, principal with Kensington Associates, and his team at Prestige Executive Centre then graciously provided the four blank walls in a windowless office to enable the ideas to make their way onto countless pages of flip charts that plastered the walls for many months before finally finding their way off the wall and into a proper manuscript.


I’m keen to tell you more about the book and the writing process, and I’ll do so in the next column when you’ll meet some of the (deliberate and unintended) characters in the book, discover the silent power of a furry four-legged editor, and why you’ll revel in a regular 4:30 a.m. wake-up and lawn maintenance schedule should you ever take the life-altering plunge.

1. Simon Sinek. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. New York: Portfolio, 2009.

A. Scott Berg. Max Perkins: Editor of Genius. New York: Pocketbooks, 1978, pages 79-80.



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