Is the Road to Success the Best Route to the Writer's Life?

Will Newman

I’m proud to be a Rotarian … and proud to be part of my local Rotary family.

Six months ago, our club started a long-term project to help the kids in our poor community.

When I say “poor,” what do I mean?

Well, 90-95% of our children and youth qualify for free and reduced breakfasts, lunches, and afternoon snacks. (The number is so high, every student in town gets free meals.)

As a member of the elementary school board, I’m pleased our students are going home with two and a half nutritious meals in their bellies.

As a member of our Rotary club, I worry — as do other members — how well the children are eating on weekends and holidays.

And that’s the project we’re building right now: The backpack food program. I won’t go into details, but the idea is children in the program go home with a backpack with nutritious, easy-to-prepare breakfast, lunch, and snack foods for the weekends and holidays.

We started (slowly) with a good general plan for what we need to do. One member said, “We’re on the road to success with this project.”

Then we hit a snag … and the same member who felt we were on the road to success now felt we were hopelessly stuck.

And that’s the inspiration for what I’m passing on to you today.

The power . . . and problem . . . of metaphors

When we say things like “on the road to success,” we’re using a common metaphor about success — a metaphor that sees a journey along a road.

This metaphor is all wrong.

We use metaphors because they help us understand complex situations in simpler terms. We use them because they work. That’s the power of metaphors.

When talking about success, it’s as if we start out in San Francisco on a drive to New York. Straight line. Few changes of direction.

Seems harmless enough.

But a danger lurks. Metaphors give us a simpler view of reality, but they also shape reality. Talking about success as a journey along a road can lead you to feeling “stuck” when you hit the snag.

A blown-out tire. A burned-out fuel pump. Worn piston rings. These problems stop you in your tracks. They halt forward progress.

Yes, you can get them fixed and start moving forward again, but …

 … But all too often feeling stuck in our success journey keeps us from starting again.

A new metaphor for your journey to success . . .

So, when you’re pursuing success, you get out of the metaphorical car. Imagine instead that you’re making your journey in a reliable small airplane. You know you’ll have to stop periodically to refuel, get food, and rest. That’s reality.

As you fly, that airplane doesn’t fly a straight line from start to destination. Cross winds, updrafts, down drafts, and other unforeseen events push the plane off course.

But your plane keeps moving forward, and it reaches its destination. Why?

The pilot and navigator are constantly making mid-course corrections.

So as simplistic as it sounds, if you’re feeling stuck in your success journey, tell yourself you’re not stuck. Instead make — and continue to make — mid-course corrections.

Do this, and you will reach your inevitable, undeniable goal of the writer’s life.

This metaphor works … but only if you take two steps to keep yourself making those mid-course corrections.

I’ll tell you those two steps when I’m back with you on Wednesday.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you make mid-course corrections. Let us all know by commenting below.

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Published: February 29, 2016

14 Responses to “Is the Road to Success the Best Route to the Writer's Life?”

  1. I think that "success" depends a great deal on what one considers to be success. It can be anything! I have lived a successful life doing what I want to do and enjoyed it. Bringing up fine children to be productive and intelligent is a great achievement.
    Writing Copy, and surfing on my laptop is going to take longer. I think that I am successful just working it. (some people think it's silly) Practice Should keep my brain active and interested in what will happen today. Daily success. Cheers! BR


  2. For one to be successful in staying the course, one must anticipate and prepare for the inevitability of variables effecting said course. For the one who is prepared, simple, minor course corrections effectively mitigate impacts; hence, rather than languish in vexation or peril, the unaffected traveler reaches his or her destination with little or no delay.

    Guest (Kevin Thiele)

  3. Don't take 'no' for an answer. As a blind individual, I’m afforded opportunity to develop work arounds literally almost daily. Often blockages aren't a simple wind change. They are unexpected, sustained 80 MPH head winds, while flying 80 MPH. I'm not crashing, but I'm not moving either. An accessibility problem pushes the seat-belt hard across the chest without warning. It’s knowing there is a work around that is key. I just need to find it. The sooner I begin looking, the sooner I get moving.

    Brad Dunse

  4. This is such a timely email. I really needed this today. Self-sabotage was creeping up on me. After reading this, I'm breathing freely!!

    Thank you

    [FROM WILL: Reading this has made me feel great. Thank you for posting it.]

    Guest (Risa)

  5. One of my favorite authors said, "Look which way the river is flowing then step into it and move with the flow." Always it is hard to put aside my own pre-conceived idea of what my life should be like. I am full of life and variety that is yearning to find expression. When I am devastated by a turn of events, I step back, give myself time to regroup, then look for the advantages of the new challenge. Life is always presenting a new flow for growth and change.

    [FROM WILL: Your quote sounds like something one of my favorite human beings, Alan Watts, might have said. ]

    Guest (MMM)

  6. the answer is very simple. Each day preferably last thing at night or at sunrise spend 5 min visualizing success as you see and feel it. note how grateful you are to be on the journey to success and for the things which have already come your way to make the journey easier and thanks for the things which will come in the future. From this point watch for unusual happenings these are messages. they will give you the answer accept it and flow with it. A wind can blow you of course a river always reaches its destination.

    [FROM WILL: Great ideas!]

    Guest (Brian)

  7. This metaphor does describe my life journey right now. I am making a few corrections.I have even back tracked a bit to make adjustments and get things I may have missed. But I am still moving and will arrive at my destination.

    [FROM WILL: Backtracking is never a bad idea when it results in ultimate forward motion.]

    Guest (Sarah F)

  8. You had me at Rotarian. I was captured with in the first few sentences. Life is full of changes.

    I was ferrying a new aircraft to Phoenix from Dallas. After many stops we began flying over the mountain range outside of El Paso. Seems I had had my leg resting on one of the lift controls.

    Even with all our corrections, had we continued on the same course with my leg inhibiting our controls, we would have not made it over the mountain range.

    As an older man, you have to change to survive. THINK.

    [FROM WILL: Fact of biology: Organisms that feil to change fail to thrive. Thank you, fellow Rotarian.]

    Guest (Billy Henry)

  9. Why not plant gardens throughout the school or years depending on where you are. Each Home Room is responsible for something daily and when ripe they can help themselves to whatever they want. I mean the whole school is a farm. Herbs hanging in the windows, fruit trees lining the walkway, vegetable beds where all that wasted landscape is. Maybe make it a community affair and plant some fruit trees downtown too;)

    [FROM WILL: Good idea, one our local elementary school is doing.]

    Guest (Bryteiiz)

  10. Just continuing to read inspirational email every day such as yours keeps me on course.

    [FROM WILL: Thank you.]

    Guest (Tracy Dickerson)

  11. Excellent article. Thank you for the "correction!

    [FROM WILL: And thank you!]


  12. I am a grandmother. When I first became a mother embedded in my mind was that I would be a stay at home mom. After the second child, I knew that I had to have some ouside intellectual stimulation. Feeding the baby, I discovered that space and I was able to plan the time when my husband was at home with the babies. Now I need the trust and will to become involved.

    Guest (Maria Rosa)

  13. If, after realizing that I had taken the WRONG prong back at the fork, I say >>

    "Eph' it! Look how much smarter I've become. I may be lost, but I'm making good time."

    Guest (Chris Morris)

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