“Advice” according to Merriam and Webster is “recommendation on a decision or course of action.”
My older and only brother, may he rest in peace, was very good with short snippets of growing up advice. “If you have one, or maybe two, real friends in your life you’ve accomplished something. The rest are just entertainment.” He fixed me up with a really hot looking girl for a first date; she was “smokin’ hot. In preparing for the date while he prepared for his own, I said to him, “Should I try and kiss her good night?” The answer: “No (unmentionable Yiddish explicative), shake her hand…” The real advice was in the look and the sarcasm. Then there was this: “Don’t ever lend anyone money you can’t afford to give to them.” That represented some life learning on his part and cynicism as well, “money being the root of all evil” and so on. And this: “Don’t judge people by your own standards, you’ll always be disappointed.” And that brings us to this column of pass along advice.
People who know me well know that my best and first go-to form of communication is writing. The reason is most likely because my mother believed that “little pitchers should be seen and not heard.” Or as she’d put it, “Billy–be quiet!” I had a lot I wanted to be heard, so I wrote it down. As a teenager in love, and later as an adult in love, I wrote cumulatively thousands of letters. As one who turned a personality of giving advice into being a consultant, I wrote research reports. Mind you I speak well, but even so I often write before I speak.
These “know me well” folks then didn’t laugh, or sneer, when upon retirement I said I had a few books I wanted to write. I think every Jewish kid gets to adulthood with a few books in his/her desk. It’s only the drive to write them that makes the difference between dream and reality. My first two books were self-published. They were books of previously written social and political essays with a little humor thrown in. (Mirth, Wind, and Ire http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/692523 and More Earth Wind and Ire http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/578411 They also can be found on Amazon/Kindle and Nook). And here was my first lesson. All those pats on the back don’t translate into sales, even at $2.99 even, though those who read one or both liked them very much.
Ok, truth be told these were warm-ups to scrape the rust off my writing, learn a little about the business end of it, and prepare me for book three for which I really want an agent and a contract. That’s my goal. So the sales were not critical and the compliments were encouraging.
Another thing I learned in the trade was that a writer has to have a blog, something that hit peoples’ “mailboxes” regularly, had readership that multiplied if not like roaches at least just multiplied, and developed a name recognition following. My first two books were pulled from over 900 op ed pieces I’d written for dozens of newspapers including being a weekly columnist over 7 years for a local newspaper. So writing a weekly blog was no big thing. I found that a domain name exquisitely similar to the title of my local column was available so I grabbed it. And the weekly “Atleastfrommyperspectiveblog.wordpress.com” was born.
This I thought would be more productive because psychologically, even at $2.99 buying a book and reading it is a commitment. It takes about 6 minutes to read a blog, maybe 7, and it’s free. I had thousands of potential readers and if I got myself even into the 20th century in computer facility, I might even have thousands more. Mind you, I’m not trying to compete with Beyonce or the Kardashians. Although why anyone reads their tripe and not mine does make me scratch my head on occasion. But it became evident that they did read theirs in huge numbers and not so many read mine.
This required some thinking. So I came up with a little marketing plan. I would ask a dozen friends, different one from the other in geography, religion, life experience to do me a favor, which according to “Dictionary.com” is “an act of kindness,” something done without remuneration.” I would ask each to do this: look at my blog, pick a few, then go on social media to their friends and recommend reading them; I threw in a few relatives. I even provided a draft letter they could revise. In all it would be a 10-20 minute commitment because really they didn’t even have to read any of the blogs just tell friends about them. I suggested a two week time line for this 10-20 minute task. That way at the beginning of the following month when they let me know they’d completed the task, I could begin checking the “hits” on the blog and see if the technique worked.
It didn’t seem to be a “big ask.” After all, I had already checked the first box of successfully asking favors, which is that I’d done them for those asked or they knew I would if asked. Besides, know it or not, I was doing them a favor by asking. “Influenceforward.com wrote in 2016 that doing favors for others was a healthy way to go through life. It improves the quality of life for yourself and others.” Even better than remuneration, I’d say.
Nor did the risk seem great. I was encouraged to read as reported by the NY Times that Dr. Robert Caplan Research Psychologist at the University of Michigan Institute of Social Research had written way back in 1986 that “generally people like to be helpful.” This wasn’t a lot of work and these were my friends so I didn’t think I was pushing the line–not like the neighbor in the commercial who asks a friend to call their painter, do background checks, comparative pricing and then make a house-painting appointment for two weeks hence!
No, it seemed that I wasn’t beyond the pale of favor-asking. This was bolstered by something written in “Influenceforward.com” that doing favors was a healthy way to go though life, that it improves your quality of life and that of those asked to do the favors.” “A Mitzvah” as it is called in Jewish life, a good deed, roughly translated. That was 2016. Not a year later English.stackexchange.com reminded its readers that we have for a long time lived in a “one hand washes the other” culture. You do for me, I do for you. So my ask was well within the norms of life the asker and askees lived.
The results? One person said “no.” The others said yes, some more enthusiastically than than others. It’s been a month or more now. Near as I can tell, one person did it. And he lives in Norway. Thank goodness for the world wide internet and the fact that he’s raised and educated in America and his “list” is English speaking, not Norwegian speaking….
I still love my friends and relatives. I won’t judge them, as my brother told me, even though I would have done it from them and I am sort of blue over it. It is a downer because not only do I have to think of a more professional–and expensive–way to promote my passion, it’s more time and work that had they come through wouldn’t be 100% necessary. Be that as it may, I think of Charlie Brown who year after year of his life looked at the football Lucy would put down for him to kick knowing his life long friend was going to pick it up just at the moment of impact, and he’d do a cart-wheel in the air and land on his butt. My consolation? His legacy is, “You’re a good man, Charlie Brown.” Hopefully, so am I.
Every Sunday Bill Gralnick tries to produce something interesting in his blog “atleastfrommyperspectiveblog.wordpress.com” or more interesting than he produces at other endeavors Monday through Saturday.
As noted in the above content his books so far number two:
“Mirth,Wind, and Ire” http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/692523
“More Mirth Wind and Ire” http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/758411
Both books are political and social commentary with a little humor thrown in and are available on Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes and Noble’s Nook as well as through Smashwords.
“Read–it’s good for both of us!”