Whenever I go to a new city, I try to sign all the copies of the books I’ve written at local bookstores.
I tell the manager beforehand. I don’t just go through the aisles like Banksy, creating street art inside the covers of Start and Quitter.
A few weeks ago, I went to a bookstore and couldn’t find any of my books. I asked an employee to help me find one in their computer system. The previous store I had been in had four different books I wrote so I was expecting at least one to be in stock.
Minutes of awkward silence later, the employee looked up from the computer and said, “How do you spell your name again?” I don’t know if she meant to add, “You random guy posing as an author,” but that was what I heard in my head.
I told her it was “J O N.” She immediately said, “Oh, I was spelling it with an H.”
I felt better instantly. That must be it! There’s probably a whole shelf of my books around here somewhere and now that you’ve got the right spelling we can find them together!
More awkward minutes later, as I stood trying to make the kind of face a real author makes while waiting, she looked back up and said, “No. We don’t have any of your books. Want me to check other stores in the city?” I said sure, convinced I wouldn’t go “0 for the whole city.”
Minutes later, you get where this is going. The store wasn’t out. The entire city was. I told her thanks and scurried to the bookstore coffee shop in attempt to look like perhaps coffee was my main purpose all along. Stupid sharpie. I didn’t even want to sign those books.
My brother called me while I was drinking a coffee and asked how the signing went. I was headed to his house later and had earlier in the day told him I might be late if I ended up going to multiple stores to sign all the books in the greater metropolis.
This is our conversation:
Bennett: Did you sign all the books?
Me: I did.
Bennett: How many.
Me: I signed all zero.
Bennett: Did you ask them to look them up in the system?
Me: I did.
Bennett: And they didn’t have a single one?
Me: Nope. But they did say there was a store an hour away that had one copy.
Bennett: Did you ask them when the next delivery truck was coming in?
Me: I thought about that. Like maybe there’s an entire truck of my books stuck in traffic right now?
Bennett: Exactly. Maybe a container ship with nothing but your books got waylaid in a storm in the Atlantic. (More laughter.)
I learned two things from this experience.
- Whether or not you succeed isn’t the point. Whether you try is. I’m going to keep going back to bookstores. I’m going to keep standing in front of bookstore employees as they scroll through computer systems looking for something I’ve written.
- You should always keep people in your life who won’t let you take yourself so seriously. Bennett teasing me that there was probably an ocean freighter with my books that I had just barely missed took me down a notch in the best possible way.
[Tweet “Whether or not you succeed isn’t the point. Whether you try is.”]
Hustle through the small embarrassing moments and the big ones too. Both are coming.
Keep people who won’t let you get a big head in your life.
Ego kills dreams.
Fear of embarrassment kills dreams too.
And if you want me sign your book next time I’m in your city, make sure it’s not trapped on a cross-Atlantic ocean liner. A lot of that has been going around lately.
Question: Who in your life helps you laugh at the silly things that happen as you hustle?