When I was in my late teens I worked at a Montgomery Ward store. One day my supervisor told me to stock inventory in our sporting goods department, but the shelves were a disaster. Fishing lures of varying shapes in reds, oranges, blues, and browns were strewn beneath the silver pegs they’d hung on earlier.
I groaned to myself and looked around. No one will know if I put the new ones on the pegboard and leave the mess scattered below. They’ll assume customers came behind me and wrecked my work.
But my conscience wouldn’t let me get away with it. You’ll know. Mom and Dad always told you to leave things in as good a shape or better than you found them. They’d be disappointed if you did a shoddy job.
So I got to work, and straightened every artificial worm, spinner bait, and fluke. When I finished, I stood back with a sigh and surveyed the tidy results. I didn’t hear my boss walk up behind me.
“Nice job. This is the best I’ve seen this area in months. Keep up the good work.” Then he patted me on the shoulder before walking away with a smile on his face.
Less than two months later, I received a nice raise and a small promotion. And I learned a valuable lesson through positive reinforcement.
A lesson I’ve carried with me into my writing work, along with another principle I picked up from a historical figure. I apply both to my career today.
The historical figure I mentioned is Joseph. His account in Genesis demonstrates an amazing work ethic that eventually brought him miraculous outcomes. Not without difficult circumstances, or serious setbacks, but by adhering to a determined set of attitudes and actions, Joseph overcame his adversity. And he ultimately succeeded.
As an author, I take the things I see in his story and allow them to help me be a Joseph to the people I write with. Whether it’s my literary agency, publishing team, or booking agency, like Joseph, I strive to:
- Learn their ways, and follow their processes
- Treat their business as if it were my own
- Pray, and then listen for God’s wisdom on the steps I should take next
- Always respond with a respectful attitude, even when boldness is required
- Exercise patience when the situation looks bleak
- Refuse to take credit that belongs to someone else
- Believe in my early dreams — trusting they came from God
I share a more in-depth version of these principles in my book, First Hired, Last Fired — How to Become Irreplaceable in Any Job Market, releasing early next month. When it comes to writing, I have much more to learn, but these basics serve me well, and I hope make me an author others appreciate working with.
At the end of my career, I pray I’ll leave a few writing related businesses in as good a shape or better than they were before we partnered. I want to be a Joseph, for God’s glory, and the good of other people. Otherwise, why bother writing for publication at all?