A while back I blogged about a bad review of my novel FATAL IMPACT. In the interest of full disclosure I though I'd blog about a glowing review I received.
It's probably axiomatic to say that a good review should make you joyful, give you reason to write more, pump up your self-esteem. And I agree, it should. But, good reviews can be deceptive.
Like resting on your laurels, it tends to make you lazy. As much as we like to think we're humble, we usually carry a higher opinion of ourselves than we deserve. Good reviews don't help this. You might even develop a certain amount of hubris, you know, I'm better than the next guy. And big heads are hard to deflate.
The ancient Romans may have had it correct. If you've ever seen the closing scene of the movie "Patton" you know what I mean. For those of you that haven't seen the movie, I'll summarize: In the final scene, General Patton has just avoided being hit by a runaway cart and, after making a dinner date with his old friend General Bradley, goes for a walk. It's here that George C. Scott (who plays Patton) does a voice over. He explains that in Ancient Rome the returning conqueror would ride in a procession lead by the spoils and captured foe, to the adulation of the adoring masses. As he stood in his chariot a slave would hold a crown of laurel above his head and continually whisper in his ear, "All glory is fleeting."
Recognition of our achievements, like our lives, is temporary. Sure, some achievements are acknowledged well beyond the lifetime of the achievers. But, given enough time even they begin to fade. For example, quick, who was the eleventh President of the United States? OK, time's up. Did you get it? It was James K. Polk, in case you missed it.
So, what are the proper attitudes and actions regarding a good review? Here are a few that come to mind:
1. Enjoy the accolades. It's likely you actually earned them.
2. Limit the celebration. It's fun to wander around on cloud nine, but eventually you've got to come down. After all, there are still dishes to be washed and trash to be taken out.
3. Let the review inspire you to do better, continue to improve, and be a springboard toward a higher goal.
4. Make a realistic assessment of your talents and abilities. You might find that you're not as great as you thought. On the other hand, you may find a hidden talent that you can exploit.
5. Allow humility to reign. C. S. Lewis said, "Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it's thinking of yourself less."
There are certain cacti that produce very short-lived flowers. One, the Selenicereus grandiflorus, blooms once a year for one night only. Some nature photographers would give a right arm to get that perfect nocturnal image. Think of a good review like that precious cactus flower: wonderful to behold, but oh so ephemeral.
So, Congrats on that review! Now, get back to work!
A few weeks back I was looking at my old wedding album. In one of the photos I noticed by father (now deceased) standing ramrod straight, head erect, arms at his side, hands with fingers flexed and the thumbs along the seams of his trousers. Then it struck me—he was standing at attention! He illustrated the textbook definition of maintaining that military bearing. It begged the question, why?
I believe it reflected his Defining Moment—World War II. He was drafted in Army and served in the European Theater. During the war he learned a trade from the Signal Corps; developed leadership skills in running a POW camp for captured German soldiers; and acquired discipline as a first sergeant. But, there were negatives. Although, he was a good father, I found him to be a stoic and hard man. Difficult to really know. Traits, I think also came from his time in the war.
Before proceeding further, perhaps I should tell you what I mean by a Defining Moment. I see it as a time in life of intense personal growth fostered by an iron-sharpening-iron experience. I believe everyone goes through a Defining Moment. You may have had one, are going through one right now, or yours is on the horizon.
Like my father’s, mine took place in the military. I attended the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and spent three years on active duty in the Coast Guard. During that time I acquired discipline, maturity, and a wealth of knowledge. To this day I have habits stemming from that era from the way I fold my socks to being a stickler about being on time for an event.
The secret to a Defining Moment is to learn to incorporate the positive side of the experience. This can be problematic. For example, what if you have difficulty deciding what’s important about your Defining Moment or feel that your Defining Moment was all negative? What if it’s not consistent with your current world and life view? Or, maybe you really don’t feel that Defining Moment defines you.
I sometimes struggle with who I am based on my Defining Moment and who I am based on my Christian beliefs: the serious, rigid military type, always in charge versus the trusting, joyful follower of Christ.
What about you? Do you think there’s a Defining Moment in your life? I’d love to hear from you on the subject.