The Rod Blog

25 December 2005

Of Failure and a Christmas Wish

It is a notable trait of American culture that they like to sing of their success. Of how they overcame impossible odds to come out on top. I like this; we need these stories to help make it though the challenges of life.

I was reading a blog the other day, of how one such person came to defeat a bully. I thought of my own experiences with bullies and in particular, of how I failed to deal with one. But today I want to tell a different story. A story of failure, but perhaps failure is essential ingredient of success.

At age 14, my best mate was Craig. We did all the boy things that boys love. We jumped our bikes, and got up to all sorts of mostly harmless mischief. We tried making bombs and rockets out of home-made gunpowder, but mostly they just fizzed lots of smoke. I’ll never forget Dad coming into the kitchen just after one of my recipes had caught fire, filling the room with thick smoke. Oh crap, I thought, I’m toast. But Dad was waaaay cool. He just looked around, waved his arm, and said ‘hmmmm’. And then he just walked out again. Thanks Dad, I don’t know how I was going to explain that one.

So one day I’m up at Craig’s place, which backs onto a reserve. Up there are a couple of younger kids: I’d say, maybe 9 or 10 years old. Much smaller than us, also mucking around doing boy things. I don’t know who did this, but one of us picks up a small rock, and lobs it at the other. Yay, that was fun, but in a flash, here comes one back again. Well we can’t have that, here’s another one for you. Ow! That hurt! Pretty soon the rocks grow bigger and faster, and the aim gets deadlier and nastier.

The air is swarming with flying rocks, and we run from tree to tree looking for cover, flinging missiles as we go. This can’t be right, we have overwhelming physical superiority. We’re far bigger and stronger, but these kids won’t back off.

One in particular is a plucky little so-and-so. I score a direct hit. He gets one back. It’s me and him. Damn! I want him to stop. Bang, I hit with another. It must of hurt. The way to defeat him must be to apply my superior force, but wait, he’s run into our yard, arm cocked. We’re ready for a Trafalgar battle broadside, so I jump the gunwales and pin him to the ground. I’ve got my hands around his neck, and he’s pinned helplessly to the ground, but still he won’t yield. I’m furious and desperate, knocking his head on the ground. His eyes are fairly popping, and tears are streaming down his cheeks.

I am appalled and sickened by my own savagery. How did we get to this? Why doesn’t he give up? I am crushing him by force, and yet through teary eyes he stares back at me with unrelenting determination. We’ll make a deal, I tell him. I’ll stop if you stop. Let’s call it quits. Okay, he says. We’ve found a way out, and cautiously I release my grip. True to his word, he slinks off bruised, cursing, and defiant all the way.

I never meant for it to get to this, it just sort of got out of hand. My physical strength was not enough against such a determined opponent. My only escape was to surrender some pride. But the real shame was that I allowed it to happen in the first place.

And now I look at the world, and I see this story repeated on a global scale. Just being stronger is not enough. If I have a Christian message for this time of the year, it is to be prepared to take a slap on the face, and not feel obliged to return it. I despair at those who think the ultimate violence of war is the way to repair the world.

May the spirit of Christmas be with you.

19 December 2005

Mitigating risk through a customer-focussed, future-proofed strategy

Words are wonderful things. Each captures a unique idea. The best words are a pot of rich flavours you can almost taste. Some words are like a thick bowl of sludge.
Gloop, gloop, you have to wear gumboots to wade through to the other side.

Whyfore this warble? I have before me a magazine article. In the title it promises to tell us about proactive human capital management.

I feel the need for a periscope under this dollopy glop.

Twas brillig and the slithy consultants did gimble in the stategic framework…

11 December 2005

His dusty shoes are his Cadillac - or Pounding the Pavement in Search of a Sale

For you young ones, the former part this entry’s title is a quote. Anybody like to have a guess?

People say to me, now that KJ’s book is on the way, I can look forward to becoming a man of leisure. Well, what a fine idea that is; I’d be willing to give it a try but here is where myself and reality collide. Unfortunately, I’ve noticed that reality usually wins. Not sure what to do about that.

Getting The Land of Bad Fantasy accepted by a publisher was amazingly easy, compared to the stories I’ve always heard. Tales of years gone by, and growing piles of rejection letters. But for us, the planets lined up, and there it was.

Each year we go away for a camping trip, and KJ wants to read us her story. Yes, okay, we’ll humour her. Read the story if you really want to. Well, what do you know? This one wasn’t half bad. You should try to publish this one, we say.

So we pops a couple of chapters into envelopes, and launch them in the scatter-gun into the mailboxes of 47 different publishers. Let’s see what comes back. Time passes. A few rejection notes, but some positive comments. Sorry, we like the story, but not much use for a maths book. Should have checked what sort of publishers they were first.  And then, tick-tick-tick on the line. And another. And whoa! Another.  That’s three who are keen. Then <a few bits in between> we have a contract with an agent, and then one with Omnibus (Scholastic).

So, when’s he going to explain the title? Okay, now. Getting the book published is just the start. We’ve got to do our best to make it a success. Margins are tight, so there isn’t a huge bucket of money for marketing. We’ve got to shake our booties, wriggle our botties, and get out there and pound the pavement. Schools and bookshops.

Let’s make sure the bookshops have LOBF in stock. No point in printing a fine book, telling the world about, and then finding that nobody can find it.  Now here’s Emma. Emma’s a company man; works for a big chain bookshop company. Are you interested in supporting a local author? NO. Quick as a flash, not a moment’s hesitation, no. Well, Emma, I’d love to see the panicked look on your face as the cranky crowd rushes your door, wanting to know why you don’t have a copy.

A humbling experience, it is, to ‘cold canvas’ in search of a sale. Feeling pretty comfortable about yourself?  Well give this a try.  What, don’t have a book to sell? No worries, we have one right here.