Why My New Book is Destined to Fail
Is this humility or hubris? I can no longer tell
Next Tuesday (June 30th, 2020) my new book, The Humility Imperative — Effective Leadership in an Era of Arrogance — will be released.
You can download it to kindle, get it in paperback or hardcover — or even read some of it online*.
But you likely won’t.
You may remember the title and cover (no, it’s not a chicken).
And you might remember I wrote a book.
Which may be the point.
The problem is: it’s not a very humble one.
The Humility Imperative doesn’t fit into a tidy, neat package.
It won’t carry you via the arc of countless business books: early days of learning, growth, massive crisis, resolution, lessons.
It’s 39 essays.
Some of which may not even be essays.
Some of which interconnect. Many which don’t.
While heavily edited (rewritten, really), much of the book has been published before in places like inc. magazine, Forbes, How Hackers Start Their Afternoons (Hacker Noon), The Startup Grind, and Business Insider.
But it won’t deliver like the business book you’re reading now.
As stated by one of my closest confidants:
It never became clear to me why the book is called the “The Humility Imperative.” When I saw the title and started reading, I thought that your goal was to use various article to weave a story about how humility is critically important. By the end, I never saw the tie in.
Through a positive lens: For a business book, The Humility Imperative is abstract. Daring. Caustic. A thousand lessons buried in every word. Some more obvious than others. More Picasso than Rembrandt.
But, for most, the reality will be much more disappointing: a failed attempt at something I can’t quite put my finger on.
They generally write fiction.
And when it’s produced in book format, their shorts sometimes have a narrative thread that runs throughout — but often times that thread is thin, like the .003 mm weight of an ordinary garden spider’s silk.
Only upon reflection does the silk shed its translucence, becoming visible in the light of day.
Sometimes it takes years for that to happen. Sometimes it never does.
But, taken as a whole, these authors’ books convey countless meanings.
So, why does a non-fiction business book have to miss out on that?
Why does it always have to read as a formula?
When my publisher first read The Humility Imperative, I’m pretty sure they didn’t like it.
But as a publisher they know the following all too well: a captivating cover and title will sell books.
With confidence, I can say the essay on the Humility Imperative is certainly one of the book’s standouts. After it was first published in 2011 in Inc Magazine, it generated countless blog posts and atta boy reviews.
So they told me to lean on that long-dissipated momentum, and brandish it as the title (original title: Brussel Sprouts. I kid you not).
Of course, to match that title, I had to move a whole bunch of things around.
And when I did, the most senior editor at the publishing house read it and told me the gossamer-thin silken spider’s thread of narrative was no longer apparent.
Write a forward tying it together, he offered:
Then write a little teaser on each chapter related to that thread.
So I did that. But it felt cluttered in the actual book, so instead I put it on thehumilityimperative.com
A website that is now a reading companion. To spin the silk and create the web. It is the thing that holds it all together.
I’m guessing few ever make it that far.
To punch all this home, here is the irony wrapped up in the lesson.
I decide to publish a book.
As part of the book jacket, my publisher requires me to list my accomplishments.
As part of ensuring sales, I’m asked to get reviews and quotes:
As part of the promotion, I’m asked to share my deepest learnings, to tell people what I know and how I know it.
It requires a staggering amount of confidence.
It requires countless acts of not being humble.
And yet, this is a book about humility.
Or really a book about the inability to know when and where and how to have humility — and how often to draw the line.
* find me online and ask me about the password to the secret site with many full pieces accessible for free.