July 16

“The market is just about always stupid.” – Anonymous mentor

Your best work may not be your most popular work.

I still remember the day I reached out to a very well known and respected author for some advice. At launch, my new book was inexplicably not selling as well as my previous ones, and I was terrified that this was a signal of some imminent career doom. 

I’ll never forget what he told me. He said, “Don’t beat yourself up about market reception at launch. The market is just about always stupid.” He was right. But, not just about the market. He was right about the “don’t beat yourself up” part.

There are two parts to the work of any creative pro: making, and marketing. The first part is completely under  your control, but the second part  – how the market receives your work – is not, which is what drives a lot of creative pros to pre-maturely shape their work in order to make marketing a lighter lift. But this is backward thinking. Your job is to do work that is so compelling that it will eventually find its footing, regardless of the initial reception. 

As the opening act for the Monkees, Jimi Hendrix was once booed off stage several nights in a row. Monkees fans had no grid for what Hendrix was doing, so they rejected him. It didn’t make his work any less brilliant. 

Since its launch, I’ve received emails from around the world – from celebrities, business titans, and everyday creative pros – who have said the book referenced above had made a huge impact on them. It still hasn’t sold as well as my others, but it is doing its job with the people who discover it. And, to this day I still believe it’s my best writing. As difficult as it may be to understand, your best work may not be your most popular. And, that’s fine. Don’t beat yourself up. 

Question: Is there work you’ve done that was not received the way you wish it was? Are you still holding on to regret or beating yourself up about it? 

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