the blog of dan pontefract | I’m Showing My Work … My Next Book Is Postponed
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I’m Showing My Work … My Next Book Is Postponed

In her book, Show Your Work, Jane Bozarth encourages us to work in the open. On the topic, she recently wrote, “Working out loud takes us off autopilot and forces us to confront assumptions, bad habits, and prejudices. Helping others better articulate decisions helps them learn—and if we’re paying attention, we might learn something, too.”

John Stepper is another fabulous example of mastering the “work out loud” nascent meme. He even recently published a new book titled, Working Out LoudHe once wrote that, “You need to make [working out loud] purposeful in order to be effective.”

I’ve looked up to Jane and John for many years now (mostly virtually) as they have perfected the art not only of working out loud, but of building networks to increase their own knowledge and success. It’s been beautiful to watch from afar. For they are beautiful at working out loud.

I like to think I’m open. I like to think I’m collaborative. I like to think I’m (mostly) working out loud. But like most of us, I have plenty of room to grow.

Consider this entry about being open with my work. My other work.

My writing.

When my first book, FLAT ARMY, published in May of 2013 I immediately began sketching, researching, and writing the next book. While FLAT ARMY was a book written to help organizations and leaders launch improvements in their culture and employee engagement practices through connected leadership, pervasive learning and collaborative technologies … I not only had the bug to continue writing, I wanted to delve deeply into the concept of purpose.

At first, I titled the book, “It’s Work Not Jail” and it was about 15,000 words in when I realized it was the wrong book. At the time, the target audience for the book was employees — not a bad thing — but I had an epiphany on a long bike ride. While I’d love to help the millions of employees out there directly with a new book on purpose (at least the thought of potentially helping them), I felt the concept of purpose was so delicately intertwined with employee engagement, that the target audience needed to shift.

Thus, the first book on purpose was mostly scrapped, and I started fresh. (or, perhaps I started over)

I recognized through more research, interviews, and personal reflections that purpose is in fact a two-fold process. First, the organization needs to define what its purpose should be. Second, employees need the resolute assistance of leaders to determine how they might evolve from a job or career mindset into what I believe is a ‘purpose mindset’. (Of course, the purpose mindset is aided and abetted by a more wholesome and stakeholder-driven definition of the organization’s new purpose.) This is why my next book is titled DUAL PURPOSE.

Since the Spring of 2013, I’ve written and rewritten this next book several times.

I’ve ventured into the memory vault of my own prior roles and organizations. I’ve researched till my fingers bled. I’ve interviewed many people — be it on the organizational or employee side of purpose.

In April of 2015, I finished the first complete draft. I did a little dance in the kitchen. Even the goats laughed at me.

Over the next two months, five different people read the book. Great comments. Insightful recommendations. Cheeky shots at my propensity for long sentences or made-up-words aside, the book was coming along. And then the paring began. It was 100,000 words and was being whittled down to something more manageable. An appendix was even created, so the flow of the book made more sense versus some of the stories that could be read almost anecdotally.

Prior to completion (in 2014 and 2015), five other people had read bits and pieces of the book. Again, fabulous feedback was received and incorporated into the book.

The cover was designed. I loved it. So fab!

I was getting ready to launch. November 10, 2015 was the chosen date. I could taste the anticipation of publishing another book, in hopes of helping organizations and leaders with this concept called ‘purpose’.

It was time for endorsements. I didn’t seek out endorsements for FLAT ARMY, instead choosing to define the words flat, army and flat army on the back cover. But for DUAL PURPOSE, I thought it was time to try something different.

Over the years I feel as though I have morphed into the world’s most fortunate aspiring writer. I have met many of the heavyweights and rock stars from the leadership and management space. Whether they have been CEO’s, consultants, ex-consultants, ex-CEO’s, academics, industry analysts, authors, broadcasters, and so on … I’m so lucky in some cases to even have developed a relationship.

I decided to call on one of them. The galley was issued. (galley is ‘book-speak’ for a not complete book) Some time lapsed. If the leadership and management space had some sort of articulated equivalent, in my mind, I was essentially ringing on the doorbell of Abbey Road, asking one of The Beatles for their approval.

Today, I got a response.

It was not positive.

Not at all.

At first I felt as though Lennon might have quipped, “You’re only playing three chords, and your G isn’t that good either.”

Gutted. For the entire morning I was not a member of Earth. My mind may as well have been on Mars, searching for water.

I got on an airplane. Then I got on another one. Before taking off on airplane #2, a flight attendant approached me in my economy class seat and asked:

“Would you like to take 3A in business class?”

“Would I?” I shrieked. “You have no idea.”

So, I plopped myself in 3A and pulled out my iPad. I’m on a cleanse now, and although tempted by wine, I had the wherewithal to pass.

I re-read Lennon’s long and so very thoughtful email roughly fifty times. Each time I read it, my degree of hopelessness lessened and my sense of forlornness dissipated. The comments were structured and blunt but written in the spirit of making the book better. Lennon wasn’t trying to attack me; Lennon was attempting to help me make the book a much better book.

An offer of assistance was included. It was as though Lennon had asked an Indie band to jam with him for a period of time.

postponedIt doesn’t even pain me to write this, but DUAL PURPOSE will not publish on November 10, 2015. I don’t know when it will publish, but if Lennon thinks there’s a few more chords to utilize and songs to write, that’s good enough for me.

I’m working out loud. Thanks Jane Bozarth and John Stepper.

And thank you so much, John Lennon.

28Comments

  • Brian / 25 June 2015 6:56

    Wow. Now I really am looking forward to the next book. I was before but this is intriguing. Will need some more backstory at some point. good for you doing this out loud. Thanks.

    • Dan Pontefract / 25 June 2015 1:14

      Thanks Obi-Wan. “Live well, love always and laugh out loud every day.”

  • Jane Bozarth (@JaneBozarth) / 25 June 2015 7:17

    Ah. I hate this for you. I had the same thing happen with my first book, more than 10 years ago now, and remember well how that day felt. But I rewrote it and ended up with a much better product. The experience has informed my subsequent projects and made them better, too.

    I am annoyed lately by the rash of badly-written and often even un-proofread pieces turning up in my industry, typically self published by people with cheerleaders who will say their every sentence is “awesome!”. At best it harms their credibility; at worst, it encourages bad practice. Your contact did you a favor although it may not feel like that yet. Give it a little while but then please do try to shake it off and try again?

    Thank you for your contributions–and for showing your work.

    Best,
    Jane

    • Dan Pontefract / 25 June 2015 1:18

      You bet Jane. Shaking it off, just like Taylor. 😉

  • Nancy White / 25 June 2015 8:22

    Just a simple “way to go!!!”

  • Victoria Klassen (@ToriKlassen) / 25 June 2015 10:16

    I have such sympathy for you. We do a disservice to people we work with when we hold back our thoughtful criticism. I’ve always admired people for telling me (in a supportive way, but bluntly) when I’m off track, but I’ve also encountered people who really don’t want to hear honest feedback. I admire you for taking in the advice of your “John Lennon” with an open mind, for vowing to create something even better out of this experience. Thank you for being vulnerable and sharing this. I am inspired, and I’m really looking forward to reading it when it does get published.

    • Dan Pontefract / 25 June 2015 1:21

      Hey ya Victoria. Thanks for chiming in. It was very difficult, however, I’m also very grateful.

  • Jennifer Zach / 25 June 2015 10:24

    Dan thanks for your honesty – it is such an encouragement! And I know your book will be better for it. Writing can be a particularly painful thing. Even when we think we can personally detach ourselves, inevitably even the kindest and most constructive criticism still stings a bit. I will be sharing this with two authors that I am working with presently.

    • Dan Pontefract / 25 June 2015 1:24

      Hey Jennifer, this made my day. So glad it can be shared with your two author acquaintences.

  • John Stepper / 25 June 2015 11:32

    My “John Lennon” was my wife. I was going to ship in October and she decided to read it in September. By page 63, she looked at me and said “I don’t like it.” It wasn’t what I wanted to hear and we had some difficult conversations but the book is much better after a complete rewrite (and 6 more months).

    Congratulations on having a friend who cares enough to offer that kind of candor.

    Now I *really* want to buy your next book!

    • Dan Pontefract / 25 June 2015 1:26

      Ya know, the funny thing is I thought I had seen you announce a launch date of the book in 2013, suggesting 2014. I went back to the post, and sure enough, it said 2014. Then, you published the book a couple of weeks ago. I didn’t think anything of it, until I read your comment just now. Here’s to The Beatles! 😉 Thanks for sharing John. Appreciated.

  • The scary thing that makes a good workplace great | tori klassen / 25 June 2015 12:02

    […] Here’s one leader who also certainly fits the bill: Dan Pontrefact (you lucky Telus employees, having him on your leadership team!), who has embraced the Working Out Loud movement (Yay!) and wrote a pretty raw piece on why his next book is postponed. […]

  • danielletomlinson / 25 June 2015 2:03

    Bravo Dan! Leading by example…the best kind of leading!

  • Ralph / 25 June 2015 3:11

    Hey Dan.. it takes courage and maturity to ask for honest feedback to gain more knowledge on our “as is” status. And most of us do not want to face reality when it comes to feedback concerning a lot of work and effort was put into something which really care about and have expectoration’s for. So kudos for doing that with “John”.

    Sometimes a delay is a blessing in disguise. And for your minor delay I truly believe that. Ce n’est que partie remise.

    Cheers.

    • Dan Pontefract / 25 June 2015 11:25

      Thanks for chiming in Ralph. May there be a Montreal latte in our future.

  • Tanvi .Gautam / 25 June 2015 7:35

    Congrats ! It takes courage and fortitude to go through the process as you are doing now. Really admire you for having written this post. You are so lucky to have Lennon in your life. I will remember and reference this post in my leadership sessions for what it means to lead from the trenches.

    • Dan Pontefract / 25 June 2015 11:26

      An honour to know you visited … and left such an empathetic comment Tanvi. Many thanks from across the Pacific.

  • Jane McConnell / 26 June 2015 12:15

    We all need a John Lennon in our lives – our writing lives I mean. Thank you for sharing.

  • Bob Blackey / 26 June 2015 7:03

    Writing a book is a service to others. Being able to pause as you are now doing and making sure you’re writing the right book strengthens that service. Sharing this story is also a service to others. Looking back I believe you’ll be happy for all of these decisions. Good on ya.

    • Dan Pontefract / 26 June 2015 8:55

      Even after all these years, so nice to hear from you Bob. Your words mean a lot to me.

  • Steven Hill / 27 June 2015 1:17

    Stand tall – looks like you are heading to the ‘sunny side’ of the writer’s street from that dark, shady place. How you passed on the adult beverages in 3A is beyond my abilities to comprehend. Well done sir….

  • Mike Desjardins / 5 July 2015 10:27

    Thank you for continuing to show and model the courage it takes to truly be authentic and transparent. I believe we were put on this earth to help each other succeed and apparently so does the author you reached out to. I can’t wait to see the next version knowing it will have this extra level of care and attention from him/her and you.

  • Caroline Schein / 14 July 2015 3:24

    Cheers to the courage to getting it right. Not quite the same but I remember when I was in the final stages of my dissertation. I didn’t have one John Lennon I had four. Very painful but the best thing that ever happened. I know your next book will be great and all the future work that follows.

Want to leave a comment? I'd love to hear from you. Cheers, dp.