Friday, June 29, 2012

The Kirby Nightmare

Back in 1992, I got done with my first enlistment in the Army, and ETSed in El Paso, TX.  For the first month or so, I struggled to find a job.  During that time I actually took up a position as a sales rep for Kirby vacuum cleaners.  I spent a few days learning the sales pitch, and how to set up appointments.  However, on the very next Monday, I came in as usual, expecting more training and hoping to get some leads.  Instead I was greeted with a round-robin of everyone talking about how they did as far as selling the previous weekend.  Turns out I was the only one who didn't even do a demo.  This revelation was greeted with a group round of singing "This is the way we starve to death, starve to death, starve to death!"  I was embarrassed and humiliated.

Needless to say, I never went back.

However, the experience has stuck with me to this day.  Whenever I fail to succeed at some professional endeavor, I keep hearing that song in my head.  It can be both a boon and curse.  On the one hand, it's a good motivator.  In the way that R. Lee Ermey calling you a disgusting fat-body can motivate you to keep running.  On the other hand, it's very degrading, and it really drives the failure home.  I honestly don't know what those whackos at Kirby were thinking.  Their $1000 vacuum clearner wasn't THAT great.

Today I have a good, steady job with the state of Wisconsin.  I don't make a whole lot of money (despite what the Republican sheeple around here think), but I make enough that, when combined with my wife's income from her salon, we're not in danger of starving to death, for sure.  And even though I still dream of being able to support a more-than-comfortable lifestyle with my writing, I'm under no delusions that I will ever succeed at that.  The best I feel like I can hope for is that I will someday become prolific and popular enough that my writing will afford us some extra luxeries here and there.  Some traveling, maybe a nice car, etc.

Now, I can hear certain friends of mine saying "Well, you'll never get there with that attitude."  And you know, they're probably right.  But the fact is, changing your attitude towards success and failure is not easy for some of us.  I have lived a life of failure, it feels like; rough childhood, rough marriage, rough time in the military.  I have yet to succeed at anything I truly set my mind to without some kind of overpowering outside influence.  So, if I am going to write a bestseller, it's going to have to be with someone standing over me, forcing me to write, and telling me what I should be writing.

All that being said, whenever I set myself a goal, and then fail to meet it, all I can hear are those snarky voices singing "This is the way we starve to death, starve to death, starve to death!"  It's not pleasant, and it's very demotivating.

Ah, well.  I have a small group of people who believe in me, and keep me motivated.  And really, that's what it's all about.  If I write a story that entertains someone, and makes them say "Wow," then I have succeeded.  I am a successful writer.  It may not change the world, but it will change that person's world for a short time, at least.  So, in that respect, I'm doing it.  I'm living my dream in little ways.  And that's a very cool thing, because I know for a fact that there are a LOT of people out there who can't even claim that small victory.


bowiefan said...

You're a successful husband and partner to me due to who you are and your desire to be that.

Just sayin'

I admire the man you are.

Keith said...

Tom, I've hidden a bomb in your house. It will explode if you do not continue to write.

Just kidding about the bomb (maybe). But you are already a success as a writer. I like your work and want to read more of it. Don't confuse setbacks with failure; they often look alike. You'll only be a failure as a writer if you stop writing.

Hang in there, my friend, and keep writing.

Charles Gramlich said...

Hey man, your history sounds a lot like that of a very successful writer, I know of. His name was Edgar Rice Burroughs.