On Generosity and Raising The BarMonday, March 16, 2015
There is a woman who has written more than 25 books and makes her living as a professional author and as a writing professor at a university. She was up for a literary award and lost out to a another writer -- a young author new to the scene who won the award for her very first book. The older author nursed her grudge through the event, cycling through jealousy, self-pity, and even anger. That award was rightfully hers! She had been in the industry for decades! Who was this nobody who came along and took the award after just one book? She hadn't yet paid her dues like everyone else!
After the event, the younger author approached the older one, stuck out her hand in introduction and asked, "do you remember me?"
The older author confessed that she did not.
The younger author replied, "You were my writing professor in college. In fact, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life until I took your class. You were the one who inspired me to pursue a career as an author. Thank you so much -- I feel alive when I write, I love my life, and I owe that to you."
The older author was taken aback and, of course, immediately felt guilty about nursing any animosity towards the younger writer. This person she had felt jealous towards only a few moments before was crediting her for her success.
Working to leave the industry better than you found it will almost always come back to benefit you. Raising the bar creates more room underneath.
Originally published February 2012