“Who am I to write a book?”
This is a question I asked myself twenty-five years ago, and it is the one question that holds most people back from realizing their dream of writing a book.
What follows next is usually a double negative statement that keeps the same person from even getting started—“Everything has already been written; I won’t have anything unique to say.”
Believe me, I felt exactly the same way when I was asked to write my first solo book, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff for Women.
But first, I was amused when my husband asked me to write Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff in Love with him. It was the third book in the Don’t Sweat series. Richard was riding a huge wave of mega-success, right alongside Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen’s bestselling Chicken Soup for the Soul series. (Interestingly, their books never hit number #1 on the New York Times list in the two-year run of the flagship Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff book.) Richard sold one million copies of every book in the series as soon as it hit the shelves on its national lay-down date.
With tens of millions of books sold, and well over 100 million readers, Richard’s influence had grown as he unknowingly struck a chord around the world with his small book—a tome of wisdom and life practice, all brought to life by anecdotal stories. He spoke to people around the globe—of all races, ages, genders, and religions—and helped them feel calmer as they honed in on some simple ways to be gentler and more compassionate with themselves and others. The reader was able to easily begin to approach life differently, implementing gratitude and other key principles of mental health and well-being into their daily lives. Readers consistently reported feeling calmer as they practiced these simple strategies that Richard shared.
Richard was a pioneer in the fields that are now known as positive psychology and mindfulness. He also was the innovator of the short chapter format: 800 words or less. He wrote timeless essays offering anecdotal advice that was doable and easily relatable to the struggles many people feel in their daily lives.
That relatability spread like wildfire. People read and practiced and shared the books with their friends and family. Very quickly, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff became a movement of surrendering the small stuff to live what matters most—the big stuff.
HOW SURPRISING CAN LIFE BE?
One truly historical moment for us was one that took our breath away. On January 1, 1998, we woke up and went for a long run together. When we walked into my parent’s house after our run, Richard grabbed the USA Today my Dad had picked up at the local newsstand. For nearly two years, opening up the lifestyle section of the paper every Thursday had become the highlight of our week. This time the upper half of the newspaper showed a photo of a stack of books. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff was perched at the top, and the headline above that in a giant 72-point font read:
We had no idea that Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff would be on top of the bestseller list in the #1 spot for the second year in a row. We threw our arms around each other and wept tears of pure gratitude.
What astounds me to this day is how I consistently hear from thought leaders that Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff was the first self-help book that they ever read. The impact of that little book influenced many of the personal growth authors today, and that’s when you know you have done your part to make the world a better place—when you’ve influenced the influencers. When the ripple effect of your work continues to expand outward into a world that yearns for peace and joy.
While all of this was happening, we were raising two daughters and living our lives as a suburban Bay Area family. Richard would say, “I’m so lucky that I get to do what I love most—writing and spending my time thinking of how to help others live happier lives.”
That’s the incredible life that is possible as an author. But still, everyone asks the same question when they begin: “Who am I to write a book?”
And, now I know personally: Who are you not to?
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