Updated: Mar 26
Being brave takes some guts, but it is one of the most essential character traits necessary to achieve amazing success. Here are a few reasons why:
Innovation Requires Bravery
Back in the late eighties, I started my career in publishing as an Educational Sales Representative for a medical publisher. I was twenty-two years old, an English Major with a History Minor, and entirely unprepared for sales, let alone to convince medical professors why they should use the textbook I was hawking. To make matters even more daunting, making a fool of myself is my greatest fear. It always has been.
I hated sales, but at the time it was a gateway into a profession I desperately wanted to succeed at so off I went, nervously, to knock on doors.
It wasn’t always warm and fuzzy, and a few times I probably did make a fool of myself. I survived, and in the process came up with some creative solutions to help with the sales efforts. One particular solution was to mark up a textbook so that it was effortless to see the new or revised features.
Marking up a textbook is not rocket science, but this approach, which I called “the naked textbook,” did the trick. In fact, it worked so well that my boss sent out a memo to the sales force encouraging them to do the same. “The naked textbook” resulted in some significant sales. I learned that I could develop innovative customer solutions and eliminate some of the discomfort and pain of those cold calls to boot.
Collaboration Requires Bravery
Those days in sales showed me that I could be brave, and the ability to knock on doors and talk to customers served me well. Fast forward a few years, and I am working in editorial management for a large publisher. I may not be knocking on doors as much, but I am suddenly responsible for the strategic management of several academic disciplines.
Educational publishing culture is training by fire, and as a new editor, I had no idea how to get a handle on what the professions needed or wanted so what did I do? Yup. Call the local sales representative and head back to the field to talk to customers. That was a good start, but I needed more detailed information to succeed in my role.
I was still afraid of making a fool of myself and sounding like I didn’t know what I was talking about so I made every effort to surround myself with experts. This involved going alone, yikes, to conferences and networking with leaders in the fields. It never felt comfortable, but it did get easier.
I eventually figured out that gathering everyone in a room to hold collaborative discussions was the best way to jump-start the publishing initiatives required of my position. I began organizing focus groups to discuss trends, best-practices, and to create innovative, credible content. It worked! To this day the focus groups are one of the hallmarks of my publishing career, and several best-selling textbooks are the outcome.
A Call to Action: Be Brave!
Today I’m still in educational publishing, but I’m transitioning to nonprofit organizational management, an area I have minimal experience working in. We are trying to create change in an area that does not necessarily want to change, and that is daunting, to say the least.
To achieve our mission, I have to put myself out there on social media which is really, really hard. Fortunately, the rewards of taking action and pushing beyond the fears have exceeded my wildest dreams.
What did you do today that was brave?
Marion Waldman, MBA is a freelance publishing professional, writer, and editor based in Albany, NY. She is the founder of Teach My Kid to Read, a nonprofit organization inspired by her family’s journey to obtain reading services for their daughter. You can learn more about Marion's work and follow her on: Twitter @teachmykidtorea, Facebook, and LinkedIn.