Lessons From Stan Lee: A Portrait of Commitment

I recently watched a profile/documentary on the comic book creator icon Stan Lee. For those who don’t know (good grief), Stan Lee is the creator of Marvel Comics and such popular characters as the Amazing Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, The Hulk, Iron Man, and the X-Men. The name of the program was With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story. It’s a look at the ups and downs in the comics industry of Stan’s rise to comic icon status. Many of the people who have worked at Marvel Comics as well as starred in the movies chime in as it chronicles the humble beginnings of the media giant.

Like Mr. Lee, I’m a writer. My stock and trade is in the formulating of ideas and the communication of words. Many times, that’s not as easy as some may think. Us writers tend to be dreamers and that can get in the way of getting work done. Stan certainly is that. He’s animated and gets excited about the ideas that come to his mind. All writers do. But though there were times during the process where it looked like it was the end, Stan stuck to it and made it work. He was committed to his work. There were obstacles but he worked through them.

This is the same kind of tenacity that independent writers have to have. They have to work through all of the nuances and problems that are sure to come up. Editing, cover design, interior formatting, digital distribution outlets, sales tracking, and more is just a small list of the components of their business that need to be handled. The more components, the more probable that something can go wrong. But if something does go wrong, if the sales aren’t coming in, the downloads aren’t going up, the reviews aren’t being posted, the visitors aren’t coming through, then what? Is it over? Is the discouragement too much? Time to quit the business and throw in the towel? For some, that just may be the case. But for others, they understand that this is a marathon, not a sprint and that during this race there will be rough patches that will need to be navigated. For those that understand this, quitting the race iCommitments not an option. It’s simply being committed to finding a way around the obstacles.

For that new person that may be reading this, superhero-type stories are the kind that I write. Now, as much of a fan as I am of superheroes and the comic book medium, as I watched the program, there was one thing that I took away from it that was far more powerful for me than the characters or the specifics of how things slowly were built. The highlight of the program for me was seeing him and his wife of 60 years (longer than I have been alive folks) interact with one another and be transparent about their relationship during Stan’s rise. After all of this time, they are still in love and they are still together, warts and all. That folks is commitment, a kind that is rare these days. It’s that kind of commitment that you need to accomplish your goals as a successful independent writer.

Making a solid plan and staying committed to that plan is often the hard part to success, especially when it appears as if it’s not working. In the Guerrilla Marketing Handbook by Jay Levinson and Seth Godin, they make the observation:

Most of all, the guerrilla is committed. She understands that marketing doesn’t work overnight. By settinig a goal and sticking to it, the guerrilla has an easier time of dealing with the inevitable setbacks that occur. The guerrilla knows the path to marketing success is filled with failed marketers who gave up just a little too soon.

The question of course is what is “too soon”? Ten months to a year is an average amount of time to see if a plan that’s in place is working or not. Now, some of you may have read that sentence and had the wind knocked out of your sails. But it’s true. Of course you need to be committed to that plan. You need to be committed to your success. You need to be committed no matter how hard it is or what obstacles come. If you can stay the course through the adversity that’s bound to pop up, then you will accomplish your goals. The question is, will you?

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