Lessons Learned from Two Failed Book Launches

In the last 12 months I have failed to launch two separate books. It has been a process of being eaten to death by ducks, which I consider to be a somewhat humiliating way to die. While I am proud of how I have handled myself in the face of numbers difficulties, I have regrets for the impediments to action.

In November 2013 I was preparing to launch a Kickstarted publication containing worksheets and tools for special needs families. I postponed this launch (perhaps indefinitely) to better be of service to my friend Raun Kaufman’s book launch.

In April 2014 I was preparing to launch a free e-book consisting of interviews with special needs parents. Days from publication I canceled this launch at the request of a lawyer. Regardless of legal right, I preferred to maintain cordiality with the organization that I was promoting.


It has been an amazing process and I have discovered deep love of writing, publishing, and promotion. What I will examine, though, is the underbelly. The reasons behind why I failed twice in six months to publish resources that I see a need for in the world. I hope these will be useful to inspire others towards learning new things, and help avoid mistakes and especially the fear of failure.

Eaten to Death By Ducks

There is no one moment that I can point to and blame. There is no person to blame but myself. Each decision was my own and it is useful to see where decisions lead. Instead of tiny steps towards the end goal, in the last weeks before launch I took tiny (unintentional) steps away. There was a conversation with a friend where we discussed postponing by a week. There was a conversation with a lawyer where I had to consider my next moves. All decisions and responsibility rested with me, but by taking tiny steps away from the end goal I was eventually subsumed by minutia and failed to launch.

Set Dates, Stick to Them

I am extremely self-motivated. When I set out to do a thing I get it done. And one of the problems I have discovered with self-publishing or internal deadlines is that then I am responsible only to myself. By having no one outside of myself monitoring the launch dates of my Kickstarter, of example I was arbiter. By having no one else dedicated to a specific date it was well within my jurisdiction to postpone. If, instead, I had had commitment to backers, my clients, etc. it would have been harder or impossible to postpone.

Work With People You Enjoy

This is one of my greater mistakes. I have studied with several amazing teachers and mentors, but have been limited by what is available within their protective umbrella. Unfortunately, some of these teachers have also been very protective of their specific domains such that when I go to promote their work through unusual means or create under their auspices, I have been readily shut down. We are social animals and it is important to collaborate with others on projects bigger than ourselves. But I have learned to choose more carefully the people with whom I want work and the projects that I will work on.

Do Work You Love

I love the study of how humans learn movement, and practical philosophies that can expedite the learning process. As a result the topics of all that I was writing about and promoting fit within my domain of expertise. While my enthusiasm for specific projects waxes and wanes, my dedication to the overall studies that are summarized in my works has never faltered.

I recently did publish my very first book “How To Do A Handstand.” And I have more on the way. I suggest staying staying tuned via my mailing list, where I send out periodic updates and a monthly learning challenge I’ve tackled.

What Jiu-Jitsu Has Taught Me About Success and Failure

When I started in the martial arts I went a bit extreme and tried more than a dozen forms in under a week. After that wild skirmish, I came away practicing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ). This is a violent sporting form – which means it is designed to submit without incapacitating the opponent permanently.

The Value of Attention

Since I first started Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu I have learned a lot about attention. It isn’t enough to want to win, or even to have perfect technique. It is important to pay attention to what you are doing, too. I have noticed three categories into which practitioners fall, depending on their experience: adrenaline-fueled fight-or-flight novices, especially aggressive intermediate practitioners and the very advanced practitioners, who are almost always very calm, collected and intentional. I have heard it said that “crazy” wins every time, and it is my experience that when I feel like I am fighting for my life I will do so twice as hard, and often overcome by sheer force of energy more advanced opponents. But against the most advanced, who are invariably calm in the face of my high-energy, I don’t stand a chance. This is due to the amount of attention that these most advanced students bring to bear on a situation: they are better at seeing what is actually in front of them, not put off just by high energy assaults.

brazilian jiu jitsu
Photo: Michael Holler

The value of attention has extended well beyond the martial arts into many other areas of my life. Since noticing how quickly I failed against the advanced opponents, I have begun to be more aware of similar fight-or-flight instincts that I have outside the sparing arena. By observing my patterns in jiu-jitsu I have become aware of how I engage similarly in the rest of my life. To give just one example, I recently went in to a job interview that I very much wanted. As I entered the door I felt a surge of adrenaline and experienced an almost hallucinatory experience of being outside my body. I recognized the amount of adrenaline I was experiencing and considered the consequences of such behavior in jiu-jitsu. Invariably, the novice will not see the next attack coming and lose. By realizing what I was experiencing in that moment, I took a couple of deep breathes, reconnected with my enthusiasm for being at the job interview and proceeded more calmly.

Awareness has the power to dramatically improve our result, on and off the mat. Practice being aware of your habits in one environment, and they will transfer elsewhere in your life.