Learning From the Legacy of Johnny Cash

3 Lessons from the Man in Black

You don’t have to be from Nashville to appreciate country music or its rich history—and you certainly don’t have to be from there to understand the impact of the Man in Black on music and American culture.

Of the many things that I learned in studying the life of Johnny Cash, I want to share three that had an impact on me well beyond his music:


1. Pursue your dream.

When he was about four years old, he heard a song on a Victrola. Immediately, he knew that singing on the radio was his goal. Nothing could stop his determination to make that dream a reality.

Lesson: Make sure your dream is big enough to inspire you through difficulties.


“Success is having to worry about every damn thing in the world, except money.” –Johnny Cash


2. Be uniquely you.

He was the master of style. Almost always appearing in black, he communicated a style and a message with consistency and power. Everything about him from his voice, his music, his personality and his dress communicated a unique brand.

Lesson: Imitating others may help you get started, but real power comes from cultivating your own unique giftedness.


“My arms are too short to box with God.” –Johnny Cash


3. Allow your values to guide your path.

How Busy Authors Market Books In An Online World

Busy Authors

Are you an aspiring author?

Have you written a book but need some marketing tips?

How do you get the message out about your work?


How to Increase Online Effectiveness

Today it’s not only about the manuscript but also about how to get the word out about your book. Online marketing and social media have upended the traditional methods to market an author. Today, your effectiveness online is crucial to the success of your book.

In my own experience in the book business, I have seen the shift to social media and the rise of the author’s platform as major marketing tools. One of the notable experts in this field is Fauzia Burke. Fauzia is the founder and president of FSB Associates, an online publicity and marketing firm specializing in creating awareness for books and authors. She’s the author of Online Marketing for Busy Authors: A Step-by-Step Guide. Fauzia has promoted the books of authors such as Alan Alda, Arianna Huffington, Deepak Chopra, Melissa Francis, S. C. Gwynne, Mika Brzezinski, Charles Spencer and many more.

I recently asked Fauzia to share her wisdom about the best ways to market a book online.


“Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.” -John F. Kennedy


You’ve personally witnessed online developments from inception to today’s social and mobile world. Compare and contrast today to pre-online. How is the world different for authors today?

Oh, wow. Everything has changed . . . the most significant being that there’s never been a better time to be an author. Now, for the first time in the history of publishing, authors have direct access to their readers. Social media has changed the publishing landscape. While there is more competition in the marketplace today, there are more opportunities than ever before.

The new accessibility of social media allows authors to reach their audience directly, and this makes a long-term online marketing strategy absolutely essential for authors. The key to success for authors today is to build and grow their platform long-term. If they earn the trust of their readers, they can do anything.


“There’s never been a better time to be an author.” –Fauzia Burke


Common Misconceptions

What are some of the biggest misconceptions authors have when it comes to book publicity?

Many people feel book publicity is not quantifiable. I disagree with that notion. We can absolutely quantify the effects of publicity. When book publicity works, we see an increase in sales. Today, we can also judge the value by an increase in social media visibility and more traffic to an author’s site. Unfortunately, we can’t often duplicate success or land book sales each time. How a book resonates with its audience is magic. We can’t make people buy a book, a fact that is more frustrating to us as publicists than to anyone.

The other misconception is that there is a short launch period when an author gets media hits and goes on a book tour, and then an author moves on until the next book. That is just not the case anymore. Book publicity is a marathon, not a sprint. Authors are expected to engage with their readers whether they have a book to push or not.

Josh Charles, an actor on the TV series The Good Wife said when he exited the show: “I think that the beauty of social media is the ability to stay in touch with the fans and share with them what they’re going through and let them know that I’m there and the character may be gone, but I’m still involved in the show.” Authors too start a conversation with their community that is ongoing and lasting. It can’t stop at the end of a book tour.


“How a book resonates with its audience is magic.” –Fauzia Burke


3 Must Do’s for Authors

What are the top 3 “must do’s” for an author?

  1. Work on an online marketing strategy. The few authors that have become huge bestselling successes without a digital or social strategy are anomalies. Most of us need to work on online branding every day for the success of our businesses, books and careers. I encourage authors to develop their online brands. Online marketing is not about selling; it’s about making buying easier. It’s about forming real connections.
  2. Authors need to have a professional website. Your website will be your home base for your digital marketing efforts, and it is critical to your credibility. People do judge a book by its cover and an author’s expertise and quality of their writing by the look of their website.
  3. Be patient. If you are a little overwhelmed by the rapidly changing world of online marketing, you are not alone. Remember all of us, experts and novice, are learning as we go. You don’t have to become a social media strategist to be effective. By using the most important online marketing outlets for your audience in a targeted way, your book, brand and bottom line will benefit.


“No matter what your pursuit, the most fulfilling part is sharing it with others.” -Eli Broad


Social Media Engagement is a Privilege

My perception is that, after writing the book, most authors breathe a sigh of relief and think “It’s done!” and then they learn the real work is ahead of them. Is that your experience? How do you ease them into the reality of what’s ahead?online-marketing-for-busy-authors-sidebar

Ah, yes. Of course, for every author, writing their book is a labor of love and incredibly hard work, and so understandably they exhale a sigh of relief when the book writing process is finished. It’s tough to immediately say, “Wait until you see the work that’s still ahead.” We all complain about social media because it’s time consuming, but it’s the way the world has changed, and as authors, we need to change with it. We have to adapt. Once authors embrace the need to change with the times, I tell them some good news:

  • You don’t have to do everything.
  • You don’t have to constantly switch directions to follow the next shiny thing.
  • You get an unprecedented opportunity to build a community of interested readers who want to support your success.

It’s really a privilege to be able to talk to people and form relationships with your readers. I think authors breathe a sigh of relief when they realize the best way to engage effectively online is to be authentic.


“It’s a privilege to be able to talk to people and form relationships with your readers.” –Fauzia Burke


Stand Out with a Strong Personal Brand

Phrases Successful Leaders Never Use

Phrases Leaders Never Use
This is a guest post by Zoe Anderson. Zoe is part of the team behind StudySelect. She’s interested in finding new motivation tools and branding strategies. After one of my recent posts on words, this submission grabbed my attention.

The Power of Words

Words have power. Just ask any successful leader. Whether in business, politics, or life, the right words can open the doors of opportunity, while the wrong words can get that same door slammed in your face.

With this list of phrases that you will never hear a successful leader use, you can benefit from the wisdom of others and avoid having the doors of opportunity and success closed to you.


“That’s not my fault.”

Good leaders always take responsibility and would never dream of throwing their subordinates under the bus by trying to shift blame. If you always take responsibility, you will gain the trust and loyalty of your team.



“I’m the boss.”

If you have to keep reminding your team who is in charge, then you are showing your weakness as a leader. Confidence, rather than arrogance is the attitude you should be aiming for. People naturally follow confidence, while arrogance invites contempt.


“I’ll do it myself.”

This shows a lack of confidence in your team and sends the message that no one else is as good as you are. If you find that your team isn’t performing up to standard, it’s your job to guide them through and get them the help they need. The first attempts at doing something will rarely yield stellar results. You may need to give people a little space to fail at first so you can give them the feedback they need to improve.


Make Today One of Intense Purpose and Lasting Influence

What Will Your Legacy Be?

It’s graduation time. As students receive their diplomas, they look forward to the next milestone, the next development, the next opportunity. As they walk across the stage, I bet most of them don’t think about how many days they have been on Earth and how many days they have left.

My friend, Robert D Smith, affectionately known as “the Robert D” reminds me of the gift of time. His book 20,000 Days and Counting: The Crash Course for Mastering Your Life Right Now is one I give away to graduates. He shares practical reminders of how to master your life and succeed.20K Simple Truths 3D Left

Understanding your purpose, living each day to its fullest, becoming as productive as possible, and mastering your life are critical to a successful life and yet most of us are so busy with today’s tasks we don’t stop and reflect.

In 20,000 Days, you will find a compelling reminder of the value of time. It’s not a long book, and the message is simple, but profound. A few of the lessons I took away:

  • Eat dessert first.
  • Think of today as your last day and also your first day.
  • Do the thing you’ve been putting off.
  • Invite a close friend to dinner.
  • Go outside and breathe deeply.
  • Read the book you’ve been meaning to pick up.
  • Create a life statement.



And some of my favorite quotes:


“Winning is defined by the legacy you create.” @TheRobertD


“My motivating force: I know I will die, but I do not know how long I will live.” @TheRobertD


“I must govern the clock, not be governed by it.” –Golda Meir


“No reserves. No retreats. No regrets.” –William Borden

5 Lessons on Innovation from Outlander’s Diana Gabaldon

A Creative Force

One of the most innovative people I have ever met is my friend Diana Gabaldon. Last year, her wildly popular Outlander novels became even more popular as the new television series was released. Whether you are reading her Outlander series or her Lord John novels, you will be hard pressed to categorize her writing. Most critics give up and classify her work with a list of descriptive words ranging from historical fiction and romance to mystery and adventure.

However you describe her novels, you may find it even more challenging to describe the author. Diana is equal parts scholar, writer and historian. Mix in a bit of archivist; stir in comic book writing, and the unique recipe begins to take shape.

When I first met Diana, I had not read any of her books. She captivated me by the way she told a story. How she went from college professor to best-selling author was a story I will never forget.

Here are a few lessons I learned from the impossible-to-describe creative force named Diana Gabaldon:


Lessons from A Creative Mind

1. Try….why not take a chance? 

It seems that most people have an idea, think they should do something, and then push that dream into a drawer. They never really give it a go.

Years ago, Diana read comic books. She felt the writing quality was declining and that she could do it herself. Have you ever felt that way? You see something and think, “I can do better.” Most of us have. What sets Diana apart is that she didn’t stop there. She investigated. She found out who was in charge and then turned in a submission.

Years later, Diana would take a different chance. She thought that she would like to try writing a novel. That try, what she calls the novel she was writing for “practice,” became Outlander.

What idea have you had that you have left in that drawer? What could you do to give birth to something new?


2. Study…for the love of creating.

Long before her mega success as an author, Diana spent years as a university professor.  She has a PhD in Quantitative Behavioral Ecology. She also holds degrees in marine biology and zoology. That type of academic success shows an underlying love of learning.

And it’s that same love of learning she uses in the meticulous research for her books.  Her fiction books are known for their accuracy, and it is no wonder.  Her personal library includes thousands of books. Her Arizona home alone contains over 1500 reference works on topics such as warfare techniques, poisons and history. Some of the topics are very specific, such as the art of passementarie (the knotted tassels on 18th century furnishings) or the 126 books on herbals. If you have been searching for Sam Johnson’s Dictionary (1755) or Captain Francis Grose’s A Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (1811), look no further.

Often people look for the shortcuts to success. You may hear that Diana decided to write a book and then found herself on the NYT list. The truth is that great public success is almost always the result of planting, tilling and working in private.

Diana Gabaldon's bookcase, Used by Permission Diana Gabaldon’s bookcase, Used by Permission


3. Fail…and keep going!