A Kite Needs Wind

If somebody offers to help you, you take it, even if that help is the form of constructive criticism. Even if that help is scary to accept.

I recently presented some work at a folklore conference.  My study bridges a gap between folklore and my field of professional communication.  I had recently submitted the paper to a high-level folklore journal. The editor liked the concept and asked me to make changes.  I did.  He sent it out for review.  It came back with negative comments and a rejection.  It was disappointing.

But I presented it at the conference anyway.  There, I spoke with an undergraduate professor of mine who happened to be in attendance.  She loved my concept and was surprised at my review experience.  She then told me that one of the people I had cited in my work, a big name in folklore, had been at my presentation.

And then, a few days later, this established big name scholar in folklore sent me an email.  My professor had talked with him about my experience, and he emailed to tell me that he liked my presentation, had experienced his own fair share of rejection (even recently), and offered to look over my paper and help suggest ways and other venues for publication.

Wow.  I’m lucky and humbled.  This doesn’t guarantee anything, and the prospect of sending him my paper was somewhat scary and intimidating.  Perhaps it really isn’t very good, but when somebody like that offers to help you, out of the goodness of his heart, you take it.  You jump on that opportunity and you take it.  It can only make me a better scholar in the long run.

I’ve learned over the years that my success, while mine, isn’t all mine.  My success is built on the people who have helped me.  I wouldn’t be who I am without those influences in my life.  I’ve benefitted from their generosity and their experience.  They have been gracious enough to share it with me.

Here are some of those people. They may not see this, and you won’t recognize them from their names, but they are important to me. And of course, this list isn’t exhaustive and doesn’t include the awesome people in my family who have also made me who I am.

Stacy Grover

Kris Davis

Jolona Snow

Audrey Goodrich

Mr. Nelson

Mrs. Frazier

Jill Rudy

Cindy Robinson

Jenn Hamberlin

Guy Coleman

Lynne Smith

Kalend Gardner

Mr. Price

Mrs. Mair

Mrs. Pearson

Boyce Fitzgerald

Alex Solorzano

Brenda Baker

Kelly Perry

Cyndi Archbold

Amy Leishman

Amanda Armstrong

Joseph Parry

Toni Asay

Russell Burrows

Judy Elsley

Scott Rogers

Ryan Moeller

Keith Grant-Davie

Anita Armstrong

Rebecca Walton

Adam Bair

Mr. Stucki

Jeri Volmar

Richard Checketts

Interestingly, I heard Pharrell Williams express this same idea in an interview on CBS Sunday Morning recently.  He kept attributing his success to the many band teachers who helped him over the years.  The reporter kept prodding him to take some of the credit himself.  He wanted to know what Williams had done to make his own success.

Williams finally addressed this question head on, telling the reporter that he couldn’t take credit for his own success and that he wouldn’t be who he is without all of the people who helped him get there.  He used the metaphor of the kite, that without wind it wouldn’t fly.  He essentially gave us the message Bette Midler did in the 1990s, ha ha, about recognizing that others are the wind beneath our wings.


William’s words moved me to tears.  I’ve seen a few friends find success and let it get to their heads.  I’ve seen them reject all that they once held good and dear because they thought they had done it all themselves.  Pharrell Williams has his head (and hat!) on straight, and I hope he continues to stay grounded and grateful.

Here’s a link to a clip from his interview: http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/pharrell-williams-my-story-is-the-average-story/

I’m grateful to the many people who have given of themselves to me over the years.  As Willa Cather said, “When people, serious people, believe in you, they give you some of their best, so take care of it.”


42 thoughts on “A Kite Needs Wind

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  1. I love the title of your post. 🙂 I’ve noticed that in today’s world, it has become important to take credit (and responsibility) for your achievements. Otherwise, you are sometimes thought of as under confident about your abilities. But at the same time, while people work extremely hard to achieve success, nobody is truly “self-made”.
    On a personal level, I suppose I would like to find a balance; I realize that there are a lot of people who have contributed to my successes. But it’s equally important not to undermine my own work.

  2. Your words were just what I needed this morning. I saw that interview on CBS too, and it was uplifting as well. Thank you for sharing your insight.

  3. I loved reading this part of your post:

    My success is built on the people who have helped me. I wouldn’t be who I am without those influences in my life. I’ve benefitted from their generosity and their experience. They have been gracious enough to share it with me.

    This struck a deep chord with me. This is an amazing tribute and thanks to those who have helped you build yourself (and if you’re like me, some parts of your life).

    I like that you are sharing this – and that things happened to work out at your conference for you to move forward with your publication. It seems that everyone was in the right place at the right time!

    1. Thank you! Yes, it was a serendipitous experience, one that has just begun. I have a lot of work to do after I received his comments, but now I know where to go and I have support. I guess I tend to be “overly” sentimental when it comes to the great people who have influenced me, but I think it is important to recognize how much they have meant to me. I know some people don’t think about this as much as I do, but I’m glad to hear that you are with me on this! 🙂

  4. This is so true, and one of those things that we need to be reminded of every once in a while. It’s so easy to forget to be grateful for what others have done for us. Thanks for the reminder!

  5. “others are the wind beneath our wings” – so true! Of course, we have to have a certain amount of self-motivation and passion ourselves, but I think we learn some of the most important lessons from others.

    How was Austria?

  6. Nice message, Emily. Those of us who take writing seriously have all experienced the long, hard road to success. That path is literally paved with rejection, initially. When the journey is long and success finally does come into view, class and maturity dictate acknowledgement of the many helping hands along the way. In general, I find that society is often oblivious to excellence and to the outreach of others. I recently blogged about my high school track coach from many years back whose example exemplified excellence and a demonstrated commitment to us (then) youngsters.The life-lessons learned have been with me since.

    1. One of the people on my list is a track coach from high school! And you’re right. Rejection is part of the process, through our whole lives. But hopefully success comes after initial experiences and we can learn to take more rejection in stride. I’m working on that!

  7. We are all built by those around us. This is also an example of how doing your best and being a nice person is the best way to go in the long run.

  8. Emily J, this is the best blog content I’ve read lately. Rejection is hard but like Jack Canfield says in the ‘Principles of Success’ about rejection is NEXT! 🙂

    1. That’s true! I’m having a hard time with NEXT right now because I got three rejections in one week and I’m so burned out! I think my NEXT is going to be a BREAK. 🙂 And then back to the grindstone.

  9. Emily, thanks for sharing your and our story. We each have been helped whether we have taken notice of it are not. A good analogy is a wise person recognizes what they don’t know. A successful person realizes they have had a lot of wind beneath their wings. This is the main reason it is our responsibility to pay it forward. Well said and well done. And, welcome back. BTG

  10. This is a wonderful message and reminder, Emily, that success is more than just your own. I would not be here today if it weren’t for my family and friends and husband who supported me in every which way to allow me to be on a career path I wanted (for example). I enjoyed your story (good luck with the paper!) and the video link.

  11. This was so sweetly and simply stated. I read a “theory,” I guess you’d call it, from a philosophy professor one time who stated that people are only responsible for about 10% of their success. The rest of it came through relationships, opportunities, education, connections, resources—you name it. And I was already a fan of Pharrell’s, but this made me an even bigger one.

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