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.
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.”