A few years ago, I was in the thick of attempting to publish my first book. Every publisher told me they loved my writing, and my book idea was just lovely, but could I please come back when I had a few more thousand people on my email list?
My answer? No. No, I probably couldn’t.
The truth was, I had already nearly burned myself out a few years before doing all the marketing work I could muster trying to grow my platform. I knew all those online courses and strategies that have worked for so many people were not the answer to my dilemma. But I had no idea what to do. I reached out to some friendly authors for advice. They walked me through the marketing side of things: it wasn’t about me, after all. A platform was just something you stood on to make you visible. Don’t let the work into your soul. Just be smart and disciplined, do all the things and trust the process. They promised me I was overthinking it.
And maybe I was.
But every time I thought and prayed about my predicament, I heard one singular sentence arise within me: “What does it profit a woman to gain the whole world and lose her soul?”
Now, if you aren’t a Christian, maybe that sounds bonkers to you, that words arose in my heart. But they did. I believe they were straight from God, because first of all, that’s almost a direct quote from Jesus; and secondly, when that sentence sat in my heart it refreshed me and banished all my fear and worry.
I accepted this answer to my problem as a divine gift, and whatever you may believe about the universe or God or energy or vibey things, I hope you will trust me when I say that this is how I learned that faith and truth have the power to set us free from the lies of our culture.
The world around us has been formed by a messy mishmash of cultural factors over time. In America, capitalism, moralism, and postmodernism have all been mixed together in a strange cocktail that promises us that we will achieve the success we deserve if we work really hard and prioritize our own agendas.
We consume that cocktail in television shows, our movies, our memes, our songs, our commercials, and our books. It gets in our bellies and our brains and it forms a narrative within us that tells us we are capable of anything we dream of, we only need to go for it.
And maybe that’s true for some of us. Maybe you are capable of building a killer platform and slaying all day at whatever success you’re pursuing and your soul is thriving all the way to the Michael Hyatt hall of fame.
But maybe you’re like me, and the promotion and the marketing are killing your soul in a way that ends your creative abilities. Maybe you need someone to tell you that gaining the world is not worth losing your soul; that achieving your dreams is possible, however, the path ahead may terrify you every step of the way because you will have to stop using numbers and followers and dollars to measure your success, and just free solo climb a creative mountain.
You’ll love the view from the top, though.
My first book almost got bought two years ago. A publisher was “fast-tracking the contract” until they weren’t. They decided to shred the contract instead. The loss of that book deal was so painful, I wanted to quit. I had no platform and no one seemed to believe in me enough to take a chance on me. It felt like success would be impossible. I was forty years old and I was tired of writing things no one bought. I had far better things I could be doing with my time. I sat in the quiet place of that voice that said my soul was incredibly valuable and worth holding onto and asked questions like, “How long do I pursue this dream before I admit it’s impossible?” and “How many failures will I endure before I give up?”
But that same voice that said gaining the whole world was not worth losing my soul answered those questions, too. It said that a life spent failing to achieve a dream you love is not a life wasted. My success would be measured by my faithfulness to pursue writing, and the voice told me I was doing just fine at that.
I am totally serious. And I have learned a lot from this experience.
First, I have learned that the book I wrote has a life of its own. It is practically a living, breathing thing, and the same way I take no credit for my teenage son’s wicked curveball, I take no credit for what Holy Guacamole is capable of achieving in this world. Its success or failure is entirely its own. Godspeed, little book. I am so happy to see it out there, doing its thing. I am proud of how it’s holding its head up under the scrutiny of the reader. Despite being written by a person who has no platform whatsoever, Holy Guacamole is quite confident and cheeky, winking at the reader with promises about how much God loves them.
Second, I have learned that a small platform has been a blessing I would like to keep. I like holing away in my office, typing out words that flow from places I cannot name. I love that I can send a token of truth into the world and not wonder if it lines up with my image or branding. Anonymity is its own reward, and I am savoring its sweetness.
And lastly, I have learned that when you hear the small voice that cuts through the noise of fear and stops the mighty current of cultural pressure, you have entered a holy place. That voice comes from the place of refuge, where your value is measured by the depth of your belovedness and not the height of your achievement. Wear a path to that place every day so that when the storms come, you can find your way back easily.
Success beyond platform lives in the quiet promise that your soul is more valuable than the product of your effort. If you will build your life on that holy ground, you will spend your days in the heart of the God whose love conquers every enemy of our soul so that failure is not only improbable but impossible.
All that’s left to do is climb.