What Does My 5 Year Old Have to Do With Stephen King?

My 5 year old daughter is at an incredible school and we feel so lucky–we literally won the lottery to get her in there. 

One of the things about her class and school that I’m especially loving right now is their focus on perseverance. 

Maybe this is most kids (I have no clue, since I only have the one), but Z has a tendency to give up right away if she doesn’t do it well the first time trying. I mean, where does she get that from?? It’s not like I’m a recovering perfectionist 👀 😬

Anyway, we have been watching this trait shift so much from being in this class: she’s gone from a child who avoids failure to a child who’s willing to try harder and more consistently. We’re watching her develop some frustration tolerance.

Last night I was watching her practice writing her letters on a whiteboard in her room, and I remembered this story from Stephen King’s memoir On Writing…

Before Stephen King made it in the writing world, he and his family had very little money. They lived in a trailer with their young children and worked multiple jobs to make ends meet. King would work all day, come home and help take care of the kids, and then write well into the night.  At this point, he had already racked up numerous rejections–in fact, he received 60 rejections before he ever got his first short story published! 

King was working on a novel but had little hope that it would be published. At one point he threw the pages of the manuscript in the trash–luckily his wife Tabitha fished them out, read the pages and urged King to go on with the story.  She saw something in those pages and knew he needed to see it through.

And so in spite of his serious doubts (and his exhaustion!), King finished the novel and submitted it to Doubleday. 

One month later, Doubleday decided to purchase the novel. They had to send King a telegram because he couldn’t afford to keep up with the phone payment!

The advance amount wasn’t life changing–King kept his job–but it was enough to take a little pressure off financially. He hoped the paperback rights would sell for enough to quit his job and keep the household going for a few years, if they were very, very frugal.

When those paperback rights sold, they sold for $200,000–nearly 2 million dollars in today’s money 🤯

And that, my friends, is the story of Carrie, Stephen King’s first published novel. This novel set him up on the path to becoming a successful and wealthy novelist.  And all of this from some discarded pages in the trash can and a supportive partner who saw what he could not 🌟 

When I think about my daughter and this Stephen King story, two things stand out to me:

  1. Perseverance is a character trait that can be learned with willingness and practice.
    It’s one of the most crucial traits in long-term, SUSTAINABLE success. It’s not enough to believe in what you’re doing–you have to find a way to persevere when it feels like all you’re doing is running into obstacles.
  2. We need other people to believe in us when we’re struggling to believe in ourselves.
    We need honest feedback and support from people we trust if we’re going to make it to the next level. We don’t need cheerleaders or “yes” people–we need RADICAL honesty, we need to be challenged, AND we need the right kind of support!  

How do YOU deal with frustration and lack of motivation? How do you keep going when you’re exhausted and ready to quit?  And WHO in your life gives you that radical honesty and support?

Amy Worthy
COO and High Performance Business Coach