“My job, in part, is to look to the future.” Brandon Sanderson is the author of more than 70 fantasy novels. That’s incredible success. It is easy to look at him and think he’s always enjoyed this same success. But that isn’t the case.
My friends Scott and Allison Salmon talked about this phenomenon with me. “It’s easy for our daughter, just out of college, to think that we’ve always enjoyed the financial success of the last ten years,” Scott said. “We have to remind her of our journey to get here. We also tell her that our journey continues every day.”
When Brandon speaks of his journey in and after college he gets emotional. I laughed when he spoke of his journey in college, switching to creative writing after not doing well in chemistry. That’s because I had a similar journey while taking the inorganic chemistry series in college. I really struggled in these courses and had to seek lots of tutoring just to make it through. And, while I completed the course series, I walked away with the realization that while I passed, I still didn’t understand the mathematic and scientific underpinnings. But I also noticed something much more important.
It was personally revealing when I recognized that the students crushing me on the grading curve in chemistry were being crushed by my test scores in history and other humanities courses. That was one small step Brandon and I share. This prepared Brandon and me to struggle similarly when facing our shared next steps.
“I struggled with knowing what would come next, after graduating,” he shared. Brandon also said he struggled with always thinking too many steps ahead. That’s a struggle many share. Many people fall into the trap of thinking once they’ve graduated or they’ve gotten their dreamed of job life will be perfect. Yet, we all have to create our lives one small step at a time through natural progression.
“It’s easy to feel between goals, like you are never arriving,” Brandon says. “Do something small to make it better.”
Here is the additional practical advice Brandon shared.
First, sometimes we don’t have any idea when we’ll arrive at our envisioned destination. So, look to improve your life in some small way and when what you tried works, write it down.
Second, try your best to make and keep connections. In today’s world there are lots of ways to do that. It can be as easy as sending a text to someone important to you telling them you’re thinking of them. If you haven’t tried it, you may be surprised at the delighted responses you’ll get back when you do.
Third, write down the bits of your life that bring you joy. “The beautiful moments, yes, and the dramatic ones, but more the quirky, unexpected turns that make this current chapter of the life you are living right now worth rereading,” Brandon councils. “Be active in noticing the wonderful moments, not just the broken ones. Because joy, like people, is magnified when it is noticed.”
Fourth, balance work and life by connecting with others. I can remember when “social networking” was talking while sitting around a fire. There are many ways to nurture your personal connections in person. If you’ll make such connections regular and important you’ll avoid burning out and forgetting what brings you joy.
Fifth, maintain a good support structure by not allowing your friends from school and past jobs to forget you. My friend Nate Nead left for a weekend with the buddies he grew up with recently. He said, “We do this kind of activity every year, even though we all live in different states now. It keeps our connection strong.” To enjoy your journey through life to its fullest we all need to be on that journey with other people.
Finally, be comfortable in who you are while still striving to become better. When speaking of this last small step Brandon said, “Enjoying the journey doesn’t mean you have to accept the current state of things.”
Brandon’s job, in part, is to look toward and write about a created future. Perhaps you and I can be the authors of our own dreamed of success by adhering to Brandon’s Small Ways.
Lynn Butterfield lives in Erda and is a managing broker for a real estate company.