Big Surprise: The Unexpected Benefits of Writing a Book

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Isn't it wonderful how life continues to teach us lessons even when we aren't looking for them? In fact, I think some of the best lessons are the unexpected ones. Sometimes the insight we gain is hard-won and results from our struggles, sometimes it springs from our success. Either way, the lessons we learn are valuable and should be treasured and shared.

One of the main reasons I first sat down to write my book, The 10 KIDmandments, was the desire to share the lessons my life, work, and family have taught me with others. I didn't start writing from a place of great authority, or feeling like I had all the answers, but from a place of feeling blessed in my life and passionate about sharing my thoughts on the journey of parenthood. I wanted to help other people who, just like my wife and me, were seeking to become better parents every day.

From the beginning, I hoped the book would be valuable to other parents as they raised their children, but little did I imagine the unexpected benefits it would bring!

Writing a Book is Good for You

My book is about parenting, and I think parenting is all about learning lessons. As adults raising children, it's tempting to think that we are the ones who are doing all of the teaching (and of course we do teach our kids a lot), but they teach us many lessons too. While we grow and learn as parents, we not only improve the lives of those we love, but in return wonderful gifts are bestowed upon us.

Interestingly, writing a book is a lot like raising children in this way. It's a nurturing process that involves a lot of giving up front — taking the time to sit down and write, choosing every word carefully, making sacrifices to reach deadlines. Then with a little bit of time and distance, you realize how much that process gave back to you — motivation, confidence, knowledge.

In an article for the Nonfiction Authors Association, Roger C. Parker explores The Real Benefits of Writing a Nonfiction Book. I couldn't agree more when he says that “the real benefits come from the writing, not the selling, of your book!” Among other things, Parker notes that writing a book provides a new perspective. For me, it was the process of articulating my thoughts on parenting (as well as the in-depth conversations with my wife and co-parent) that allowed me to step back and see the big picture more clearly — the things I was doing well and also the areas I needed to improve.

Parker also says that authoring a book instills curiosity about the world, and I agree. It encourages a more active search for new ideas and new ways of expressing timeless truths. Parker's article validates something I've long believed and included in the book as KIDmandment #6, which is Love to Learn. Growing as people and striving to be the best we can be at any given moment is one of the keys to creating sustainable happiness.

Writing a Book is Good for Your Business

I didn't set out to write a book for business reasons. I think this was surprising for many people, who assumed that I would write about the history of my company (City Wide) or the lessons I've learned from running a family business. Instead I wrote about parenting, a subject close to my heart but seemingly unrelated to business. In actuality, I had been trying to examine the parallels between the two for quite some time (more on this to come!).

As a member of Vistage, a Peer-to-peer organization for CEOs, business owners, and executives of small- to mid-size businesses, I have been frequently exposed to great thought leaders in business. I would write pages of notes and then when I got home take their stories and translate them into stories I could share with my children, stories that would make me a better parent. So the fact of the matter is that The 10 KIDmandments springs from “lessons learned from business leaders,” documented to help my wife and I become better parents. It wasn'€™t until later that it was re-purposed in order to share the lessons I had learned with others. 

As author Erika Anderson notes in Forbes, writing a book is good for business because it increases personal credibility, business credibility, and brand clarity. A book that you have written “helps potential clients understand what you’re about and how you can be valuable to them. It can also help your own staff be clearer about who you are and what you’re offering,” she writes.

In my experience this has been very true. Through the book, our employees, contractors, vendors, and clients were able to get a better idea of who I am and what values are most important to me. My book gave people an opportunity to learn more about me than ever would have been possible without it. In turn, I have been able to attract more people who share my philosophies on raising children and running a business. At the same time I probably alienated people who we were not in alignment with these beliefs — either way, I believe that understanding these kinds of thoughts before entering into a long term business relationship has benefited us all.

The biggest surprise of writing my book was that it helped City Wide attract the right kind of franchisees. Think about it: people want to know who they're doing business with and it helps when you have something that speaks for you. If they're going to invest financially and emotionally in a business opportunity, they really want to know a lot about the people at the helm and their style of leadership. My book gave me credibility and provided potential franchisees insight into who I am and what I care about. It also tee'd up the ability to talk about City Wide's purpose and to connect on a personal level.  

It was never the original intent to help my business or create a “selling tool” by writing about parenting, but I don't think I could have planned it more perfectly if I'd tried. The book was a labor of love I undertook for my family. I'm thrilled that is has reached as many people as it has and hopefully helped them in their journey to become better parents. The business benefits were unexpected and unplanned, but it's great to see that my expression of purpose had a wide-ranging impact on my life and the lives of others.

What are other benefits of writing a book? What would you write about? Join the conversation by leaving a comment or tweeting @JeffOddo.