"Parlay your past life experience into a new business. "
By Dr. Maxine Thompson

How to Translate Past Life Experiences into Business


As a self-publisher, you become a business person. Your book is your product. Your readers are your customers. When I first made my career change, I didnít think I had any business savvy. After all, I had been in a social service agency. I did court reports, visited children and parents, and handled emergencies. I was not a welfare worker, so I didnít deal with money. True enough, I did budgets and clothing orders, but overall, headquarters handled the money.

My commerce was in the arena of human suffering, addictions, and family dysfunctions. Back in 1998, I went to a writerís conference with a business woman, and I spent most of my time delivering poems and looking at the other exhibits rather than manning my own booth. Later, I said to my older son, (who has his own business), "I guess Iím not about business."

ďYes, you are about business. Donít say that." He was referring to my ability over the years, as he called it "to wring water from rice."

From that I began to analyze my skills Iíd gained over the years. As a working mother, I had put many of my dreams on hold while I worked, and reared a family. Like Mary Kayeís philosophy says, God, Family, then career. So now I am gleaning through the five philosophies I learned as a social worker, which I have applied over the past 6 years as a literary service provider, Internet radio show host, ghost writer, and now new literary agent.

 •  Treat every client (or customer) with respect. As a social worker I often dealt with derelicts, substance abusers, and prostitutes. I still felt that they were all worthy of human dignity. Because I treated them as such, they in turn, treated me with respect. The payoff: I was never assaulted during 23 years of working in high crime areas in the inner cities of Detroit and Los Angeles.

When youíre doing book signings, no reader is too small to not meet with a smile. Listen to their stories. Often they will come back and buy your book.

Iíve found the same applies in doing business with other businesses. You must have good interpersonal skills to work with people. This means you will not constantly be embroiled in arguments and disagreements.

When I have problems with technical difficulties on my Internet shows that are beyond my control, Iíve learned to be reasonable and not throw my hands up. It is important to never lose your momentum when you are building an audience, and this means sometimes having to accept that human beings error. They are late, sometimes they donít even show up. I usually rectify the problem with getting a free showónot quitting the show altogether.

 •  Create a bank of good will, where you can call on people for favors during a crisis. As long as you have a plan, doggedly stick to it in spite of obstacles, you will come out ahead in the end. As an emergency response worker, one evening I was assigned four foster children to place at 5:00 p.m. closing time.

Meanwhile, my own child was at a day care, which closed at 6:00 p.m., and I had guests from out of town who I planned to be at a play with at 8:00 p.m. I managed to get to everything on time. I worked it out through delegation and support from co-workers I had previously helped. I also picked up my child before I placed the two remaining foster children.

From this Iíve learned the invaluable capital found in human relationships. I share resources with other writers and they have shared resources with me. Itís like the story of "Stone Soup." Iíve given and received much in return.

 •  Your emergency is not my emergency, because you didnít do what you were supposed to do. Although I never said these words, it helped my attitude when I discovered that the name of the game was pass the buck. Often, superiors did not follow through with problems, and when emergencies erupted, they wanted to dump on the lower man on the totem pole, ergo, the worker. I found this was not a trap for me, because if you took care of what you were supposed to take care of, covered your bases, you could have grace under pressure. Working in a bureaucracy, the best way to run your desk was to keep your work in order. Whenever there was an investigation, it always blew over, because you kept your business in order.

As the boss of your own business, it translates into "expect Murphyís Law." What can go wrong, will go wrong. Always be prepared with Plan B. Books do not always come from the printer on time. People try to blame you for things going wrong. Just stay cool and set strong boundaries.

 •  Everything will work out fine, that is, as long as you take action. I always answered every phone call and dealt with every problem as it arose. This kept small problems from snowballing into larger ones.

Likewise, I am learning that this applies to following-up on calls and e-mails that are important for networking, even as a writer, Internet radio show host, literary agent, or literary service provider.

 •  There is no emergency except death. After my motherís death, I went into low gear, and nothing else could phase meódeadlines, sanctions, subpoenas. So what? became my attitude. When I measured everything on the Richter scale of death, or perhaps because of this attitude change, it was never a big thing. The main thing was that I never lost a foster child (to death) on my caseload, because I had made a bad decision. This was in spite of the fact that the department I worked for constantly added more paperwork. On the upside, this paperwork brought in Federal funds and guaranteed the social workerís job. But on the downside, this also increased the social workerís demands (stress), and the number of foster children who werenít visited on a monthly basis. Subsequently, there was an increase in the number of foster children who died under suspicious circumstances, and an increase in social workers and supervisors being fired from their job.

Had a child died because I failed to visit him or made a bad decision, then "that" was an emergency. The paperwork I managed to keep up with, but I knew the main priority was child safety. Thus, I can say that I was a success as a social worker. So one can reason if they have been in another career, Iíve done this before. There is a generic principle here. What is it?

My answer is this: Just as I was successful doing crisis work, I began to see success in my business when I believed I could be successful in my writing, and dealing with other writers.

Recently, I have seen an upturn in my literary agency in terms of deals closed. In spite of let downs, disappointments, and delays, persistence is beginning to pay off.

I have also gained larger clients and have been able to successfully meet deadlines for these writers.

Letís face it. Many of us are living longer and having multiple careers over our lifetime. The Internet and the economy have reshaped our career choices.

In terms of business, I translate this into: Do what you love, because you are going to be dead a long time.