As a gawky teenager, I was saddled with low self-esteem, high anxiety, and little self-confidence. The good news is my situation changed for the better through writing. But writing was not a natural talent I discovered until one person changed my outlook. That’s when “The Power of One” principle first impacted me.
There was one special high school teacher who saw in me a flash of talent that I didn’t see myself. In hindsight, this educator had a profound impact on my career trajectory. It was during an English literature class when one high school teacher helped me realize my potential as a budding writer. The class involved reading famous novels and writing essays analyzing them. This was the first time any teacher had given me straight ‘A’ grades for any subject.
This epiphany led me to write for the high school newspaper and take an advanced class in journalism, both of which further sharpened my skills. The more I wrote, the more my self-esteem improved, my anxiety faded and my self-confidence grew. In essence, that one English class and one teacher served as a springboard to decades of writing.
The Power of One principle can affect any small-time writer in a big way. All it takes is one person to help forge your career path. All it takes is one person to have a formative effect on your professional life. But don’t procrastinate or wallow in self-doubt once you find your calling as a writer. Put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, and get to it.
Be grateful for your new-found talent and embrace it. Be thankful to the person who helped you discover it. Be forward-thinking and positively expectant on your new journey as a writer. All it takes is one influential individual to help realize your hidden talent and change your life in unforeseen ways.
Paving the Way
Flash forward a few years…I was now a dazed and confused freshman at the University of Maryland. The campus was sprawling. I struggled to find my way literally and academically. But it felt like I was going around in circles. Those old feelings of self-doubt and uncertainty resurfaced.
What to do?
I really admired the popular college newspaper, which was a must-read for students and faculty alike. I hoped to write for the paper one day but initially doubted it would happen until junior or senior year. But then I had a change of heart and decided to push aside my fear and self-doubt. I challenged myself instead. The time for action was now. I thought being published in the college newspaper would boost my confidence and provide purpose by paving my way as a writer.
Thus, I submitted a few opinion articles to The Diamondback, an independent daily with a proud 100-year history and a readership of about 25,000. Yet my first few submissions were rejected without explanation. I needed to try a different tactic before giving up. So one day I nervously walked into the newsroom unannounced and tried to make my presence felt. I didn’t have much to lose. Nothing ventured nothing gained, I reasoned.
I shyly introduced myself to the editorial page editor. We chatted for a while and had a pleasant exchange. I then made an offer to volunteer as his assistant for several hours a day. He accepted. That’s when everything changed for the better. My articles were now being published with regularity on the op-ed pages. I also took the time to strike up a rapport with the other editors. I persisted with a smile and succeeded in getting to know the senior staff on an individual basis, both professionally and personally.
I proactively put The Power of One principle to work. I learned that allotting time to get to know people one-on-one is a critically important aspect of networking to get ahead. This involves taking a genuine interest in the other person and being a sincerely active listener. I didn’t know it at the time, but my efforts to personalize these newsroom relationships would soon pay dividends due to luck and timing. My foot was in the door and I was ready to take the next step in my writing journey.
At the start of my sophomore year the editorial page editor, for whom I had worked, had an unfortunate falling out with the editor-in-chief. Then, in a flash, my mentor inside the newsroom was suddenly fired. I couldn’t believe it. Did they expect me to leave, too? To the contrary, I was asked to take his place, a pleasant surprise, indeed.
I was the youngest editor on staff and thrust into a challenging role which would boost my professional growth. I wasn’t just writing anymore, but also managing a staff of columnists, editing copy, designing layout, formulating compelling headlines and otherwise pitching in where needed for other sections. Additionally, I now had a seat and a voice at the daily editorial meetings which shaped the direction of the paper. I was writing staff editorials and finally being paid for my countless hours of labor.
Toward the end of that semester, I even won a regional column writing award from The Society of Professional Journalists. This hands-on newsroom experience proved instrumental in learning journalism from the inside out. I had come a long way from those frustrating times of struggling to find my purpose, first in high school and then as a college freshman.
Even though my dad and uncle tried to push me into majoring in business so I could join the family business, I now had more proof of my ability as a writer. I was determined to pursue it as a craft. I spurned my family’s advice and majored in journalism at one of the nation’s top-ranked college programs.
Sometimes you have to buck the conventional wisdom of those closest to you and follow your gut instincts — even if the decision causes friction. My family ultimately supported my decision to earn a journalism degree. This was all further proof of The Power of One principle per the relationships I fostered and the valuable experience gained during those early college years.
Following my editorship at the paper, I worked one summer as a daily beat reporter for a national news outlet. I also worked stints in Congress and for a political polling firm as an undergrad. My writing was always an invaluable asset.
After graduation, I worked on a presidential campaign. The candidate won and I received a political appointment in the White House. I assisted in writing statements and speeches for the President, among other duties. I then left the political arena to pursue a career path in public service as a federal communicator and writer. Each step in my professional advancement involved leveraging my writing ability.
In hindsight, it only takes one influential person or one significant writing experience to have ripple effects.
During my journey as a writer, I began to see The Power of One principle manifest in new ways. I was now influencing others through my prolific prose. It only takes one piece of writing to affect any given reader. Ditto that for hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands or more readers — especially if you go viral on social media.
You need not be a best-selling author or Pulitzer Prize winner to touch the lives of others through writing. Here’s an example: Lance Scoular is a VIP contact within my social media network. He bravely wrote a piece about suicide prevention for “R U OK? Day” in Australia.
Lance shared his personal experience despite some initial hesitation due to the sensitivity of the topic. Many readers found his piece to be emotionally penetrating. The article helped catalyze an open dialogue on a gut-wrenching social issue.
- “My most challenging article to write was my first ever long-form post on LinkedIn back in September 2014,” Lance told me.
- “While personally challenging in the writing process — by being vulnerable on a topic that is emotionally raw to many — the article received a lot of traction. It resonated with many people not just in Australia but around the world.”
- “If my article assisted in saving just one life, the days of mulling over it before clicking the publish button will have been well worth it.”
Lance’s article demonstrates The Power of One principle for writers on the most serious of issues: life and death, suicide, and mental illness. He wrote the following in responding to dozens of comments on his post:
I have had a number of emails and phone calls from friends and colleagues sharing their stories. There is a lot of sadness and heartache in many people’s lives. Possibly more than we imagine.
One reader’s reply was typical of many others:
Thank you Lance for opening up to us in this post. I truly felt connected with this and felt the difficulty you would have had in writing it.
This one article touched the lives of many readers and may have even saved a life. That’s The Power of One for writers.
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