The surprising truths behind the success of many famous personalities
You’d be surprised to discover, that the path to success, fame and glory for many, is not as clear cut or as straightforward as you might have initially thought. Gillian Zoe Segal, whose second book, Getting There : A Book of Mentors is now out, shares why she embarked on this book and what value you can get from it.
As someone who is very much interested in the idea behind mentoring and the immense transformational value it can bring, both to mentee and mentor, I was drawn to Getting There : A Book of Mentors immediately. The idea that thirty famous leaders, each in diverse fields, ranging from finance, journalism, hospitality and fitness, would share their secrets to their success seemed almost too good to be true.
Matthew Weiner, Mad Men creator, who was featured in the book, said :
“It took seven years from the time I wrote Mad Men until it finally got on the screen. I lived every day with that script as if it were going to happen tomorrow. That’s the faith you have to have.”
And Jeff Kinney, who wrote Diary of A Wimpy Kid said :
“It ended up being about eight years between the time I conceived of the project and when I finally had something in hand that I actually wanted to show anyone.”
Jeff felt that his whole life was about creating an audience – he reaches more than six million kids each month through his work.
So, I contacted Gillian Zoe Segal to find out the story behind the stories. Here goes…
In a nutshell, what is this book about?
Gillian : Thirty leaders in diverse fields share their secrets to navigating the rocky road to success. In an honest, direct, and engaging way, these role models describe the obstacles they faced, the setbacks they endured and the vital lessons they learned. They dispense not only essential and practical career advice, but also priceless wisdom applicable to life in general.
What was the primary motivation behind your writing Getting There ?
Gillian : I never had a real mentor but had a great need for one. I found myself continually looking at highly successful individuals wondering, “How did she figure out her career path?” and, “How was he able to become so successful?” I wondered what these luminaries had to teach.
My subjects were so unguarded and giving. That, combined with the fact that the essays are all in their own words, makes reading Getting There feel like having an intimate, one-on-one talk with some of the world’s most fascinating and accomplished people.
Who did you have in mind, as your reader, when you started developing this book?
Gillian : I really felt that Getting There would be for everyone—from students contemplating their future to the vast majority of us facing challenges or seeking to reach our potential. When the book was complete, I sent a copy to all thirty of my subjects. Many of them got back to me with something along the lines of, “Thank you for including me in this book — I am learning from the others.” After that, I feel confident saying that Getting There really is for everyone!
Looking back, what do you believe to be the best part of this book (for a reader)?
Gillian : My subjects were so unguarded and giving. That, combined with the fact that the essays are all in their own words, makes reading Getting There feel like having an intimate, one-on-one talk with some of the world’s most fascinating and accomplished people. How often do you get to do that!?
What was the most difficult aspect of putting this book together? How did you overcome this challenge?
Gillian : Getting people to participate in Getting There was the hardest part, by far — especially because I had little or no connections to start. It took me five years and loads of polite persistence to put this book together.
Meeting so many luminaries and hearing their candid tales has taught me that no one has it easy. Everyone encounters rough patches along the way.
You have some amazingly successful and well known people featured in this book. What were the factors behind your shortlisting who would be featured?
Gillian : I was going for a diverse group of leaders whom I admired.
What’s the single biggest thing you’ve gained from the process of writing this book?
Gillian : Meeting so many luminaries and hearing their candid tales has taught me that no one has it easy. Everyone encounters rough patches along the way. What separates people is how they deal with it when this occurs. Successful people get themselves back on track. They either try (what they failed at) again or learn from the episode and attempt something new.
You’ve succeeded on a number of levels here . Firstly, you’ve gotten really successful people to pay attention to you, the work you’re doing here and to give you their time. Secondly, you’ve gotten them to share with you in an unfiltered way, to be candid and to give of themselves. For many, this can be an extremely difficult thing to achieve. What tips can you give readers about overcoming these challenges?
Gillian : If I learned one lesson from the people who I interviewed for Getting There, it is that determination and resilience eventually pay off. Of all my subjects, I think that Ian Schrager sums up this sentiment best in his Getting There essay. He says, “In the end, there’s so little that separates people. Those who want success the most and are relentless about pursuing it are the ones who get it.”
Pursuing any goal is much easier if you are truly passionate about what you want; that’s what gives you the fuel to persevere. In my case, I really believed in the concept of my book and felt that readers would truly benefit from what my subjects could share.
I also felt sure my subjects would be happy with the finished product; if I hadn’t felt that way, it would have been extremely difficult to overcome all the rejection and keep approaching people over and over again.
Gillian Zoe Segal is the author of New York Characters. She received a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Michigan and a law degree from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Invest your time and money in this one book, if there’s only one book you buy this year – because Getting There is for everyone – from students who are thinking about the kind of futures they might have, to people stuck in jobs they hate, to managers who want to inspire passion and creativity, to leaders who want the best people on their teams and to entrepreneurs still slogging it out.
There is something in this book for everyone, regardless of the industry you’re in or the problems you face because when you read these stories, you’ll see that these are stories of overcoming obstacles, some so catastrophic, that they seem insurmountable.
These are stories of the human spirit. These are stories of hope, persistence, ambition and yes, courage.
Images of the book cover and Gillian Zoe Segal courtesy the author.