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As many of you know, I had a long, uphill battle to get my book published, and whenever I started to sink into despair, my guest today helped me turn my thoughts around. Shawn Anderson is an unbelievably positive and generous person, and I wanted to share him with you, particularly those of you who are struggling to stay in this game.

Here’s a little bit about Shawn’s latest book via his press release:

Extra Mile America is the empowering story of one man’s quest to remind us all that great things happen in life when we go the extra mile. In 2009 in order to symbolize the power of the go the extra mile message, Shawn Anderson pedaled a bicycle ocean-to-ocean… solo. Along the 4,000 mile journey, he interviewed over 200 inspirational Americans who had demonstrated a remarkable ability to go the extra mile, overcome personal setback and accomplish something extraordinary.

“Times are tough for many people… no doubt. But I wanted to give people an alternative to just throwing their arms in the air and say ‘I give up,’” Anderson says. “They can dig deep… go the extra mile… and effect practically every area of their life in a positive way. I wanted to show people that each of us still have the ability to control our own destiny. We just have to remember that simple law of success ‘that if you want more in life’…you have to go the extra mile.” Anderson continues, “Life will just happen to us if we let it… but if we take greater action… more action… positive momentum builds and change takes place. That’s what my new book is about.”

“I wanted to interview people who had experienced walking life’s hot coals… and who had come across to the other side determined to make a real life difference,” Anderson says. “Some of the 200+ people I interviewed had been fired. Others had experienced serious health challenges or relationship heartbreaks. Still others had lost a person very close to them. But they all came out stronger… and each with a more determined approach to making a difference with their individual life. I spent time with people who overcame tragedy…and created something great. I spent time with others who built extraordinary organizations based on their passion alone.”

Please welcome Shawn, leave him a comment, if you like, and let his positive energy make your day a little brighter.

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Talk to me about your bike marathon and some of the stories you’ve heard along the way.

A few of the people highlighted in the book include a blind woman who climbed one of the world’s tallest mountains… a tri-athlete who was born a congenital amputee… a 95-year-old who has been volunteering at the same hospital for 49 years… a wife who started an organization to help violent teens after her husband was killed by a 14-year-old… a race-car driving, business executive who has fought through breast cancer twice… a corporate executive who gives away 82% of his company’s profits… and a woman whose high school son died suddenly and is now a leading spokesperson for organ donation.

What’s it like for you to hear so many stories of others suffering? Do you ever feel overwhelmed by it?

On the Extra Mile America I Tour (2009), we focused solely on stories of people who had overcome personal defeat, loss and tragedy… or people who had the amazing discipline and fortitude to chase amazing dreams. On the Extra Mile America II Tour (2010), I have traveled around the country speaking over 100 times regarding the go the extra mile. The people whom I met after hearing me speak this year certainly shared dramatic stories… but I was inspired by the resilience of the human spirit.

I am never overwhelmed by all the stories of frustration or loss I hear because I know that is just life. We will all experience the feelings of frustration, loss, and even despair numerous times before we reach life’s finish line. What I do feel each time, though, is an individual’s pain. I am moved by their emotions and what they are experiencing. I use that moment, however, to do my very best in simply listening… and then adding hope. As long as hope continues to live in the human spirit, there will always be power to get up the next day. All of my conversations end with the feeling of hope, and that sort of positive ending invigorates me to continue to talk… and listen

Is there anything you’ve learned from people who are able to triumph over adversity? What are their secrets?

Those that are able to overcome adversity seem to hang in there a bit longer than those who don’t. They persevere. And they take action.

Instead of waving the white flag and feeling sorry for themselves, they keep believing in themselves and the fact that events can get better. They actively do the things that would cause the status quo to change. They go the extra mile… even when they don’t feel like it. Often, their actions affect their thoughts, which in turn affect their feelings. They reverse the negative momentum snowball that had been created.

So many writers I know find the process of trying to get published frustrating, and even dispiriting. Any words of encouragement for them? And what do you say to people who are not completely in control of the success they want—because extra effort and a positive attitude is not always enough to break into the publishing business, not to mention overcoming something like cancer?

Rejection is simply a part of the process for every worthy goal we may have. Even the greatest of writers have felt the despair of another’s rejecting pen in critiquing his or her work. When Walt Whitman tried to get his most famous book, Leaves of Grass, published, critics clobbered him with their words. One detractor called his work “nonsense.” Another said: “We can conceive of no better reward than the lash.” At that point, Whitman even questioned his own talent.

Then, a note arrived. A seemingly insignificant piece of paper carried a message that changed Walt Whitman’s attitude… and inevitably his world. Ralph Waldo Emerson dropped Whitman a simple forty-three word note:  

Dear Sir: 
I am not blind to the worth of the wonderful gift, Leaves of Grass. I find it the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom that an American has yet contributed. I greet you at the beginning of a great career.

Explore every option, contact every person possible, believe in your material… and never, never give up. My first book? 83 rejection letters. If I had quit, I would never have had the faith to write the four that have followed… and this feeling of having generated over 65,000 in total sales.

A while ago, I offered you help in finding an agent and publisher for this project, and you chose to publish it yourself. Tell me about that choice.

My 2nd book, SOAR to the Top, sold 45,000 copies through a traditional publisher. Additionally, the editing changes in my book were not necessarily ones I liked, and the publishing process took 1 1/2 years to complete. I was paid 11% royalty.

I believed I could do better on all levels.

I believed in my message, and wanted to make sure it was MY message and not that of a publisher. I also desired to generate more revenue than what a normal royalty fee would pay. So, I started my own publishing company. I had the business background to make it happen, and believed I could sell books. I hired the best editors, layout artists and cover designers possible. And today, Goldmind Press has now published three books.

Would you share something personal from your own life that made you so interested in human resiliency and the idea of turning your life around?

Being a guy with big goals, I have felt the sting of loss in falling short of a goal. I know what the fleeting thought of I want to quit feels like. BUT I also know what it feels like to keep believing… and eventually win.

Few of us have the support of others who encourage us to keep going, and when we are forced to rely on ourselves, it’s a challenge. I want to be the encourager for other people in a world that often lacks encouragers.

Life is short… and we only get only one. My juice in life is to plant or water seeds that encourage others to simply go for it and create the life in which they desire. (Note: My life mission is to “empower 1,000,000 people to lead a more positive and purposeful existence.”)

How are you different for having taken this journey and written about it?

Hmmm… I don’t know if this journey has really changed me as a person, but it has reinforced in me the Walt Disney adage “If I can dream it… I can do it!” Having the sort of confidence that makes me unafraid to listen to that small voice inside and the knowledge that I have the strength to keep going despite setbacks, provides me with great personal power to live the life I choose.

A pleasure to have you here, Shawn!

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Susan Henderson SUSAN HENDERSON is the author of UP FROM THE BLUE (HarperCollins, 2010) and founder of the blog, LitPark, a literary playground for writers.

4 Responses to “Shawn Anderson”

  1. [...] the meantime, you can catch my TNB interview with Shawn Anderson, one of the most positive people I know. He inspires me, and I hope you’ll check him [...]

  2. [...] few more links: I interviewed Renée Thompson here and Shawn Anderson here. And I am so appreciative of these new reviews of my book from Steph the Bookworm, Books and [...]

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