Writing a book isn’t often enough to earn a full-time living. Many successful non-fiction authors earn a living through public speaking and coaching. A book acts as a calling or business card.
In this interview, he explains:
- What it means to be emotionally intelligent
- What to do when your motivation flags
- His ideal early morning writing routine
- Why he writes leadership books… and how they help him grow his speaking business
And lots more.
What’s the best grammar checker of 2020? Find out in this review and claim a discount.
Bryan: I think you'll agree with me when I say it can be sometimes difficult to figure out the answer to the question, what should I write about. To help you find that answer, let me explain how I figured out what to write about. And then when we get into this week's podcast interview with Christopher Connors, he's the author of Emotional Intelligence.
So a couple of years ago, I was struggling to figure out what I wanted to write about. I checked Amazon to see what types of books were selling. I saw the books that were selling were typically thrillers, science, fiction, and romance. I decided to try and write a thriller book. I spent a couple of months writing a thriller book, but it just really didn't excite me. I wasn't able to really finish the story. Anyway, at the time, I was sent on a storytelling workshop in the west of Ireland by work, by my employer.
The storytelling workshop was by a guy called Robert McKee, who's written the book, Story. Which I recommend every writer check out, no matter your genre. At the end of the workshop, I went up to Robert McKee and I asked him, "How can a writer figure out what they should write about?" He said to me, "Write what you love to read." When I pressed him on it, he said to, "Go home and look at your library." So I went home and I looked at my bookshelf and I looked at my Kindle library, and I looked at podcast, which is the app I use to read articles on the go on my phone. And almost everything were from books or articles and genres like business, entrepreneurship, writing, creativity, and self-help, at least at the time. And yet, somehow I was trying to write a thriller book. It was no wonder I wasn't making much progress. In fact, the genres I knew most about, were the genre I've just described there.
So I stopped trying to write thrillers and science fiction, and I started writing in those genres instead. So if you're struggling to figure out what you should write about, then just look at your library, look at your bookshelf, look at the podcast app on your phone and ask yourself, what re you spending time reading. Because you already understand the conventions of those genres, of what readers expect.
So once you've made that decision, then you can start exploring and expressing yourself in those genres. Of course, there's a little bit more to it than that. What if you want to earn an income from a particular genre? Well, I've interviewed a number of bestselling authors on this podcast over the past year or two. And if you've enjoyed the interviews on the podcast, leave a review on the iTunes store or even rate the show, because that would really help more people find the show, and help me attract more listeners.
Anyway, what I've discovered is many of these non-fiction authors have a business behind their books. They offer services like coaching, mentorship, they sell courses, or they even use their book as a calling card so people will find out who they are, come to their events and so on. In other words, a lot of successful non-fiction authors don't rely on book sales alone. So if you're going to write non-fiction, I'd encourage you to consider what other ways could you generation income from your ideas and from your writing. And of course, the easiest way to do it, is to turn your freelance articles into a book and then perhaps turn your book into a course. Because then that way you can serve your readers in different ways.
And don't forget, people like to consume information in different formats. One person might like a video, another person might prefer an audio podcast like this, and a third person might want to read it in a book. And of course, depending on how big your audience is or the topic, you can of course charge for those different formats.
One non-fiction author who's doing this successfully, is Christopher Connors. He's the author of Emotional Intelligence for the Modern Leader. And Christopher has recently published his book, but it's a supplement to the other services that he offers leaders, the other types of coaching services that he sells. His latest book, he explains what it means to be emotionally intelligent. He talks about his ideal early morning routine and how he finds the non-fiction book writing process. And he also talks about the research that goes into his latest book. I was particularly interested to hear Christopher's take on how an entrepreneur, particularly a creative one, can become an emotionally resilient leader. There's plenty of other things we get into in this week's podcast episode. It started by asking Christopher to explain the key idea from his new book, Emotional Intelligence for the Modern Leader.
Christopher: Yeah, so emotional intelligence for the modern leader is really... the goal is that it's the most succinct how-to, a practical guide to really integrating emotional intelligence into your repertoire, both personally and professionally, using it to your advantage. It is more of a business leadership book. It's also about how you transform culture of an organization, from a business and leadership standpoint. But there's a lot of personal development stuff in there, Brian. It kind of ties back to a lot of the writing that I do. This is a little bit less of the kind of doctorate degree and it's much more of the business how-to, which kind of jobs with my professional background of having worked in project management and consulting. And it's really about how do you plug things in like self-awareness, adaptability, empathy, and use that to your advantage, to be successful and to feel fulfilled.
Bryan: Yeah, I'll ask you about that in a moment, but I'm curious, how come you decided to write a book, because it sounds like you're probably quite busy as an entrepreneur and somebody who's running their own business?
Christopher: Yeah, exactly. That's a great question. So I'd written my first book about two and a half... wall, finished it over two and a half years ago. It was published about two and a half years ago, called The Value of You. And I was pretty content with not necessarily writing another book for a little while, but so much of where I started to move after that, was about emotional intelligence. And I was able to get contacted by a publisher, Callisto Media. And this book is going to be under their imprint called Rockridge Press. And they've actually published some New York Times best selling books and had a lot of success in that space. And I think they had seen that I had had a large presence online with my writing, doing emotional intelligence. And they came to me with the very infancy stages of an idea of what this could be. And I thought, "You know what? This is exactly in alignment with what I've been doing as a writer, as a speaker and the coaching that I do.
And Brian, I don't know if I would have taken the opportunity if it weren't something that were just speaking exactly to who I am for where I'm at, at this stage in my life. And very much what that is, is promoting the message of emotional intelligence and just exactly how to use it to your advantage. Because I've seen so many people succeed and live better, happier, more fulfilling lives by having higher EQs. And so it was an exact alignment with a lot of what I was doing already. And I was very fortunate that a publisher was able to see me and want to spread that idea.
Bryan: So how do you define emotional intelligence? And if somebody feels like it's something that they not necessarily don't have, but it's a weakness, can they improve it?
Christopher: It's five things for me. It's just passion and values, that's one and two, and then it's really purpose, mission, goals. And so what is passion? To me it's just, what are those things that light the fire inside of you? So if you've already started your own business, unless you're just purely in it for the money, there's a good chance that you started that business with a purpose. And that purpose was fueled by a passion. So if your desire is to put... even going back to like what Apple was, was putting handheld technology, the internet and information in the hands of individuals and then giving that gift to the world. And that's part of that. For me, it's wanting to help individuals improve. So a lot of what I do is self-improvement oriented with my coaching, speaking and writing.
And so for me, the passion was I want to help other people reach their potential and their goals. And that's a lot of people that are in the space that I'm in. I think no matter what you're doing as an entrepreneur, wherever your idea generates from, you have to have a passion for it. Your values are things like honesty, integrity for me, competitive greatness, trying to be the absolute best that I can be every day. To be faith, loving, a lot of the things that I wrote about in my first book.
And then the purpose is really you know, Simon Sinek seemed to hijack this, I think, in the last couple of years, of your why. Why are you doing what you're doing? And hopefully you have a good reason for that, from a business standpoint, why are you doing this? Because that feeds into your mission, which to me is the definition of how you're defining success. What is success going to be for you?
Bryan: If you have a good why, the how it gets a lot easier?
Christopher: A hundred percent. For me, the more I learned about the definition of success... being here, especially in the US, and even internationally. A lot of people are probably familiar with coach John Wooden, who was one of the most famous basketball coaches in the history of college basketball, especially, but it became in his later years, a leadership expert, someone that had a lot of bestselling books. And for him, he always had his definition of success, and that was independent of what anybody else thought of him. For him that was driving the self satisfaction of knowing that he gave the best that he could every day, to be the best that he could be.
So that success, to me that that feeds into the goals. I don't know how you set goals as a businessman, as a business woman, as an entrepreneur, if you're not informed by the foundation. And to me, all those things that we just talked about, passion, values, purpose, and how you define success. That to me is the foundation of everything. And that informs the goals you set. Then you can go out and execute.
Bryan: And you talked earlier about competitive greatness, was that the term you used? So I'm curious, what does a successful day for you and look like? Because for me, you know, if I had like an hour or two for creative time for writing. And I had some time to work out or go for a run, that'd be a good start to today. So what does that look like?
Christopher: Yeah, for me it generally speaking is that I, to the best of my ability, completed the things that are more or less on my to-do list. But to your point, that stuff for me, it goes deeper than that. It ties back to what I would call the four dimensions of wellness, you know, physical, mental, emotional, spiritual. Ideally, I've done things to exercise those muscles, so to speak, every day to become a better person. So at my core and at my heart, it's about personal development.
But when it comes to moving the business forward, it's setting tasks, putting tasks in front of me and setting goals every day to do a certain number of things. And I've learned that in a lot of instances, that's not always tied to monetary achievement. It's just maybe tied to executing and doing everything that I can within my control, to help somebody else, to move my business forward, to find time like you said, for writing, things like that, that I have control over, not the things that I don't have control over.
Bryan: So how did you balance writing this book with running your business? Did you spend like an hour a day on it, or what way did it work?
Christopher: Some days I didn't spend any time and then others I'd get on a roll, you know, three hours just pump out 5,000 words. And that's kind of who I am. I think as an athlete, when I played sports, I was kind of a streaky athlete. And I think as a writer, I'm a streaky writer. I have days where I feel like mush, there's nothing coming to me. And then I have days where... it probably ties into some of the Steven Pressfield's stuff around his book, The War of Art. Whereas I think that there's just times where that creative imagination is going, the ideas are more free flowing, the stories are coming easier. And I think that when I get in those grooves, I would really try to carve out blocks of time on my calendar and just focus just on that and not worry about anything else in that moment.
Bryan: So the way we met is we were at a Slack group with other writers who publish on networks, like medium. How constructive do you find it, or helpful do you find this, to share your work or your writings with other writers, like for example in that group, or perhaps not even online?
Christopher: I would say that the group to me, Brian, that we're a part of, because I've been in it now for a while, it feels more like home. I don't know if I would want to be doing it with just anybody that I met. I think there's an element of relationship building, and I've been able to identify with several of the people in that group and share my writing. And I think a lot of the people in that group who are really great writers that we have. I could rattle off every name, I'm sure. I wouldn't put one name above the other, to be totally honest with you. I've gotten the experience to know a number of people through there. We talked about Brian, excuse me, Mike Thompson was the person that originally had reached out to me and kind of organized things.
And so it's been really helpful. It's been a boost of confidence. And I think that as a writer, no matter what you're doing... I think for me writing, it really helps to hear somebody else say, "This was a really good piece." It makes you feel better about things. And it gives you more confidence to think clearly and go forward with what you're doing. So I would encourage anybody that's not a part of a mastermind group or not a part of exchanging ideas and sharing information with other people, as the saying goes of power in numbers. And I even wrote in my book about the African proverb, you know, if you want to go far, go with others, basically is what that is.
Bryan: Yeah. I mean, years ago I was in a creative writing group and that was helpful to get feedback from other writers, but now it's great to be getting feedback from, excuse me, non-fiction writers. And that's something that happens in the group quite a lot. How do you find this when you gave a chapter of your book to your editor, or perhaps to early readers, and they came back and said, "Oh, we didn't really get this bit," or, "Could you re-write that bit?" How did you approach that kind of feedback?
Christopher: Yeah well, for me with the editing side of it, it was like, "You wrote too much." They wanted this book to be coming in at about 35,000 words. And I think I originally had it more between 40 and 45. And so it was hard, no matter how... I don't know the right way to word this. No matter how much you're lacking a sensitivity to other people, maybe critiquing your work, I mean, they had to chop out about 5,000 to 6,000 words because that's just where I came in at.
But I'll tell, being able to work with a professional editing team that was able to walk me through things and... it's great. It's a great feeling. I take the criticism in terms of critiques... not criticism, but just professional critiques, to heart. You know, at the end of the day, I don't look at... I think that this book is great and I think it's going to help a lot of people. I don't think it's Leonardo da Vinci's greatest masterpiece either. And I think I have that humility as a writer to know I can always get better. And I hope that the next book is better than this, and so on and so forth.
As a writer, I never want to feel like I'm stagnating. I never want to feel like I'm just going to keep doing what I've been doing for X number of years. I want to get better. So I want people to say to me, "I think you could've done this better, or I think you could've done that better."
Bryan: So you have case studies in the book as well. For example, Sara Blakely and Brad Stevens, Sara Blakely of Spanx. How did you decide to include those in your book, or was it perhaps that's something you needed thinking of when you're researching the book?
Christopher: Yeah, I had complete creative freedom over... What you're talking about as the first chapter of the book, there are four different leadership models of individuals that I chose. And Sara Blakely was somebody that I had become more familiar with over the last three to four years. For people that don't know, she's a billionaire. She started a company that's worth over a billion dollars, and I frankly think one of the most successful business women, female entrepreneurs ever. It's unbelievable, her story. And actually the more that I read and learned about her, the more I realized how much it really was EQ and grit that built her company.
And then Brad Stevens, he's probably the American sports coach that, at least at this moment in time, in terms of someone that's more of a contemporary in terms of age, probably the person that I admire the most, somebody that, like me, had played Division 3 college basketball here in the US, and became a college coach eventually, and was extraordinarily successful at a much smaller college, and is now the head coach of the Boston Celtics. And the more I've learned about Brad Stevens, his demeanor, just the relationships that he builds with his players. And he's actually done a bunch of work with Angela Duckworth who wrote the book Grit. And that further fascinated me. And the more I kind of peeled back the onion and did research on his peers, their coaches in the NBA, and other people that have come in contact with him, the more I read quotes and things that said, "He's a great basketball mind, but what separates him from everybody else, is his emotional intelligence. It's his ability to lead with empathy and understand the players that he leads, and to get them to gel."
The last thing I'll say on that, is that right now here in the US, there's a wildly popular documentary series that's running about the Chicago Bulls teams from about 20 to 25 years ago, when Michael Jordan played. And their coach was Phil Jackson, who's one of the most famous sports coaches here in the US. And really the way that Phil Jackson was able to succeed, was leading with emotional intelligence. It was connecting and really identifying with the players that he led. And a lot of people didn't know that even before Michael Jordan, before he became the coach of those teams, Michael Jordan had not won a championship in the NBA. And it wasn't until Phil Jackson got there, that he was able to forge that very deep, powerful connection.
And I think that that, if nothing else, would just say, you know, emotional intelligence is forging deep connection with people, and using your own self-awareness to understand how to connect with other people. Empathy is just enormous. And the really great leaders are able to succeed at doing that.
Bryan: It sounds like you've read a good few leadership books while you were researching this book. What do you think makes for a good business book or leadership book these days?
Christopher: For me, just given who I am, I'm a very spiritual person. I'm somebody that... I like when things really touch my heart beyond just me improving up here in my head. And so I think for me, it's something that's going to really touch me, based on my experience, right? Something that's experiential or empirical that I've maybe felt in the workplace before. It's something that's going to be very tangible, about how I go about making improvements. So it's going to have that self-improvement nature to it. And I think certain business books are able to do that.
Some of my favorite books are probably less business and leadership-specific. Actually, Phil Jackson, the coach that I was just referencing, had written a book in the early nineties called Sacred Hoops. And a lot of people wouldn't think of that book, necessarily, as a pure leadership book. I actually think it is a leadership book in disguise, and it's one of the best books I've ever read. It's had an impact on the way that I think. And I think, to be honest with you, probably influenced my desire to want to learn more about emotional intelligence and how to motivate others, how to empathize with them, how to learn more about yourself. So, I think great books like that, great leadership books for me, kind of touch the soul, to be succinct.
Bryan: Yeah, I definitely agree with that. When there's some element of storytelling, and I enjoy John Wooden's insights on leadership. It's something I've written about before. I'm also curious, it's quite hard to launch a book at the moment at the time of recording this interview, we're both still in lockdown because of the coronavirus. So do you have any particular plans to promote the book? It sounds like it'll be online promotions.
Christopher: Yeah, unfortunately I think we're on a little bit handicapped right now, is the ability to be getting out and doing speaking, which is a big part of my platform, is I'm a professional speaker. But fortunately, being through the publisher, they're doing a lot of advertising through Amazon and connecting to a lot of other successful people that are out there.
I'm doing... just like this, Brian, and this is a real honor to be here with you, to be doing a podcast like this. And I've been trying to connect with other folks to kind of get more of the word out. So I think, like anybody, there's that promotional aspect, that's in some ways through the publisher, contractual to be doing some of these things. But I'm doing it because at the end of the day, I wrote this book. I think any time you sit down and write a book like this, it's... no matter whether you're writing the next New York Times bestseller or not, I think it has to be a labor of love.
It goes back to what I talked about before with the vision and the game plan, of having a passion. I'm passionate about getting emotional intelligence into the hands of others, not just as something that they all of a sudden know about, but it's something that they can actually use and utilize in their own lives to be better for it. So my goal is to touch as many people as I can with this, and I'm already doing it in the coaching work that I do with individuals and some organizations. And so I'm just a big believer in that.
Bryan: The other thing that struck me about the book, is it's quite practical. So there are questions you can ask yourself, there's bullet point lists, there's steps that you can walk through. Did you write it that kind of application in mind, that the reader should be able to take action?
Christopher: A hundred percent. Yeah, I appreciate you saying that. So at the end of each chapter, there's an assessment, there's also just some practical exercises that you can use. And so it's, in a way, similar to how I set up my first book. At the end of the book, I asked people to take different action steps as part of a game plan. The publisher had a lot of influence over that, which I'm glad they did. I think they did a great job of helping me to structure and set up the chapters of the book. So this is meant to be very practical and how-to, as you said. And so these exercises are things that are going to help you getting to think deeper about all of the different components of what emotional intelligence is. And it's very evident after you go through a lot of this, to realize just how much this is a skill set you can improve and continue to keep improving as you go forward.
Bryan: And do you find, finally, as somebody who's running a business, that a book is useful for finding more clients to work with?
Christopher: I think it is. I mean, certainly... what's interesting is that I know that there are people out there that, they do it because they look at it in that regard. I have written books because I love to do it. That's nice that that's going to be a part and a component that comes with it. I think my nature, I'm just a little bit more humble. I'm not the kind of person that's typically flashing or flying that flag all over the place. But I do have that to my name now and I am very proud of it. And I'm very confident in terms of what I've written, that it can help people. So, I've found that it's been able to open doors as far as some speaking engagements go and having some coaching clients, and it just adds to the legitimacy and the prestige of, I guess, what makes you who you are.
But I did it, like I kind of said, I think if nothing else... and I do think that this really is a part of the EQ in terms of your own self awareness. I think when you do things for the love of the game, so to speak, when you do things for the love of it, I think the business part of it tends to take care of itself.
Bryan: Yeah. I definitely agree that part of the day needs to be spent working on something that you're doing for the love of it rather than for, "Is this going to generate more sales or revenue or more money?" Otherwise it's just a recipe for disaster or frustration. So when is the book out?
Christopher: The book is officially... the paperback release date is May 19th. The e-book is actually available on May 5th. So today being May 1st, we're only a few days away from that. The book is available right now on pre-order, both e-book and paperback, on amazon.com. I think that, for most folks, whether based in the US or otherwise, you should be able to access the e-book by going through your Amazon page in the country that you live in. At the bare minimum, you'd be able to get the e-book.
Bryan: And if people wanted to find out more about you, Christopher, do you have a site that you can direct people to?
Christopher: Yeah, real simple. So it's just... my name is Christopher D Connors and my website is chrisdconnors, so Chris, D as in David, connors.com. And I spell the Connors with an O at the end of it. So yeah, that's the best way to find me. You can, just on Google, type in Christopher D Connors and I should come up pretty quickly and happy to connect with anybody that's wanting to connect.
Bryan: I hope you enjoyed this podcast episode. If you did, please leave a rating on the iTunes store. And if you want to accomplish more with your writing, please visit becomeawritertoday.com/join, and I'll send you a free email course. Thanks for listening.
Get your 101 writing prompts today
Need help getting started writing? Use these proven writing prompts. I'll also send you practical writing advice and more as part of my newsletter.