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Why I’m Not Writing a Book This Year

I was all set to write another book this year. Solo this time, as my book spouse Amber Naslund has her hands full with her new social business consultancy Sidera Works. I loved writing half of The NOW Revolution, and loved even more traveling around North America giving presentations about social media and social business (here are the slides). I spoke in 65 different cities in 2011. It’s a lot of work, but I enjoy it.

I was ready to jump back into the fire in 2012, with a nifty new topic, interested publishers, and a plan to use this new book as a real springboard to the future. But sometimes, life conspires to make you focus on the present.

Jeff BaerOn January 6, my life got shaken up like a snow globe. My little brother, Jeff Baer, died in his sleep of a heart attack at age 39. Jeff was my only natural sibling, and even after the services and paperwork and craziness, it’s difficult for me to process and accept that he’s gone forever. As I said in my eulogy, he was a bon vivant. A raconteur. A scallywag. Everyone who ever met Jeff remembers him, and that’s a rare quality in this world.

(Many thanks to the dozens of friends and clients who donated to the scholarship fund in Jeff’s memory. With your support, my parents and I are endowing two, full-tuition Jeffrey A. Baer Memorial Scholarships to the new Arizona State University – Lake Havasu City campus that opens this Fall)

As you might have surmised if you’ve read this blog or followed the progress of Convince & Convert, I’m a hard charger. Type A. Overachiever. Whatever label you want to put on it, you know the deal. And until Jeff died, I had never intentionally done less of anything. But something like that will force you to take a long look at what you’ve wrought.

As my Dad said to me at lunch a few days before the memorial service, “Jay, what are you trying to prove?” I’d never been asked that – even by myself – and the fact that I didn’t have a good answer was telling. It’s not that I’m ungrateful for the life and extraordinary career I’ve cobbled together over the past 20 years – much less my amazing wife and smart, perfect kids. I even have a cool dog, Mr. Cheeto. It’s not so much that I take all that for granted (although I often do). It’s more that I am wired to believe that good enough is not enough. That within my field there is no reason I can’t sell books like Godin, pack the room like Vaynerchuk, and build a large consultancy like Dachis. Maybe it’s ego, or hubris, or folly, but I’ve just never put psychological constraints on what I can accomplish. 

I still believe I can do those things, but I’m going to tackle them at a more modest pace, leaving me more time to focus on my health and my family. And that’s where the book comes in. From experience, I know that if you have a busy day job, the book writing happens at nights and on weekends. Once the book is published the real work begins, which is promoting it. Very few business books sell themselves. The authors make them sell, hence the tour Amber and I undertook last year.

So, I’m not going to do it again. Not yet. I’ve got to use my time a bit more wisely for now. Even before Jeff, I had every single genetic and behavioral risk factor for heart disease and so forth (except smoking, which I quit 11 years ago). The last time I worked out with any degree of rigor and consistency was 1985. Yes, Reagan was President the last time I lifted a weight. I’m no expert, but that’s probably a sub-optimal fitness regiment. I have been a recent member of the Bacon-of-the-Month Club….and without irony.

Play time is over for me. I have a personal trainer. A nutritionist. A dermatologist. A new doctor. My payroll is increasing in inverse proportion to my waist line. But it’s worth it – or it will be. I’m joining the ranks of Brogan, Falls, Shankman and others who have decided that paying attention to your health is a worthwhile endeavor.

So, I’m not writing a book this year. I’ll still be plenty busy, of course. We have a ton of great clients at Convince & Convert. A new podcast – Social Pros – that debuted last night. A ton of speaking gigs (just not 65 cities’ worth). And a family that will hopefully see more of me.

I wasn’t always the best brother to Jeff, and that makes me sad – and always will. But I loved him, and he knew it. And he loved me, and I knew it. He gave me countless gifts through the years, especially laughter. I’m hoping his greatest gift will be this one: a wake-up call.