It was about 8:30 pm on 29 August 2018, and most of my nearest and dearest business friends were around the table, having just eaten a wonderful meal in celebration of my 60th Birthday. I stood up and to those friends, I committed to doing more research around my work and, ‘over the next two years, to write it down. To create a body of knowledge about the realities of running a small business’.
(You can read more here: http://bui.st/ju).
My first commitment was important. The research led me into unexpected areas and prompted new thinking. I found myself making many new connections between the knowledge I had already had and the way that I, and others, apply it. That was to become critical to the whole project of writing it down. I thought I was committing to some private writing, but many of those there heard it as I was writing a book. In the end, they were right.
I decided to work with Sue Richardson. She and I spent a day where she helped me think through the strategy of my writing, who it was aimed at, what they needed to know and how a book could deliver that. It honed my thinking and helped me to get going. I knew then that there was much about publishing that I did not know, and I needed to work with a specialist to make the book the best it could be.
I started writing. Words became sentences, sentences became paragraphs and paragraphs became chapters. Towards the end of the two years I had something approaching 50,000 words, just a rough draft. Much more than that though, I had two years’ worth of thinking, of developing the thinking and garnering (and testing) insights.
One aspect of the research was to reflect on the reality that so few people become the very best, ‘Masters’ of what they do. A few years earlier, I had worked on a new coaching business and in discussion with a colleague, Ziggy, we explored that coaching was often about taking people on a journey of maturity. Later, I also spent time looking at the way people learn and found out about four models of learning in adults (Pedagogic, Andragogic, Transformational and Appreciative) discussed by Ken Pawlak and William Bergquist. Bringing the two things together and thinking about how they apply to small businesses was a breakthrough. I saw how Mastery was a consequence of deep learning, developing skills and exploring the experience of a narrow aspect of the work we do. It became clear that Masters are rare, because few are intentional about making the journey, and that for those who do, the results are extraordinary. That was a message worth sharing; that understanding gave me the depth of purpose that motivated me to want to share it widely.
Then I read my rough draft and my heart sank somewhat. I had written a manual, a good manual, an important one perhaps, but it lacked heart. It had no soul. I spoke to Sue Richardson about my concerns. She was putting together a group – ‘The Right Book Buddies’ – which I joined. Through their support (and love), a manuscript started taking shape. Some days I wrote lots, some days a little. Stories that illustrated the key elements of what I wanted to get across began flowing into the writing. My sense is that now there is a lot of ‘William’ in the manuscript; it had the heart and soul that I wanted. Bringing in the research and the most recent developments of my thinking was a key part of this phase. Writing about my former mentors, whose mastery still shapes me today; writing about my parents, whose deaths had a profound transformative impact on me, shaped the book and at the same time shaped me. ‘Profound’ understates the impact of this work.
In June 2021 I had a draft I was proud of, and it went into the publishing process. First in that was a manuscript review. The feedback from this process was powerful. It highlighted where I was too highbrow and where too low. Where confusing and where clear. Where repetitive and where something appeared missing. More work was needed, but now it was on focussing the output for the reader.
I spent time working on the perfect title too. To write a paragraph takes a few minutes, yet to write 10 words: ‘Intentional Mastery: Step Beyond your Expertise and Build Better Business’ took much longer. Variations of each word (e.g. ‘Step’ or ‘Stepping?’) had to be considered, and the subtle difference in perceived meaning considered. Planning time for these tasks was hard (would it take an afternoon or a couple of weeks?). Deadlines stretch back from a launch date for many months. Hitting them all was something I was keen to do. Mostly we kept to the schedule through the support and clarity that I had from The Right Book Company.
Throughout this phase of writing, I had a changing emotional relationship with the book. On submitting the manuscript, I knew I had fixed the broad shape of the book. Once the editorial review was complete and the changes suggested made, I had fixed the bulk of the content. My thinking doesn’t stop though. New thinking meant I could see where I could take some elements of what I had written, to deepen the understanding further. Yet the process means that unless I spend forever revising manuscripts, I can’t publish. That deeper thinking is for the next book; you’ll have to wait, just as I have to. Emotionally this is an important transition and one to recognise and acknowledge as both liberating and scary, and then to let it go.
Late in the process I asked my good friend Amanda Vickers to write the foreword for the book. She did this while the manuscript was being proofread and typeset, and I’m thankful for her kind words.
As I write this blog, the book was being printed and bound. Copies will be delivered to me and to the distribution part of the Right Book Company’s business. The book can already be ordered in any high street bookshop and on Amazon, and from the 14 February 2022, read on Kindle. Very soon I’ll also start the work to produce the Audible version of the book, so that you can hear it too.
From ‘I’m going to write it down’ to a published copy of ‘Intentional Mastery’ has taken time, and each stage made it better. Now it’s ready for you to . I hope you enjoy it.
During all the years that I have been in contact with William Buist, we have discussed several topics, and I have realized that what he says and advises is always something valuable that is worth reading and applying in business.