Harvey Mackay Academy's Blog

How to Create Your Own Lucky Break

Mackay Maxim: It takes years to become an overnight success.

Finding your way to the top takes more than dumb luck and chance.You need persistence, resourcefulness, and patience – and the ability to think outside the box. Sometimes, you have to think way outside the box.

The Story of Erma Bombeck

Let’s discuss the journey of one of the most beloved syndicated columnists America has ever seen: Erma Bombeck. From 1965 until her death in 1996, Erma entranced readers all across the country with stories of the American housewife. She took some of the least glamorous, most ignored aspects of women’s lives and injected them with humor and eloquence. By the time of her death, millions of people around the world read her columns and books.

Like most American success stories, Erma’s fame did not come overnight. In 1954, Erma realized that she wanted to write about the problems housewives faced day-to-day, and at the same time, Erma realized she herself had a major problem on her hands. It wasn’t that she didn’t have the experience and the authority to write about these issues, it was the male-dominated power structure of her local newspaper, Dayton Journal Herald.

You see, the male editors at the Dayton Journal Herald simply didn’t have a clue how interesting Erma’s column would be to its female readership. Since they didn’t have a clue, there was no way they’d give Erma a shot — but Erma didn’t give up there.

The men didn’t have a clue, but their wives did. Erma realized that the way to reach the editors of the Herald was by getting to their wives first. So what did Erma decide to do?

She found out where the Herald’s editors lived and discovered that a weekly community newspaper circulated in the area. She convinced the weekly paper to begin running her columns as filler content. As she began writing, the editors’ wives fell in love with her work and convinced their husbands to run her column – and two years later, Erma was in syndication throughout Montgomery County.

Erma’s story teaches us a few key skills for effective networking: be patient, work diligently, and think unexpectedly.

Patience Is Key

Erma didn’t become a success story overnight. In fact, very few people do. It takes years of hard work, building up your skill set and resume for the moment that a big break finally presents itself. Erma knew she couldn’t go from housewife to national columnist all at once. She patiently worked her way up from a community-level paper, to a county-level paper, to national papers, until Erma Bombeck became a household name. Be patient and know that success comes with time!

Work Diligently

When you’re confronted with roadblocks and slammed doors, that’s not a sign that you should give up. It’s a sign that you should work harder. Everyone will face rejection in their professional careers. How we move on from these rejections defines and creates our success. If Erma let the male-dominated world of the Herald deter her from writing her famous columns, her work wouldn’t have existed. Don’t be discouraged by setbacks – with hard work comes great rewards.

Think Unexpectedly

If there’s one key takeaway we can gather from Erma’s story, it’s the power of thinking outside the box. She subverted traditional pathways to columnist success by targeting the wives of the Herald’s editors, not the editors themselves. When you’re confronted with a roadblock to your success, brainstorm ways to overcome it. Think about your network, and your network’s networks, and the networks of the people who are telling you “no.” Then, devise strategies to find your “yes.”

Thanks to the example of Erma Bombeck, we know that creating your own luck is possible. Don’t wait around for someone to find you – go out and show the world that you’re someone to find!

About the Author Harvey Mackay, Founder & CEO

Seven-time, New York Times best-selling author of "Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive," with two books among the top 15 inspirational business books of all time, according to the New York Times. He is one of America’s most popular and entertaining business speakers, and currently serves as Chairman at the MackayMitchell Envelope Company, one of the nation’s major envelope manufacturers, producing 25 million envelopes a day.

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