The Quiet Road to Success
When I interviewed Steve Willis nearly four years ago for a story about the filming of the final episode of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, I had no idea the assignment would lead to a book.
Until Steve later reminded me of it, I had forgotten an off-handed remark I made that day. After appearing on national television to help promote Oliver’s ABC mini-series, the pastor of First Baptist Kenova returned to find 2,000 e-mails and phone messages on his desk. When he said his biggest challenge was keeping up with inquiries, I joked, “Why not just write a book and tell ‘em to read it?”
That started the ball rolling. A little over a year later, we submitted the final manuscript to Regal Books, which released Winning the Food Fight in January of 2012.
Before we even wrote the proposal, I felt an overwhelming sense that this book would find a publisher. So seeing it released nationally provided a thrill beyond words.
Sales are still modest, though. We surpassed the 5,000 mark that most never make, but the financial returns are far from lucrative (which reminds me of an online post I saw once. The writer commented on many people assuming he was rich because of his best-seller—which earned him all of $12,000.)
Recently I drafted a story for an upcoming issue of Mature Living updating the situation at First Baptist and how Steve continues to emphasize healthy living.
Naturally, over time members’ excitement has cooled. But there are still notable stories, like the middle-aged mother who ran her first mini-marathon last November. And the retired postal carrier who attended his first exercise class last year to shed weight he gained after surgery on his Achilles heel.
The story includes a link I’ve mentioned previously in my blogs—Steve’s work on material for the study guide released with Rick Warren’s The Daniel Plan last December.
Warren’s book hit the top of the New York Times’ bestseller list in the “Advice” category about two weeks after its release. To draw a comparison, I would guess his book sold more copies in its first month than ours did in two years.
Foolishness of Comparisons
There is a reason Paul wrote the words, “For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise” (2 Corinthians 10:12).
Now, while the apostle was addressing preachers who boasted of superior credentials as they tried to claim success for his work, we can apply the same principle today. Whether measuring ourselves against someone whose accomplishments are superior, or whose miseries are worse, someone will usually outrank us.
Still, since Steve’s name took top billing on the book, in our interview for the latest story I asked what Food Fight had accomplished.
Topping his list is the fact that it caught the attention of the staff at Saddleback Community Church in Southern California. That led to him working on the study guide and filming an interview featured for the accompanying six-week DVD series.
There’s more, though. Steve sees the greatest impact in much quieter ways. He lists the “average” mothers cooking healthier meals for their family, the girl his wife babysits who calls broccoli her favorite food, and middle-aged folks who avoided weight gain by adjusting their eating habits.
“Not a week goes by that somebody doesn’t write me and thank me for the book, or the ministry, and their awareness of the generational problem,” he says. “If I would have kept a list of those, I would probably have 10,000 ‘thank you’s’ from people.”
Not only did that comment bolster my spirits, it reminded me that success comes in quiet packages as well as headline-grabbing ones.