Sometimes I don’t hit deadlines. I greatly admire people who do.
David McRaney is one of those people. He’s the host of the You Are Not So Smart Podcast..
Last week David was a guest on the School for Good Living Podcast. During our interview, he told me an incredible story about a time he had a great excuse to miss a writing deadline but didn’t use it.
He’d already published his first book, You Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, and 46 Other Ways You’re Deluding Yourself.
He was completing final edits for his second book, You Are Now Less Dumb: How to Conquer Mob Mentality, How to Buy Happiness, and All the Other Ways to Outsmart Yourself and his deadline was just a few weeks away.
He was working at a Mississippi TV station, where his job was to cover extreme weather by posting updates to the station’s website.
He finished a working session and saved his work to Dropbox. He switched tasks and began tracking weather.
He saw that a tornado was headed straight for his house and would make contact in a matter of minutes.
He got his wife. They gathered blankets and a mattress to cover themselves with and hunkered down in a hallway.
Here are David’s words about what happened next, “I heard the tornado coming. It sounded like a giant, smashing its way through the neighborhood. I know people say it sounds like a freight train, but it sounded more like an angry titan.
“You could hear the power lines breaking and making the zipping lightsaber sounds—whichew, woochew—as it’s approaching, and it’s just churning up the world. I remember looking at [my wife’s] eyes, and I said ‘This is it. I love you.’ And I covered myself up.
“It went right through the house. It ripped off the roof and the ceiling. Trees skewered the house. … It did tons and tons of destruction. It erased about five houses in this neighborhood.”
When the carnage had passed, David stood up and went back into his office. He saw water pouring in through the open ceiling.
He went to his parents’ house a few miles away.
Then, David told me, “I called my publisher and said ‘I don’t think I’m going to be able to turn this in on time. A tornado just ate my house.’”
His publisher told him “I understand you’re under a lot of duress. But everything is on schedule and the printers are ready to run. If we don’t turn this in, you’re going to be pushed forward by a couple of months, and it just won’t be good for any of us. Is there any way you can finish the edits where you’re at?”
So David went to Walmart and bought a laptop and a copy of Microsoft Word. He returned to his parents’ house, installed Word, got the laptop up and going, downloaded the manuscript from Dropbox, finished his edits and sent them to his publisher.
It took him three days, during which time his house was torn apart. But he finished, and he hit his deadline.
Listening to David’s story, I was reminded of Michael Faraday’s response when asked the secret to his success as a scientist: “Work. Finish. Publish.”
And Steve Jobs’ famous line, “Real artists ship.”
As I said, I don’t always hit my deadlines, but I’m inspired by those who do. Especially when it’s hard.
Sign up for our newsletter to have Three Point Thursday sent directly to your inbox and to be notified about new podcast releases and other news & events!
Sign up to receive podcasts, blog posts, and other inspiring content from Brilliant Miller delivered to your inbox.
Live a good life. Help others live a good life too!
We will never sell your name or email address.
Opt-out at any time. No strings.