I’ve Achieved My Greatest Dream…Now What?

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As long as I can remember (so the cliche goes), I’ve wanted to be a writer.  I wrote my first short story when I was five.  It was called “Horse’s Birthday Party” and was, you won’t be surprised to learn, about a horse having a birthday party.  I drew a cover (with a horse on it), taped the pages together, and handed it to my parents.  They praised it to the skies, and I was hooked.

Since then, no matter what I was doing (going to college and then medical school, trying to survive a medical residency, practicing medicine as an Assistant Professor at the University of Chicago), I’ve always thought of myself first and foremost as a writer—even though all throughout those years nothing of mine was ever published.  In medical school I wrote a television pilot, of all things, with my best friend called Sessions (an ensemble drama about a group of clinical psychologists patterned after the highly successful 1980s television series L.A. Law) which was actually optioned by DreamWorks Television—but which then failed to get picked up by a network.  I wrote several screenplays over the next few years, including an adaptation of Milton’s Paradise Lost, which garnered serious attention from several movie producers—but which then went nowhere when it was discovered that not one but two other versions were in development elsewhere (which is what I get for adapting a story that lies in the public domain).

All that time, however, I’d always wanted to be writing books.  (I’d been drawn into those other projects when presented in each case with an opportunity I felt I couldn’t pass up.)  Since that time, however, the world has become a far louder place, with far more people who want attention now able to get it, significantly decreasing the signal-to-noise ratio in comparison to what it was when I first conceived my ambition to become a published writer.  So, almost three years ago I started this blog, hoping that some of my ideas would offer value to readers, who might then become an audience interested in reading the books I planned one day to write.

Well, “one day” has at last arrived.  I’m thrilled to announce that my first book, The Undefeated Mind, will be published in the Fall of 2012.  And though the journey to this place has taken far longer than I expected and twisted and turned in ways I never would have predicted—though it’s not fiction as I always expected my first book would be—being able to finally announce that my greatest dream is about to become a reality has instilled in me a degree of delight I can only describe as sublime.

Yet, interestingly, that delight hasn’t played out exactly as I thought it might.  Though the day I learned my book would be published continues to rank as one of the best of my life (along with the day I was accepted to medical school, the day my wife agreed to marry me, and the day my son was born), in the moment I first heard the news, my focus began immediately to shift:  the determination with which I’d fought to get my book published changed into a determination to finish it by the date it’s due to my publisher.  The goal that had seemed so far out of reach for most of my life—that seemed for so long as though it would never happen—had abruptly become, through decades of study and hard work, simply something I had done.  And as with anything we eventually learn how to do, the magic that had seemed to be required and that had made the entire process feel like a larger-than-life proposition stood revealed in the cold light of retrospective vision as nothing more than a series of difficult but entirely doable steps.

And now I find I’ve simply moved on to the next one—and from elation to anxiety (mild anxiety, to be sure, but anxiety nonetheless):  Will it be good?  Will people find it helpful and inspiring?  Will it sell?

As the questions I ask myself day in and day out have changed into these, I’ve come to realize that even once we achieve our dreams, even once we reach happily ever after, life continues on mostly as it has.  We continue to have good days and bad days.  New challenges present themselves.  New obstacles arise.  The horizon toward which our attention bends moves off into the distance again.  Not that we can’t savor our accomplishments.  But if that’s all we do, if we get stuck trying to suck even more pleasure from what we’ve already done thinking we’ve reached some kind of pinnacle of achievement, we’ll already find ourselves sliding off it.  There is no joy gained from anything external that stays with us “ever after.”  A permanent joy can be grasped only by enjoying the cycle of value creation itself, of challenge—struggle—failure—failure—failure—failure—victory.  Permanent  joy, in other words, lies in the doing.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

For anyone interested in learning more about the book itself, you can read about it here.

Next WeekThe Creativity Of Scientists

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  • Congratulations, Doc Alex! I for one am interested & looking forward to your book.

  • Will there be an audiobook version?

    Duke: Don’t know yet.


  • Congratulations on achieving publication, and even more congratulations for your understanding of what that really means, and how to continue so that the creativity beat goes on—

  • Congratulations, Alex! I can’t wait to read it. Your description of your reaction to the news describe so accurately what I went through when I got the good news from my publisher. I remember right where I was sitting when the phone rang, my husband answered it, looked at me and said, “It’s for you. It’s the fellow you sent the manuscript to at Wisdom.” I knew it was the news I was hoping for. I was so joyful. But soon, anxiety began to creep in over all the same concerns you have. We humans are so much more the same than we are different!

    To me, permanent joy comes from within—from riding life’s ups and downs, its moments of elation and moments of anxiety with grace and open-hearted acceptance.

    Toni: Thanks!


  • Congratulations on this hard won milestone! I very much look forward to reading it. I expect many people will find it of value as well.


  • Way to go! I would love to write and I have a blog, but I skip writing it because I am most likely fearful of success; so I get to fulfill my own prophecy. It’s hard, this being a human business. I am thrilled for you and your achievements! Good job and good luck!

  • Congratulations!! You did it!! I look forward to reading your book.

  • Congratulations!! Will be buying your book soon, when it hits the bookstores in Penang.

  • Now what, hmmm…dream for something that you can have even after you leave this earth.

  • I too can’t wait for the book. I am a long term reader of your blogs and always wondered how could you come up with such beautiful ideas about life and living. Where do you get those thoughts and ideas from? Hopefully, I can get a peek at your source by reading your first book. I hope there would be an ebook version too. Thank you for all your ideas. They have indeed influenced me and have been useful to me.

  • Yes, congratulations but I detect you bouncing around one of my favorite Buddhist titles, After the Ecstasy, the Laundry.

  • I don’t know if you’ve ever taken a “Strengths Finder” quiz, Alex, but you’ve just outed yourself as an “Achiever.” According to Tom Rath, an achiever has “a constant need for achievement. Every day starts at zero, and by the end of the day you must achieve something tangible in order to feel good about yourself. You have an internal fire burning inside you. It pushes you to do more, achieve more. After each accomplishment is reached, the fire dwindles for a moment, but very soon it rekindles itself, forcing you toward the next accomplishment. As an achiever you must learn to live with a whisper of discontent. It does have its benefits. It brings you the energy you need to work long hours without burning out. It is the jolt you can always count on to get you started on new tasks, new challenges. It is the theme that keeps you moving.”

    So from one achiever to another, work on my friend. There’s no other way for us. I can’t wait to see what amazing adventure you take on next! 🙂

    Kara: Outed!


  • What a wonderful and inspiring story. I started my own relationship blog with the same intentions. (And to create an opportunity to write something that is helpful—hopefully—to clients/readers.) We are confident it will be insightful, brilliantly written and exactly what the world needs right now. Thank you for your persistence…looking forward to it.

  • Congrats, Alex!

    I’m thrilled … but Fall of 2012??? That’s so far away that it may as well be another century! Do you really mean it, that we will have to wait ONE LONG YEAR??? 🙂 Sorry for the wail. There’s always the darker side, and I’m sort of an impatient reader. 🙂

    Ondrej: I’m flattered you’d feel that way. 🙂


  • Heartfelt congratulations! I’m so happy for you! I look forward to reading your delightful, insightful words, whether they be on this site or in your book. Reading your words and incorporating your messages has bettered my thoughts, my actions, my very life and as such, bettered the lives of those I love, those I know and those I don’t know. You have my gratitude.

  • Well done!!!!

    I enjoy reading your blog very much; I’m sure I will enjoy reading your book also.

    Again, well done and congratulations on achieving your dream, you’ve turned your MYO into HO…a very wonderful thing.

    Kindest regards,


  • Comgratulations on this success, Alex!

  • Alex

    Congratulations on your first book. I’m sure it will be a big success.


  • Congratulations! The hard work and belief has reward. 🙂 I am looking forward to reading your book.


  • Wonderful! I’m looking forward to it. It sounds like you should immediately start writing another book.

  • Congratulations on the whole journey; which continues. Enjoy!

  • Alex, YES (fist pump)!

    Will there be a chapter on confronting death, as you have done so courageously on your blog this year. I would like to see all your ideas on death together in one place . . .

    Please do let us know when/if there will be a book promotion tour or a book-signing opportunity. I, for one, would be delighted to come to Chicago (or other city in the Midwest) to meet you in person, shake your hand and get a signed copy of your book.

    Chris: Meeting in person at a book signing would be delightful! I’m still in the middle of writing it, but yes, the last chapter will be about finding the strength to confront death and manage our fear of it. And I almost certainly will do some book signings, so keep your eyes peeled on http://www.AlexLickerman.com for event notices.


  • Alex,


    How wonderful it is to hear there will be a book from you! I have enjoyed your blog so much and look forward to each new Monday post! I will definitely be reading your book and I, too, hope I can get a signed copy!

    Today’s blog is yet another that I can get a personal message from. I am working toward a silly little goal of my own and you have provided a very valuable insight about attaining it.

    Your blog has been so very helpful to me on several topics. Thank you!

  • Alex, so good to hear that you are “living the dream.” Let’s see, you were excepted to Med school, and became a doctor, your wife agreed to marry you, and you became a husband, your son was born and you became a Dad….okay now you are getting published and are a writer!

    Can’t wait to read your book.

    All the best to you and your family.

  • I’m looking forward to publication of your interesting-sounding book. Congratulations.

  • The description of the book intrigues me. I look forward to reading it. Congratulations on accomplishing your goal.

  • Alex,

    Congrats!!!!! These next 12 months will not pass soon enough.

    Always look forward to your posts.

  • Congratulations, Alex!

  • I look forward to reading your post each week. Now I have something new to look forward to!


  • Alex, Congratulations!

  • Congratulation, Alex! Very cool.

    Now, an “insider” question: had this blog anything to do with the success of publication? If you did not start this blog, would your book have been published?

    Allen: It’s a convoluted story, but no, if I’d not started this blog, I’d not be publishing this book.


  • I’ll be standing in line. Congratulations.

  • What a surprise post this was! Feeling very happy for you, Alex. Mazel tov and Happy Thanksgiving!!

  • Thank you, all, for your support and interest, without which neither my blog nor my book would have been possible. I hope not just to live up to your expectations for the book but to surpass them!

  • Very nice to hear an achievement. We have a popular quote in India as follows:

    Sambhavami yuge yuge.

    It means that what is to be happened will happen once.

    Cosmic karma?

  • I am a active practitioner at the Shambala Center and I am looking to publish a book too. I have recently finish read Dr. Mark Epstein’s book Thoughts Without A Thinker, which helped me with the work I do with mentally ill clients. So if you have a need to help share groundbreaking therapy from Buddhist teachings, I want to spread the knowledge of recovery from a peer specialist point of view that embraced his enlightened mind. In short, please contact me in regard to this topic and issue.

  • Hi Alex,

    Ah, I’m a week behind on your blog. So excited to hear the wonderful news!! I can’t wait to order the book! I’m sure it will be anything but disappointing. About time!

    Julie: Thanks!


  • If your post could be this nice and inspiring where is the doubt of your book not selling? Ha! I am darn sure you’ve made it, your book will sell off like hot cakes given that you have the skill to put down your thoughts in such a wonderful way as you’ve done here. Your last few lines of this post has so much depth in them and has almost taught me a big lesson. Not to get stuck with one accomplishment but to move forward and true joy likes in the doing.:)

    Check this out if you wish—how motivated are you? The test finds out how inspired you really are:


  • Exciting news, Alex! I appreciate the way you frame the accomplishment, which resonates with how many of us focus on one BIG thing (a relationship, an achievement, a purchase), which when it comes often brings a mixture of feelings. Life does go on somewhat oblivious to our heightened sense of satisfaction (value creation), which is fleeting in a slant of light, in the daily round of life. Good to strive toward goals, good to thrive in the everyday.

    I await your book and am grateful for more.

    —Anne Lundin
    Madison, Wisconsin

  • Alex: I’m a bit behind on your blog, but thrilled to read this news! Your work is valuable to so many, myself included. Huge congratulations on the upcoming book!

    Elizabeth: Thanks!