Janine Bolon: Welcome to this episode of The Writers Hour Creative Conversations with Janine Bolon. Today’s guest is Jeff Borschowa who is a professional problem solver. Not only that he connects businesses with solutions that they need in order for them to thrive, Jeff is what we call a super connector and he brings his vast business network and to solve problems. He also believes that a problem that is well-defined is half-solved. Jeff is particularly passionate about solving people’s cash flow problems for not only their businesses but also for what may be going on in their personal lives. Now, one of the things you really want to listen to today, and I know this sounds like, “Oh, my gosh! If I hear something from a certified public accountant, I’m going to scream.” Let me explain. Much like myself, Jeff has walked away from a lot of the training in that regard. I think what is most valuable today about what he’s going to share with us is how he had to literally give up one whole section of his brain so he could write the story because many people think that writing nonfiction is a very linear process. You can write books that way but Jeff didn’t want to write his story in that way. He wanted to really help people. That meant he had to take a very untraditional pass. So, welcome to the show today, Jeff. It’s lovely to have you with us.
Jeff Borschowa: Thank you, Janine. I’m excited to be here. I can’t wait to have a fun little conversation. I promise we won’t talk too much accounting speak as we go.
Janine: Right. I always say to folks, “Hey, if you want to see the financial side of Jeff, go to Three-Minute Money Tip Podcast,” where you did eight episodes for us. Thank you so much. But this is The Writers Hour. With this, talk to us a little bit about how you kind of have to disengage the analytical sides so you can really write a great story. So, if you don’t mind, share with us your story of becoming an author. I mean, this wasn’t something that you always dreamed of doing, was it?
Jeff: In my entire life, I’ve loved books. I’ve always loved reading them. It never once occurred to me that I should write them. I kind of felt, you know, again, very elite, you know, only the best of the best great books. Who was I to step in and write a book? The first book I wrote… It’s going to sound really weird but I’ve written somewhere around a dozen books. Only about five of them have made it to the wild. The others are on a little pile somewhere. Maybe one day I’ll finish them, maybe I won’t. Typically, every book I’ve written came from I had a problem I was trying to solve. I was really trying to figure out what was my approach, where was I getting hung up. The first book truly was an accident. I had solved a particular problem. We won’t go into the details of the book but it was a very boring title. It was 8 Pillars for Exponential Business Growth. It sounds great on paper but try saying that three times fast. So, my first lesson, I would share with anybody is say the title of your book out loud a few times. Just know that you’re going to hear that over, and over, and over. 8 Pillars for Exponential Business Growth is not rolling off the tongue. It becomes a tongue twister. Basically, I did it. It started as a presentation. I solved some problems in my accounting practice. I was thinking about why was I successful. You know, I was sharing with other people. They kept asking me to tell them more, tell them more. So literally, the book was a list of frequently asked questions I was tired of being asked…
Janine: I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to cut in. It’s like, “Oh, my gosh!” That’s exactly what happened to me in regards to my [inaudible]. I got so tired of answering the same questions over and over for my clients and my students. I wrote the book. Please continue.
Jeff: Well, I was just going to say that, you know, if you’re in any industry that deals with human beings and quite frankly, deals with animals as well, odds are good, you get the same questions over, and over, and over again. One of the ways you can really stand out is just to take your best. This doesn’t have to be… I think the book that led me to this- I can’t remember the author’s name but it started with a blog and it was blog your way to a book or something like that. I give credit where credit is due, but that’s like a long time ago in my brain. Basically, I just started answering questions. The first book was literally copy and paste from social media posts, emails, things like that. I had twenty burning questions that people kept asking me. The first book of all that was actually originally I think 4 Pillars. But there was a company called 4 Pillars Financial Management or something. Then, it was 5 Pillars but that clashed with some religion that had five pillars of whatever. 6 Pillars was taken, 7 Pillars was taken, 8 Pillars was available. Okay, that’s where we started.
Janine: That’s where I’m going to start because this one isn’t taken. You’re not the first author to tell me stuff like that.
Jeff: People are thinking I got to have it all figured out beforehand. No, you don’t. Janine said it’s anything but linear. My book, seriously, it started as a PowerPoint. Once it had been presented a few dozen times, it literally became sort of talking points and then it became the book. It was a lot of fun. The first book took me over a year to put together just because of all the barriers and baggage. My last two books, I co-authored one in January. It took us about two weeks to get it start to finish. I wrote one in February. That was three weekends total. So, it’s not a linear process.
Janine: I’ve had many people say, “Oh, my gosh! I could never do that.” I encourage people. I’m like, “Look, if you have a defined time where you know you have to have a book produced in that period of time, I always like to recommend 70% is good enough.” Like get it 70% there, drop it, send it to a beta reader, have them flush it out, and go from there. It’s one of those things that a lot of authors don’t understand new authors, like first time authors that especially if you’re nonfiction, you want to get it 70% done, and then hand it over after you’ve done the… You know, you have that horrible rough draft, which is stream of consciousness writing. After that’s done, then you go through and you edit it, clean it up a little bit. Don’t spend a lot of time here, then send it off to your beta readers. Then, your beta readers will come back with any holes or glaring things that need to change. You fix those and ship that book out. So, talk to us a little bit about what were your barriers to getting this book out – the first one. I noticed that as you were talking, your books got shorter and shorter as far as what you were writing. But that first one, man, that can be a real bugaboo. Talk to us a little bit about that.
Jeff: The first one… It was funny because I actually worked with a publishing house. I can’t remember the name of the company. It was one of those random things you’ll never remember. It was just so generic. It was a little bit painful because for me, it took a long time. I had perfectionism. At the time, I was an active practicing accountant. So, it had to be perfect. I spent a lot of time. Believe it or not, I think it was the 19th version which finally went to the editor. There was about ten more versions before it was finalized. My last book, I’m not exaggerating here, I hand wrote it because I wanted to say I did. Don’t ever do that unless you have to. My hand ached for weeks. I hand wrote it. I typed it myself because no one else could read my handwriting. I shared it with one proofreader and version four went out the door. So, the first one, it was literally, “Well, what if I said this,” or, “Oh, no. I didn’t include that.” There was a lot of second-guessing. Truly, it was meant to be. Honestly, the first edition was meant to be a twenty-paged frequently asked questions document. All of a sudden, it’s like a hundred and seven page or hundred twenty, two hundred page book. So, a lot of perfection. At the time that this was a little bit funny, I was writing about technology for accounting firms and bookkeeping businesses. I’d send it off to the publisher, to the editor. By the time it was reviewed and back to me, it was usually about a month between, some of the software was obsolete, or brand new software came out. So, I kept updating. It was like, “Okay.” There’s a reason we have first edition, second edition. So, the biggest thing that bothered me with the first book was perfectionism. If I was going to put my name on it, it had to be some cross between Tolstoy and Shakespeare, maybe a little bit of Spielberg, you know, like these great people, the great storytellers. But I’m not doing the next ET. I’m not putting a movie out there. I’m creating a little book to help people. So, that was probably the biggest little hurdle and tangent was getting it done. Of course, for me, I had a block off. I’m going to spend a day doing this. It was hard to find a day here and there. Now, one of the things I do is, you know, I’ll block an hour or two and I’ll just write uninterrupted for that time. I’ve learned a lot about my process as I’ve gone along.
Janine: Exactly. Every writer has to find their stride. Just to comment on those great people, what I find fascinating is you were not posting yourself side-by-side with Steven Spielberg on his first film. You were comparing your first book and the quality it had to be to Steven Spielberg’s twentieth film. I would like to talk about, you know, the authors that you have to compare. Now, the very first film that Steven Spielberg did, he was like 9 to 12-ish in that range. He was using this itty-bitty nine-millimeter film and having a camera. His mom would let he and his group of friends from school totally tear the living room apart to build these little films that they were storytelling with. So, I just wanted to remind you that that is fascinating how our brains will do that to us. We compare our first effort with the effort of a 20 or 30 film person. So, yes, I just wanted to bring that up. You had to find out your process. One of the things you and I have talked about on other shows has been how we had to go about finding our own process that we would take advice from those that had done what we want to do, what we want to aspire to, but we ended up having to really do it our own way. I would love for you to chat a little bit about you had really good people who give you excellent advice but you kind of had to do this your own way.
Jeff: I think it’s kind of an interesting thing. From first book to sixth book, I’ve gotten to know a lot of authors. One of my other favorites is Malcolm Gladwell. Again, I compare his work to mine and it’s like, “Oooh.” The first book, I had no idea what to do. I mean, it was really strange for me to go from being an avid reader, in being a fan. I haven’t read a fiction book in a decade, at least. I think last week, I read probably six non-fiction books. So, it was a big leap for me to go from reader to writer. It’s like, “What if I’m not doing it right?” A lot of it was I was trying to find the right voice. I accidentally got some advice early that made sense and that was that you already have the voice. Use it. I don’t know why, Janine, but that was probably the hardest piece of advice to follow. I was like, “Well, what if I’m not good enough? What if people don’t want to hear it? What if, what if, what if, what if?” Reading the how to blog your way to a book was a big aha moment. I was like, “Okay, just start.” Then, I followed that person for a while. I’m like, “Well, this kind of works that doesn’t work,” but that was the other struggle I guess I had was in addition to trying to be perfect, I was trying to follow other people’s systems. I had advised it was across the board, just random. Some people get up at 2:00 A.M. and write because that’s when I’m the most creative. It’s like, “That’s when I’m least creative.”
Janine: Right! Some people are like, “Don’t even talk to me. I’m sleeping at that time.”
Jeff: Yes. You actively on purpose get up to write. I just can’t see that being useful for me. The good news is I got a lot of great advice but I also got a lot of advice that made me pause and say, “I think that’s a little out there even for me.” So, I just found a way that worked. The other piece, do I have… A lot of people read non-fiction. You think you either need footnotes or a long bibliography. I don’t want to be that person either. I don’t want to take the best of the best. Basically, page one is about this person, page two is that person. I’m happy to give credit where credit’s due. But all of the ideas in my book were, you know, the story was here’s how it applied to me. The first draft was very much footnote this, footnote that. It didn’t read like a story.
Janine: That’s one of the things people really do crave. They want to hear your story. They want to know how did you solve this problem, which you had done for your clients and your students over and over again. You had done that for them. It’s tough to then convert it to writer. So, I had one person kind of say it this way to me. When you’re a reader – like you and I are voracious readers or always got our nose in a book when we’re not doing something else. One of the things is it was quite the challenge to go from being a consumer of books to a creator of books. That whole flip. Sometimes, the littlest things will kind of throw a hitch in your giddy-up as they say, which is you’re sitting there, and all of a sudden you’re like, “Oh, my gosh! I don’t know how to make a book look like a book. Then, you’re digging through your old books going, “Oh. my gosh! I never knew when you start chapter one, you’re halfway down the page getting your text to look like a book.” Talk to us a little bit about how you ended up having to do things your own way in regards to the way you delivered your book and the way your printed up your book.
Jeff: Again, I didn’t want it to be like just everybody else. My last looks, I will credit Mike Busey because I’ve read every book he’s written on writing books. I love his system of it. I think that took a lot of effort away. I’ll be honest, my first book, the publisher imposed the template on me. They said this is how it’s going to look. I said, “Okay.” The second book, I self-published because I didn’t want anybody to tell me how to do it. Honestly, when I found back in the day- I think it was called create space. Now, Kindle Direct Publishing. They had a little word template. I’m like, “Okay, that’s what my book is going to look like.” It was a funny thing where I took other people’s systems where it made sense. Then, for the delivering of the book, you know, creating my cover, I realized I have a vast background in accounting. So, if you want a spreadsheet designed, I can do that all day long. I am not the person that, you know, my first cover, I insisted here’s what it’s going to look like. Now, to this day, people tell me it was hideous. Clearly, I designed it. I’m like, “Aw!”
Janine: Hello! I spent time on that. Hey! Come on now!
Jeff: [inaudible] shade of orange. It’s just funny because people think we have this view of what it looks like. I always admired James Patterson. It’s like he woke up on a Tuesday and a book fell out of his head. He was so prolific and I’m like, “That is not ever going to be me.” So, I guess the short answer to that question is I’ve tried to find other people that have been there. The first book was me just fumbling around in the dark. Now, I look for people who’ve figured things out who have systems and processes in place. I really try to imitate them. Obviously, where I can, I work with the best. It’s definitely my skill set is not picking fonts and typefaces or whatever. I have a graphic designer. She can tell me- I flash something in front of her and she’ll say, “Oh, that’s whatever.” I’m like… A font is a font is a font. Dan serif, serif, I don’t care. There are smarter people than me that have figured out all that stuff. I defer to them every time.
Janine: I agree. That is something that is delightful. So, when it comes to writing, you will find authors that are crazy and get up at 2:00 in the morning to write. Then, there are people like me, who automatically wake up at 4:00 A.M. Don’t ask me why but I do. When I wake up at 4:00 A.M., I start writing until the first kid wakes up, then I have to go make breakfast. Then, there are the night owls. They wait till everybody’s gone to bed and their best writing time is 10:00 at night till 2:00 A.M. So, you know, you have the whole gamut. Then, there are folks like you and I. We run full-time businesses. We have online courses. We have multiple books because we’re helping our students who are helping our clients. So, we don’t see ourselves as only an author like James Patterson. You said you used him. I love his stuff, by the way. I love The Lightning. He is an author. Period. Right? Now, of course, as a human being on planet Earth, he is much more. But it’s like when you see the words James Patterson, you go author. When you see the words Jeff Borschowa, it’s like, “Oh, CPA, and, and, and.” Multiple aspects to your business. So, that also has a primary purpose for you. I’m an author whether I’m fiction or non-fiction, I would just want to get into the habit of writing so that I can get that voice, like you said, just right. How did you kind of overcome some of the shyness of using your voice? What are some tips that you would give an author who’s just starting the process?
Jeff: Okay. Well, great question. I’m going to give you two answers. The one that I did and I’m going to give you the one I recommend. I’ll share my wife’s feedback on this.
Janine: Yes, I think that’s good. I’m sure the wife’s feedback, as well as what you think, and what you would say now. I think that’s great. Go ahead. Sorry. I don’t mean to interrupt.
Jeff: So, true story. I was a practicing accountant and I retired from public practice. I decided I’d rather- literally, I’d rather step in front of a bus than do another tax return. Rather than do that, my wife suggested I find another career. It just randomly fell into my lap that some software company I knew, they were looking for a trainer speaker. They wanted to basically teach accountants and bookkeepers technology. So, I found my voice. I said, “Sure, let’s do this.” From zero to inception, we had literally a month’s notice. We planned a fifteen-day fifteen-venue cross-Canada tour. I spent eight hours a day every day talking to people, telling them my story. I just observed what landed well, what sort of fell flat. My wife’s advice was, you know, there’s nothing in your background that says you can do that. I said, “Well, there’s nothing in my background that says I can’t.” So, I did it. So, that’s how I found my voice, you know, testing out. There’s no better way to get feedback than to stand in front of a room of peers and present your ideas. Either they laugh at you or they applaud you. Luckily, my first audience was very kind, so I got more applause than laughter. So, that’s how I did it. Literally, I’m going to change exactly everything about me. I’m going to go from being behind the desk accountant to I am a public speaker. Oh, I guess I need a book to support that. It was kind of cart before the horse. Now, if I was talking to somebody who is a little less open to public ridicule, I would start just writing. Social media is a great place to test your voice. One of my favorite quotes- I can’t recall who it’s from. They basically said knowledge is like a buffet . We all worry about, you know, is my dish special enough or unique enough? If you think about it from the point of view, there’s somebody that won’t be able to eat if your particular item isn’t on the menu. You owe it to the world to find your voice and share it.
Janine: That, I think, is the best advice we can wrap up with today. Thank you so much for your time today, and talking to authors, and helping them with their voice.
Jeff: I love it! Well, thank you very much for your time, Janine. It’s always a pleasure.
Janine: That was Jeff Borschowa who is a professional problem solver. He connects businesses with solutions. Not only that, he can also help you if you are running a business, be able to help you with cash flow, and how to focus on eight different aspects of your business, so that it is profitable. So, definitely, look this man up. He is worth the read. This is Janine Bolon with The Writers Hour Creative Conversations. Remember to keep writing. Just sit and write even if it’s garbage. Eventually, you will have golden nuggets. We’ll talk to you soon.