Joe Calloway: Being The Best At What Matters Most

Joe Calloway Joe Calloway is a bestselling author of business books that help great companies get even better.  His work teaches organizations how to focus on what’s truly important, inspires constant improvement, and motivates people to immediate action.

Joe has been a business author, coach, and speaker for 30 years and his client list reads like an international Who’s Who in business, ranging from companies like Coca Cola and IBM to Cadillac and American Express.

Joe is the author of four ground-breaking business books including Becoming A Category of One: How Extraordinary Companies Transcend Commodity And Defy Comparison, which received rave reviews from The New York Times, Retailing Today, Publishers Weekly and many others.

Scroll down for a complete transcript of the interview or click the Play button below to listen to the interview now. And don’t forget to leave a comment to let us know what you thought of this interview!

Books by Joe Calloway

Becoming a Category of One  Work Like You're Showing Off  Indispensable  Be The Best At What Matters Most 


Joe Calloway Transcript

Tim Knox: Welcome in to another edition of Interviewing Authors. Joe Calloway is on the program today. Joe is a bestselling author. He’s had four groundbreaking business books. His latest business book is getting critical reviews. It is called Be the Best at What Matters Most: The Only Strategy You will Ever Need.

Now Joe is one of the top corporate speakers. He sells a lot of books from platform as well as in the bookstores so good interview, especially if you are interested in doing speaking or writing books aimed at a business audience or maybe even in the self-help genre. Joe has got them all covered. It’s a good interview. Joe talks about how he got started writing, how he gets motivated, what inspires him, how he does the writing, the editing and the publishing. So, a great interview with Joe Calloway. That’s coming up now on this edition of Interviewing Authors.

Tim Knox: Joe Calloway, welcome to the program.

Joe Calloway: Great to be here, Tim.

Tim Knox: It’s great having you here. You’re an old Nashville boy so you’re a fellow Southerner so it’s going to make it all the best.

Joe Calloway: We understand each other.

Tim Knox: Exactly, we walk that language don’t we? Well hey, I appreciate you being here. I know a whole lot about your background but for the sake of the audience that might not have ever had the Joe Calloway experience, tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do.

Joe Calloway: Well, you know, most people would say that I am a business speaker. To me, you know when people ask me what I do, I start off by saying I write books about business. To me, that’s really the core of what I do is the writing. The books and the speeches and the other stuff, those are just distribution channels. Those are ways to get the ideas to people. But my job is basically to help businesses and people in businesses to improve their performance and I’ve been doing that for, golly, well over 30 years now. It’s been a few laps around the track.

Tim Knox: Let’s do chicken or egg. Which came first – the business consulting, the writing or the speaking?

Joe Calloway: The speaking for sure came first. Actually I started off doing… and I had no idea what I was doing, no clue, but I did customized training workshops for companies. Somebody would call me and say, “Well what kind of training do you do?” and I’d say, “What do you need? I’ll figure it out.” I mean literally I did that and then that evolved into being asked to do speeches at association meetings and within companies. It kind of took off with a couple of big national clients, chief among them being AT&T for a few years. I did a lot for them. Then Speakers Bureau started picking me up and that’s how I got most of my speaking and still how I get probably half of my speaking, through Speakers Bureau. So the core of my revenue creation is by far from speaking but now more and more what gets me the speaking are the books. So the books are kind of what drive the marketing machine. Then they feed each other. When I speak people buy the books usually in bulk before I speak. When somebody reads the book a lot of times that will lead to a speaking engagement. It’s a very synergistic thing. It all kind of feeds itself.

Tim Knox: Right. Before we talk about the writing specifically let’s kind of hang on the speaking here because every writer I talk to wants to be a speaker and every speaker I talk to wants to be a writer. The two seem to go hand in hand really well as long as you’ve got a consistent message. You can’t go speak on one thing and write on another, right?

Joe Calloway: That’s true. The thing is if you want to leverage both of them in the interest of the other then… if somebody reads your book that’s what they want you to talk about, what’s in the book. If somebody hears you speak that’s what they’re hoping is in the book. I think you got to stake a claim. You’ve got to pick a lane. In other words, it’s tough to do well and bounce around a whole lot. I mean I change all the time but it’s all within this category of business performance improvement.

Tim Knox: That’s your channel.

Joe Calloway: You’ve got to lay a claim to some expertise somewhere.

Tim Knox: Okay, so you started off really as a speaker and then you began writing. How easy was it for you to start writing books? Were you a natural writer? Was it a chore for you?

Joe Calloway: I’ve always enjoyed writing. It started off, and I actually did two, three self-published little books, like 60-70 pages. One was kind of a very personal book, kind of a life message book that I really just gave away to friends. The other two were business books and I sold a few of them to people who would hire me to speak and say, “Do you have a book that we can get for everybody that’s going to be there?” But then I was doing writing and posting my writing in, you know, article blog type writing. That’s what got me my first book contract. A book publisher went to my website, saw the writing, contacted me and said, “Would you have any interest in doing a book?” I was pretty lucky on that count.

Tim Knox: You were lucky but you were putting the work out there for others to see.

Joe Calloway: I was putting the work out there. And the other thing that I did that was very helpful was… it’s funny. The year before I was contacted by the publisher I attended something called The Maui Writer’s Conference and the non-fiction track of that conference – it was about five days – was about writing but most of it was about how to do a book proposal. So when the publisher said, “Do you know how to do a book proposal?” Yeah, as a matter of fact I do. So I was able to put together a pretty good proposal and they picked it up and I’ve been with the same publisher through all five books.

Tim Knox: Let’s talk about your books a little bit just to give folks an idea. I’ve been a fan of your work for a long time. I really do like your books. You’ve had four groundbreaking business books, including Becoming a Category of One: How Extraordinary Companies Transcend Commodity and Defy Comparison. Talk a little bit about that one.

Joe Calloway: Well that was the one that kind of changed everything for me. That was the first one. What I did, Tim, I mean that was when I had 20 years’ worth of speaking material to draw from. The second book was a lot tougher.

Tim Knox: Did you use all your good stuff?

Joe Calloway: The first one is a really good book. I’m really proud of that book. I used to hear people say you’ve got to get a book out there. You’ve just got to get something out there. I was fortunate enough and smart enough to not just get something out there; I got something pretty good out there. It got me a lot of speaking work. We could get into how I leveraged it if you want to but that first book was kind of the best of the ideas that I had developed over 20 years of speaking in the business arena. That was in 2004 and then I did an updated version in 2012 I think. That book still to this day does well for me and still gets me work.

Tim Knox: Do you find these books really are, especially in your business, they’re a marketing piece aren’t they?

Joe Calloway: Oh my gosh, it’s the best marketing in the world. As a matter of fact, for example, if a bureau says to me, “Well they’re trying to decide. It’s between you and two other speakers,” I say, “Let me send them a copy of a couple of books. Is that okay?” Over 50% of the time if I send them the books, I get the job. The books get me the job so, yeah, they’re incredibly helpful.

Tim Knox: The books are really helpful in backing up your expertise and your credibility as a speaker.

Joe Calloway: Absolutely, yeah. I don’t know anything that could do a better job.

Tim Knox: The next book was Indispensable: How To Become The Company That Your Customers Can’t Live Without. Tell us a little about that one.

Joe Calloway: That one was kind of the same basic premise. As a matter of fact, my approach to both my writing and my speaking it’s very much a benchmark kind of thing where you say, okay listen, look at the marketplace, see who’s doing well – what do they all have in common? That’s kind of the foundational platform for my work, which is what is working in the marketplace. Then I take slightly different perspectives of that. By the way, to back up to Becoming a Category of One, one of the keys to the success of that book and one of the reasons it’s done so well for me is it was the best title and the best book cover that I probably will ever come up with. I have no idea; I do not remember how I came up with the title but that title has been worth its weight in pure gold to me. People love the title. There have been conventions that have done their whole convention based on the theme, become a category of one. It’s just, oh my gosh, what a great title.

Indispensable was a good title and a terrible book cover, which was all my fault. It’s like I want people to take me seriously and I want this to be a serious looking book cover, almost academic. Well it just ended up being dull. The title of it’s fine but the book cover’s not going to really grab anybody’s attention. I remember I was walking through the San Diego Airport and Indispensable was on the shelf face out with about 30 other business books and I thought I think my book is the last one I would pick up. Live and learn.

Tim Knox: Was that the same publisher on that book?

Joe Calloway: They’ve all been the same publisher, John Wiley & Sons out in New York.

Tim Knox: Just as an aside, do you use an agent or do you do all your own negotiating with publishers?

Joe Calloway: I’ve never had an agent because that first contact was the publisher came to me. Their contract and everything was very straightforward. I was comfortable with it. I’m not saying to people don’t use an agent. Who knows? I might have done infinitely better. I might be rich now if I had an agent. But I’ve been very comfortable with Wiley. I know a lot of people… our mutual friend, Larry Winget, struck gold by having a great, great agent but Larry had already done a very popular book which attracted the agent to him.

Tim Knox: That’s one thing that I’ve heard a lot in interviewing some folks. If the agent comes sniffing around you, it’s like a pretty girl coming up to you at a bar asking to buy you a drink.

Joe Calloway: I’m telling you, yeah. My publisher came to me. It’s always better. See, I’ve always believed from the speaking part of the business, people say, “Well how do you go out and get jobs?” The next speech that I do, that’s my marketing. That’s my sales call. If I do good enough work I’ll pull it to me. I believe in the work itself doing the selling, and I believe that about books too.

Tim Knox: I know you do a whole lot of marketing and promotion. You’re always working. There are a lot of authors out there that think I’m just going to write the great American novel, the agents are going to knock down my door, there’s going to be a bidding war of the publishers and I don’t ever have to do a damn thing. You and I both know that’s not the case.

Joe Calloway: No, lots of luck with that. As a matter of fact, you and I both know that today when you go to a publisher – at least for non-fiction and certainly with a business book – if you talk to a publisher the first question they want to know is, okay, how are you going to sell the book?

Tim Knox: Yeah, how many people you got on your list?

Joe Calloway: Exactly. How many copies can you sell? People call me and say, “Well, I want to get a publisher so the publisher will sell millions of books.” The publisher doesn’t sell the book; the publisher prints the book. You sell the book.

Tim Knox: That was the lesson that I learned as well. Wiley published my book in ’07 and I think I sold most of the copies of the book that sold. I had an agent at the time and he goes, “Look, they’re going to print it and do distribution; you’ve got to sell the damn thing.” I think that’s a shock to a lot of authors. Now the next book, and this was a great title, Work Like You’re Showing Off!: The Joy, Jazz, and Kick of Being Better Tomorrow than You were Today. Talk about that one.

Joe Calloway: That was a fun book and that book was written much, much, much more to the individual than to the business manager. It was very lighthearted. It’s when I went through the format of the chapters were sometimes as short as two pages each, just little nuggets. I don’t even know how many chapters are in it but like 40 great ideas that anybody can use. I’ll tell you the challenge with that book and I realized it after I put it out there. The book didn’t have a clear identity of is it a business book or is it a personal motivation book? Is it for business managers? Is it for individuals? It was kind of fuzzy as to who the book was directed to. I learned a lesson from that book. It was a fairly popular book and it got me a lot of great feedback and emails and reviews on Amazon and stuff but it didn’t sell as well as the first two. I really learned a lesson about you got to have clarity as far as who you’re writing this book for. Who’s going to be the audience for this book?

Tim Knox: When you were writing the book did you know who the audience was going to be or were you just tossing it out there?

Joe Calloway: I was tossing it out there. I didn’t have clarity on it and I think it hurt the book.

Tim Knox: This was the phase in your career when you actually went from – and you mentioned this – writing about companies and going directly to the individual. Was that a conscious decision for you to move in that direction or was this just an idea that you came up with? How did you make that transition?

Joe Calloway: It was an idea particularly for that one book. I have since moved back towards… most of my audience, both for speaking and for the books, are business leaders, managers, owners, entrepreneurs, executives. It’s really not as much for the individual. I mean an individual can get some good stuff from it I think but it’s really for how do you make a business succeed? It’s for people that have the ability to make decisions within a business.

Tim Knox: You mentioned our mutual friend, Larry Winget. He started off doing business books and has since kind of gone off into the individual. Is that something you ever think about? You kind of did that with this book but have you thought about moving away from more business centric into the individual self-help? Does that appeal to you at all?

Joe Calloway: No. I’m in the business to business arena. It’s what I do well. It’s what I know to do. To build a retail business like Larry has, like a lot of our mutual friends have, that’s a whole different business model and it’s a huge amount of work. There are a lot of people these days, as they say in this part of the country, bless their hearts who think I’m going to come up with something, some downloadable something and I’m just going to put it on the internet and then sit back and wait to get rich. I’m sorry, that’s not the way it works. There are a trillion things on the internet. Unless you’ve spent years building a list or lightning strikes somehow, it’s hard to build a retail market. Larry’s done great at it. I’m not going to change lanes at this point in my career.

Tim Knox: Maybe some colorful shirts, some cowboy boots, shave that pretty gray hair.

Joe Calloway: Larry wears costumes. I’m too old to wear a costume.

Tim Knox: Do you remember when Larry’s shtick was glasses?

Joe Calloway: Oh my God! He had 200 pairs of different colored glasses.

Tim Knox: The Larry now would kick that guy’s butt.

Joe Calloway: The Larry now would go over to the Larry then and say, “Dude, what is up with you?”

Tim Knox: The next book, I think you went back into the corporate world with this one – Never by Chance: Aligning People and Strategy Through Intentional Leadership.

Joe Calloway: Yeah that went deep, deep, deep on the corporate strategic. I had two co-authors on that. That one was really about a corporate view of leadership. It was a really well received book. It probably sold fewer copies than any of my books but boy it was a great credibility builder. There’s a lot of meat to that book but it didn’t have a huge audience. That’s okay. It’s something I tried. I liked the process of co-writing. I really like the two people I wrote the book with, good friends with both of them. So that was fun to do, not a big seller.

Tim Knox: Who were your co-authors?

Joe Calloway: Chuck Feltz, who’s a former CEO of actually a number of companies and then Kris Young. Chris is actually in the speaking business from the hiring side. She’s worked for Speakers Bureaus and she worked for a production company. She brought a number of things to the table with that book, which was the perspective of having worked with a lot of companies who were looking for leadership advice. Then she also was the main driver behind an entire chapter in the book about how you can lead people through effective meetings and events. That was a big contribution that she made on the book.

Tim Knox: How was it working with co-authors? Was it a lot different than doing your own thing?

Joe Calloway: It was. The way we co-wrote, if you get the book you’ll see that it’s actually written… it will say Joe and there’s my part. Then it will say Chuck. It’s very conversational. For example, it will say Joe and then I’ll say, “As Chuck just said, one of the most valuable things…” We would actually dialogue back and forth by email and then refine it and that’s the form that it took in the book. It’s like a big conversation. A lot of them are just between Chuck and I, some of them are Chuck and Kris and I basically having a conversation in print.

Tim Knox: I guess Larry Winget runs in my mind here. I watched the video that you did with Larry where you guys were having the conversation. I thought that was really powerful stuff. Do you find that the best content sometimes come out of just conversations?

Joe Calloway: Listen, if you look at my website it says Joes does not give traditional speeches but rather engages people in conversations about…. My speeches, Tim, have even gotten… even when I’m in a keynote slot which I usually am, it’s very interactive. I like conversations. I love panels. I love to have people on stage with me and we’re all sitting on bar stools. I love, love, love conversations much more than I love just one way messaging. I like books that bring different perspectives in. I solo write my books except for that one but it’s example rich and there are a lot of interviews that I do within the book with people.

Tim Knox: Let’s move on to the next book and then we want to get into the actual process of how you do your writing. Be the Best at What Matters Most: The Only Strategy You Will Ever Need. Tell us about that one.

Joe Calloway: I like that book. The two best books I’ve written were the first one and the most recent one I think. Be the Best at What Matters Most is continuing down that same model of what’s working out there? The book is kind of a reaction to the mad rush over the last few years for everybody to come up with a wow factor or wow factors and the idea that the goal is to be different, just be different. This book is kind of a rant in reaction to that saying you want a wow factor? Win on the basics. Be the best on the basics. Have your customers saying, “Wow, they get it right every single time.” There’s your wow factor. If you want to be different why don’t you try this on – try being better. It’s really a call for people to go back to being the best at the fundamentals of the business and it’s gotten terrific response. This book is selling more in bulk to audiences before I go speak than even Becoming the Category One.

Tim Knox: So you’ve struck a nerve of some kind with this.

Joe Calloway: I’ve struck a nerve. Part of the book is about the idea that you’re probably overthinking your business. You’re probably making it way too complicated. You would be more effective if you simplified your thinking around it. Yeah, that has struck a nerve and it’s done really, really well for me.

Tim Knox: That’s a good corporate lesson and it’s also a good personal lesson.

Joe Calloway: Oh it is. I get a lot of feedback from people who say, “Wow, I was able to apply a whole lot of what you said in my personal life.” That’s always fun. That’s gratifying.

Tim Knox: You do a little self-help whether you like it or not.

Joe Calloway: Yeah, whether I mean to or not.

Tim Knox: Let’s talk a little about the writing. You said the speaking came first. That inspired the book. Are you typically inspired by a topic or an idea that hits you or do you come up with, okay, this is a great message. Let me craft a book around it. What’s your process for inspiration?

Joe Calloway: It’s much more… I’m pretty much already in a lane as far as topic goes. It’s about how businesses can be better for lack of a more specific term but there will be an angle on that. The classic case is this last book. It just hit me one day. I thought all this stuff about your greatest goal as a business should be to just be different from everybody else. That’s just crap. That’s stupid. No, that’s wrong. Your goal should be to be better. That’s your different is to be better. So here’s the thing, Tim. When I find myself going into a rant in my speeches where I’m just hammering the lectern, a rant – that’s a good germ for a book probably. What I’ve discovered is that… I used to fall into the trap, and I still do occasionally. I’ll write a book the way I think a book is supposed to sound and I tone everything down and vanilla everything down, and that’s not what people want. People want you to let it rip and if you’ve got an opinion, have the opinion. If it’s contrarian, by gosh be contrarian. People like that. They like to have their thinking shaken up. If I write a book that’s basically just a, yeah me too; I agree with everything else that everybody else has written then what’s the point and why should they buy it?

So I try to come up with something that will make people think, even if they disagree with it, and have them go, “Wow, I never thought of it that way.” So I’m looking for something that surprises people a little bit and if it surprises me and I find myself going on a rant about it, chances are I can maybe get a good book out of it.

Tim Knox: Have you found that the more passionate you are about the topic, the more passionate the reader becomes? I mean it’s a very emotional thing right?

Joe Calloway: Yeah, absolutely. The more emotional it is the better the book is. The more emotional it is then the more emotional the readers get about it. I love it when somebody comes up to me after a speech and says, “Hey I’ve had your book for a couple of years. Could you sign it?” and the thing is tattered. It’s highlighted so much that it’s practically all yellow now and they’ve got sticky notes to mark the pages. I mean that’s cool. That’s a good feeling. It’s really meant something to somebody. But yeah, you’re right. I think for me the emotion has to be there or it’s going to be a flat book; it’s not going to be any good.

Tim Knox: From the marketing side, how important is a hook? By that I mean I used to do standup comedy with a guy you might know named Jeff Foxworthy. Jeff was a great comedian and then he discovered the redneck bit and it just exploded. Another example is a good friend of mine, Dan Miller, wrote a book called 48 Days to the Work You Love and Dan will tell you his hook, what really set him apart, was the 48 day part of that. When you’re writing a book within the genre that you’re in – really any genre – how important is that hook?

Joe Calloway: I think it’s incredibly important. I think it’s even more important in non-fiction than it is fiction. If the title makes people want to pick it up or makes people want to click the link then you’ve done a good job. As a matter of fact, there’s this saying I ran across recently and I thought that’s the title of my next book. I immediately went to Amazon and the book’s already been written with that title and it’s in my genre, in my topic area. You can’t copyright a title. I could use the title but that would just be cheesy and bogus and I don’t want to do that since someone’s already used it. The title of the book is Will It Make the Boat Go Faster? Based on the 2000 Olympics eight men rowing team that won the gold medal and their whole premise for their training became will it make the boat go faster? I would give anything if I could use that as a title because I think it’s hooky. You say it and I think people immediately get it, what it means. I’m big on hooks and it’s hard to come up with a good one.

Tim Knox: Our mutual friend who will remain nameless because I’m sick of talking about Winget – Larry told me that the title is often more important than what’s in the book because that’s what really grabs them initially. You mentioned seeing your book on a shelf with a lot of others. A great title will really sell a book.

Joe Calloway: Tim, I had a CEO buy 500 copies of Becoming a Category One and I’ll describe the cover for your listeners. The new edition has a row of four identical red apples on one side of the cover and set apart from them sitting over there by itself is one green apple. The title is Becoming a Category One and the CEO said, “I bought these books for all these people. If they just look at the cover and read the title I’m happy because they’ll get it what it is we’re trying to achieve in this company.” That was some pretty cool feedback.

Tim Knox: That is just awesome. Was that Apple by the way? Was that Steve Jobs?

Joe Calloway: Unfortunately that wasn’t Steve that called me and told me that.

Tim Knox: He would have probably called and said why are you using my apple on your book?

Joe Calloway: Yeah, my attorneys will be in touch.

Tim Knox: Let’s talk a little about the process of writing. When you’re knee deep in a book when do you write? Do you write on a schedule? Do you try to write every day? Do you have a certain number of words that you have to write?

Joe Calloway: No, it’s so sloppy. Boy, if you called the way I do it a process you’re using that term as loosely as can be done. I get an idea for… and it’s funny. I love to start with a title if I can and if not a title then get some clarity around a concept and then I just put my antenna out. It’s like if you buy a yellow Volkswagen you immediately see all the other yellow Volkswagens in town. If I get an idea for a topic or an angle then I start seeing material everywhere. I just throw it all in a pot. I will literally have one Word file and the ideas go in there in no particular order. I just throw them in as I get them. It might end up being 30 pages single spaced of just individual ideas and thoughts. Then I’ll reach a point where I’ll think, okay, I need to start breaking this down and organizing it. If I’ve already got a contract with the publisher then obviously I will have sent them an outline for the book. They know that the finished product may bear little resemblance to the original outline and they’re okay with that. They know the way I work and they’re alright with it. I mean I don’t go too far astray but the word choices are going to change and that sort of thing.

So I collect these ideas and then I’ll feel a writing spell come on and I will block out maybe three full days. The environment for me what works best, although it’s tougher now because I’ve got two little girls and I do not like leaving home ever for any reason, so it’s a lot tougher now. It’s trickier but I love to go to a beach. There’s something about the sound of the ocean that when I have the windows and the doors open and I hear the waves, for whatever reason that helps me write. I’ll get up at six in the morning, sit at the computer and start writing. I’ll stop every two, three hours, go take a quick walk on the beach, come back in and write some more. I’ll do it until the sun goes down. I’ll do that for two, three days, pulling these random thoughts together. After two or three of those sessions and then some cleaning up work I’ve pretty much got a book. But I do it in spells. I’m not a disciplined writer. If I’m not in the mood and the muse isn’t on me and the spirit’s not moving me, I’m just going to write junk so there’s no sense trying.

Tim Knox: That’s a good point. If you force yourself to write a lot of the times what you’re writing is just drivel. But then you have the authors that say just keep writing even if it’s crap. I’m not a big fan of generating crap. I’m like you. You do the brain dump and then you go back and pull it all together. Now do you do self-editing? Do you have an editor who helps you there?

Joe Calloway: I do self-editing. This is funny. This is another thing. Do not try this at home. I’m absolutely not advising anybody else to do this because once I write the thing I pack it up and send it to the publisher. I don’t go back. I hear some writers say okay the first draft is done. Now the real work begins with all the rewrites. I say the first draft is done. It’s done.

Tim Knox: Period.

Joe Calloway: It’s done. I will tell you a great tip I got from someone who shall remain nameless, which is when you’re actually in the process of writing the book and organizing it to the point where you’ve got chapters – every time you sit down to write, go back and read every single word you’ve written up to that point. That has been a very helpful tip. I’ll tell you something interesting that happened with this last book. I did send a draft of it to… do you know Randy Gage?

Tim Knox: Yes, I do.

Joe Calloway: Or you may know of him. Randy’s a very successful author and speaker. I sent it to Randy and he wrote back and said, “Joe, what you’ve got as chapter four is the opening of the book. It goes with what is now chapter one as the opening.” I looked at it and I thought oh my gosh, he’s absolutely, totally right. I think it made it a 100% better book by just re-sequencing something. That was incredibly valuable editing advice. Other than that, no I don’t do much editing on my own. I don’t rewrite. I do very little rewriting at least. I just write it, I’m done, I send it to the publisher.

Tim Knox: Is Wiley pretty good with that? Are they pretty good to work with on that end?

Joe Calloway: Yeah, they are good with that. Here’s the thing. The thing I love with the people I work with at Wiley, and of course they work with every author a little bit differently and every publisher is different. They let me write in my voice which is sometimes incomplete sentences on purpose. I mean really. As a matter of fact, if you read a lot of reviews of my books they’re very spoken word in nature. It’s very common for a reviewer to say reading this book, it felt like Joe was sitting across the table talking to me. I write very much the way I speak. So Wiley leaves that alone. Oh my God, I’ve learned so much… we all have those of us that write and have editors. I’ve learned so much about where commas go and those words don’t go in this part of the sentence; they go in this part of the sentence. It’s all that stuff but they do a great job of cleaning up all those sorts of things. Occasionally they will say this doesn’t make sense or, Joe, you really hit on that idea in an earlier chapter. They’re good about spotting that sort of stuff.

Let me just say one more thing about that. The downside of that is they don’t push me real hard to make it a better book. There are some editors that will send a chapter back to an author and say, “This is junk. You’ve got to throw this out and do something different or start over on this chapter because it just doesn’t work. It’s crap.” I like it that Wiley lets me write it the way I want to write it. On the other hand there are authors that work better with different editors who push them really, really hard. I don’t do well in that relationship but it’s different strokes for different folks.

Tim Knox: Yeah I’ve talked to some writers that have a I guess you could call it a good relationship with their editor at the publisher but they push and push and push, and of course they say it makes it a better book. I know when I did mine I had to do a couple of rewrites and I’m like I’m done. This is so over in my head. Do you ever think about maybe stepping outside the box and doing a fiction book?

Joe Calloway: I don’t see how people write fiction. I have so much admiration for people who do fiction. I’ve done little short stories stuff just for my own amusement. To me, non-fiction is so easy. You just write down stuff that happened. As a matter of fact, I look at myself as being a reporter. I’m a reporter. Fiction, oh my gosh, people that write good fiction – I just think they’re the best. It’s like in spoken word; I think standup comedy is the ultimate. I think that’s the peak of spoken word work. It’s hard and I think good fiction, my hat’s off to people that write fiction.

Tim Knox: What about doing the stuff that Andy Andrews and those kind of guys do? They do the inspirational, motivational stuff around a story type thing. Same kind of thing?

Joe Calloway: Yeah, same kind of thing. It’s not for me. I love telling true stories about companies. I guess the classic is, you know, books like the One Minute Manager, the Who Moved My Cheese? All those kinds of books, which are great books. There are a lot of people that love that kind of fable story form. I’ve never done it. I’m not drawn to it. I don’t think I’d be good at it.

Tim Knox: What are you working on now? Do you have anything in the works?

Joe Calloway: You know what I’m working mostly on speaking, writing for speaking engagements. As a matter of fact that’s what I’ve been working on this morning. It’s been a year and a month since my last book came out so it’s time for me to start thinking about the next one. I’m starting to have little nibbles of ideas that are getting me a little bit jazzed, nothing concrete yet. I’m opening myself up to, okay, what’s next? I want to be gutsier. This last book, Be the Best at What Matters Most, I really take a stand on a lot of things in that book and I like it and people are responding to it. I want to do more of that. I don’t want to write just another namby pamby business book that says what all the rest of them say. I want to wait until I’ve really got something to say.

Tim Knox: We’re running out of time. I’ve kept you longer than I thought I would, which is a good thing. Final advice to… we talk to a lot of authors who want to be speakers and they’re wanting to write a book to launch that career. Again, we’ve got speakers who want to be authors. What’s your advice to any of these guys as far as writing goes? It’s like the old thing – you never start a business to make money. You never write a book to sell it. What are your thoughts?

Joe Calloway: I think the biggest mistake is people will go out and say what’s a popular topic that I can write about? That’s backwards. I do believe… now I’m not one of these people that says the whole key is to be passionate about your work. I think you’ve got to be good at your work but I think you’ve got to find what do you do that you do extremely well in terms of ideas? If you’re a speaker then first step have a transcript done of your speech. That could be your chapters, the different parts of your speech. Those could be your chapters. If you’re a writer that wants to do speaking, there are a lot of rules in speaking that you don’t have to follow. Don’t worry about people saying here’s the way you have to do it. And don’t be speechy. Just talk to people about what’s in your book. Don’t be speechy. Just talk about it like a real human talks. You’ll be fine.

Tim Knox: Like a real human talks – there you go from the horse’s mouth right there. Joe Calloway, the latest book is Be the Best at What Matters Most: The Only Strategy You will Ever Need. Joe, where can we find more information about you online?

Joe Calloway:

Tim Knox: You do that Facebook and Twitter stuff as well?

Joe Calloway: Yeah, I do some. I’m not a fanatic about it. Facebook I do for fun. I hang out with a lot of my buddies.

Tim Knox: Congratulations on the daughters. I’ve got two of my own. I know they make you want to stay at home, don’t they?

Joe Calloway: Beautiful thing.

Tim Knox: I’ll never forget sitting in a motel room in Mississippi when my three year old called me and goes, “Daddy, where are you and when you coming home?” Alright, Joe, we much appreciate it. We will be putting links to your website and links to your book up on the site. This has been a pleasure. Anytime you want to chat let me know and we’ll do it again.

Joe Calloway: Let’s do it.


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2 Thoughts on “Joe Calloway: Being The Best At What Matters Most

  1. Bravo Joe and Tim. Really enjoyed this. What a great down to earth conversation about writing and speaking. Thanks for the inspiration and look forward to Joe’s “nibbles” for his next book!

  2. timwknox on May 1, 2014 at 7:18 pm said:

    Thanks for listening Paul! Appreciate the kind words.

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