C.C. Chapman, who co-wrote Content Rules with Ann Handley, has a new book out, and I invited him to Marketing Smarts this week to discuss it.

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The book is entitled Amazing Things Will Happen, and C.C. is quick to point out that it's not a sequel to Content Rules. In fact, although it does address issues of work, goal-setting, and career choices, among other things, it is not strictly speaking a business book at all.

Rather, C.C. told me, it was conceived as a "guidebook I could give my kids and say, 'Here's my best advice I can give you, as my kids, to go forth in the world and live your life.'"

As he started working on it, and with the gentle guidance of his editor, the book gradually grew into a collection of short pieces, lessons, and observations intended for a broader audience. "Anybody out there," C.C. says, "who may be stuck in a rut or maybe just not doing exactly what they wanted with their lives."

Honest. Inspiring. Realistic.

C.C. devotes one chapter of the book to a practice he borrowed from Chris Brogan that involves selecting three words that will define, say, the themes for the coming year (Chris writes about preferring this exercise to making New Year's resolutions, for example).

I asked C.C. what three words he would use to describe his book, with the one condition that he not use the word "amazing."

After some reflection, he came up with "honest," "inspiring," and "realistic."

I found all three of these words apt. It felt honest to me, in part, because the book was very C.C. C.C.'s distinctive voice comes through in the prose and reflects his trademark guileless candor.

It also felt honest to me because, frankly, it was realistic. Rather than a book that promises to magically transform your life if you just follow its formula or that encourages you to drop everything and pursue your dreams at all costs, it's advice is actually fairly tempered. 

While encouraging people to take risks, C.C. acknowledges that doing so can in fact be risky and cautions people to consider the consequences, weigh the potential benefits against the potential costs, and proceed reasonably. His watchwords are not "Just Do It" so much as, "Be Smart and Strategic."

This realism is also what lends the book the potential to inspire. It is not filled, as some similar books are, with tales of one-in-a-million achievements or stories of what "amazing" companies (Apple, Zappos, Southwest, etc.) have done. Instead, it consists primarily of examples taken from C.C.'s own experience or from the experiences of his friends. 

In other words, it is inspiring because he doesn't insist that we emulate people with whom we can't really identify in the first place, but, rather, allows us to learn from the ups and downs of "a humble, New England guy," who readily admits that he (like many of us) doesn't yet know where he'll be in five years.

Do the Work and Be Amazed

The honesty, inspiration, and realism are summed up in the two main themes of this book: Whatever you would like to accomplish, you need to do the work; and, no matter how much work you are doing or need to do, take some time out to be amazed.

Thus, on the one hand, C.C. writes, “The key factor is to realize that amazing things come only to those who work hard at making them happen.” (Or, as he put it when we spoke, "Working hard plays a big role in being happy.") 

On the other hand, he says, "I watch way, way too many people work, work, work, work, work and they never ever, ever take a moment to enjoy anything…I just hate seeing people not enjoying even a few minutes, you know? Unplug! Listen to a record! Watch a movie! Put away the phone!"

As C.C. points out, you need to be able to rev your engine and go all out, but you also need to be able to idle. If you work to strike the balance between those two states—giving your all when you need to give your all and chilling when you need to chill—then life may indeed become truly amazing.