9 Life Lessons I Learned from Richard Paul Evans
Confession: For most of my life I did not know who Richard Paul Evans was. I recognized his name as a famous author, but I hadn’t read any of his books.
That all changed one day about five years ago. My fifth-grade son loved writing little comic strips and simple books and begged me to take him to a writing seminar at our local high school. One of the classes we attended was one where Richard Paul Evans talked about how he self-published his first book, The Christmas Box, and later the Michael Vey series.
That first intersection of my life with Richard Paul Evans put me on a trajectory course which changed my life forever. I am honored to share with you some of the lessons I have learned from the man I now call a friend and a mentor.
“A man’s worth isn’t measured by a bank register or diploma . . . It’s about integrity.” Richard Paul Evans, The Letter
After listening to Richard Paul Evans speak at the writing seminar, my son Jacob wanted me to buy the first three Michael Vey books. I did. We then proceeded to stand in a seemingly endless line to get them signed by the author himself. As we approached the desk where he was signing books, I introduced my son, “This is my son Jacob. He has autism.”
Jacob beamed as Richard signed his books. With a gleam in his eye Richard said, “I have something extra special for you because you’re an extra special kid.” He then handed Jacob a stretchy Michael Vey bracelet, along with a poster.
Jacob left that book signing on cloud nine! The rest of the evening he happily read Michael Vey while fingering his bracelet.
As for me, I was sold on Richard Paul Evans. Write a book which teaches teens they are awesome despite the things which make them different, and I’ll think you’re pretty cool. Be genuinely kind to my son with special needs, and I will love you forever!
The crazy thing is, I am not the only fan who feels this way. Every person who meets Richard Paul Evans leaves amazed by his genuine kindness. Maybe his own struggle with Tourette’s has created a man who is kind and sensitive to those around him. Or perhaps he has always been a kind person.
I learned that day how important it is to be genuine and kind to those around us—no matter how famous you may be.
Call People by Name
“Look for beauty in everyone you meet, and you’ll find it. Everyone carries divinity within them. And everyone we meet has something to impart.” Richard Paul Evans, Miles to Go
I have had the privilege of sitting through four author training/mentoring programs with Richard Paul Evans. At the beginning of the Premier Author Mentoring program I attended, we went around the room and introduced ourselves and what type of genre we wrote.
After going through all twenty-five of us, Richard began teaching us marketing techniques. He began by saying, “Now if you were Tamara here, you would want to find your audience with the autism community. For Claudia, you’d target the community of cancer survivors and their loved ones. If you were Shannon, you would look for military and motivation. If you were Jeff, you’d look for architecture fans.”
On and on he went, calling us by name and correctly explaining the type of book we were writing and who our ideal market was.
The woman sitting beside me leaned over half way through and whispered, “How does he do that?” To which I replied, “I have no idea!”
We didn’t have placards in front of us with our names and book genres. He just remembered. WOW!
Do you know how that made each of us feel? Richard Paul Evans had just met each of us and he remembered who we were—by name.
If you want to make people feel appreciated, remember their names and something about them. There are several strategies for doing this, and repeating back to someone their name and something about them is a technique which does help solidify names in your mind.
Name recollection is something I need to work on because I am horrible with names—and yet, it is so important because it helps people know you care, as I learned from Richard Paul Evans.
Be Grateful & Humble
“Joy isn’t the natural response to blessings – joy is what comes from acknowledging them.” Richard Paul Evans
Another vital lesson I learned at the Author Training is about gratitude and humility.
Richard taught us a valuable lesson when he said, “Every day when someone goes out to read they have lots of options. If they choose you, it is a privilege . . . You must be thankful that by reading what you write, they allow you to do something meaningful. And so, you write for them and let gratitude fuel you.”
I love this! In today’s world where so many people promote themselves, it is always refreshing to find someone who is humble and grateful. Richard recognizes an important principle: Great and influential people are often those with a humble heart.
It is not mere coincidence if you follow Richard Paul Evans on Facebook, there is a post every Tuesday—only he calls it “GratiTuesday.” Richard often asks people to share what they are grateful for that day and concludes with the statement, “Join our revolution of gratitude!”
In the darkest moments of my life, looking for little miracles and recording them has helped me keep trudging through the muck until I reached dry ground again. It is good to be reminded to be grateful. It is greater to live with a humble and grateful heart.
“Gratitude is synonymous with love, which is the most powerful force!”—Richard Paul Evans
Trust Your Destiny to a Higher Power
“There are moments, it would seem, that were created in cosmic theater where we are given strange and fantastic test. In these times, we do not show who we are to God, for surely He must already know, but rather to ourselves.” Richard Paul Evans, Timepiece
When I attended the first Richard Paul Evans Premier Author Training in 2017, I learned many things about the road Richard walked to get where he is today. The first story he told had me in tears.
It was the journey of writing and publishing his first book. Richard had literally put everything on the line to self-publish The Christmas Box because every person who read it wanted a personal copy and some for their friends. He gutsily approached some investors for money to pre-pay for the printing of thousands of copies.
Things looked promising. People magazine had decided to run a piece on him and a TV station in New York wanted to interview him.
He used the last of the family’s savings to book the flight to New Jersey. While there, the TV show bumped him last-minute. Discouraged but determined, he arrived at a bookstore that night for a book signing. They didn’t have his books and literally threw him out of the store. Right after that, he learned the People magazine article was postponed indefinitely.
In despair, he poured out his soul to God: You gave me just enough rope to hang myself. Why?
Slowly questions seemed to probe his mind.
“Why did you do this?”
For my daughters.
“For your pride?”
Not initially. I wrote this book because it really mattered.
“Do you believe I gave you this book?”
“Then I will do with this book as I will.”
Okay—your will be done.
Richard arrived home that evening physically and emotionally exhausted. As he entered the bedroom his wife Keri, who was on bed rest from pregnancy complications, called out from the darkness, “Welcome home! How did it go?”
“We are going to lose everything.”
After a moment of silence Keri simply replied, “Think of all the good you’ve done!”
Richard picked himself up and went into work the next day. While there he received a call from People magazine. The editor of People had a change of heart and decided to run the article on Richard Paul Evans and The Christmas Box in the next issue of People! The rest is history.
Richard concluded, “I think God knew what was going to happen . . . and He gave me one last chance to see who I was and how I would react to failure.” Trust your destiny to a higher power and things will work out in the end.
Be Courageous & Fearless
“You must do the thing you think you cannot do. How much do you care about your dream? Fight for it!” Richard Paul Evans, Premier Author Training
The year before The Christmas Box became a household name, Richard attended the Mountains and Plains Booksellers Conference which gave writers the chance to meet agents. He paid the whopping fee of $500 to get a little table with the hope to meet an agent to represent him and his book.
As the day wore on, he didn’t see any agents. Discouraged, he got up and asked one of the organizers where the agents were. She pointed him to Hall B. In the auditorium, there was a group of famous authors on the stage–people like Mary Higgins Clark and John Grisham sat at a table flanked by agents.
Then Richard noticed that on the far side of the stage there was one empty seat.
An inner battle began as the thought struck him, “You want to be a big-time author? Take the seat.”
What? No way! There are guards up there.
How much do you care about your dreams? If you aren’t willing to fight for your dreams, who will? Take the seat. You want to be with the big leagues? Take the seat.
Richard knew he had put everything into that book. He went back to his small table, gathered a box of his books, and went and sat down in that very seat on the stage—as if he belonged there.
A volunteer at the event saw him take the seat and approached him from the sidelines.
Richard smiled up at her approach and quickly said, “Sorry I’m late.” She looked at him and then at his name badge as if considering what to do. Then she replied, “That’s all right Mr. Evans. May I get you some water?”
He then proceeded to sign and give his book to every major literary agent who walked down the line.
A year later his photo was on the program of the same Mountains and Plains Booksellers Conference, only this time he had a seat reserved for him on the stage.
Richard happened to see the same volunteer and stopped her. “Do you remember me from last year?”
“You weren’t here last year . . . Wait a minute. You’re the guy who crashed the signing. I can’t believe it. You did it!”
Richard Paul Evans concluded, “The greatest shackles you will wear in your life are because of your fears, and the wages of fear are nothing!”
If you want something bad enough, you must overcome your fears and boldly “Take that seat!”
“Life has taught me that to fly, you must first accept the possibility of falling.” Richard Paul Evans, The Walk
Have you ever tried something and failed miserably? Did you give up or did you keep going? Did you try again, and again, and again?
At one seminar I attended, Richard taught us all a principle which applies not only to writing, but to life, “The first draft always stinks.”
This concept is true. Watch a child learning to walk. They are adorable—but they fall so many times. They stink at walking. But they keep picking themselves back up and trying again. And again. And again.
They are called toddlers because they toddle and fall. My children got so many bumps and bruises at that age because they fell. But each time, they tried again. Learn a lesson from Richard and from toddlers. Keep going. Your first try at anything is probably going to stink. But that is okay. It is your first try. Pick yourself up and keep going.
At one Premier Author Training the question was asked, “How many drafts do you do of your book before it is ready to publish?” Richard answered, “Seventy.” Seventy drafts? That is a lot of refining, tweaking, and polishing. That is a lot of critiquing by editors–a lot of picking yourself up, shredding what didn’t work, and trying again until you get it right.
Here is the key: Don’t give up after trying once or twice—keep going until you make your masterpiece.
Have a Great Team
“I have learned that real angels don’t have gossamer white robes and Cherubic skin, they have calloused hands and smell of the day’s sweat.” Richard Paul Evans, Lost December
I called and talked to Richard’s personal assistant, Diane, to sign up for my first Premier Author Training. As I visited with her on the phone, I found she was the most incredible, kind, capable and loving person. By the time I hung up, I felt I had made a new best friend. I couldn’t wait to meet Richard Paul Evans AND his amazing assistant, Diane.
Having now attended several author training events, I marvel time and time again at the staff who make each event possible. Richard’s team is part of the reason for his success. He has an incredible agent, publishing team, social media expert, and assistant.
Richard is a fantastic writer, marketer, and speaker, but he doesn’t have to do or know everything himself. He is open to suggestions, ideas and help from the people he knows and trusts. In fact, I have even seen him write down different ideas others share at each training. Each of us has strengths and weaknesses. How great it is to work hand in hand with people who have differing skills and abilities and to learn from those who may know more than we do.
As I began my writing journey, I learned it is crucial to find good people to help me in the areas that aren’t my strength. Getting help doesn’t make me weak, it makes me stronger and better as I build my team—just like Richard.
“It’s been said that it’s easy to write a novel, you just slit your wrists and let it bleed onto the pages.” Richard Paul Evans
The hardest thing about social media is comparing people’s best to your normal. How often do people write about or share photos of real things which aren’t touched up, polished, enhanced or cropped?
Richard Paul Evans has experienced success in writing because he writes from the heart—often about hard experiences. He “bleeds onto the page,” and people relate because life isn’t always sunshine and rainbows. Sometimes life is dark, awful, and heart-wrenching. Richard’s messages of hope and redemption resonate—because we are all broken and cling to the hope that better things lay ahead.
In one of his latest novels, The Noel Diary, Richard Paul Evans confesses it is “the most personal thing I’ve ever written.” As you read this story of a “famous author” who came from an abusive home, your heart expands and your soul cries and mourns for him. And then you realize the reason Richard can write about these difficult topics is because he is “bleeding onto the page.” He is telling bits of his real story through the characters he creates. You can feel the truth shining through.
So, why do we post things that aren’t real? I’m not sure I know why we all try to paint ourselves and our lives better than they are. Maybe we need to take a page from Richard Paul Evans and write about some of the “real” and difficult things in our lives.
The ironic thing is some of the most successful posts I have ever written have talked about hard things which weren’t pretty or polished: anxiety, depression, autism, and shattered dreams. I have learned Richard Paul Evans was right—we need to be authentic, especially as we share our heartaches online so others can see they aren’t alone in feeling, thinking, or experiencing soul-wrenching experiences.
Let each of us commit to be more real and relatable like Richard Paul Evans by “bleeding onto the page.”
Be the Solution
“All that’s required for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.” Richard Paul Evans, Michael Vey, Battle of the Ampere
It is not hard to read Richard Paul Evans books and draw the connection to the charity he founded in 1996. With the success of The Christmas Box, he founded a charity called, The Christmas Box House. It is an emergency shelter for abused, neglected, or homeless children or youth. Their motto is, “every child deserves a childhood.” They partner with “local, national, and international . . . groups to prevent child abuse and improve the quality of life for children, teens and young adults.”
I often watch world events and feel powerless to change anything, but I have learned even little gifts of time and reaching out can begin a ripple effect which can impact lives for good. Look at the ripple effect of Richard Paul Evans founding The Christmas Box House: Just this past year, they blessed the lives of 8,400 children and youth.
Richard also recently started a program called the Tribe of Kyngs which gives men a place to connect with other men and not feel so isolated. Did you know “white males accounted for 69.67% of suicide deaths in 2017?” Richard saw a need and began a solution which “re-empowers men to rise again, to reclaim and rebuild their kingdoms and live in dignity. The Tribe is also encouraging men to protect, not hurt, their loved ones. In the tribe we protect women and children and are working to
abolish domestic abuse.”
There are problems all around us. Let’s join Richard and be the solution to the challenges we see which we are passionate about. Little by little we can change the world my giving a little bit of our time to help and serve those around us.
Richard has been known to say, “It is not what we receive, but what we give that heals us.” I think he learned and experienced this first-hand.
I am thankful for the lessons I learned from my friend and mentor, Richard Paul Evans. I have begun to apply some of these lessons in my own life. There is liberty in being genuine and bleeding onto my pages. I have found peace in trusting God in my rock-bottom moments. I have begun pushing through my fears and fighting for my dreams with passion.
Truthfully, I am still struggling with names, but I have been researching how to improve. Gratitude and humility are paramount with an inner felicity and joy I now feel. Many of my first drafts really do still stink, but I am so glad to know I am not alone in this and I have found a team to help me move it to the next level.
Like Richard Paul Evans, I too desire to be a solution to the problems going on around me. For that reason, I decided to begin podcasting and blogging stories of hope and motivation. I hope to inspire people to keep hope alive and rebound from their rock-bottom.
Call to Action
If you have been inspired by this article, please share to inspire others, and take action to make the world a better place.