Photo by Fred Kroner: Mahomet’s Tim Lindsey sits in his home beside a stack of books he wrote on sustainability during an eight-month period in 2016. The book was
published in July, 2017, and sold out in two days.
The story is remarkable enough just based on statistical data.
Tim Lindsey had heard the stories about how difficult it is for a first-time author to get a major publisher to accept a manuscript.
“It’s about one chance in 3,000,” Lindsey said.
Nevertheless, he plowed ahead.
He had nearly 3 1/2 decades of experience working with companies such as Exxon and caterpillar, as well as the University of Illinois.
Along the way, he had accumulated enough stories to literally fill a book.
For a time, it appeared the stats were on target.
He submitted his finished work and the reaction from most publishers was the same. They didn’t even say no.
“Nothing,” Lindsey said. “No reaction.”
He was fearing he would need to hire an agent to make this Bucket List item become a reality.
Then, he sent his book to the folks at Routledge.
“I sent it on a Wednesday,” Lindsey said, “and had a contract in my inbox on Friday morning.”
The story gets better.
The book, “Headwinds of Opportunity, A Compass for Sustainable Innovation,” was published on July 16.
“It sold out in two days,” Lindsey said.
He doesn’t have the true perspective on what that means. He hasn’t yet learned how many copies of the book were in the first printing.
This is the time where the late Paul Harvey would interject, “and now, for the rest of the story.”
Lindsey is a Mahomet native and graduated from high school in 1975.
One adult whom he knew suggested he should consider not going to college.
“Coming up through school, I was a slow reader,” Lindsey said. “I had to fight dyslexia.
“Reading is work for me. I don’t do much recreational reading.”
When he took standardized tests where reading was of paramount of importance, Lindsey’s scores were low.
It wasn’t because he had the wrong answers.
“When I had to read passages and answer questions, if they were timed, I never finished them,” Lindsey said.
As he prepared to enroll at Southern Illinois University, he wondered what his future would hold.
“I had my doubts if I could do it,” he said.
The answer is now clear.
Lindsey earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from SIU and, at age 35, started a doctorate program at the University of Illinois.
The author of his book has the title, Dr. Tim Lindsey.
His book was not only popular with those making purchases, but also with people in the academic world.
Lindsey has heard from faculty members at both George Mason University and the University of Michigan that they plan to incorporate some of his material into their classrooms.
In one way, Lindsey is not surprised.
“Most other references on sustainability are philosophical in nature, more like ‘meeting the needs of today without jeopardizing the needs of the future,’ “ Lindsey said.
“My book tries to make it very pragmatic, how do I break that down to principles and logic that will work for me? This book can help improve the bottom line, but also the top line as far as bringing in new business.”
He has been invited to conduct a sustainability workshop in Athens, Greece, in October.
There were indications prior to the publishing date that the manuscript would be well-received.
Publishers asked Lindsey to get endorsements about the book that could be included with the distribution.
“They wanted five reviews,” Lindsey said. “I figured to get that, I needed to send out a lot more.
“I contacted 20 people.”
To his surprise, 17 were so impressed that they responded and wrote positive reviews.
His book goes beyond academic discussions and offers strategic guidance relating how to make any organization function more sustainably while simultaneously improving their competitiveness.
In contrast to other material which deals with sustainability, Lindsey focuses on the topic as an innovation.
Lindsey knows exactly where to trace his desire to write.
“When I was a sophomore in high school, I didn’t have much interest in writing,” he said. “I had Margaret Rinkel (for English) and she did innovative stuff.
“She had a way of connecting.”
Her teachings stayed with Lindsey as he went on to a career where he wrote academic papers and, eventually, his doctorate thesis.
Lindsey took a different approach when he retired from Caterpillar as its first-ever director of global sustainability, and decided to write a book.
He adapted more of a story-teller mode rather than a strict factual recap.
Lindsey had a good starting point.
“I’d done a lot of public speaking and I learned which stories resonated with people,” he said. “Along the way, I thought, ‘If I ever write a book, I’ll include this story.’ “
The idea was good in theory, but making it happen was a tougher challenge.
“The fun part was reminiscing about my career,” Lindsey said, “but I had to put the stories in perspective of time and place.
“I had to research to corroborate the dates. The research was not quite as fun.”
He didn’t take the typical approach to working on his book when he began in January, 2016.
“I started in the middle and worked in both directions,” Lindsey said. “As far as I can tell, I did everything wrong.”
There is, of course, one noteworthy exception.
In a time frame that encompassed about eight months, he finished the writing, research and reviewing.
Dr. Tim Lindsey is now a published author.
There was a reference earlier to the remarkable nature of his venture.
“They didn’t do much editing on it at all,” Lindsey said. “The biggest change was the way I formatted references.”
He’s not sure there will be a sequel.
“I don’t really have any compelling ideas for a next book,” Lindsey said.
“Maybe I could write something in novel form.”
His book is priced at $90 for hard cover editions, $31 for paperback and $17 for an electronic-Kindle version.