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Why I wrote a book

4 min

A return to the self-help aisle

They say life doesn't come with a manual. I beg to differ because I believe that books are our blueprints.

From how to cook healthy dinners to how our brains work, someone who has studied and/or worked in it and been there, done that has written a book about any given subject. We can learn how to do things and how to be through reading. While not all books are direct operating manuals for living on earth and being human, we can read anything and consider something new: a new perspective, fact, reflection, challenge, skill, or direction. These bodies of written work can serve as guides, templates, and examples of our present interests and future selves.

My earliest memory of being enthralled by a book was in second grade when I checked out an American Sign Language book from our school's library at least half a dozen times. I still remember a few signs. Later years saw devotion to fiction courtesy of Nancy Drew Mystery Stories and The Baby-Sitters Club. I didn't read many books in high school (apparently too preoccupied with teenage angst and activities), but I loved spending time at Barnes & Noble in my local shopping district. Between going to the movies and getting burgers and ice cream, I weaved my way through the bookstore aisles, led by curiosity: what did I want to learn about today? What would I read if I were to sit down right now and dedicate an hour or two? There were cool art books, books on human behavior, books that introduced me to the joy of traveling…anything and everything was available.

Dymocks bookstore in Adelaide, South Australia

One particular aisle drew me in the most: Self-Help (it has since rebranded to Personal Development, Personal Growth, or Motivation). I'd enter with caution, feeling self-conscious because, according to the TV and movies I saw then, the self-help section was for old, sad, and lonely people who sobbed as they read their page-turner. I was neither old, sad, or lonely, but I was curious about what was inside these books that "helped" people. Titles ran the gamut from heeling deep heartache from breakups and death to learning discipline and being your happiest self. What could be so bad about people wanting to improve their lives? Their hearts? These books seemed positive and powerful to me, not sad or worthy of mockery. 

My first foray into the category was with Chicken Soup For The Teenage Soul. I remember being so moved and inspired by real people's stories with lessons, insights, and expressed feelings I could learn from. If this was "self-help," then I wanted more. I entered college, and my more turned into books on business marketing and entrepreneurship. I was newly career-focused, and since I now understand that entrepreneurship and personal development are two sides of the same coin, the business genre interest tracks very well. Flash forward to my late thirties, and I'm swimming in an overflowing list of "Motivation" books to read and a growing personal library. I'm back, and I'm all in, baby. 

Barnes & Noble in Raleigh, North Carolina USA

Finding my way back to the literal and metaphorical self-help aisle is why I felt compelled to write OPEN: Big Lessons in Small Retail and Living the Shopkeeper Dream; I recognized the value that other people's stories and knowledge have brought into my life. OPEN is the book that I wish I had read before launching and while operating my store; it's not just another "how to start a business book." It is less about the how-to build and more about how-to be — less of a pragmatic checklist for paperwork and more of an internal check-in of the heart. While I offer practical advice on the elements of running a small retail store, I mainly share my Shopkeeper journey with a focus on the most essential element of a store: the Shopkeeper behind it. OPEN is a blend of entrepreneurship and personal development because when we open a business, we open ourselves up to personal growth.

After I closed my store, I felt like I had a blueprint: a personal collection of stories and experiences for being a shopkeeper/entrepreneur and evolving with a Shopkeeper Dream. With millions of books out in the world, my blueprint may not be for everyone, but it may be just what someone needs to read to follow their dream of opening a store. Something in my book may give someone permission to close their store and move on to new dreams. Or someone who is a customer of small shops may be curious about the experience and the perspective.

Maybe, just maybe, my book will add to the collective library of lived experiences and shared knowledge, ready to inform, delight, and inspire. Opening (and writing) a book opens up a world of possibilities. 

Open: Big Lessons in Small Retail and Living the Shopkeeper Dream is available worldwide >>>

A blurry and beautiful moment seeing my book on the shelves for the first time, and in the Personal Development section! Thank you, Matilda's Bookshop!


Ana Maria Muñoz, Author of OPEN: Big Lessons in Small Retail and Living the Shopkeeper Dream

A birthday homecoming

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