Dr. John David Long sat in his office at William Woods University on an upper story of a turret-like portion of the building boasting a brilliant easterly view.
It takes many steps to get up there, but that's where he takes students on a journey of possibilities. His job is to help graduate students with researching and writing their dissertations — a daunting task, but one Long said he enjoys.
"I am passionate about teaching a new group of people what I can," he said Tuesday. "Can I help people write a dissertation? Yes, I'm good at that "
Long, 55, came to WWU last year as associate professor of education and chair of Doctoral Studies. Now, he has taken a new step that will hopefully widen his ability to communicate with many people who live just about anywhere.
He has authored an allegorical book presenting five problems people find in the course of their careers from beginning to end.
"FABLE: A Story of a Career Spent Gaining Wisdom," is on amazon.com in Kindle and printed formats. It's orange cover, he said, stands out on bookshelves among the typically blue educational tomes, and it's covered in zeros and ones — binary code.
"Part of the book deals with computers," Long said. "I had to design my own cover, and I just wanted that color."
Long said people often remember helpful advice better when it's presented in allegorical form: Parables, stories, lessons, fables.
"I wanted to write a book like that," he said.
Long has spent much of his life educating and being educated between Missouri and Georgia, although he said he was born in Nebraska. He also served time in school administration, including being superintendent of a very large school district in Georgia, and superintendent of schools in Macon and Warren counties in Missouri.
He came to WWU from Lindenwood University where he also served as chair of the doctoral program in the Education Leadership Department.
"In my life, I have helped people in their careers, be they rookie teachers or experienced," Long said.
His new book is the story of a young college graduate, Jordan, who secures his first job after college at a company called Franchise Amalgamated Blended Large Enterprise (FABLE). While Jordan is ready to take the world by storm, he encounters five challenges shared by many individuals in their professional and personal lives.
Those challenges are:
Starting a career
Speaking truth to power
Finding the right career path
Asking for help, and
Knowing when to walk away, even from success.
"Jordan goes to seek advice," Long said. "He says, 'Just tell me what to do.'"
But his mentor knows there is a better way, and told Jordan a story instead, one that would stick with him in the same manner the alphabet song sticks with people their entire lives.
And so the book progresses.
"There are some semi-returning characters and problems, and recurring language," he said.
Long added he admired the way some stand-up comedians set up a punchline in the beginning of a performance and wind up back at the same point at the end: Full circle.
"In the end, this book is sort of an outgrowth of my career experience in an effort to help people with problems when I can't be there to help them," Long said. "I also hope (the readers) start to look at other experiences and their own life knowledge."
He foresees even one of his grandchildren stuck at some point in the future reading this book and gaining encouragement from it.
"I tried to sit down and think about problems that were almost universal in people's careers," Long added. "If I've really done my job well, they'll go, 'I remember that time you said '"
Long talked about some of the people in his life who made a difference.
"There was a gentleman in Columbia, a teacher, Paul Taylor," he added. "He said doing just enough isn't good enough. You need to push for your own self and the benefit you bring to others. You need to push."
Another man, Rick Baer (who lives in Jefferson City) inspired Long, he said.
"I learned something about compassion for people from him," Long added. "There was a time our family needed some financial health in the ninth grade, and he organized that."
Long said his own brother, Jim, who is director of the IT department at WWU, also inspires.
"He's an author," Long said. "He told me, 'Stop telling people about your book and go write it.'"
Long said he hopes his book is successful and sells a million copies — but he mostly hopes it will help people create value in their lives.
"If people read it and find value that's great; then it was worth the money they spent to buy it or check it out at the library," he said.
To sum it up, people know the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. But he said he's cognizant not all people are starting at the same place.
"Your journey begins where you are," he said.