Stand Out: A book review by Bob Morris

Stand OutStand Out: How to Find Your Breakthrough Idea and Build a Following Around It
Dorie Clark
Portfolio/The Penguin Group

Here’s a practical game plan for breakthrough personal growth and professional development

Frankly, Stand Out will probably be of little (if any) value to anyone who has no interest in accelerating the progress of their career, in spreading their own vision (if they have one), and in living the life they imagined…if indeed they can imagine a life other than the one they have now.

That said, if you are among those whose career is stalled or deteriorating, I think Dorie Clark has enough faith in what you can accomplish — even if you don’t — to provide the information, insights, and counsel you need to achieve success, however you define it.

Clark wrote this book for people who are eager — or at least willing to give a best effort — to make a difference, to make a substantial contribution, and don’t know how. She immediately challenges her reader: “You have something to say to the world. You have a contribution to make. Each of us has ideas that can reshape the world, in large ways and small…Whatever your issue, if you really want to make an impact, it’s important for your voice to be heard…Few ever try — and that is your competitive advantage. If you’re willing to take the risk of sharing yourself and your ideas with the world, you’re far ahead of the majority, who stay silent. You were meant to make an impact. Now is the time to start.”

In my opinion, Clark does for individuals what Peter Drucker has done for organizations: Help them to identify and then fulfill potentialities in areas of greatest interest and value to them. Of course, Drucker worked with business executives, sharing his thoughts about how they could make better decisions as leaders and managers. And yes, the people that Clark works with, directly or indirectly, have a greater, more beneficial impact on their organizations than they otherwise would…or could. One man’s opinion, I think Drucker thought in terms of institutions, primarily, such as an orchard, nursery, meadow, or garden; Clark seems more inclined to think, primarily, in terms of individual trees, bushes, plants, and flowers.

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Clark’s coverage:

o Becoming a Recognized Expert (Pages 2-6)
o Making Thought Leadership Happen (10-13)
o What Assumptions Are We Making? (19-23)
o Your Niche: (34-49)
– Finding it
– Focusing on it
– Creating it
– Distinguishing Yourself in it
– Developing it
– Expanding it

Note: Clark’s discussion of a person’s niche reminds me of a portion of Cathy Guisewite’s commencement speech at Michigan twenty years ago: “Take the classes, the friends, and the family that have inspired the most in you. Save them in your permanent memory and make a backup disk. When you remember what you love, you will remember who you are. If you remember who you are, you can do anything.” I think it is also important to remember who you aren’t.

o The Power of Research (52-57)
o Find the Hidden Story (57-61)
o Learning from Other Fields (69-73)
o Seeing Differently (76-80)
o Create an Overarching Network
o Creating Your Professional Development Group (102-105)
o Growing Your Network Through Interviews (106-113)
o Leveraging Your Affiliations (114-119)
o The Power of Blogging (124-131)
o Write a Book (140-146)
o Build a Connector (150-154)
o Create a Tribe (158-165)
Note: Seth Godin has a great deal of value to say about this in one of his bestselling books, Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us (2008).
o Making Time for Reflection (176-179)
o Making the Effort (193-198)

This book is the result of all that Clark has learned from her wide and deep background. Keep in mind that she is the author of Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future (Harvard Business Review Press, 2013) as well as Stand Out. A former presidential campaign spokeswoman, she is a frequent contributor to the Harvard Business Review, Forbes, and Entrepreneur, and the World Economic Forum blog. Recognized as a “branding expert” by the Associated Press, Fortune, and Inc. magazine, Clark is a marketing strategy consultant and speaker for clients including Google, Microsoft, Yale University, Fidelity, and the World Bank.

She is an Adjunct Professor of Business Administration at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and a Visiting Professor for IE Business School in Madrid. She has guest lectured at Harvard Business School, the Harvard Kennedy School, Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, the Wharton School, the MIT Sloan School of Management, and more. She is a frequent guest on MSNBC and appears in worldwide media including NPR, the Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. You can follow her on Twitter @dorieclark and download her free 42-page Stand Out Self-Assessment Workbook.

I realized long ago that attitude is altitude: How high and far a person “flies” depends almost entirely on how determined they are to succeed, how willing they are to invest the time and effort as well as patience that are required. If that describes you, read and then re-read this book. Getting Dorie Clark involved in your life may be one of the best decisions you ever make.

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