In many ways Stand Out; How to find your breakthrough idea and build a following around it, by author and personal brand expert, Dorie Clark, is a natural follow-up to her first book. You can find my review of Reinventing You book HERE.
Picking up where she left off with Reinventing You, Dorie explores and answers the questions we all face after our personal reinventions; Where do we go from here? What do we do next?
Dorie believes wholeheartedly that we all have a contribution to make. But for too long now many of your great ideas have been silenced by the “gatekeepers”.
Fortunately, for us all in this age of the internet, we can bypass the gatekeepers and go directly to the people who need our ideas, who need our unique insights. Yes, I’m talking about you.
As Steve Jobs once said:
“We’re here to put a dent in the universe”
Notice he didn’t say, “I’m here”. Instead, he said, “We’re here”. Each and every one of us has the ability to change the world in some way. To leave a mark, to make a difference.
None of that can happen, however if we don’t choose to Stand Out.
Why Stand Out?
Dorie tells us right from the start that standing out is no longer optional. The world of work is changing rapidly and with it, the axioms of old are disappearing. The “safe” jobs predicated on staying quiet and doing what’s expected of you, are quickly disappearing.
Dorie suggests the best way to protect and advance in our careers is to build a strong professional reputation. By becoming recognized as an authority in our field, we equip ourselves with the tools we need to bounce back should we ever lose our jobs.
Standing out today is easier than ever. And just like Reinventing Yourself, you’ll need to ask some difficult questions and make yourself uncomfortable. You’ll have to put yourself “out there”.
Once you get past this crucial concept, Stand Out provides you with the steps you need to take, one-by-one. Dorie lays it all out in front of us, starting with how to find your breakthrough idea.
Stand Out: How to find your breakthrough idea and build a following around it
FINDING YOUR BREAKTHROUGH IDEA
I love how Dorie starts this section by saying, ”Your voice deserves to be heard.” It’s a powerful notion and one that I still struggle with despite having this blog and a podcast.
But it’s true. In the beginning, you question yourself. To find your breakthrough idea, however, you need to shift your mindset from questioning you to more of a questioning mindset. It’s a key but subtle difference.
Getting past this mindset will help you succeed, but if you’re going to find your breakthrough idea Dorie tell us:
“You don’t succeed by following the rules and thinking exactly like everyone else; You need to as “what if?” and “why not?””
Questions to get you started finding your breakthrough idea include:
- What are others overlooking?
- What questions do “newbies” in this field ask?
- What do people think is impossible in this field?
- What are three upcoming trends in your industry?
- What innovations do you know about that others do not?
- What personal experience have you had that has changed your view of the world?
DEVELOP YOUR NICHE
A lot of people I speak with have this misconception that their breakthrough idea has to be this big, grandiose thing that immediately and forever alters the world; like the release of the iPad. This is not the case.
In fact, Dorie explains “niching down” or narrowing your focus on a topic, at first, can be very powerful. Remember this key point, as long as you know more than the people around you, you’ll be making a real contribution.
Regardless of your idea, the key to finding your niche is to just start. Once you begin to focus on your niche you’ll be amazed where the journey might take you.
If you find yourself stuck ask yourself these questions.
- What topics in your niche do you want to learn more about?
- What book, Websites or podcasts can teach you the most about them?
- Can you test your ideas in low-risk ways? (Write a blog post, conduct a survey, etc.)?
Again, the important thing here to get started. Pick a topic, then expound on your ideas and see where they take you.
BUILDING A FOLLOWING AROUND YOUR IDEAS
Because you have the courage to put yourself out there, to stand out, others will take notice. They will be interested in what you have to say. When you reach this point, Dorie suggests following a 3 step process; One-to-One, One-to-Many, and Many-to-Many.
One-to-One: Build your network
This topic has come up so many times on the podcast, building a network is critical if you want to stand out. It’s also the topic that causes people the most consternation.
Dorie outlines for us the necessary steps to take to build our network, starting with people we already know and who believe in us such as family and friends.
Since they are close to us, they are usually willing to help get the word out about your idea. Getting started is as simple as talking with them about your idea to get feedback.
If they push back, use the opportunity to test your reasoning and get them on board. Their perspective will help you develop and refine your own reasoning.
Building your network outside of family and friends is critical. Dorie provides several examples in Stand Out about people just like you and me, who leveraged and grew their network as they refined and further developed their ideas.
Outside of your family and friends group, other ways to build your network include:
- Creating your own professional development group (think mastermind)
- Conduct interviews with established people in your niche
- Leverage your existing affiliations (Alumni groups, LinkedIn groups)
Remember at this point you are spreading your idea and appealing to individuals. You are focused on expanding your niche viewpoint as well as your personal network.
As you do this, people will begin to recognize you as a thought leader. Your name will begin to be associated with your niche. When this begins to happen, you will be in a place to take your idea to a larger audience.
One-to-Many: Build your Audience
So this is the place where I see many people struggle; not with the concept, but with the execution. Up until this point you’ve been spreading your ideas mostly through word of mouth, in the “safe zone.”
However, to really get the word out to the many, Dorie tells us the two best ways to build your audience is through Social Media and Blogging.
I have written about the benefits of blogging here and here so for this blog, it is well-covered ground. However, if you’re still struggling to get over the technology hump, I suggest you start here.
Dorie explains when getting started with social media, the best tactic is to begin by listening. Follow people on blogs, Twitter, Facebook and other platforms.
Listen to what they’re talking about and how they are presenting their ideas. You will learn by observing.
While social media is key to getting our idea out to a larger audience, we need to use it correctly and in coordination with our blog. Dorie tells us by creating content through blogging you demonstrate your expertise which you can then leverage in both social and traditional media to magnify your impact.
In this way, you are building your audience as you take your idea from one-to-many. Dorie also offers that another great option for getting your word out is to write a book.
Think about this for a minute before you dismiss it. If you’re blogging, listening and participating in social media, interviewing people already in your niche, you have already started to curate and accumulate a lot of great information about your niche.
A book offers you a great way to combine all of your information and learning into a single place.
Many-to-Many: Build a Community
Since the best ideas don’t stay connected to their creators forever, you will want to turn your individual contacts into a community. One of the best ways to do this is to become a connector.
Dorie tells us that:
When you reach this point ask yourself the following questions:
- Which people would most benefit being connected to each other?
- What challenges do they face?
- How can you help them connect with each other?
In addition to being a connector of individuals on a one-to-one basis, the internet now affords us the opportunity to create tribes and places for them to connect on a larger scale.
In order to make all of this happen, there are various strategies you can deploy to help bring your community together and further get your idea out into the world.
MAKING IT HAPPEN
In the final section of Stand Out, Dorie ties together all of the previous chapters to discuss how you can build a strategy to put your thought leadership into practice.
Topics she covers include making time for reflection and how to build time into your schedule for this activity. Dorie also discusses making time for luck.
At some point in your journey, you will begin to explore the possibility of being able to make a living from your passion, your niche, your big idea. This is where your community comes into play.
Some might not be comfortable with the idea of going to their community for compensation. Dorie explains “it’s entirely appropriate to look to your community to help support the valuable work you’re providing”.
You can do this in a number of ways.
- Offering online products
Whichever route you take, none of it will matter if you don’t make the effort. Hard work is mandatory for success. Are you ready to put in the time it takes?
Dorie tells us,
“The vast majority of people will never be willing to make the sacrifices necessary to get to the top.”
Why? Because standing out is not easy. It takes time. You will not as Seth Godin says, be handpicked by Oprah.
Some of you reading this will put in the effort required to make your big idea happen. You won’t be hand picked. You’ll sacrifice and work hard. One day your efforts will pay off but not until you’ve decided to Stand Out.
I can’t say enough good things about this book. Perhaps because Dorie is a hero of mine or maybe because Stand Out summarizes exactly where I find myself today.
Fortunately, for me and others who find themselves in a similar place, Stand Out gives us the blueprint, the roadmap if you will, on where to go next.
If you are looking to expand your reach, get your idea out into the world, Stand Out is a MUST a read.
Reiterating Dorie’s comments at the onset of the book, “Standing out is no longer optional.” Stop trying to fit in. Be different. Be the Waldo in the crowd.
Perhaps Dr. Seuss sums it up best.
“Why fit in when you were born to stand out.”
If you’re ready, go buy Stand Out today and get started.