Published by Viking Adult on February 2, 2016
Genres/Lists: Career, Non-Fiction
Length: 10 hrs, 7 mins
Read synopsis on Goodreads
Buy the book: Amazon/Audible (this post includes affiliate links)
Note: Although this is non-fiction and there’s no plot to spoil, I do discuss topics contained within the book.
When I was in elementary school we were tasked with inventing something. This was before everyone had a computer and well before smartphones so I’m sure some of our inventions would seem benign now but I remember being very certain that my idea would take off and make me millions. Obviously, that didn’t happen, but a small part of me has always wondered what if? If you have ever wondered what it takes for an idea to take off or how inventors convince others to give them millions in investment dollars, then Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam M. Grant is for you.
What I liked about this book is that it’s both practical and informative. He starts out by discussing the habits of the every day person and the highly creative and successful entrepreneurs. The regular worker like myself might be interested to know that employees who use Firefox or Chrome remain in their jobs 15% longer than those with Safari or Internet Explorer and were less likely to miss work (I quickly switched back to Chrome), while entrepreneurs would do well to keep their day jobs because they are 33% less likely to fail if they pursue a startup while holding down a job. Grant then jumps into the practical advice for the budding creative, drawing on the real-life success stories of WarbyParker.com, the viral content of Upworthy.com, and the stunning failure of the Segway, discussing the reasons for their respective outcomes.
One of the most interesting sections of the book was the analysis of birth order and success. As the oldest of four girls, I was thrilled to learn that first borns are more likely to win elections, Nobel prizes in science, and climb the corporate ladder. Given that I’m over the age of 30, I was equally disappointed to learn that my advantages tend to dissipate after age 30. On the flip side, younger siblings are more likely to take risks and eschew conventional jobs, which can result in incredible successes. For example, some of the most popular comedians and highest base-stealing baseball players are younger siblings. Then again, as the oldest, I use this rationalize the fact that if it weren’t for older siblings, younger siblings wouldn’t tend to have these traits, so really we can claim a portion of that success for ourselves. Right?If you're trying to find the key to YOUR success, then read #Originals by @AdamMGrant today. Click To Tweet
Equally interesting was the discussion about how creators find what works. Most wildly successful ideas were not ah-ha moments. Rather, they came from the longterm traits and habits of creators that helped them to eventually succeed. It’s a lot like throwing a bowl of spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks – the more ideas you have, the more likely one is to be successful. For someone who always has a million things on her mind at a time, I find comfort in the fact that my next great idea may already be written down in a notebook.
In hindsight, I have to admit that it’s easy to get discouraged by this book. We live in a world where managers are notoriously bad at predicting the success of new ideas, focus groups fail because of their inherently critical nature, and where women are still considered primary caregivers, which has historically prevented us from being in the boardrooms, even though we are, overall, better at predicting success. To complicated matters, we usually don’t even know when we have a good idea – Beethoven was terrible at predicting his own success even when he solicited feedback.
But once I set the pessimism aside (which could be due to my being a risk-averse, firstborn), I realized Originals is a fairly hopeful book, especially because it doesn’t define success for you. Most books of this nature have a very specific goal in mind and I expected this one to be very business-focused, but I was wrong. The advice in Originals can be applied to artists, developers, entrepreneurs, or writers. It’s also nice to know that having a bunch of ideas at once, procrastination, and passion are drivers of success (even Lincoln finished the Gettysburg Address the morning he delivered it). We are our own worst enemies, but if we can identify the qualities and habits in ourselves that hold us back, then we can overcome them.
Recommended for: Fans of Malcolm Gladwell’s “big ideas” books and anyone who is curious about how to turn thought into action while understanding the forces at play.