Randall Payleitner

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Book Review #12: Originals

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These types of books usually run together for me (and you know what I mean by these “types” of books—brain science + psychology + authors mired in research who work in academia). While this one was a bit too long and tried hard to cram too much into one book, it was still well worth the $27 retail price and the multiple pens’ worth of ink I used underlining as I read.

Adam Grant is quite young to have written three New York Times Bestselling books, this was his second of them. His ideas are gold and his ability to connect different seemingly unrelated areas (e.g. women’s suffrage and The Lion King or Martin Luther King Jr. and Nintendo) is impressive.

The idea of this book, as far as I can tell, is to help the reader begin to see themselves as one who values originality. We ought not stifle it, run from it, belittle it, or talk trash about it, or else we’ll be relegated to the bin of history where the Polaroid camera, the Segway, and the video rental store reside.

The three nuggets I’ve shared with others from this book (before I even finished it) were how “Originals”…

  • Manage personal risk: “Managing a balanced risk portfolio doesn’t mean constantly hovering in the middle of the spectrum by taking moderate risks. Instead, successful originals take extreme risks in one arena and offset them with extreme caution in another” (20).
  • Execute ideas: "Rick Ludwin [at NBC] didn’t bet on Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David because they looked or sounded passionate when they pitched their script—or even because they were genuinely excited about their concept for a show. He gave them a chance because he watched them revise their concept and observed their ability to get the execution right” (57).
  • Interact with their enemies: “Our instinct is to sever our bad relationships and salvage the ambivalent ones. But the evidence suggests we ought to do the opposite: cut our frenemies and attempt to convert our enemies… Our best allies aren’t the people who have supported us all along. They’re the ones who started out against us and then came around to our side” (131).

The reality, which I realized as I went back to my notes in the book, is that many of the best tidbits are quotes from other people. However, in the end, it’s worth reading (or at least skimming) to keep up with anyone in your circle who’s already read it and to appreciate Adam Grant’s ability to aggregate good information.

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