When you talk to highly successful people in any field, one thing stands out. Almost all of them look to books as a source of knowledge as well as inspiration. Some business owners begin each day by reading a business book.
And some even turn to reading for downtime. Recently I heard someone say, “When I’m stuck on what to do, I read a few pages of a a novel. It’s a complete escape.”
I do that too, with murder mysteries. In fact, in my forthcoming kindle book on storytelling for small business, I suggest marketing storytellers can learn from studying this genre. Good marketing stories capture our interest with calculated plot twists. They meet our expectations while being wildly creative.
Finding a good book can be challenging, so I’ll be using some blog posts to share comments on books that are relevant to business marketing. Today’s post focuses on a book that stands out among the many I’ve read this year: The End of Average by Todd Rose.
At first I thought the book would be more self-help, along the lines of, “These Days You Can’t Afford To Accept Yourself Average. You Have To Be Outstanding.” Instead, his message is, “The concept of ‘average’ can be dangerous to your business, education and life.”
Rose’s major points are represented in two of his stories.
Story #1 opens the book with a story from the 1940s, when the US Air Force took measurements of pilots across several body dimensions, such as arm span, waist, hips, neck and shoulders. They used the average of each measurement to build cockpits.
Following a series of air crashes, the Air Force went back and measured thousands of pilots on ten dimensions. Not one pilot even came close to the “average” measurement on all ten. Ultimately, they learned to create adjustable cockpits, with seats, backs and armrests that could be adjusted for each pilot.
Rose concludes this story with a stunning episode of a fighter pilot who saved a plane was nearly destroyed in combat — a small female who didn’t fit the averages.
You can read an excerpt here.
Rose uses body size as an example of what he calls”jaggedness.” Nobody will be average on all dimensions of body size. And nobody will show a personality trait through all situations and activities. I’m very comfortable speaking to groups but I avoid most parties. Some children behave well at home but not in school, or vice versa. So, Rose, suggests, it’s better to say, “I’ve got this personality style in this situation but not that one.”
Rose’s second story fits the category of an origin story. He was such a poor student in high school that his options for college were extremely limited. Bored with classes, he achieved poor grades and was known as a problem to many of his teachers.
When Rose got to college, he decided to figure out how to make academic life work for him. His advisor recommended getting the basic courses out of the way freshman year. But, Rose knew, he wouldn’t do well in boring classes. He needed to build up his study skills with classes he enjoyed. He realized a certain math class would be stultifying, so he found a way to test out of the required math classes.
But Rose also considered his own temperament and quirks. He avoided classes where he’d be seeing his high school friends. He knew he’d slip into his old “class clown” role and become a problem rather than a success story.
Even more remarkably, Rose talked his way into the college honors program. He discovered these classes encouraged free-wheeling discussion — something he enjoyed. And he learned how to pass a critical thinking exam by building on his own analytical style, with diagrams and pictures.
Ultimately, he earned graduate degrees at Harvard. Not bad for a kid whose teachers had given up on him.
These findings can be applied to business as well. How many times have you heard someone say, “I became successful when I realized that the prescribed rules wouldn’t work for me.” And have you listened to someone telling you, “If you don’t [go networking, create a podcast, do a lot of speaking, post to Pinterest four times a day, work 60 hours a week, or … ], you will never be successful.”
Hang around long enough and you’ll find someone who never did those things. They did SOMEthing, but they made the process their own. Maybe they shifted to a new business model to accommodate the way they work. Maybe they adjusted their goals. But ultimately they honored their own uniqueness.
Similarly, saying someone is “a successful businessperson” doesn’t mean they’re successful on all dimensions. They’ve learned to compensate for their weaknesses and leverage their strengths. If you rate them on qualities such as time management, interpersonal skills, perseverance, and technical savvy, they probably won’t score high on all those dimensions. I can’t imagine someone succeeding without strong audience awareness, but I bet somebody out there has done just that.
So that’s today’s book. Where do books fit into your life? Into your business? What are you reading?
And have you thought about writing a book, or worked with clients who do?
If so I can recommend a couple of low-cost resources to start:
Coach Glue has a system to brainstorm all the components of a book marketing project. You start with the back cover blurb, so you’re thinking of your market immediately. They include a creative and very useful exercise to review 10 books in your niche. They then move on to finding the time to write, designing your book cover and planning your launch.
It’s a Private Label Rights offer, which means you can use it yourself or make some modifications and share it with your audience, as a lead magnet or a paid product. It’s a good way to take your first steps toward writing your own book for a very small dollar investment, before committing to a significantly more intensive program. Learn more here.
Alice Seba has an alternative offer, specially priced this weekend, focusing on planning to write and market your next book. This program feature planners and step-by-step checklists, and it’s also available as a PLR product. Learn more here.