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The Power of Onlyness: Make Your Wild Ideas Mighty Enough to Dent the World Hardcover – August 29, 2017
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“The Power of Onlyness is a book for our times. . . . we wonder if we, as one person amidst [the] din, can make a difference. We wonder if one step will truly add up, over time, to a thousand or a million steps toward progress. The Power of Onlyness says yes, emphatically, and we couldn’t need that kind of encouragement more. . . . Just as Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence, or E.Q., eventually became a widely used phrase describing what was previously thought of as a ‘soft’ personal quality . . . onlyness has the potential to change the way we think about people and the ideas they generate. . . . Merchant is asking us to look less at types of people, as Goleman did, or groups of people, as [Susan] Cain did, and instead appreciate the individual as having a unique perspective that no one else can claim. From that position, your ideas are unique to you . . . . Merchant isn’t calling for a cacophony of voices, disparate and competing. Her book is not about individualism as much as it is about community. . . . Merchant forces us to dig deep, into the book and ourselves, and it goes beyond self-knowledge and self-empowerment, obliterating the fear of otherness with an understanding of the onlyness of us all. The Power of Onlyness calls us to identify what is good in ourselves and to connect with what is good in others so that, together, we can indeed dent the world.”
—Sally Haldorson, 800-CEO-READ (staff pick)
“No longer do we need to worry about how our ideas will be judged. By showing us how to mobilize communities around our ideas, Nilofer Merchant shows us why and how we can elevate the power of our ideas to limitless heights unfettered by conformity.”
—Amy Cuddy, author of Presence
“With The Power of Onlyness, Nilofer Merchant passes all three tests of a masterpiece: 1) memorable stories; 2) actionable insights; and 3) urgent relevance to now!”
—Tom Peters, author of In Search of Excellence
“Merchant discovers her onlyness when she walks out on an arranged marriage. At first, she doesn’t know what to call it but a lifetime of encouraging men and women to summon the best of themselves teaches her how to nurture it—in herself and others. Now we need her empowering work more than ever. Onlyness doesn’t mean you work alone; but you train yourself, sometimes against the odds, to recognize your own value and increase your chance of finding allies!”
—Sherry Turkle, author of Reclaiming Conversation and Alone Together
“With captivating stories and keen insights, Nilofer Merchant urges us to cast aside conformity and embrace our own unique identity and purpose. The Power of Onlyness is a bold, inspiring book that will leave you feeling infused with power and ready to take on the world.”
—Dan Pink, author of Drive and To Sell is Human
“Nilofer Merchant’s spectacular gift is to make tangible what we already feel to be instinctual: the power of the individual alongside the power of a community in the service of one idea can change the world. But Nilofer also explains what may not feel so instinctual: that all of us have the capacity to create change, no matter our social, racial, gender or economic status. This book is one of the most hopeful pieces of writing I’ve read in a long time. Nilofer defines and explains the value of individuality and collaboration in equal measure. It’s a true celebration not just of humanity but of all the possibilities we can accomplish together.”
—Stacy London, style expert, TV personality, and author of The Truth about Style
“For any would-be activists who hear the voice: ‘not me’ or ‘not now,’ Merchant makes the strong case for ‘yes you’ and ‘yes now’—and even shows you how to jump in.”
—Van Jones, host of CNN’s The Messy Truth, author of Rebuild the Dream and The Green Collar Economy
“This is an illuminating book about the context in which great, world-changing ideas emerge and take root, with stories and insights galore.”
—Eli Pariser, co-founder and co-CEO, Upworthy
“The Power of Onlyness is the wake-up call that the world needs so badly right now. It's a reminder that, quite simply, we all matter. That each perspective has inherent value. That each person's unique vantage point is literally a position of power. That each voice matters, and should be used. Be warned: after reading this book, you won't be able to ignore that voice again. You will be compelled to speak up and to use it, in bigger, bolder, louder ways than ever before.”
—Jessica Jackley, founder of Kiva
“An exhortation to raise one’s freak flag, dust off that notebook full of plans and dreams, and set up shop. . . . The best of Merchant’s case studies illustrate the operating principles of cultural difference and the power of persistence in getting things done.”
“Merchant encourages her readers to embrace their uniqueness in this self-help guide for would-be innovators. She begins by asserting the importance of identifying one’s purpose, or what she calls ‘the dent,’ and then tells her readers how to find theirs. . . . Next, Merchant encourages her readers to find ‘co-denters,’ those people who can help you amplify your message. Finally, she urges readers to galvanize others to act . . . Merchant asserts that trust is rewarded . . . and delivers an inspiring message about the power of believing in one’s dreams.”
About the Author
Nilofer Merchant is the author of two previous books and is ranked by Thinkers50 as one of the world’s leading thinkers. She has personally launched more than 100 products, netting $18B in sales, has worked for companies ranging from Apple to Autodesk and advises many others. Her visionary ideas have been recognized by The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Financial Times, Fast Company, Fortune, Marie Claire, Vogue, O: The Oprah Magazine, Harvard Business Review, Bloomberg, CNN, Time, and Mashable. Her 2013 TED Talk “Sitting Is the Smoking of Our Generation,” is in the top 10 percent of TED’s most viewed talks.
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The world has changed. Those of us who thought we had none of those things now have a way to impact, to dent, the world, even if just our small part of it—to realize what we do have to offer—and a way to do it.
The endless list of how-to and self-help books simply provide someone’s cookbook—what worked for them and maybe, possibly, could be—will work for you. Nilofer’s previous books have set the stage for making a difference in this changed world, especially with 11 Rules for Creating Value in the #SocialEra. Drawn from her experience and research, they are, while fantastic, still somewhat prescriptive.
The Power of Onlyness is something very different.
The Power of Onlyness is deeply personal from Nilofer sharing much of herself to the stories she presents as exemplars. Rather than providing another set of steps or a checklist, Nilofer takes us on a self-discovery dispelling the doubts and uncertainties which keep a lot of us from making the dent on the world we want to make. We’re shown a path and the markers along the way to chart a course that only we can travel. She further shows how, in a world which seems increasingly divisive, we can harness our onlyness and the power of others to accomplish our goals. We not only don’t have to do it alone, we thrive when we do things together.
Whether you are an entrepreneur, an intrepreneur, an activist, or need to make a dent in your life’s passion, this is your primer. How-to books offer useful mechanics but start here to understand the most important component is how to bring to bear the genuine you—which only you possess.
Merchant quickly pulls you into the narrative by sharing her own story of transformation, when she walks out on an arranged marriage and how that helped her to define her "onlyness." And while Merchant’s story is unique to her, her bold move is empowering and serves as a metaphor for how everyone of us can discover our own value in our own lives. Merchant weaves in 20 captivating stories that encourage you to embrace your own unique identity and purpose. In doing so, she makes a clear distinction between “uniqueness” (too contextual) and “onlyness,” which only you can define. Unlocking your "onlyness" gives you the keys to take control of what happens to you. Even if you may not be responsible for much of what occurs in your life, you are completely responsible for your reaction to it. Yet in defining your "onlyness," it doesn’t isolate you. Onlyness simply directs you to recognize your own value, so that you are making your own contribution to society.
Indeed, this very notion of collaboration and co-creation, which Merchant introduced in her earlier two works, comes full circle in Onlyness. The magic of "onlyness" is that it fuses individuality, collaboration and what we can accomplish together. You define it and work with others to include your ideas and co-create as part of the larger group that shares your values. Doing this means taking ownership of your ideas and having the confidence to say no to anyone who attempts to define something that is inherently yours. Yet even that which may be inherently yours does not make you perfect; but no one else will value what you bring to the table unless you do. That inherent value and self-acceptance are pillars that define your "onlyness."
The concepts and ideas that Merchant shares throughout Onlyness are equally tangible and accessible. You can’t help but feel empowered to change something while you’re reading the book or when you put it down. As Merchant points out, “We each want to add value and be valued. We need to design systems that enable that.” And it’s urgent that we do it now. Broad parts of our workforce are being underutilized because they are unable to contribute their own ideas, creativity or judgment, Merchant says, and that will only be exacerbated by the automation of many jobs. Merchant provides the road map. We owe it to ourselves, individually and collectively, to act on it.
There are countless pearls of wisdom throughout Onlyness, and likely we will each find different ones that resonate with us. Don’t ignore the footnotes at the bottom of many pages, as I frequently do when reading many other books, for it is there, in Merchant’s book, that you may find even deeper meaning to your "onlyness."