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November 18, 2015
Latter-day Books
Disrupt Yourself Applies Business Model to Personal Progress
by Laurie Williams Sowby

Readers may be familiar with the concept of disruptive innovation, a successful strategy proven by Clayton M. Christensen in the context of the business world. But Whitney Johnson takes it another step with Disrupt Yourself, applying the concept to human beings, especially those interested in moving forward in a new direction.

Subtitled Putting the Power of Disruptive Innovation to Work, the book is also somewhat of a follow-up to her Dare, Dream, Do: Remarkable Things Happen When you Dare to Dream (Bibliomotion 2012). Disrupt Yourself is similarly replete with real-life examples of people from business and industry who demonstrate how disruptive innovation leads to success.

The author, who herself jumped from a piano degree to Merrill Lynch equity analyst to a boutique financial investment firm, is good at explaining what disruption feels like because she’s lived it. More important, she’s witnessed the fruits of it.

“Self-disruption will force you up steep foothills of new information, relationships, and systems,” Johnson writes. “The looming mountain may seem insurmountable, but the S-curve helps us understand that if we keep working at it, we can reach that inflection point where our understanding and competence will suddenly shoot upward.” Overcoming the fear factor can pay off in both career and personal life.

In a conversational tone that speaks directly to the reader, Johnson elaborates on seven variables that can accelerate or slow down the movement of individuals and organizations who want to progress: taking the right risks, playing to your distinctive strengths, embracing constraints, battling entitlement, stepping back (or down, or sideways) to grow, giving failure its due, and being discovery driven.

For instance, she says of the general aversion to constraints, that constraints offer structure, and she has become “a reluctant believer of the power of working within limits.”

Here’s more food for thought: “Learning is not linear, but exponential: there is a cumulative and compounding effect. If you do something disruptive today, then the probability that you can be disruptive tomorrow increases. Momentum creates momentum.”

Perhaps my favorite quote in the entire book is one that speaks to me: “So for the risk averse who are trying to convince themselves to try something new, the trick is not to focus on what will be gained by venturing forth, but to instead focus on what will be lost by standing still.”

I can think of all kinds of ways to apply that one.

Thanks, Whitney Johnson, for a readable, sensible book chock full of stories and advice that can nudge us forward in whatever endeavor and at whatever age (Bibliomotion 2015, 224 pages in hardcover, $24.95).

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