5 Lessons on Innovation from Outlander’s Diana Gabaldon

A Creative Force

One of the most innovative people I have ever met is my friend Diana Gabaldon. Last year, her wildly popular Outlander novels became even more popular as the new television series was released. Whether you are reading her Outlander series or her Lord John novels, you will be hard pressed to categorize her writing. Most critics give up and classify her work with a list of descriptive words ranging from historical fiction and romance to mystery and adventure.

However you describe her novels, you may find it even more challenging to describe the author. Diana is equal parts scholar, writer and historian. Mix in a bit of archivist; stir in comic book writing, and the unique recipe begins to take shape.

When I first met Diana, I had not read any of her books. She captivated me by the way she told a story. How she went from college professor to best-selling author was a story I will never forget.

Here are a few lessons I learned from the impossible-to-describe creative force named Diana Gabaldon:

 

Lessons from A Creative Mind

1. Try….why not take a chance? 

It seems that most people have an idea, think they should do something, and then push that dream into a drawer. They never really give it a go.

Years ago, Diana read comic books. She felt the writing quality was declining and that she could do it herself. Have you ever felt that way? You see something and think, “I can do better.” Most of us have. What sets Diana apart is that she didn’t stop there. She investigated. She found out who was in charge and then turned in a submission.

Years later, Diana would take a different chance. She thought that she would like to try writing a novel. That try, what she calls the novel she was writing for “practice,” became Outlander.

What idea have you had that you have left in that drawer? What could you do to give birth to something new?

 

2. Study…for the love of creating.

Long before her mega success as an author, Diana spent years as a university professor.  She has a PhD in Quantitative Behavioral Ecology. She also holds degrees in marine biology and zoology. That type of academic success shows an underlying love of learning.

And it’s that same love of learning she uses in the meticulous research for her books.  Her fiction books are known for their accuracy, and it is no wonder.  Her personal library includes thousands of books. Her Arizona home alone contains over 1500 reference works on topics such as warfare techniques, poisons and history. Some of the topics are very specific, such as the art of passementarie (the knotted tassels on 18th century furnishings) or the 126 books on herbals. If you have been searching for Sam Johnson’s Dictionary (1755) or Captain Francis Grose’s A Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (1811), look no further.

Often people look for the shortcuts to success. You may hear that Diana decided to write a book and then found herself on the NYT list. The truth is that great public success is almost always the result of planting, tilling and working in private.

Diana Gabaldon's bookcase, Used by Permission Diana Gabaldon’s bookcase, Used by Permission

 

3. Fail…and keep going!

The Only Question that Matters in Personal Branding

Managing A Personal Brand

My friend Robert D. Smith is a master of branding and a creative force. For decades, he has managed the career of best-selling author and speaker Andy Andrews.  In addition to his work with Andy, he is regularly sought after by some of the biggest names for his expert advice, creativity, and innovative approaches.

 

“Whether you think it or not, you are a brand.” @TheRobertD

 

Recently, I spent some time visiting with him in his home and office in Tennessee.  Most people know Robert as THE Robert D.  His energy is so intense that, to prepare, I downed a double espresso before our interview.  I shouldn’t have bothered because just talking with him is like plugging into an unending energy source.

In our video interview, you will hear THE Robert D’s advice on building a personal brand.

What’s the number one question that THE Robert D asks himself to know whether a person will succeed?  Drum roll….

Are you coachable?

Interestingly, when I hire an executive, that is also my number one question. Because if you are not teachable, it usually means you are arrogant. If you aspire to serve others, you are always trying to remain coachable.

 

“Winning is defined by the legacy you create.” @TheRobertD

 

Here are a few highlights from our discussion:

  • Anyone can have a personal brand. “Whether you think it or not, you are a brand.” How you look, dress, talk is part of your brand.

Procrastinate on Purpose

Learn How to Be A Multiplier

If you’ve tried all of the tips, tricks, tools, apps, checklists, planners and technology gimmicks to improve your productivity, you may wonder why it is that you still haven’t mastered your time.

 

“Creating the next level of results requires the next level of thinking.” –Rory Vaden

 

My friend Rory Vaden, cofounder of international company Southwestern Consulting, NYT bestselling author of Take the Stairs: 7 Steps to Achieving True Success, says that:

  • Everything you know about time management is wrong.
  • The most productive people in the world do things differently.
  • We need to understand the emotional aspects of time management.
  • We need to learn how to multiply our time.
  • We need to learn how to procrastinate on purpose.

9780399170621His new book, Procrastinate on Purpose: 5 Permissions to Multiply Your Time has just been released. A few weeks ago, I sat down with Rory to talk about his extensive research into time management.

If you want to be more productive, more effective, more impactful – and who doesn’t – Rory’s research will propel you along.

3 Types of Procrastination

Learn about the 3 different types of procrastination:

Leadership Lessons from Over 200 Thought Leaders

ON AIR

Voices of Influence

A few years ago, I launched this blog with the idea of sharing insights, ideas, and inspiration.  It is my hope that the lessons and ideas shared here help you in some way whether that is fast-tracking your career or overcoming procrastination.

When I started, I thought it was worth it if I made a real difference to just one person.

I’m happy to report that at least one person has found it life-changing.  That person is me.  I learn far more by sharing these ideas than you can imagine.  What an incredible experience to have the opportunity to learn from so many people.

Thank you for reading, for commenting, and for sharing these posts.  I appreciate all of you and look forward to getting to know you better in the coming months.

Below are some of the leadership interviews and posts with thought leaders from a variety of fields on numerous topics.  I hope you find one you missed and that it positively influences your year ahead.

 

“The book you don’t read won’t help.” –Jim Rohn

 

 

Leadership, Management & Execution

 

“You will be the same person in 5 years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.” -Charlie Jones

 

Leadership Communication

Tips for New Graduates: How to Start Your Professional Life

Competition In Business

This time of year is full of graduation ceremonies, resume writing and job searches.  It seems everyone is looking for good advice for those just starting a new career.

I recently asked Robert Dilenschneider
  for his advice for those just starting a professional career.  Robert is the founder and Chairman of The Dilenschneider Group, a global public relations and communications consulting firm headquartered in New York City. He is the author of many books, including the best-selling Power and Influence and the newly-released The Critical First Years of Your Professional Life.

 

Find the Right Culture

 

Most job seekers think, “I just want to get a job anywhere” but you point out that finding the right cultural fit is important.  Why is it important to know the culture of the organization you are potentially joining?

The cultural environment of a workplace can be critically important.  If the core beliefs, value systems, and behavior patterns of many of the people one works alongside of differ perceptibly from yours, you will never feel at home, be able to perform at your highest level, and move upward in the organization.  That is just a realistic fact of workplace life.  Taking a job “anywhere” can upend one’s career track significantly.

The Critical First Years of Your Professional LifeWhen you are outside looking in, reading the recruiting materials and looking at the website, how do you figure out the culture?

Figuring out a firm’s culture from the outside may not be easy.  Cultural climate and identity have to be experienced directly.  But asking the right questions of a future employer, or of anyone you may know now working at a particular company, could be very helpful.

Let’s talk about the boss. You say, “Every day when you go into work, you want to determine — quickly — where the match is between your bosses’ goals, strengths, and weaknesses and yours.”  What is a “match” and how do you find it?  How do you create a good relationship and the right fit?

Again, verbal exchanges with your boss or manager are essential.  But colleagues, who’ve been working at a specific job longer than you, can probably be a font of valuable information about the person or persons one reports to — their likes and dislikes and, most importantly, their on-the-job objectives.

 

Work the Grapevine

 

Working the grapevine is not something that most of us learn in school. Why is this so important?