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!

Leadership Lessons from Over 200 Thought Leaders

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

Leadership Lessons from Over 50 Thought Leaders

People + Books = 1 Changed Life

 

Charlie “Tremendous” Jones was one of my great influencers.  He repeatedly said that, “You will be the same person you are today in five years but for two things:  the people you meet and the books you read.” Every year, I am privileged to have the opportunity to read so many incredible books and meet fascinating people from all walks of life.

Last year, I launched this blog with the idea of sharing insights, ideas, and inspiration from many sources. On the one hand, I’m disappointed that I was only able to share a fraction of all of the people who influenced me. On the other, I’m glad that I started doing it because now, as I look back on it, I’m the one who benefited the most. Charlie was right. All of the books I read and all of the people I met did indeed change me.

Here are a few of the people who shared their experience and wisdom. If I can learn a fraction of what they know, I will be better equipped to lead in the coming year.

Before you start the new year, take the time to meet some of these people and take their leadership lessons with you. Instead of “interview in progress” you will find a “great life in progress.”

Leadership, News & Politics

 

Dan Rather (his life in the news)

Condoleezza Rice (former Secretary of State)

Barbara Simons (on the dangers of new ballot machines)

Senator Bill Bradley (on how we can all do better)

 

Business Leadership, Strategy & Execution

 

John Baldoni (purpose, leadership)

Jill Geisler (Make Work Happy)

Tony Hsieh (CEO of Zappos on culture)

Cynthia Montgomery (strategist)

Jim Huling (on the 4 disciplines of execution)

Geoffrey Moore (how to cross the chasm and rethink the future)

Faisal Hoque (BTM CEO on the power of convergence)

Chris Grivas (which creative style are you?)

Shep Hyken (7 strategies of amazing customer service)

Notes on Creativity and Success from Diana Gabaldon

Diana Gabaldon is the bestselling author of the Outlander series and the Lord John novels. (Outlander fans, she is currently working on the eighth of the series Written in My Own Heart’s Blood. The latest Lord John novel was recently released.) She is a fascinating person with a diverse background.  I’ve known Diana for a few years and, when I visited Scottsdale, I interviewed her about her insights on her successful writing career. I quickly realized that some of her suggestions are applicable not just for authors, but also for all of us.  Here are a few success tips that I gleaned from Diana Gabaldon: