An excerpt from “Double Down.” Copyright © 2019 by The Crown Publishing Group. Excerpted by permission of The Crown Publishing Group. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Don’t Emulate, Originate
Our process of differentiation was also a process of introspection. We were looking inside ourselves to find what made each of us who we were. We didn’t know it at the time, but we were rummaging around in the dark, looking for our superpowers. It took us a long time to find them, but when we really boil it down like kale, Tricia’s superpower is action and Antoinette’s is empathy. Tricia is all about doing, solving a problem and then moving on to the next. And boy, does Antoinette know how to feel for another person, how to identify what people need and want and then help them get it.
Double Down on Your Superpower
Do you know what your superpower is? Let’s put it another way: What’s the common denominator of all your proudest moments? What consistently sets you apart from your peers? What do you do so effortlessly that it can feel like magic?
At the end of the day, whatever you feel magical doing—that’s your superpower. It’s really quite simple. Superpowers are so obvious we often don’t realize we possess them. It’s almost as if there’s a conspiracy out there to convince us we don’t have any superpower, let alone the superpower we do have.
The reason you doubt your powers is because the Status Quo wants you to doubt your powers. Why? Because the Status Quo wants everyone to be the same; it wants everyone to be average, ordinary, rule following. The Status Quo doesn’t believe in individuality and it has no use for subtlety. It’s not your imagination: there really is a conspiracy to make you feel unspecial. F that!
You do have a superpower, and it’s time you started celebrating it. But not just celebrating it, exploiting it. You need to double down on what makes you you. There are too many well-qualified people in the world who either want your job or have the one you want for you not to start cultivating your unique value right now. Just being as good at all the same stuff that others are—whether that’s Photoshopping, pitching clients, telling jokes, or writing copy—will only get you so far. The thing that sets you apart is what will allow you to shine. Understanding, elevating, and playing to your uniqueness is the only way you can stand out from the crowd. By knowing what your strengths are and doubling down on them, you will transmit your worth to the world.
Cultivate The Three Cs: Confidence, Cool, Compassion
• Confidence: Be open to your audacity. If you don’t believe in yourself, you can’t expect others to believe in you either.
• Cool: Hone your cultural intelligence and develop your own unique personal style.
• Compassion: Compassion is rocket fuel for inspiration. Clever might crack a smile or get you in the door, but compassion will up your game.
Don’t Stay in Place, Move into White Space
To us, it was simple: if what’s needed doesn’t exist, create it.
That’s what finding your White Space is all about. We used our skills and passions to create something new, and we changed the social game at Skidmore for our crew and acquaintances in the process. This success gave us lots of confidence to continue to look for our White Space in the years to come.
Finding Your White Space
Now that you know the importance of doubling down on your uniqueness, it’s time for you to locate where you can apply it to the greatest effect—that big open space or empty lane where you’re gonna accelerate your path forward.
It’s time for your superpower to meet opportunity.
It’s time for you to seek out what we call White Space.
White Space is an area of opportunity in your professional or creative life where you can double down on your expertise to make a big impact quickly. White Space is like a mountain that’s never been scaled. And you have what it takes to get to the top and plant that flag!
Finding your White Space can be about creating a new category or inventing something new, like Phat Farm or Moon Juice. Or it can be about reimagining something that already exists but in a different or better way, like Airbnb or Rent the Runway. White Space is where you can put your unique strengths, skills, and talents to work; it’s where you can double down on a problem that no one is solving, a problem that nobody may have even thought to solve. White Space is your place to shine. White Space is where you can rethink what you’re capable of—and bring to the world something that wasn’t there before.
Use classical instruments to play syncopated rhythms and improvised solos—that was jazz. Jazz was White Space!
Attempt to represent one object from all different angles at the same time in a painting—that was Cubism. Cubism was White Space!
Take the one-upmanship of street talk and the Dozens and add in loops from records played on two turntables—that was hip-hop. Hip-hop was White Space!
White Space pushes culture forward.
Keep in mind: there’s nothing in the world more valuable than a problem solver. We learned that early on from Mom—securing those tickets to MJ, transforming her old dresses into our Halloween costumes—and we’ve seen it again and again throughout our careers. Life is full of problems, and if you can find the solution to even just a single one of them, your career will take a giant leap forward. Even coming up with a small improvement to an old way of doing things, or a tweak to an outdated approach, can make all the difference between someone who blends into the background and someone who stands out and gets noticed. And standing out is the name of the game.
Why? Because you have to stand out so you can pull ahead. But to do that you need some room to breathe, operate, and invent. Room to be your best self, your truest self—you know—your unique self. Rocking your uniqueness in the White Space: that’s what’s gonna get you eyeballs, accolades, and Escalades.
Right now, there may be something in your way. Yep, you guessed it. The Status Quo. The Status Quo doesn’t want you to stand out. The Status Quo wants you to stand back. To stay in line. To wait your turn. The Status Quo wants to keep you as far as possible from your White Space.
“Pay your dues,” the Status Quo says. “Follow my lead, put your nose to the grindstone—and then maybe you can get a break!”
Como se dice . . . hell, no! The Status Quo may not recognize your brilliance, but that’s where you’ve got the Status Quo beat. The Status Quo can’t think outside the box. But you can!
Outside that box is where Boss Ladies like yourself will make your mark. It’s where you will draw your X: I was here. Outside the box is White Space.
White Space is where the magic happens. White Space is where you’ll be recognized for who you are, not held back for who you aren’t.
White Space is where you need to be.
Now’s the time to let the world in on what you’ve known for years: you got skills. To do that, you need to find a professional or creative area where you can show off all that you have to offer—and then some. When you apply your unique skills to an overlooked issue, a broken system, or an old problem—or, better yet, when you’re first on the scene to anticipate a problem coming around the corner—you will be unstoppable.
It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do, White Space is like MasterCard: it’s everywhere you want to be.
If you’re running your own business as an entrepreneur or freelancing or making art, you need to find your White Space to prove you’re undeniable.
If you’re working within a big company as an intrapreneur, you need to find your White Space to prove you’re indispensable.
Don’t Inherit Your Tribe, Build It
So take it from us: there’s nothing more important in life than surrounding yourself with people who respect where you’ve been and where you want to go: people who you can do right by, and who will do right by you. People who will push you to be your best self because you push them to be theirs. Your tribe is your elevation—it ought to lift you up. At the same time, your tribe is your gravity—it ought to keep you grounded. Your tribe can be so many things—if you’re willing to double down on it.
Be Active About Your Crew So It Can Activate You
Too many people’s social lives just happen to them. The Status Quo conditions you to think that it’s really hard to make friends, so you’d better hang on tight to the friends you have. That’s not only crazy but totally inaccurate. Whether you’re shy and introverted or love being the life of the party, and whether your typical spot is a quiet coffee shop or a club, you can always find new people who get what you’re about.
See, the Status Quo’s theory of friendship is passive accumulation. This is like those extra blouse buttons that accumulate in that dish on your dresser. You keep them because they are shiny and came with your new outfits—and because you figure they might come in handy someday—but really, they’re just sitting there, gathering dust, because you have them and it feels wrong to toss them out. Those buttons are like your college roommate who you bonded with when you were eighteen and feeling homesick, and your college ladies who held your hair back when you drank too much. They’re like your best work friend from your first job who stuck up for you that time and your best work friend from your second job who you stuck up for that other time; the girl friend you met through your first boyfriend and the guy friend who used to chill with your second boyfriend. Don’t get us wrong: these relationships are all good. Maybe even great. But only if they’re still in your life for the right reasons—and serving a purpose.
Sometimes you may find that people you were once close to are no longer supporting your journey. This can be especially true of your high school and college friends. These are friendships that were forged during transitional times, and it’s normal to feel close to people when you’ve been through a lot together. There’s power in shared experiences, for sure. But sharing is not always caring. While you may remain friends forever, it’s important that these friends allow you to be yourself as you are now, not just take you back to who you were once. Because you may not be who you were, and they might not be ready for who you want to be. You can’t just keep people around you from a vague sense of obligation or guilt or fear if they can’t give you the space to become who you need to be.
That’s why our theory of friendship is deliberate cultivation. You don’t hear much about how you should be deliberate as hell when it comes to friends, but it’s one of the things we’re the most conscientious about. If you’re being vigilant about your skills, your dreams, your work, your time, about what you eat and how much you go to the gym—then why wouldn’t you be super vigilant about who you’re investing your time in?
People are the best investment in your success, whether personal or professional. No one can go it alone. We all want to share our triumphs, and we all want to feel supported when we get beat. Your crew is like a garden: you need to tend to it and eliminate the weeds, and it’ll always give back to you—it’ll always be a thing of beauty.
We look at our friends in terms of these four categories. Sometimes there’s overlap between them, but each group plays a distinct role in your life.
1. YOUR INNER CIRCLE
These are your closest people—siblings, best friends, family, and Aces (more on them in the next chapter). You can call them late at night and text them early in the morning. Their secrets are safe with you, and you’ll have their back no matter what (and vice versa).
2. YOUR CREW
Your crew is your broader circle of friends, your extended web of support, the people who cheer you on, who you feel comfortable relying on. You might not see these people every day or every week, but you always have a big smile on your face whenever you do.
3. YOUR WORK SQUAD
This is who you roll with at work—and after work. These are the people you spend the majority of your days with, the folks you meet through your industry who can relate to what’s going on nine to five (or nine to nine). These people are on the front lines with you, fighting the good fight, day in and day out. You get close with these people. You rise up together—and, when you change jobs, you’re still tight.
And when you’re working around the clock, you need to have someone around who really gets you. You need a work wifey.
4. YOUR BOARD OF ADVISERS
These people are your trusted counsel, the people you consult when you have a big life or work decision. Your board of advisers is made up of anyone whose opinion you respect and value: your Gurus, your Inner Circle, and people in your Crew and your Work Squad—the more people you have on your Board of Advisers, the more people you have to turn to when you need advice. The fact of the matter is, you need lots of people on Team You. You’ll need to stack your bench deep if you’re gonna be a franchise player.
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