I had the pleasure of interviewing Mark Schaefer. Mark Schaefer is an acclaimed keynote speaker, strategy consultant, blogger, and podcaster. He’s a faculty member of the Rutgers University School of Business. Mark is the author of nine books including his latest, “Cumulative Advantage: How to Build Momentum for Your Ideas, Business, and Life Against All Odds.”
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share a story about what brought you to this particular career path?
One of the things I write about in my new book is that success is almost always generated by some random event! I’m no different. At the dawn of the internet, I had an idea on how my company could use the web to buy and sell scrap metal more efficiently. I asked my boss if I could expense an AOL account to try my idea and I became the first person in this Fortune 100 company to have an internet account! Eventually I led the company’s eCommerce function, which led to where I am today as a digital marketing authority and author.
Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?
I’m quite fortunate that interesting things happen to me all the time. But one nice moment that stands out for me is when a young woman came up to me after one of my speeches, and with tears in her eyes told me that my writing had inspired her to pursue a career in marketing. She said “I am who I am because of you.” In that moment, it started to become clear that I was having an impact on people through my work. A very good feeling.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in your journey to becoming an author? How did you overcome it? Can you share a story about that that other aspiring writers can learn from?
I’m probably no different than any other writer who found that the idea of writing a book is intimidating. So many words! Such a commitment!
But it’s like anything in life, the more you practice your craft, the easier it becomes, the more rewarding it becomes. Today, I have a disciplined system to make writing much easier. The best advice I can provide is to come up with a decent outline of what you think your book will be and then let it rest for a few months. Watch for people, ideas, and resources that you could include in the book over that period of time and add that to your chapters. If you do that for 6–9 months you’ll have a book basically fleshed out.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
There are two projects that excite me every day.
The first is my new book “Cumulative Advantage.” The early reviewers of the book have told me that once they read it, they can’t stop thinking about it. I think it will change the way you look at the world forever. That’s exciting to me. The book has a great message of hope. You don’t need a PhD or a million dollars in the bank to create momentum.
The second project is my live event called The Uprising. It’s a small meeting of marketing thought leaders where we discuss the big ideas and what’s next in business. Absolutely the best thing I’ve done in my professional life.
Can you share the most interesting story that you shared in your book?
One of my favorite stories from the new book was how researchers were able to change how people thought about the quality of recorded songs simply by manipulating reviews. The researchers could make a lousy song into a top hit if consumers thought that other people rated it as a hit. Social proof was more important than quality. I think there is a massive lesson there for all of us!
What is the main empowering lesson you want your readers to take away after finishing your book?
“Cumulative Advantage” is a book of hope. Where you’ve been in your life does not have to determine the destiny of where you’re going next. It’s possible to change the narrative and build positive momentum in a new direction if you just follow a simple path in the book.
Based on your experience, what are the “5 Things You Need to Know to Become a Great Author”?
I write non-fiction books so that is my perspective here. My view would be:
1) Be incredibly useful. Solve a problem.
2) Deliver insights, not just information. If it’s just information, you’re writing a blog post, not a book.
3) Add your own story, establish your own voice. To stand out you have to be original. To be original, you have to add your personality. There’s only one you. You have no competition.
4) Writing a great book takes discipline. Work every day.
5) Be humble. My books connect to people deeply because I listen. I add other perspectives and I pay attention to the advice of others. Writing a great book is a collaboration.
What is the one habit you believe contributed the most to you becoming a great writer? (i.e. perseverance, discipline, play, craft study) Can you share a story or example?
Pursuing curiosity. Everybody has great ideas. But only the people who pursue them achieve anything.
Which literature do you draw inspiration from? Why?
I’m inspired by so many but two in particular have impacted my style profoundly. The first would be Malcolm Gladwell. Malcolm is a master storyteller but there is always a kernel of research at the bottom of the narrative to prove his point and win the reader. I’d like to think my style is quite similar.
The second great influence on me is the great American management consultant and author Peter Drucker who was my mentor and teacher. He is always speaking in my head!
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
One of the ideas I present in my book is that we are in a world where we need to re-distribute esteem. When groups of people are under-esteemed it contributes to injustice. During COVID, suddenly teachers, grocery store clerks, truck drivers and frontline hospital workers became our heroes. How do we make that level of esteem happen every day?
How can our readers follow you on social media?
It’s easy to find me and follow me at www.businessesgrow.com. My books, blog and podcast are there.