The Power of Finding Your “Onlyness” with Nilofer Merchant

I first encountered Nilofer Merchant’s work through her 2013 TED talk, “Sitting is the Smoking of Our Generation.”

I then had the opportunity to meet her last year after her keynote presentation at the 3% Conference in New York where she laid out her passion for “The Power of Onlyness,” which happens to be the title of her most recent book. The sub-title of the book, “Make Your Wild Ideas Mighty Enough to Dent the World,” is what we talk about in the most recent episode of my podcast, “The Creator’s Journey.”

Nilofer is personally responsible for launching more than 100 products, netting $18 billion in sales. She has held executive positions at Fortune 500 companies including Apple and Autodesk as well as with startups in the early days of the web. She continues to serve as a consultant and advisor to numerous companies including Logitech, Symantec, HP, and Yahoo.
She is also an avid hiker and wilderness backpacker as well as a lover of all-things-bacon and of dark-chocolate-covered-orange-peels, especially when they’re eaten in France!

Nilofer begins her book with her own story of being disowned by her family when she refused to go along with an arranged marriage but instead pursued the educational path that has taken her to where she is today.
“Out of that experience, I learned that until you claim what matters to you, you can never live out your life’s purpose.”

Onlyness is honoring each person for occupying that spot in the world where only they stand. “Your onlyness is a function of your history and experience, but also your vision and hopes.”

Most of the time when we seek change, we’re actually seeking capitulation. “It’s a model of power and control where I have my foot on your throat. Real change only happens when you seek the same thing I seek, without any coercion.”
“As long as we’re fitting in, we’re giving up our onlyness. We need to be able to walk away and build a new thing. Each of our “onlys” is beautifully normal in and of itself. You have to go seek out the other people with whom you share a common purpose.”

You can hear my conversation with Nilofer here.