Book Review – Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World

Do you have a stack of books you purchased (like two years ago) that you’re excited to read but never seem to get the time?

Yeah, me too.

Today I’m soooo excited I can finally share thoughts from one of those books in my stack:

Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant

I first heard about Originals when current MTNA President-Elect, Karen Thickstun, did a presentation inspired by it at MTNA Spokane 2019 (The Curious Careers of “Originals” and Independent Music Teachers).

Since I’ve always considered myself somewhat of an “original”, my curiosity was piqued and I immediately threw it into my Amazon cart.

In this post, I’ll share brief thoughts on why I love this book, why this non-piano-teaching book can still inspire us in our profession, and a few key-quotes.

 

Why I Enjoyed It and You May Too

The biggest reason why I love this book is that the author, Adam Grant, manages to take what could be boring case studies and research and presents it in an engaging story-driven manner. You’ll read about anyone from Michelangelo to George Washington, Martin Luther King Jr., and (of course), Steve Jobs.

He often debunks common misconceptions about what it means to be a purveyor of change. In eight chapters he covers:

  1. The risky business of going against the grain
  2. The art and science of recognizing original ideas
  3. Speaking truth to power
  4. Strategic procrastination, and the first-mover disadvantage
  5. Creating and maintaining coalitions
  6. How siblings, parents, and mentors nurture originality
  7. The myths of strong cultures, cults, and devil’s advocates
  8. Managing anxiety, apathy, ambivalence, and anger

Often times books give us all of this great information then you’re left trying to figure out for yourself what to do with that information or how to apply it to your situation.

Adam Grant has you covered. At the end of this book, he has an entire section titled “Actions for Impact.” He goes the extra mile and gives you practical applications. Broken into three areas they are:

  1. Actions for individuals to generate, recognize, voice, and champion new ideas
  2. Actions for leaders to stimulate novel ideas and build cultures that welcome dissent.
  3. Recommendations for parents and teachers to help children become comfortable taking a creative or moral stand against the status quo

If you consider yourself an original “thinker” and love growing, learning, and thinking outside the box or you’re looking to grow a music studio and need inspiration for what it means to be a non-conformist, then this book is for you.  

 

Taking Application as Studio Teachers

It really is true that no matter what our profession is, we can learn so much from other areas of life that apply to what we do on a daily basis. This is one of those books.

One of the biggest points I took away as a teacher came out of chapter six where he’s addressing how siblings, parents, and teachers can literally mentor originality – it doesn’t just have to be innate. 

By explaining moral principles, parents encourage their children to comply voluntarily with rules that align with important values and to question rules that don’t. Good explanations enable children to develop a code of ethics that often coincides with societal expectations; when they don’t square up, children rely on the internal compass of values rather than the external compass of rules. (Page 165)

He also discussed the importance of highlighting how what we do affects others. Here are a few examples (pages 170, 169, 166 respectively):

Not this: “Don’t drink and drive.”
But this: “Don’t be a drunk driver.”

Not this: “Please don’t cheat.”
But this: “Please don’t be a cheater.”

Not this: “Hand hygiene prevents you from catching diseases.”
But this: “Hand hygiene prevents patients from catching diseases.”

(The last one is, of course, an ironic example at this point in our history. LOL.)

Children were found to do better when having their character praised rather than simply having their behavior praised.

So, as a teacher perhaps one quick example we could reword would be something like this:

Not this: “That was very creative.”
But this: “You are very creative.”


P.S. I would love for us to all share some examples of how we can turn our praise from behavior to character in the comments!


 

9 Key Quote(s):

I’m sorry, I was really hoping to share just 2 or 3 but I just couldn’t cut them down!

“The hallmark of originality is rejecting the default and exploring whether a better option exists.” (Page 7)

“Advocating for a new system often requires demolishing the old way of doing things.” (Page 13)

“They [originals] feel the same fear, the same doubt, as the rest of us. What sets them apart is that they take action anyway. They know in their hearts that failing would yield less regret than failing to try.” (Page 28)

“When we bemoan the lack of originality in the world, we blame it on the absence of creativity. If only people could generate more novel ideas, we’d all be better off. But in reality, the biggest barrier to originality is not idea generation—it’s idea selection.” (Page 31)

“It’s widely assumed that there’s a trade-off between quantity and quality—if you want to do better work, you have to do less of it—but this turns out to be false. In fact, when it comes to idea generation, quantity is the most predictable path to quality.” (Page 37)

“Many people fail to achieve originality because they generate a few ideas and then obsess about refining them to perfection.” (Page 37)

“Exposure increases the ease of processing. An unfamiliar idea requires more effort to understand. The more we see, hear, and touch it, the more comfortable we become with it, and the less threatening it is.” (Page 78)

“Being original doesn’t require being first. It just means being different and better.” (Page 105)

“In the quest for happiness, many of us choose to enjoy the world as it is. Originals embrace the uphill battle, striving to make the world what it could be.” (Page 242)

 

I hope you will find this book an interesting and inspiring read as I did! You and find it on Amazon or any other place that sells books! 🙂

 


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