Mark Schaefer Cumulative Advantage Book Review

How changing the stories you tell can radically boost your business results – Podcast 32

Mark Schaefer Cumulative Advantage Book Review

If you’ve ever wondered how come some people can manage to achieve amazing momentum and results for a given business idea while others pursuing fairly similar ideas can’t and don’t…

…You’re going to love my recent interview with personal branding expert, keynote speaker, educator, blogger, podcaster and author Mark Schafer about his brand new book Cumulative Advantage – when he spills the beans on how the stories you tell yourself and others about ‘how things could be’ can dramatically alter both:

✅ How confident and strongly you feel about what you’re trying to do, and  

✅ Your ability to have your ideas more widely and rapidly heard, believed and actioned.

How to harness the power of stories to change lives (including your own)

Lean in as we discuss:

  • Why it is so challenging to win visibility for new ideas and stories online and offline today and how come working super hard isn’t enough to guarantee success
  • 3 Truths that matter as you try to get your visions about ‘how things could be’ off the ground
  • What to do when the stories you pursue hit setbacks and confidence gets knocked
  • How recalling what his 5 year old daughter said to him years ago helped Mark to reframe stories he now tells himself after COVID walloped his business and health
  • How choosing to create ripples and to send more elevators down for others can have a game changing effect for other people’s stories and your own
  • And more

Ready to upgrade your storytelling impact?

To learn how I can help you to find, hone and polish more inspiring stories, email or arrange a quick consultation call with me below

Interview Transcript

I’m joined today by one of my all-time favourite writers on all things personal branding – he’s a keynote speaker, a marketing consultant, an author, and a wonderful human being…Mark Schaefer, welcome.

The reason I was so keen to chat with you is I want to talk about the importance of the stories that we tell ourselves and the stories that we tell others about how things could be. And you’ve got a new book called Cumulative Advantage – which is a perfect feed for that particular topic.  Can you tell people a little bit about what that book is about and how it might help people to maybe think differently about what they might achieve?

Well, the problem I solve with this book is the problem faced by every marketer and really every business person in the world right now…

…We’re all struggling with one question: How can we be heard? And that is getting increasingly difficult in this world as we face this tsunami of competition and content that’s coming at us every day. And even if we’re doing great work, even if we’re great…It just doesn’t seem like that’s enough anymore. We’re still getting buried.

Well, I’m not the kind of person that just thinks “Oh well. Life is hard, we’re getting buried, let’s move on.” I get obsessed with figuring out what do we do? What is this countervailing process, this action, that we can take to transcend this issue? And I think part of the solution, at least, is this idea of momentum.

Even if you’re doing great work and you’re just not getting to that next level…How can we build momentum – even against the odds, even with a standing start – and make gains with our business, our brands, our lives and ideas? And this led me down a rabbit hole to discover what is momentum? What is momentum?

And there’s actually a lot of sociological research that started in the 60s about this but it hasn’t really been applied to our lives and our business in a practical way. And that’s what I do in cumulative advantage.

Yeah. I think one of the things that particularly struck me…well, maybe three or four things… and maybe I’ll just ask you to share your insights, thoughts and any stories you care  to put out –  You provoke a lot of thought and question about how we establish whether we’ve actually got a spark of an idea that has legs. What did you realize, what did you learn and what would you suggest people might think about in terms of the picture of how things could be?

Well. What I love about this book is that it’s truly a book of hope,  because what you learn is: there’s no real secret sauce to creating momentum for your ideas, your life and your business. That there’s a pattern and a process that is accessible to anyone. And I think one of the eye opening ideas in this book is that almost every successful person and every successful business started with a random event.

That sounds really strange. But when you start to think about it if you compare “OK. Here’s where I am right now in my life, in my career. Here’s where I was ten years ago. How did I get here? Was it because I had a vision, a strategy, a plan…Or was it because I was in the right place at the right time, or I met someone who inspired me or encouraged me, I read a new idea in a blog post, I read this book and I decided yes that’s what I wanna do? I sat beside somebody on a plane and they gave me an idea for a new business?

There’s compelling research behind this that shows success, momentum, begins with this random spark. And if we peruse spark that’s the beginning of momentum. And it’s something that anyone can do it. I love that about the book, that there’s nothing in this book that’s not accessible and doable by anyone. You don’t need money in the bank, you don’t need a Harvard education…As long as you sort of follow the ideas in the book, there’s hope for progress.

Yes. I think  that’s how I would characterize it. I was just thinking as you were talking there about, you know, finding this spark and then actually setting off after this…And then I was thinking about, is it Mike Tyson the boxer who used to say that “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the nose!”  So. You give some thoughts and suggestions and advice on overcoming limiting belief through constancy. Why is that so important? What does that do for a body? And examples again would be fabulous.

Well one of the problems with growing momentum is that we tend to panic when things go wrong. And things always go wrong. And I think we need to be smart. We need to be aware of the circumstances. We need to be aware of the situation. But it’s not a time to panic and lose sight of what created our momentum in the first place.

It’s what Jim Collins calls the doom loop. You just start grabbing at straws and it gets worse and worse. And then you’re in this place and you’re just thinking: What have I done? Why have I started this business in the first place? So this is particularly important now in this pandemic – which is something that went really, really wrong for just about everyone, including me.

Look I was in a place, a meltdown place. I had this condition called hypoxia – where I  wasn’t getting enough oxygen to my brain. I couldn’t concentrate. I couldn’t focus on anything for about 3 weeks. And when I finally started to get out of this haze, I realized that my business was gone.

I was a speaker without a stage, without a class…and a consultant without any customers. And I went through a sort of an existential crisis – where I had to think about: Where do I fit in the world right now? What do I do?

And I realized that my spark, my initial advantage, is that I’m a teacher.

When my daughter was a little girl…one time she was doing her homework and I was helping her. And she said “Daddy, you should be a teacher”. At that point I was a marketing executive.  And she said “You should be teacher. Because when I’m in school, I don’t understand this. But when I come home and you explain it to me, I understand it. You explain things really well”

And it really, it had always been in my heart. I figured I would spend the end of my career teaching at a University or something.

So, here I am in disarray in this pandemic, disoriented. And it took three days to remember ‘I’m a teacher’. Yes. I’m a teacher in everything that I do – if I speak, if I write, consult… I’m a teacher.  But the world needs me to teach something different right now.

And so I stopped really writing about all of the marketing ideas and I started talking about how do we deal with disorientation. How do we deal with uncertainty? What are the things that we should be focusing on right now?

I started creating blog posts. I started doing Facebook lives every day – encouraging people, just talking to people, being available– trying in this situation to be relevant. Ao when I saw people who were struggling, suffering…I’d say ‘Call me up”. And someone told me: Mark you’re better than a therapist! And I thought “Dude, you need a better therapist!’

So, it is a matter of being in tune with what’s your initial advantage. What is it? What is the spark that keeps you going? What is your core competency? And don’t lose sight of that, even in a crisis.

Actually, that lends itself nicely to one of the core things I took away from this which is about the importance of not just being a cheerleader for yourself but also finding others through whom you can build momentum. What did you learn as you wrote this book about, if you like, bringing others with you?

Well. The problem I faced…and it was the greatest writing challenge I’ve ever had…was how do I end this book? Now that we know that momentum begins with this initial advantage that we have, this pattern, these five steps in the book, that we know creates momentum…Now. How do we use that to change the world in a little way?

What can a single person do to use this to help others? And it took me 3 months to write that last chapter. And I sent that thing to, I don’t know. So many people…because of just the the anxiety, the fear in me – wading into this new area that was ,you might call, traditionally out of bounds for me. And I think I nailed it.

And the core concept is that we know that momentum begins with a spark and we have unlimited ability to create a spark in others – it could just be a word of encouragement, it could be opening and/or making an introduction. Just helping people get over that hump. It’s gonna set them in motion in a new way ,in a positive way…and that can send a ripple through the world. That can send a ripple through history. And that is something any of us can do. It’s accessible to anyone. We don’t need billions of dollars of government funding. We don’t need complicated corporate programs.

It’s just by starting…by taking one step forward and sending sparks the other direction, sending the elevator down to somebody else – taking a  position, you know, that can literally change the world in amazing ways.

Well, that’s a fabulous way in which to kind of round out this conversation – because I couldn’t agree more with this notion of encouraging, of helping, of supporting and sometimes not even realising that you are the one who’s putting a ripple out that can be so transformative.

Mark I am so pleased that you were able to join us for a few moments today. And folks you will find a link for Marks fabulous new book – which is called Cumulative Advantage –  in the links below.  And for people who’d like to know more about what you do, where they should they go Mark?

It’s quite easy to remember, its – you’ll find my blog is there and I have a podcast called the marketing companion. And of course you can find my books, including cumulative advantage.

Exactly. Well folks can I just encourage you to beat a path to your local bookstore or to Amazon and get a copy of cumulative advantage. It’s a super duper read and you will not be disappointed. Mark, thank you as always.

Thank you, my pleasure.


your next steps

Discover how to share stories that motivate and persuade

Arrange a business speaking consulation today!

arrange a consultation
Work with Eamonn O'Brien Today

Stop procrastinating.
Start speaking memorably.

If you’ve ever wished to be a public speaker who inspires, now is the ideal time to get started.

get started now
Call +353 1 531 1196