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Rare Breed: A Guide to Success for the Defiant, Dangerous, and Different AND Limitless Mind: Learn, Lead and Live Without Barriers

by Sunny Bonnell and Ashleigh Hansberger, 2019, HarperOne AND Jo Boaler, 2019, HarperOne

Reviewed by Susan Fader, Fader & Associates, Teaneck, NJ, susanfader@faderfocus.com

I have a friend who has created multiple businesses—some of which have been wild successes and others that have crashed and burned. He nurtures an eccentric genius persona. He feels if you were hardwired to be different and chafe at the constrained rules of business behavior, then don’t try to conform. Instead, if you have the drive, then truly embrace and leverage your non-conformity. This will allow you to excel, and instead of being thought of as weird and shunned you are seen as a leader who is given permission to not follow the rules.

Sunny Bonnell and Ashleigh Hansberger, the founders of branding agency Motto, and the authors of Rare Breed: A Guide to Success for the Defiant, Dangerous, and Different, are definitely passionate non-conformists. Bonnell and Hansberger feel that most companies fear the rebel and want “employees to check a good chunk of their real selves at the door.” They believe there is a “rare breed” of individuals for whom “being defiant, dangerous, and different is a gift…(and if) you just decide and act, you can change the world because of it.” A rare breed must have the tenacity to stay the course even when others write them off or tell them that their ideas are absurd. In other words, it is not enough to see things differently, you have to feel passionately about doing things differently.

Not surprisingly, the authors feel very few people fit the true rare breed persona, so why then did they write a manifesto on how to be a rare breed? Well, in part it is a witty, fast-paced tale of how two women in their early twenties, with a vision but no money, no ad agency experience, and lots of missteps, embraced their rare breed personas and started a branding agency that now works for many well-known companies.

The other component of the book is directed to the vast majority of people, while not rare breeds, who spend at least part of their working lives feeling as if they are round pegs trying to fit into the square holes that are corporate rules of how things are done. Rare Breed helps identify how one can, at least partially, buck corporate rules and probably be happier and even more successful.

The authors identify what they feel are the seven virtues of a rare breed—Rebellious, Audacious, Obsessed, Hot-Blooded, Weird, Hypnotic, and Emotional. If the reader’s round peg aligns with at least one of these virtues, the authors have provided a detailed game plan how that personality aspect can be transformed from a negative into a virtue.

While Rare Breed takes a more seat-of-your-pants approach to help you become your better self, Jo Boaler’s Limitless Mind: Learn, Lead, and Live without Barriers takes an approach that is more scholarly and is grounded in neurological science. Dr. Boaler, a professor of mathematics education at Stanford University, feels that at least some of the preconceived beliefs we have about rules (e.g., we should try to avoid making mistakes) and beliefs about ourselves (e.g., I’m not good at math) may be wrong and hold us back from reaching our true potential.

Boaler references multiple research studies to drive home the point that we need to reexamine how we view our strengths and weaknesses as well as the criteria we use to make decisions. Limitless Mind provides the lens for seeing why and how we should do this self-diagnostic. A key component of the book’s thesis is that the brain is capable of learning and growing regardless of age, and that in order to continue to learn we need to drop incorrect beliefs about our ability.

Chapters that really resonate with me are why you should give yourself permission to make more mistakes and how giving yourself permission to change your mind can change your reality for the better. Limitless Mind is full of interesting visuals—everything from kid drawings to charts. It is a fast and interesting read and will help change your mind about how you see yourself.

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