Dorie Clark is an Adjunct Professor of Business Administration at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and the author of Reinventing You (Harvard Business Review Press, 2013) and Stand Out (Portfolio/Penguin, 2015). A former presidential campaign spokeswoman, she is a frequent contributor to the Harvard Business Review, TIME, and Entrepreneur. Recognized as a “branding expert” by the Associated Press, Inc., and Fortune, Clark is a marketing strategy consultant and speaker for clients including Google, Microsoft, Yale University, Fidelity, and the World Bank.
My Definition Of Success | To me, success is about fulfilling your potential – whatever that means to you as an individual. The saddest thing in the world is someone who feels like they could have “been more” but never tried to reach for it.
A Key Talent | I have been incredibly persistent. I wrote three book proposals, all of which were all rejected before my first book, Reinventing You, was finally published. I have found new approaches despite professional setbacks, such as getting laid off from my first job as a journalist and working on two prominent-but-losing political campaigns. I think it’s very important not to accept others’ external judgments of you. Just because you’re not succeeding at a given task or in a given job doesn’t mean that you’re a failure. Instead, it means that it just may not be a fit or – perhaps even more likely – other people aren’t properly appreciating you, so you should keep persevering until you find the place where your true talents are recognized. I was motivated by an unyielding faith that I wouldn’t let ignorant people decide my future; I was going to be successful even if it took far longer than I wanted.
The Characteristics Of Success | I read the newspaper every morning and believe it’s really important to be a well-rounded, informed citizen. That allows me to be aware of world trends, make connections between my work and other ideas, and find ways to connect with almost anyone I meet because there’s a ready store of anecdotes and information I can draw from (if they’re from a certain country, I can talk about the news in that country, etc.).
Principles I Live By | I think it’s essential to always do what you say you’re going to do. Promises are your currency as a businessperson – and a businessperson. People need to be able to rely on your word, and it’s extremely important to me to make sure that I follow through on my commitments. Sometimes it may take a while (like writing an article or the like), but I always do it.
Critical Skills I Develop | Probably the most important skill I’ve developed is writing quickly and well, honed when I was a journalist (and was responsible for writing 3500+ words per week). Some people thought that the importance of writing would diminish in the Internet era, but it’s actually the opposite. The ability to craft interesting emails and blog posts that capture people’s attention – not to mention writing books that can share your ideas with a broader audience – is critically important.
How I Use My Mind | I think it’s essential to focus, so every six months, I try to limit myself to three overarching goals. For the first half of 2015, it was 1) trying to make my new book Stand Out a bestseller; 2) growing my email list (with a goal of 20,000 subscribers by the end of 2015); and 3) getting a girlfriend. Those were my only focus areas and represented a simple lens through which to evaluate my use of time. If an activity wasn’t contributing to one of those three goals, I moved it to the back.
Performing At My Peak | I am a major fan of sleep! I don’t in any way accept the machismo of only sleeping a few hours a night; every study in the world shows that cripples your productivity – not to mention makes you grumpier and leads to weight gain. I’ll cut out everything else first before I cut sleep; if I don’t get 7-8 hours per night, I’ll feel off my game all day.
Resources I Use To Stay Inspired | I listen to podcasts all the time – for at least an hour or two per day, anytime I’m doing something physical (cooking, working out, walking, etc.). Some of my favorites are the James Altucher Show, Ask Altucher, The Art of Charm, and my friend John Corcoran’s Smart Business Revolution.
My Future Dreams And Ambitions | I’m very interested in the future of higher education in a world that’s being disrupted by the Internet and globalization. Why should you pay $50,000 per year for an education when MOOCs are free? That’s a really good question and one that universities must answer. One day, I’d like to become a college president so I can roll up my sleeves and help invent the next generation of what a great college education looks like.
Advice On Building Wealth | I always try to live below my means and limit debt. When I bought my condo outside Boston, I bought in an “emerging neighborhood” – meaning that, while it was getting better, there was the city’s largest drug bust nearly across the street from me just a couple of years after I moved in. As a consultant, I know I have variable income and I never wanted to be laid low by cash flow problems. There is real security and comfort in knowing that even in your lean months, you can always pay your bills without resorting to desperate measures. You have to plan for the worst possible financial scenario, not the best one. Living modestly is the best way to give yourself freedom.