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Speed Review: Breaking Out

Speed Review: Breaking Out

Speed Review: Breaking Out

How to Build Influence in a World of Competing Ideas

by John Butman

In Breaking Out, idea developer and adviser John Butman shows how the methods of today’s most popular “idea entrepreneurs”—including dog psychologist Cesar Millan, French lifestyle guru Mireille Guiliano (French Women Don’t Get Fat), TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie, and many others—can help you take an idea public and build influence for it.


Cut Through the Noise and Get Your Idea Out

How do certain ideas, and their creators, cut through the overwhelming clutter of today’s turbo-charged information age and not only become noticed, but acquire worldwide fame? How did, for example, a French executive become the worldwide expert on joie de vivre? How did a poor Mexican immigrant leverage the task of training your dog into global celebrity — not to mention millions of dollars?

The answer, according to John Butman in a new book called Breaking Out, is not an overwhelming desire to make millions of dollars. The recurring example in his book is of individuals who rode an idea to fame — from author and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson to a wealthy family that downsized their lives to help the poor — and were not interested in becoming famous or rich. What sets them apart, according to Butman, is that at some point in their lives they became fascinated with a concept, idea or activity, and this started them on an upward path through what Butman calls the ideaplex — which he describes as the vast "profusion of activities, channels, structures and technologies for the creation, distribution and consumption of ideas... ."

As a poor child in rural Mexico, for example, Cesar Millan established a rapport with the dogs that ran wild around his village; this rapport caused him to be nicknamed El Perrero — "the dirty dog kid." Eventually, Millan would become the world-famous "dog whisperer." Mireille Guiliano’s brief battle with weight as a teenager would later inspire her idea that taking joy in life and food is better for you than miserable diets — as she explains in her best-selling book French Women Don’t Get Fat. But in contrast to Millan, who focused his entire life on dog training, Guiliano had had a long, successful career as an executive before she wrote the book and became a full-time idea entrepreneur, as Butman calls those who have an idea and successfully spread it around the world.


It’s one thing to become fascinated with a topic, but that fascination will remain private unless you find a way to share it. Ironically, in the age of blogs and tweets, it is the old-fashioned book that is the most effective and common way to share one’s fascination. The rigor of writing a book is what makes the book such an important vehicle for expression.

The book, of course, builds on all the information that was accumulated by the idea entrepreneur during his or her years of fascination with the idea. Guiliano, for example, never intended to become an expert on living like the French. However, as an executive in the United States, she saw that many of her American friends were constantly battling weight problems, while she ate, drank fine wine and lived to her heart’s content without gaining any significant weight. Constant questioning from her friends and colleagues, and the memory of the pain she endured for that brief time as an overweight teenager, eventually led her to explore the differences between her lifestyle and that of her American friends.

Respiration and Enterprise

After expression, the process moves to respiration, that phase during which others start to talk about your idea and spread your concepts. At this point, the original expression is combined with other activities — speaking is particularly important, according to Butman — to better explain and personalize your idea.

Respiration might seem to be the zenith of pushing your idea out to the world, but many people, Butman writes, go further and are able to turn the idea into an enterprise — often a quite lucrative business enterprise. More books, the lecture circuit, workshops, classes and even merchandise all grow out of the original idea. Think of Martha Stewart and the late Stephen R. Covey, to name two, as famous examples of idea entrepreneurs whose main emphasis in life became conveying their passion through numerous touchpoints.

Based on extensive interviews with many of the idea entrepreneurs whose stories fill the book’s pages, Breaking Out reveals the surprisingly logical evolution of an idea from private fascination to worldwide phenomenon. There may never be another dog training expert as well known as Millan, which makes one wonder what new and unexpected breakout idea — and idea entrepreneur — is on the cusp of fame.

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