Calling Fellow Explorers

This June, I signed a deal with Viking (Penguin) to publish my third book, on Onlyness. My son desperately wanted it shared with you, the Yes & Know community. Maybe he has picked up that everything become more real when you share them? When I said it seemed better to wait until the deal sheet was completed, he created a deal sheet for us.

Deal Sheet

After the fall rentrèe*, and the desire to have some in-between space, it’s now time to do the deep dive in. And I’m inviting you to dive in with me.

But, first, some details. “Onlyness: Make Your Ideas Powerful Enough to Dent the World” will show how anyone can make a real dent in the world without the backing of powerful people or belonging to an organization… but by tapping into their deepest passions, enlisting allies, and galvanizing others to act as one. While it references social technologies, the point is not on the tools but on how people get things done. This book will be stories of real people making a dent and letting their story provide a guiding light for the rest of us. It’ll also include “car crash” stories because sometimes we can learn best by watching and seeing what not to do.


When Publishers Weekly announced the deal yesterday, they said Rick Kot nabbed my book. And I’ve never been so happy to be nabbed. Viking Executive Editor Kot has edited some epic works, including Give and Take by Adam Grant, Barbarians at the Gate, Getting to Yes, Andrew Sorkins’ Too Big To Fail, and Guy Kawasaki’s Art of the Start. And, also, Aretha Franklin’s autobiography. His span of works cover the venn diagram of Onlyness: economics/capitalism, operational art, and real-life stories. I’m grateful to have him and Viking behind this work. (Plus, there’s a whole hat / helmut thing that now has to be explored.)

In 2012, I wrote about wanting to dig deeper, being a Morgan Freeman voice in a Justin Beiber world. While probably too ambitious-stated, doing this book is that opportunity to sink deeply into the idea of Onlyness. I’ve already framed the thesis of how power is changing through Onlyness, in the 11 Rules of the Social Era. Now I’m going to focus on the stories of people embodying it. In some ways, I know exactly what it is I’m looking for, but I think the real joy of a big project like this is to follow curiosity and wonder to find and hear new stories, to figure things out anew. To, explore. To be a fellow explorer with you. Perhaps that’ll mean get lost, before finding the path back again.

There are so many challenges in the world (from saving our environment, to addressing patriarchy, to keeping the web open and free, to reforming education to be relevant for the 21st century, reinventing health care, and so on) and the stories of people around the world who have set their minds to addressing these seemingly impossible ideas are the ones I’m chasing. If you are interested in how the least powerful among us can earn a seat at the table, join in. I’m hoping you can help me to find the people, to learn from them, and with any luck tell their stories well so we can all learn, together. If we’re going to navigate and thrive in these modern times, the social era, we’re going to have to find the trailblazers amongst us.

So, that’s where you come in. You or someone you know – should they be in the book? Can you start thinking of people that I should know of that demonstrate the idea that “connected individuals are doing what once only large organizations could through the power of onlyness”? I’ll share more details of specifics to look for as I get into each chapter by sharing stories I’ve already discovered. But feel free to share ideas at this point in the comments. I won’t be blogging this book actively like I did the last one, but I’m hoping you’ll be up this journey and as excited by it as I am.

Onlyness_Marie Cameron

*Oh, and a p.s. re: rentrèe. I moved to Paris from Silicon Valley, over the summer with the family. Fall just arrived, immensely beautiful and untamed. Two weeks ago, people were wearing summer dresses and sandals…. basically, as little as possible because it was so darn hot and humid. And, what seems like the next day … the weather changed, and it’s boots and scarves, and the crunch of leaves underfoot in the Tuileries Garden. The rested, rejuvenated Parisians are a sight to see. Back from “les vacances”, they are wearing their new fall clothes, but still-bronzed from their time in the South of France on the plage (beaches). If you do get a chance to come to/through Paris, I am still doing regular walkntalks, but now along the Siene. (Just email back to the emails you get as a subscriber). And on the personal side of the living abroad, my son and I are periodically sharing about the experience on a site called: (which translates to ‘our place’) if you have any interest in following along.

14 Replies

  1. Wow, bienvenue à Paris, Nilofer! I happened to login to LinkedIn and read about your book on my newsfeed and then saw that we both moved from California to Paris this summer!

    I thought it was interesting how you used ‘rentrèe’ and then I scrolled down and saw why. I am currently exploring my onlyness here in Paris and really enjoyed reading and sharing your tweets about it during your Twitter Party back in February (, so I am happy to see you will publish a book about this topic. Félicitations!

    I have some thoughts to share with you about onlyness and would be glad to have a café or perhaps a walkntalk on the Seine before it gets too cold (I once lived in the winter here in Paris…so un-California-like) and discuss with you. I also know of some people (in the global social enterprise/NGO world for example) who have embodied this quality of making a big difference in society without support from many people/corporations who are based right here in Western Europe that I could tell you about.

    PS A good tactic for learning French vocab quickly that I have used is comparing news stories on the French and English versions of the multilingual news channel France24. They used to have a feature where you can click a button to change languages…But I just checked now and didn’t see it. In any case you can go to the home pages ( and and find the top stories on both, like these below for example:

    Also, the French equivalent of BBC, Radion France Internationale, has free resources on their site and even offers a broadcast that is in “Français facile.” It really helps how they slow down the words.

    Bien cordialement,


    1. Oh, my goodness, Karen, it’s a wild ride. And kiddo is really growing from it, so new stories to share next time we’re together in real life. By the way, if you want to “look for the light” this place is crazy amazing in that way.

  2. Hi Nilofer,
    The journey to discovering our ‘onlyness’ can be a very challenging & unique one and I thought I’d share a few thoughts on my experiences as an educational scientist & entrepreneur.
    • Success: don’t be held hostage by others definitions of success as they can absolutely paralyze you. It is far more fruitful to think about the following;
    o What does success mean to you? Is it financial, reaching certain goals or being accepted & acknowledged for your role in the community?
    o Explore the reasons you attribute your success to and think about how much you feel you are in control of the events that happen in your life. This can put you in a much more positive position and allow you to take control of the outcomes you are aiming for.
    • Learning: I believe our definition of learning is way too narrow – focusing too much on instrumental learning /linear type learning and not enough on a deeper type of learning that challenges our belief systems and the actions that actually reflect those beliefs. Usually the gap between ‘what we say we do’ & ‘what we actually do’ is VERY wide and we need to be engaging in critical reflective processes – both with ourselves and with others – to find out what they are.
    o Example: it’s not for everyone but I’ve been engaging in self-critical action research both through my studies and my business practice. Learning to discuss my undiscussables (a wonderful term coined by Chris Argyris) & cultivate a more inquiry-based approach in my relationship with others has helped me develop more authentic behavior and develop what I believe is the essence of leadership – authenticity – that comes from – can ONLY come – from – engaging in the above. I was experiencing certain meltdown moments and very strong defense routines in my behavior as I did my action research MSc and it lead me to inquire, learn and understand more about issues such as ‘fairness – it’s not fair!’ to things that happened in my teenage years and the impact they had in my adult years e.g. social rejection and acceptance. It was tough going but OH so worth it. It means that as I work with my clients and help them strive for balance and consonance I know I have walked down that road before myself. It has also had the unintended – yet very welcome side effect of innovation and I strongly believe that the better we are at learning the more innovative we are!
    • Power: work to understand it in your context because when we understand power we can move power mountains. 2 American Professors( Perschel & Perdue) talk about ‘ditching Cinderella’ and the 3 ‘R’s of ‘redefine, redistribute & reshape’ your business culture (within the framework of women & leadership)
    o Example: I had my triple ‘R’ moment halfway through my MSc degree and decide to leverage MY intellectual property – rather than having a powerful organization & its people exploit it. I opened the doors to my learning consultancy in 2010 and we celebrated our 4th birthday yesterday!
    • Presence / Tuning in: when we can truly focus on the moment, we have in our possession the tools to create our future self and future knowledge – it’s not easy but by fostering more reflective aspects in your life you can master this.
    o Example: in 1992 I stood on the deck of a sinking ship. My life didn’t flash before me – quite the opposite in fact. My future stood out in front of me and in a few short seconds I managed to capture what presence is and it saved my life. I never want to go through another life or death situation like that again nor would I wish this on anyone else as a means to becoming mindful, but try to cultivate paying attention to the present & your actions in that moment, if only for once a day and soon it will become easier.

    And now, as I start my PhD – the ultimate in learning how to learn – I am very excited at what is emerging from my present and my presence. Enjoy your learning journey & discovering your onlyness!


    1. I’m goign to check out the Perschel & Perdue research — thanks for tagging it for me, and also for your story. I’m in full agreement that until you get clear for yourself what power is, what success is and why you are doing anything, you can never be fulfilled in your work. By the tone of your note alone, I can see you are excited about your PhD. And for that, I am glad, too.

    1. thanks. link didn’t let me do the download (even after giving email) but now I have the reference.

  3. firstly let me start by saying thank you Nilofer for the gift of the 11 Rules of creating value in the socialEra. I devoured the conten and i’m in total agreement with your thoughts,and Rules. In my opinion, they are valid.I blogged lately( the rules and your thoughts on onlyness and co-creation for me made a huge impact. Through the power of collaboration ive been working on a book sheduled to be out soon.I presently write from Lagos, Nigeria and can attest to the fact that your thoughts are valid without borders.


  4. Pingback: Nilofer Merchant: Innovator | Management Pocketblog
Leave a reply

Leave a Reply