Two short and easy-to-digest books that should be read together, to give you faith and encouragement for creating an exceptional (or "xceptional") business even if you have an ordinary business idea.
Yeah. It was rather sexy — in a small business kind of way. It was a professional pick up that started on Twitter and then moved its way over to email and then a witty back and forth Skype chat that led to a call.
I’m not sure who started it, but I can tell you that the result was having Kevin Kelly (@kkunlimited), world renowned speaker and author, sending me a package. That package contained two books: “DO! The Pursuit of Xceptional Execution” and “Xceptionalize: Success Secrets for Students.”
A Little About Kevin Kelly
This is where I get to tell you a little about Kevin Kelly, because once you understand his history and experience, you’ll have a much better appreciation for both of these books. The books are really two sides of the same coin, but for two different audiences. According to the Gold Stars Speakers Bureau writeup about Kelly:
“Kevin is a leading authority on the success principles of entrepreneurship, leadership, sales and motivation.
Raised among a small entrepreneurial family retail business, he has been selling and negotiating, listening to and serving customers from a very young age. After graduating from University College Galway with a Bachelor of Commerce degree in 1987, he proceeded to break sales record in each of the companies he worked for in the construction and manufacturing industries. In 1990 he started his company, Advanced Marketing Ltd.
Kevin coined the phrase “Xceptionalize”, which challenges organizations and individuals to focus upon the exceptional execution of those activities that really contribute the most to success.”
How to become “Xceptional”
Kelly’s focus on “xceptional” behavior and results is what drives both of the books I’ll be reviewing today. They are two books for entrepreneurs, though one is for students, too.
“DO! The pursuit of Xceptional Execution” is a small handbook style book that you can read in the space of a plane ride or a weekend. But the ideas Kelly shares here will leave you pondering for much longer than that.
The general concept behind the book is to give small business owners and entrepreneurs encouragement and faith in their ability to become “xceptional” even if they don’t have a compelling vision or workable business plan. So what does it take? Kelly draws from Amar Bhidé’s groundbreaking 2000 book “The Origin and Evolution of the New Businesses” which reinforces the idea that “88% of breakthrough companies were the result of exceptional execution of an ordinary idea and only 12% were the result of a new invention.”
“DO! The Pursuit of Xceptional Execution” gives you the opportunity to learn from the people who have done exactly what Kelly talks about. These are people who have taken an ordinary idea and applied xceptional execution to turn it into a thriving business.
Kelly highlights nine businesses from around the world and uses them as illustrations of his key lessons to learn in order to become xceptional:
- The fear factor
- Xpert status; student always
- See yourself
- ROI: Return on Intuition
- Cracking the code
- Choose friends vs customers
- Dream it
- Do it
Kelly takes the reader along his journey in meeting each of these entrepreneurs. He digs deep into their stories and their souls and shares everything from their fears, to their joys, setbacks and successes.
This is a super book to take along on a business trip to psych you up for that big deal negotiation or development meeting.
A Second Book — for Students
Has Kevin Kelly been to my house? He must have been, because the lead character in his graphic business novel is a young university student, Nathan, who loves video games, his cell phone and doesn’t have a job. This means that he doesn’t have money to pay the rent, but has lots of excuses.
This is the story line of the second book Kelly sent me, “Xceptionalize: Success Secrets for Students.”
In a lot of ways, this story follows the “Christmas Carol” format in teaching Nathan the valuable lesson of Xceptionalism. The basic idea is this. A spirit guide takes Nathan on a journey where he uncovers his true potential.
The entire story is built on the structure of ancient Celtic folklore. This means that if you don’t speak Gaelic, you will probably be mispronouncing all the names. But don’t let that stop you from enjoying the lessons that Kelly teaches in this book. They come in the form of challenges which closely resemble the video games Nathan loves.
Here is a list of the challenges:
- Personal responsibility
- Pure potential
Nathan becomes a young man on a mission. He not only has vision, but he has the drive and the purpose to move himself forward through the hard work that’s waiting for him on his journey.
I can appreciate Kevin Kelly’s purpose in writing this companion book to “DO!” targeted to young people – and I especially acknowledge his creativity in making this fall into the graphic novel genre.
I am concerned that it might be too simplistic for a college student or too distracting for a young person who isn’t into graphic novels. And that means that his message, the exercises and intention behind this great little book, may not reach its target.
In the end, I’ve decided that these two books really do belong together. If adults can read “The Hunger Games” and “Harry Potter,” I don’t see why we can’t read both “DO! The Pursuit of Xceptional Execution” and “Xceptionalize: Success Secrets for Students.” In fact, while “DO!” is full of entrepreneur stories, “Xceptionalize” is full of actual practices and how-tos to help you achieve xceptional performance. You should read them both — that’s my recommendation.