Making a Difference With Your Ideas—John Butman on “Breaking Out” With Your Book

One mark of a good book is that its key terms instantly seep into your mind and become part of your working vocabulary. Such a book for me isbreaking-out Breaking Out: How to Build Influence in a World of Competing Ideas by John Butman.

John’s book is loaded with juicy terms. I’ll introduce a few of them here—and urge you to read the book.

I’ll go further: If you plan to publish a nonfiction book, then consider Breaking Out as required reading.

Idea Entrepreneur

The idea entrepreneur is:

…an individual, usually a content expert and often a maverick, whose main goal is to influence how other people think and behave in relation to their cherished topic. These people don’t seek power over others and they’re not motivated by the prospect of achieving great wealth. Their goal is to make a difference, to change the world in some way.

Who are the idea entrepreneurs? They have existed since the dawn of written communication. Socrates and Plato were idea entrepreneurs. So were Emerson, Thoreau, Gandhi, and Tolstoy. Today they include Eckhart TolleCesar MillanMireille Guiliano, and the other people that John profiles in Breaking Out.


The idea entrepreneur inevitably enters the ideaplex—the increasing number of venues for expressing and consuming ideas. Examples include:

  • Twitter, Facebook, and other social networks
  • “YouTubeLandia” and podcasts
  • “Eduinfotainment tests”—TED, South by Southwest, the Aspen Ideas Festival, World Economic Forum, and related events
  • Books, newspapers, magazines, television, radio, and other more-or-less traditional media
  • Schools, colleges, and universities

If you’re publishing a book, this is the space you will enter—one that’s teeming with millions of competing ideas that are begging for attention and acceptance.

One-Day Test

Though the ideaplex is glutted, ideas with true staying power are still relatively few.

So what makes for such an idea?

Breaking Out is filled with answers. For an overview, see John’s post about knowing whether you’re ready to go public with your big, audacious idea.

In this context, John introduces the one-day test: Can you talk about your idea for an entire day and keep an audience’s interest and attention? If so, you probably have enough material to go public.

Passing the one-day test means having a “great heaviness” or “preponderance” of material—a framework of key principles, strategies, and supporting material. Also essential is a personal narrative—a brief and compelling story about how your big idea was born.

Sacred Expression

Ideas are not real until they’re expressed. And, success hinges on expressing your idea “in the fullest, most powerful, and most compelling form you can create.” This becomes the idea’s sacred expression.

Traditionally, idea entrepreneurs use a book as their sacred expression. John notes that writing a book “forces you to think more comprehensively, holistically, and rigorously about the idea than does any other form of expression.”

In addition, there’s a practical benefit: A book’s rich framework of ideas and supporting details provides the backbone of countless articles, blog posts, presentations, and other expressions.

Evidence of Effort

Anyone who’s tried to write a book knows how much effort it takes. And in their darker moments, authors despair over the prospect that few people will ultimately bother to read their precious work.

Take heart, says John. A book counts as evidence of effort to develop and test an idea—even with people who don’t read it. As John notes, “…even those who don’t read the book in its entirety will surely know—with even the most casual flipping and dipping—that the detailed, nuanced argument and full narrative does exist there….”

This, my friends, counts for a lot.


Comments are closed.