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A Conversation with Whitney Johnson Part 2

By January 10, 2013 One Comment

Here’s Part 2 of my chat with Whitney Johnson. (Read Part 1 here).

TARA: You also talk about disrupting yourself. What does that mean and what has it looked like in your life?

WHITNEY: Disruptive innovation is actually a term of art that was coined by Clayton Christensen at the Harvard Business School with whom I co-founded Rose Park Advisors. At its essence, it’s a low-end or new market innovation that takes root at the low end of the market then eventually upends the industry.

When I decided that I wanted to build a case for dreaming, you could have said, “Alright, Whitney why don’t you go out and write a book?” That would have required that I sort of went to the high end — to a book publisher and secured an agent, etc.

So I started at the low-end by blogging, but as I began to blog I began to have an audience and then gradually have moved upmarket to the point that an agent and a publisher were interested in me. I was able to intersect the goal that I had with what the market wanted.

When you think about this idea of disrupting yourself, you can start at the low end of the market — you want to write a book, you start out by blogging. You want to work on Wall Street, you start out as a secretary and then work your way up. (Which is what Whitney did!)

Disrupt yourself also applies to us mid-career. We may have a corporate job — like me, I was a research analyst and I decided to quit my job and then go to the low end of being an entrepreneur and then start working my way up a new trajectory. If we want to have a really profitable or successful life, the odds of our success actually improve when we pursue a disruptive course. In a business context it’s six times higher. In a revenue opportunity, 20 times greater.

You can read more about that in the Harvard Business Review article I wrote. Or come to my website, you can find it there.

Tara: What’s the difference between disrupting yourself and just trying something new and “working your way up from the bottom?”

Whitney: Starting at the bottom implies you walked in the front door, walked up the stairs, and got where you wanted to go. Disruption starts on a different plane, where no one wants to play, or has thought of playing, with an eye eventually intersecting with where you want to go, but you have gone in a side door, back door, or built your own door.

TARA: What’s the next disruption on your horizon?

WHITNEY: That is a great question. I left Rose Park Advisors in June. I have been tossing around a number of different ideas and realized this last week that my goal for next year — I’m saying it out loud and I put it in an email — is that I want to do a lot more speaking next year.

Speaking requires that I do a lot more writing so that I have something to speak about. I’ve made some goals about what I’m going to do around that next year. It feels kind of vulnerable and scary for me to say that out loud and yet at the same time by doing that, it’s making it so much easier for me to make some decisions that I’ve had to make over the last couple of days. That is my plan for 2013.

TARA: Let us know how can people find out more if they want to read more or check out your upcoming class.

WHITNEY: You can just go You can find me on Twitter @johnsonwhitney which I like. My book is Dare, Dream, Do.

My upoming teleclass is a four-week class of about 10 people. We go through some of this curriculum if you will from Dare, Dream, Do and then basically take a dream and start to move that forward and supercharge it. You can always of course email me at I would love to hear from them.

TARA: Thank you Whitney. Whitney’s book is full of the rich and interesting stories from other women. It is a blend of very tactical, grounded, hard-won guidance and myth and Jungian psychology and contemporary research from psychology. You can’t not learn a lot reading it!

WHITNEY: Thank you. It’s been a pleasure.

Join the discussion One Comment

  • Thank you Whitney and Tara!!!When I was about five I was tossed off the end of my grandaddies dock, over an oyster bed on an outgoing tide and was told
    “Now , sink or swim to the next dock and pull yourself up.!” All in an old fashioned attempt to teach me to swim!!! I found myself in the “SHIP” and “HARBOUR” role most of my life. I am now successfully
    painting without any art education, been painting for over thirty years now!!! And as fate would have it..I paint lots of OYSTERS!!! My work has been good to me as I have taken my own path and grew to trust myself and remain fearless!!!!! Thank you brave hearts!!! Whitney, can’t wait to read your book and your blog!!! Tara, Keep up the good work!!!! Best to you both..Bellamy

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