Onlyness and Chip Conley

Nilofer Onlyness

In the last year, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to several thought leaders, speakers, writers who I have very much admired and respected for many years.

Two of those people are Nilofer Merchant and Chip Conley.

Nilofer I just talked to for the first time recently, Chip I first connected with via my writing on this site late last year, then I followed the energy and spent time with him and an amazing cohort of Modern Elders in Baja, Mexico this past April.

Now, from talking to Nilofer, today I simply will connect her concept of Onlyness to what I see that means for Chip Conley.

In her book, she writes about this word she came up with:

“You’re standing in a spot in the world that only you stand in, a function of your history and experiences, visions, and hopes. From this spot where only you stand, you offer a distinct point of view, novel insights, and even groundbreaking ideas. Now that you can grow and realize those ideas through the power of networks, you have a new lever to move the world.”

“Through the power of onlyness, an individual conceives an idea born of his narrative, nurtures it with the help of a community that embraces it, and, through shared action, makes the idea powerful enough to dent the world.”

Nilofer and I recently had a wonderful “virtual walk and talk” call (after all, she did a wonderful TED talk on walking meetings!). On that call, among other things, she helped me see my own “Onlyness”, for which I am deeply grateful, and as the call progressed I also witnessed and had insights around hers.

This call then saw me muse back to spending time with Chip a few months ago.

I’m currently researching for a book I’ll be writing later this year (my first one, am really excited!). Broadly it is around leadership and around how we both bring our being and our doing, our energy and our intellect, our passion and our hard work, our intellect and our spirit to our leadership. However, all too often we are unaware of how these are two sides of the same coin, and awareness and tools around both are what we can truly bring to have our highest impact.

So, in turning to muse on Chip, he has many amazing skills and attributes, but let me just give two that play together beautifully.

chip conley culturally curious

First, at an intellectual and intuitive level, Chip has over three decades of business success and experience in the highly dynamic world of hotels and hospitality. Through all of that experience he has developed an amazing mastery to distil complex and complicated thoughts incredibly simply.

As an example, he recently distilled understanding of the concept of Growth Mindset to “growth mindset (always trying to improve yourself) as opposed to a fixed mindset (always trying to prove yourself)”. Fixed = Prove, Growth = Improve. Love it !

Another example was that fourteen of us were sitting talking in a group in Baja at the Modern Elder Academy and somehow were talking about insurance. Somehow, out of nowhere, Chip synthesised that into “Emotional Insurance” and then, later, after another conversation, into “Wisdom Insurance”. Since then, I’ve been out talking to corporate CEOs and HR leaders about the idea of Wisdom Insurance for their businesses, and Chip also wrote an article on it called: “HR Leaders, Have You Purchased “Wisdom Insurance”?“.

So, that is the intellect and acuity of the man.

Now, what about the human side. Put simply, if Chip asked me to drop everything I’m doing in life and come to help him build a movement, I’d not ask any questions, I’d do it. He is a leader I would follow more than any other I’ve come across in all my years. Why ? he is the embodiment of another phrase he coined a while ago, a “Vulnerable Visionary”. Human, humble, caring, generous, empowering, trusting and more.

In the hands of someone with a different energy, someone who pops out a fresh and distilled idea in a room full of co-creation energy could have that land on others as taking, controlling, owning, scare. Not Chip. his onlyness is both in his ideas and his very “being”.

I repeat Nilofer’s words and eagerly await seeing the power of Chip’s “Onlyness” as it creates a global movement around the Modern Elder concept. Watch this space, I’ll keep coming back and around to Chip and Modern Elder as things evolve and grow!

“You’re standing in a spot in the world that only you stand in, a function of your history and experiences, visions, and hopes. From this spot where only you stand, you offer a distinct point of view, novel insights, and even groundbreaking ideas. Now that you can grow and realize those ideas through the power of networks, you have a new lever to move the world.”

“Through the power of onlyness, an individual conceives an idea born of his narrative, nurtures it with the help of a community that embraces it, and, through shared action, makes the idea powerful enough to dent the world.”