The Power of Onlyness | Nilofer Merchant

Summary of: The Power of Onlyness: Make Your Wild Ideas Mighty Enough to Dent the World
By: Nilofer Merchant


In ‘The Power of Onlyness: Make Your Wild Ideas Mighty Enough to Dent the World’, author Nilofer Merchant discusses the immense potentials of harnessing one’s unique perspectives and experiences to create a powerful impact on the world. The book showcases audiences how to discover and embrace their own distinct purpose, how to connect with like-minded individuals, and how to pursue meaningful impact within their chosen pursuit. Through real-life examples and practical advice, Merchant demonstrates the importance of wielding individual convictions to create lasting change and to overcome both personal and cultural barriers.

Empowering Black Girls in Tech

Kim Bryant founded Black Girls Code, a program that teaches coding to young black girls. Inspired by her own experiences as an African-American woman in engineering, Bryant created a space where girls can pursue tech skills in a supportive and inclusive environment. The organization has since expanded across the United States and internationally, introducing thousands of girls to software design and making a significant impact in a field predominantly dominated by white males. Bryant’s story exemplifies the power of leveraging your unique purpose and voice in creating lasting change.

Embrace Your Unique Perspective

You are the only one with your perspective, and if you fail to give it a voice, you deprive the world of your uniqueness. Embrace your whole self, flaws, and all. Your purpose is unique, so pursue it, even if you think no one else would share it. Your experiences, good and bad, shape you, your values, and who and what you love. Start small by finding time to pursue your purpose. Make sacrifices to gain the energy to mount your quest. Like Bryant, figure out your purpose and find people who will support it.

Find Your Purpose

The book strives to inspire readers to find their purpose and ignite change by sharing the stories of individuals who have overcome barriers and pursued their passions. It emphasizes that one must seek answers to their questions and pursue what drives them unapologetically. André Delbecq’s story demonstrates the importance of pursuing one’s passions despite the fear of the unknown and the comfort of familiarity. Similarly, Zach Wahls’ narrative about his role in lifting the ban against gay scouts in America by using social media to attract supporters highlights the significance of authenticity, courage, and the power of collective action in attaining social and personal change. Author encourages readers to pursue what creates a sense of fulfillment and purpose, focusing on solutions rather than the obstacles that may be encountered along the way.

Finding Your Purposeful Community

The key to discovering one’s purpose is to seek out a community that shares the same values. In doing so, it’s essential to co-create a plan of action with them to realize each person’s purpose in the work. To build a community, look for levers that bring people together in pursuit of shared interests. Once a community is established, taking an active but careful role in social media can help discover more allies. Contribution is more valuable than self-promotion. Boost other people’s contributions and ask for help in equal measure. Stay genuine and true to one’s self, even if it means putting off some people who do not share your ideas. The online world is our modern-day public square, where people signal their interests from all over the world and find people who share their purpose or idea.

The Sklar Effect

Rachel Sklar spearheaded the #ChangeTheRatio movement after observing the lack of women speakers in a technology conference. Her efforts led to the creation of, a platform dedicated to increasing the visibility of women in technology. Despite facing personal attacks, Sklar remains committed to her mission with the support of her followers. now has almost 500 members in America alone.

The Black List Revolutionized Hollywood

Franklin Leonard, a young African-American scriptwriter, created “The Black List” in 2005 to give overlooked screenplays a chance. He asked 75 script reviewers to send him the best unproduced scripts they’d read. Leonard’s list became viral, leading to newfound attention to these bypassed scripts. Over the years, many films on the list received Academy Award nominations, and four won Best Picture awards from 2007 to 2015. “The Black List” changed Hollywood’s approach to filtering scripts and challenged long-standing views against women in action roles and the profitability of movies featuring black lead actors abroad.

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